What we’re reading: The Handmaid’s Tale, Black feminism, and gender

“reflections on writing ‘self’…while free-falling through words and memories” by @MaraiLarasi

 … I write all the time, but rarely in this way. I write constantly in my work. I write because it’s what I do. I do Black-Feminist ending violence work…and it requires that I write…and my activism, my work, my job…all rest within a space of navigating, challenging and dismantling intersecting oppressive systems. I ‘speak truth to power’ while not wanting to be implicated in those power systems. I walk a tightrope between revolution and reform. I use words to expose inequities and to build bridges. I weigh each moment’s pragmatism against the next moment’s reImagining. It’s a messy space. It’s one where creativity and ‘voice’ are curtailed and managed in the interest of effective advocacy. It’s one where acts of speaking and writing can be powerful in themselves (and in a context of censorship and silencing they are not to be taken for granted or diminished); but they can equally feel like conversations in an echo chamber. I write and speak into a reImagined future, a lifetime of numerous generations, one that allows my ancestors to be as present as those that will be born into my tribe in the years to come. I write and speak words that become lines, paragraphs, references and footnotes in policy papers and briefing notes. My thoughts become sound bites in articles and tweets. I have ‘voice’ yet it is splintered and reconstructed, often in patterns that are not of my own design. This is not a ‘waaaah…poor me’. This is merely a reflection of how ‘di ting set’…

Dystopian dreams: how feminist science fiction predicted the future by Naomi Alderman

Margaret Atwood’s evergreen dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale is about to become a television drama. Published in 1985, it couldn’t feel more fresh or more timely, dealing as it does with reproductive rights, with the sudden accession to power of a theocracy in the United States, with the demonisation of imagined, pantomime villain “Islamic fanatics”. But then, feminist science fiction does tend to feel fresh – its authors have a habit of looking beyond their particular historical moment, analysing the root causes, suggesting how they might be, if not solved, then at least changed.

Where does the story of feminist science fiction begin? There are so many possible starting points: Margaret Cavendish’s 1666 book The Blazing World, about an empress of a utopian kingdom; one could point convincingly to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as an exploration of how men could “give birth” and what might happen if they did; one could recall the 1905 story “Sultana’s Dream” by Begum Rokeya, about a gender-reversed India in which it’s the men who are kept in purdah. …

The Radical Feminist Aesthetic Of “The Handmaid’s Tale” via @annehelen

The television adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s iconic novel The Handmaid’s Tale, which debuts next week on Hulu, is filled with small, barbed revelations. Even if you’ve read the book, and you know what you’re in for, there’s so much to startle you: there’s Elisabeth Moss’s face, which, through roles in Mad Men and Top of the Lake, has become an emblem of women persevering in the face of sexual violence and abject sexism. There are jarring moments of presentness — the way the characters offhandedly reference Craigslist, or Tinder — that make it impossible to pretend this is a scenario of the distant past or future. There’s the quiet profanity of Offred’s internal monologue — her use of “fuck” and “cum” in particular — which is so dissonant with the sunny, shining world that surrounds her.

And then there’s the way the world is rendered: Gilead, as it’s called, is a startlingly exquisite Eden, with dark, claustrophobic corners — a place where the individual has no power, save the small, essential spaces she carves for herself within her mind. So many dystopic narratives are filmed as fantasy spaces: worlds we can observe briefly and from a careful distance, or in which we are positioned to identify with a bloodied, vanquishing hero. The Handmaid’s Tale quietly forces the audience into the position of the handmaid herself: To watch is to feel the daily realities, the sensations and smells, the invisible constrictions and silent aggressions of living under patriarchy. In this way, The Handmaid’s Tale is both a beauty to behold and a slap in the face, employing a vibrant film language that not only proves itself the equal to, but expands upon its canonical source text. …

If ‘inclusivity’ is a priority, let men make their washrooms ‘gender-neutral’  via @FeministCurrent

In the liberal rush to make anything and everything “gender-inclusive,” who is getting the short end of the stick? I bet you know the answer to this one… We are only too aware, as feminists, that it is always women and girls whose interests seem to be considered non-urgent, unimportant, and irrelevant. It is always girls and women who are politely supposed to step aside for everyone else. With a smile, at that.

When journalist and BBC broadcaster Samira Ahmed attended a screening of I Am Not Your Negro at the Barbican Centre in London she found the women’s washroom had disappeared. Now, in place of the “women’s” sign was one that read, “gender-neutral with cubicles,” and in place of the “men’s” was “gender-neutral with urinals.” How convenient for men to have two different washrooms to choose from! How inclusive.

