Saturday, July 28, 2012

love


I have lots of friends and a big family, but I can count on one hand the people that I love unconditionally and who I would give my life for in every sense of the phrase. They don't just value me and what comparatively little I add to their lives; they are invested in my happiness and my wellbeing - my mental health, my practical world, and my dreams. They see me as a human being, a soul of sorts, someone who makes mistakes but is less bad than good. They see my flaws and love me anyway.

They are two; and I am lucky to have either and blessed to have both.

Just a small post in thanks.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The White, Male world of Spiderman

I saw The Avengers when it came out, and it was a fun movie. I laughed. But everyone went on about what a "perfect cast" it was, and I kind of took a step back and was like, no, not actually.

There were barely any characters of color. The only main character of color was a pretty typical token/stereotypical part played by a big-name actor. Even the more minor roles in the movie were played by white actors (other members of SHIELD, for example).

But really, my issue today is not with The Avengers. It's with The Amazing Spiderman, the 2012 reboot of the Spiderman franchise starring British/American Andrew Garfield. While I would love LOVE a Donald Glover Spiderman, this post is not really about that.

While watching this movie, I felt like this was a (white) Hipster boy's dream. He got to be the guy the girl's father disapproved of (just the right amount of "bad", but really quite good on the inside); he got to be just the right amount of brooding/moody without being emo; the guy who bullied him was actually his fan (well, spiderman's fan) by the end of the movie; he basically got the girl in the end without giving up being noble because she was soooo smart to figure out the promise (that is, he basically got the OK to break the promise without revealing it to her)... and he got to do it all in skinny jeans!

Almost everyone in Spiderman was white. And a hugggeee amount were male. The hero, the villain, the bully, the adult figures (his father, his uncle, Gwen's father)... all were white men.

As for characters of color, I counted a taxi driver, a few interns and a crane operator (no lines).

As for women of color, I counted an intern (maybe more than one?). But no important or significant roles.

Like I said, while I think it would've been awesome if some white main characters had been cast differently for the reboot (i.e., a woman of color instead of Scarlett? How interesting would a Native American Captain America be?), even if this did not occur, there were loads of other, minor characters that could have been.

Why was the kid Spiderman saved white? Why was he a boy? He could've easily been a little girl of color without changing anything in the plot. Likewise with his father the crane operator. Women of colour can operate cranes, too! Crazy, I know! There could have been more diversity on the police force? In the school? I mean, this is New York City, right?

Really, why are we so closed to even the possibility of POC playing any other roles? Even Aunt May could have been of color. Gosh. come on, Marvel, give me something.

I don't understand why we need to keep reproducing not only the same movies/characters, but the same kinds of (white, male) story worlds that assumes that our audience lacks diversity (or worse, prefers to see white men in starring roles). The lack of WOC makes me think that they assumed WOC would not see this movie or are not Spiderman fans. I mean, no way is a woman of colour going to watch it just because Garfield is cute or Stone is adorable (and hilarious)? Or because it's a major movie of the summer?

Quite frankly, in this story world, POC pretty much did not exist. When I dream, I exist (and so do other POCs), so it's hard for me to see the incredible lack of diversity as anything other than proof that this superhero dream world was not meant for anyone not white.

The (white) women don't fare much better. The few women in this world barely talk to each other, and don't really do much active at all.

The (white) women barely spoke to each other. Besides Gwen's mother calling her in from the balcony and a few lines during the dinner scene, I don't recall any other instances of women speaking to each other. Although I know Uncle Ben is an important character in terms of his effect on Peter, Aunt May's role was basically wittled down to looking scared most of the time.

Yes, we know Gwen is smarter than Peter and has a kick ass internship and is going to college. But we know all of this because they tell us it. Gwen doesn't figure out they need the antidote; Peter suggests it. Gwen doesn't figure out the algorithm; Peter does. Gwen doesn't have that much of an active role except for supporting Peter's heroism. When she found out he was Spiderman, and he kissed her, I fully expected her to push him back and be like "WHAT? EXPLAIN." Buuuttt she just kissed him back. Ok, he looks like Andrew Garfield, maybe lots of girls would kiss him back. But that's not the point. She's Gwen Stacy, scientist. She is smarter than that. Like really, how did she not want to run a hundred tests on him - the first human 'subject' of what her mentor had been working on, even if it was accidental?

Honestly, I love superhero movies. I have a huge soft spot for Spiderman (as many kids who grew up in the '90s do), and I really did enjoy this movie (and The Avengers). Even though I would have been SO! EXCITED! about Donald Glover as Spiderman, I left the theatre entertained. But please, PLEASE, in the next batch of Superhero movies, can we have a story world that is more women-friendly, more POC-friendly (a lot more!!!!)? And can we have a female superhero who does more than look hot, manipulate men with her tears (that's not a superpower, and it's kind of offensive...) or is a love interest?