Ahmed wasn’t the only one who complained about this change. When she spoke to staff at the Centre, they told Ahmed they had already argued, internally, that the transformation was a mistake. On Twitter, one woman wrote, “Gender neutral toilets !!! Never seen so many confused and desperate people!! Whose bright idea?!!” Another tweeted: “Barbican now have gender neutral toilets. They just changed the signs, formerly male ones state they have urinals. Guess what happens?” …

Hysteria, Witches, and The Wandering Uterus: A Brief History by Terri Kapsalis via @lithub

I teach “The Yellow Wallpaper” because I believe it can save people. That is one reason. There are more. I have taught Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1891 story for nearly two decades and this past fall was no different. Then again, this past fall was entirely different.

In our undergraduate seminar at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, we discussed “The Yellow Wallpaper” in the context of the nearly 4,000-year history of the medical diagnosis of hysteria. Hysteria, from the Greek hystera or womb. We explored this wastebasket diagnosis that has been a dump-site for all that could be imagined to be wrong with women from around 1900 BCE until the 1950s. The diagnosis was not only prevalent in the West among mainly white women but had its pre-history in Ancient Egypt, and was found in the Far East and Middle East too.

The course is titled “The Wandering Uterus: Journeys through Gender, Race, and Medicine” and gets its name from one of the ancient “causes” of hysteria. The uterus was believed to wander around the body like an animal, hungry for semen. If it wandered the wrong direction and made its way to the throat there would be choking, coughing or loss of voice, if it got stuck in the the rib cage, there would be chest pain or shortness of breath, and so on. Most any symptom that belonged to a female body could be attributed to that wandering uterus. “Treatments,” including vaginal fumigations, bitter potions, balms, and pessaries made of wool, were used to bring that uterus back to its proper place. “Genital massage,” performed by a skilled physician or midwife, was often mentioned in medical writings. The triad of marriage, intercourse, and pregnancy was the ultimate treatment for the semen-hungry womb. The uterus was a troublemaker and was best sated when pregnant. …

What we’re reading: austerity, misogyny, and the ‘rape clause’

The Misogyny Of Modern Feminism by Jeni Harvey

I have been thinking lately about the power of language; in particular how it can be used to silence. I’ve been a feminist all my life, my mother was a second wave activist, and I care hugely for the future of our movement.

Over centuries feminists have been labelled man-haters, family destroyers, ugly; yet still we’ve continued to raise our voices. Recently however, we’ve seen those wishing to shut us up change tack. …

Five benefits cuts are being introduced today: how do they affect you? by Frances Ryan

This week, the government is bringing in a series of new cuts to the benefit system. Here’s a guide to what five of the key changes mean and why they matter.

HOUSING BENEFIT STOPPED FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

From this month, single people aged 18 to 21 will no longer be entitled to housing benefit. It applies to all those on Universal Credit (the government’s new benefit system being rolled out nationally) but there are exceptions, such as for young people with children or who would be at serious risk by continuing to live with their parents.  …

Music education is now only for the white and the wealthy by Charlotte C Gill

Music education is deteriorating around the country. Despite the enormous contribution of the music industry to the UK economy, with the creative industries overall estimated to generate £85bn net a year to GDP, the government remains placid about its importance in schools. The Conservatives are too focused on the English baccalaureate, introduced to boost the number of students studying science and languages, to care.

This is a great shame, as research has shown the huge benefits that music brings to children’s happiness and learning. Interestingly, the government does care about psychological development in schools, and recently announced plans to trial mental health training for pupils, but it has not dawned on politicians that this, and more, can be achieved through the arts.

Music education has become harder and harder to access since 2010, when the baccalaureate was introduced, and since when the number of students taking music at GCSE and A-level has dropped by about 9% as teachers homed in on “academic” subjects. …

Why our charities refuse to do have anything to do with the Rape Clause by Sandy Brindley of Rape Crisis Scotland and Marsha Scott of Scottish Women’s Aid

From today, across the UK, Child Tax Credits will only be available for the first and second child. Third or subsequent children won’t get a look in. That is – of course – unless the child is a result of rape.

The Department of Work and Pensions claim that this rape exemption or “rape clause” will only be applied in the most “compassionate” way, but the question is, can forcing a woman to disclose rape to receive welfare ever really be compassionate? For us – Rape Crisis Scotlandand Scottish Women’s Aid – the answer is a flat-out no.

We should make no mistake: rape is a horrific trauma. Healing from rape is painful and difficult, and a huge part of healing is having control over who and how you tell people about your experience. Despite the myths, rape isn’t usually a stranger jumping from out behind a bush in the dead of night as a woman walks home alone. Often it’s someone you know – a friend, a partner, a spouse. Some people who are raped might never tell anyone what happened to them. Rape and sexual violence are amongst the most underreported, under-convicted crimes there are, and certainly among the most abhorrent. …

 

 

What we’re reading: on feminism activism, poverty, misogyny and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Feminism That Doesn’t Challenge Male Entitlement Isn’t Feminism by Caitlin Roper

Once upon a time, feminism was a social movement. It was a movement by and for women. It had actual objectives – like liberating women from male oppression. It meant something.

Nowadays, with the popularity of third wave liberal feminism, feminism* can be whatever you want it to be. Anybody can be a feminist, including men, and any act can be a ‘feminist’ statement- even if it upholds institutions and structures that oppress and harm women as a whole – it’s all good as long as a woman ‘chooses’ it.

While feminists in decades past fought against the objectification of women, believing it contributed to our second-class status, this same sexualising treatment has been repackaged as female empowerment or women owning their sexuality (which incidentally tends to be indistinguishable from the porn-inspired fantasies of heterosexual men… go figure). Empowerment, it appears, means women being reduced to object status on their own terms. …

The third wave’s tokenization of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is anything but intersectional  by 

“How could she say such a thing?!” Behind every response to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s recent remarks about transwomen was the message that people were not only outraged with the Nigerian novelist and feminist, but disappointed in her as well. In the Los Angeles Times, Michael Schaub wrote that she “angered” the transgender community. Paper Magazineexplained that “People aren’t reacting well” to her comments. Raquel Willis said she “gaslighted” transgender people only to “strip them of their womanhood” at The RootUnapologetic Feminism characterized Adichie’s comments as revealing her “lack of sophistication” as a thinker. (It couldn’t possibly be that she had a valid, albeit different, opinion about womanhood — she had to be confused or stupid.)

Most outlets who decried Adichie’s comments were dishonest in their representation of the conflict, almost exclusively reproducing the opinions of people who disagreed with her. By excluding the notable support and solidarity she received from numerous men and women, Adichie’s opinion was presented as an aberration (therefore more condemnable) and more isolated than it is. …

“The Troubling Trendiness Of Poverty Appropriation” by July Westhale

…  My family lived in Palo Verde Mobile Home Park, on the east side of town. The Colorado River and the border of Arizona were a stone’s throw away. Our corrugated home was surrounded by irrigation canals, where my uncles often fished and caught dinner, and where one uncle, years later, was found bloated and floating, death unknown.

It wasn’t what anyone would call a glamorous experience.

This background, this essential part of who I am, makes it particularly difficult to stomach the latest trend in “simple” living — people moving into tiny homes and trailers. How many folks, I wonder, who have engaged in the Tiny House Movement have ever actually lived in a tiny, mobile place? Because what those who can afford homes call “living light,” poor folks call “gratitude for what we’ve got.”

And it’s not just the Tiny House Movement that incites my discontent. From dumpster diving to trailer-themed bars to haute cuisine in the form of poor-household staples, it’s become trendy for those with money to appropriate the poverty lifestyle — and it troubles me for one simple reason. Choice. …

Trump did to Merkel what men do to women all the time by Jessica Valenti

few years ago, my husband and I ran into a mutual acquaintance at a restaurant. This young man – a person who would surely identify as progressive – spent the entirety our interaction completely ignoring me. He spoke only to my husband; he wouldn’t even look at me when I asked a direct question.

While it would be tempting to write off the exchange as simple rudeness, this brand of slight is familiar to most women. Perhaps it happens when you go to buy a car and the salesperson only speaks to your male partner. Or when you meet someone at a work event and they only introduce themselves to the male colleague beside you.

Or, if you’re Angela Merkel, maybe the notoriously misogynist president of the United States refuses to shake your hand or even deign to look at you during a press conference.

What we’re reading

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: ‘Can people please stop telling me feminism is hot?’ 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was in Lagos last summer, teaching a writing workshop as part of an annual schedule that sees her time divided between Nigeria and the US. For much of the year, Adichie lives in a town 30 minutes west of Baltimore, where her Nigerian-American husband works as a medic and the 39-year-old writes in the quiet of a suburban home. When Adichie is in Nigeria, where her parents and extended family still live, she has a house in the vast city she regards with the complicated love and condescension of the part-time expat.