Wake me up when the nerdy, brilliant, spidey hero of my dreams is played by a woman of color! Preferably Han Ji-Won.

Til next time,
Lex

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tanning and Paleness

This is such a little thing, but it really irks me. It may seem obvious, but people comment on it like it is anything but.

NEWSFLASH: POC "tan". We also get darker in the sunlight.

NEWSFLASH: POC can be "pale". We also are lighter skinned in the winter, or out of the sunlight.

(Obviously, not every POC, just like not every white person).

When someone is described as being "tanned", many people think it is some specific color of a "white person with a tan". But, to me, being "tanned", means having that sun-kissed look that POCs also get when being in the sun - on the darker side of your skin tone.

When someone is described as being "pale", many people think it means the color of a pale white person, or simply white skin. But, to me, being "pale" means being on the lighter side of your skin-color spectrum.

The point of this post is to point out how relative the terms "tan" and "pale" are. I'm definitely not saying other interpretations of the words are incorrect.

What I am saying, is that if we continue to base our interpretations on how these words relate to white skin colors/tones, we are assuming and accepting that white is the default. That everything else is "other". That the *exact same experience* (skin darkening in the sun, lightening in the winter) is somehow "different" and needs a different descriptor if the person is of color.

When I get back from the Caribbean, I have been told that I have a "nice tan" even though my natural skin color is already darker than your average white person with a tan (and my tan brings out different under/skin tones). So, I don't think this assumption that "tan" means a very specific shade (rather than a richer/darker skin tone from being in the sun) is as universal as this post may make it seem.

This is a specific clarification to a very specific subset of people that have yet to realize that yes, non-white people do "tan", and that yes, non-white people do have shades of their skin colors/tones that they would consider "pale".

This is a request that we stop reading such relative descriptors as relative to white skin, and rather see it as relative to the skin color of the person/character to whom it is applied. Likewise to writers.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Reverse Racism and Jezebel

Recently, a blog post entitled “How to be A Reverse Racist: An Actual Step by Step List to Oppressing Black People”, written by A.D. Song and Mia McKenzie at Black Girl Dangerous, has been making the rounds on my Facebook feed. My initial response, and I quote, was: “Hahaha!”

This is an excellent blog post for many people who face racism, who interact with the dynamics of racism on a daily basis in an inescapable way, or who have taken time to seriously process the “difference” between racism and race-based discrimination. It demonstrates that racism, in the ways that it has been experienced by people of color, required a power dynamic to create and maintain it.

Suggestions for “How to be a Reverse Racist” are so humorous simply because none of this could happen in real life. People of color simply do not have the power in the Western world to enact the racist acts and establish the racist systems that maintain and support both racism and, the other side of the coin, white privilege. Most of the examples are re-imaginations of real experiences of POC in the Western world: in other words, white people were able to oppress POC because of the power dynamic – that is where racism originated, and how it is maintained today – in ways that are more powerful, subtle and intrinsic than simple discrimination based on race.

Racism = Power + Privilege

When I was in university in a small, predominantly white town, a riot broke out at homecoming. Cops were called in to address the situation, and to keep property (public and private) from being destroyed. Some of the drunk white students called a cop – an officer of the law – the N-word. Nothing was ever done to those students.
When I was in university in a small, predominantly white town, a professor of color was walking to campus when three students forced her off the sidewalk with racial slurs. Nothing was ever done to those students.

In both of these instances, a person without authority in a relationship used racial slurs based not in their relative power-position in the relationships (as, cop is more authoritative than citizen, and professor more authoritative than student); rather, it came directly from their White Privilege. A person of color could not make comments like that to a white cop to put him in his place with impunity. A person of color could not make comments like that to a white person in a position of authority (certainly not a cop) and get away with it: those students were never found, and there didn’t seem to be a real drive to locate and punish them for it. It was swept under the rug along with a lot of other instances of racism against people of color, and against faith-based minority groups.

The result is that people of color could never feel as safe on campus as white students. White students had the privilege of safety, of being “protected” (even when in the wrong), of being “normal” while the rest of us were there to “make the experience more diverse” (for the white people; you know, as long s we didn’t display attitudes, ideas, or political allegiances that threatened white privilege and conceptions of the greatness of whiteness).

So, it has been obvious to me (and to many people who encounter/challenge racism and privilege) for a long time that “reverse racism” is not actually a thing – and won’t be a thing until POC have the power to do the types of acts done to them or set up the types of systems, attitudes and normalized perceptions that continue to oppress them. That is, the examples in the Black Girl Dangerous article.

The Jezebel Response

Yet, it seems to be so difficult for mainstream feminists to understand. Jezebel, a Gawker media site for news and pop culture that tends to adopt a feminist approach, reposted the article. Some of the comments made my stomach turn. People “talked down” to others, explaining how they saw racism (where white people are victimized), and disregarding the contents of the article and the experiences of POC. The hilarious part is that they were exercising the very privilege that they claim doesn’t exist: the privilege of making it about them and their feelings, and the privilege of getting to decide when something is racist.

If they were long-time commentors, then it would be hilarious that they were unable to see how they would object to the same if it were phrased in terms of feminism – would we want men to explain to women what sexism is, how it works, and whether or not something is sexist?

Gawker’s comment system is new; perhaps promoting or revealing comments that would otherwise have needed approval to be visible to the public – so this could be a case of trolls. If so, I suppose I can’t hold the Jezebel community responsible for anything other than refusing to feed the trolls. But the failure to challenge/address these comments (a failing of the new comment system that no longer requires newbie approval) adds to the climate of feminism-is-not-for-you since silence oftentimes feels like acquiescence.

Further, this isn’t the first time the Jezebel community has made me want to SMH with the comments that end up in the threads. Especially on any article about race, “over there” (foreign countries), or Islam, the comments reminds me exactly how not-Feminist I am; how excluded from the struggle I am; and how I will can’t really ever be a mainstream feminist.

I thought feminism was about equality for all women. Including women who do not look like you – including women who need to be freed from other oppressions as well (including race). I cannot dissect my identity and my oppressions into “sex” and “race” and let you pretend that the sexism I experience is not tied to my race – and that the sexism that you (as a white person) experience is not tied to your race. You just have the privilege of ignoring how your race plays a part because society envisions you as racist.
Without further ado, here are my “favorite” and my favorite comments, presented without further comment:










It’s up to you whether you want to give the Jezebel community a pass or not on this one. To be honest with you, I don’t think this is a one-off, or that it doesn’t reflect a general attitude in the vocal commentors that racism is simply discrimination and that their privilege or positions of power have nothing to do with continuing the oppression of others, including women. But this is the first time I have documented it, so make of it what you will. But at least I am not alone:

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Jesse Williams for Finnick

I am totally down for this. #JesseForFinnick If you haven't seen him in Grey's, I'll just leave you with this...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Seam Recast & Ms. Magazine Blog


The Seam: Recast - Pictures of Prim, Katniss, Gale, Mr. Everdeen and Haymitch. I would watch the heck out of a Hunger Games with this cast. Someone, please make this happen.

A White Washed Hunger Games - an article considering the casting of the Hunger Games:
"Coupled with a lack of focus on the more political aspects of the book, this leads to a whitewashed, depoliticized film."

In my effort to keep providing relevant links, here you go! I'm SO happy to see more people discussing this. When I wrote my post over a year ago, it felt like no one could understand how "olive skinned" could possibly mean person of color. At least now there are multiple perspectives out there about reading the book, the casting, and how this impacts the meaning of the work. Honestly, it makes me feel like I'm not alone.

If you have a blog or post you want me to link, leave it in a comment!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Comments I am NOT Publishing

I'm actually shocked by some of the comments I get..

"Race is a social construct? Ethnicities could be considered as social constructs but biologically Race is Race as determined by the gene pool."

I am not publishing this comment with a name, because I'm not getting into this (I am also not publishing comments on this post, so please don't bother). If you are going to leave comments like this on my blog, I AM NOT PUBLISHING IT. I will no longer be publishing OR EVEN READING abusive, rude, racist, derogatory comments or personal attacks. I will no longer be publishing comments that show a lack of understanding of race and racism.

Quite frankly, if you are Shakespeare and write something very logical and brilliant and beautiful, but you have statements like the above in it, I am not going to publish it and the world will miss out on your insight.

I have posted and replied to alternative viewpoints as comments and posted links to other blogs; none of which I "have" to do. I have no responsibility to give you alternative viewpoints - you're on the internet, google it!

Lastly, this is my personal blog with my personal opinions. I'm not asking you to agree with me. I don't care if you don't agree with me. If you want to comment, please do; but I'm critiquing a book, I am not personally attacking you or making assumptions about your background, education, race, etc. If you want to talk about the book, feel free to comment. If you are upset and want to post an angry reaction, I would rather you do it on your own blog and leave me out of it.

Peace.