It’s an ambivalence with which many Nigerians regard her, too; last year, the workshop ended in a question-and-answer session, during which a young man rose to ask the famous novelist a question. “I used to love you,” she recalls him saying. “I’ve read all your books. But since you started this whole feminism thing, and since you started to talk about this gay thing, I’m just not sure about you any more. How do you intend to keep the love of people like me?” …

‘Gestators,’ ‘hosts,’ and ‘pregnant people’: The bipartisan pact to erase women by RAQUEL ROSARIO SANCHEZ

… There are many more similarities between conservative approaches to women’s empowerment and liberal approaches than we often acknowledge. The idea that women’s oppression (rooted in male control over female reproduction/sexuality) should be monetized and reframed as empowerment is not exactly a progressive one. Yet efforts to dehumanize women and turn them into utilitarian objects for the benefit of more privileged people cross political lines.

Oklahoma Representative Justin Humphrey proved that last week when he referred to pregnant women as “hosts,” saying:

“I’m like, hey, your body is your body and be responsible with it. But after you’re irresponsible then don’t claim, well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you’re the host and you invited that in.”

Humphrey’s bill, House Bill 1441, would require a woman seeking an abortion to get written consent from her sexual partner and provide his name to her doctor. This would effectively allow men to block women from having abortions. ….

What we’re reading: On racism, nationalism, PTSD and Milo

Theo and the distinctly sexual flavour of French racism by @KGuilaine  via @WritersofColour

Content warning: contains detailed descriptions of sexual abuse

On 2 February, a 22-year-old black French man named Theo was allegedly violently raped with a police truncheon, gang assaulted and racially abused by four French police officers in the Parisian suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois. So severe were the anal injuries sustained by Theo that he needed major surgery after the incident. As I write, Theo remains in a stable condition in hospital after having been visited by president Hollande.  The incident occurred less than a year after the suspicious death of Adama Traore in police custody and, led to renewed accusations of police brutality and racism in France. Old wounds have been re-opened and the city is gripped with protests. …

This is not the way Milo Yiannopoulos should have gone down by Natasha Chart

I doubt very much that a gay man in pearls and lipstick was unanimously seen as an ideal CPAC speaker, yet they were going to allow it. The only redeeming thing about the alt-right’s collection of white supremacists, anti-Semites, and misogynists, is that they hadn’t turned on homosexuals yet.

Looks like that’s likely come to an end.

After some tasteless and hurtful remarks that Milo Yiannopoulos made about child sexual abuse that he was himself a victim of came to light, he has become a pariah on the right.

Now? Not when he went after Leslie Jones or Anita Sarkeesian? Not when he helped amplify fascism, slandered immigrants, suggested that education was entirely wasted on women, or any of the other appalling things he’s said and done? This? Come on. …

Aminatta Forna: ‘We must take back our stories and reverse the gaze’

few years ago I was sent a book by a psychologist called Boris Cyrulnik. Cyrulnik was born in France in 1937, during the war his parents were sent to concentration camps and never returned. At the age of seven he joined the French resistance as a runner, carrying messages back and forth across enemy lines. The book was called Resilience and I’d been sent it because of my own work describing traumatic events and their impact – in a memoir The Devil That Danced on the Water uncovering the circumstances surrounding my father’s political murder in Sierra Leone in 1975, and again in The Memory of Love, a novel set during the subsequent civil war. I read Resilience in a single sitting, and it struck me that every word of it was true.

A world-renowned expert in post-traumatic stress disorder, Cyrulnik accused other psychologists of subscribing to a kind of psychological determinism, of acting “like car mechanics”, in his words, in their ideas of cause and effect. Cyrulnik described how traumatic events are framed by the narrative given to them, in ways that can exacerbate or mitigate the impact of experiences for the sufferer. The context given for suffering is what determines survival, the feeling of selfhood is shaped by the gaze of others, namely the emotional reactions of people and of the culture around them. Cyrulnik found that, among children who survived the Nazi occupation of France, those who had, like him, joined the resistance suffered the lowest levels of postwar depression. “Did these children join the resistance because they were already more resilient?” he writes, “Or did their narrative identity, or the stories they rehearsed in their heads after the war– ‘I am the boy who at the age of eight, stood up to the German army’– give them a feeling of selfhood that had more in common with a hero than a victim?” Cyrulnik was convinced it was the latter, and devoted his career to freeing children who had endured trauma from the narrative of damage. …

The parallels between Scottish nationalism and racism are clear | Claire Heuchan

Sadiq Khan was not wrong to compare Scottish nationalism to racism or religious intolerance – at least, not entirely. Someone has to say it: the parallels are clear. There is an obvious overlap between nationalism and racism: both mentalities are defined by a politics of us and them. Equating racism with Scottish nationalism is a massive false equivalence, yet both perspectives are reliant on a clear distinction being made between those who belong and those who are rejected on the basis of difference.

In the Daily Record, Khan claimed that nationalism is effectively the same as “trying to divide us on the basis of background, race or religion”. Predictably, SNP politicians and supporters alike were outraged. How dare anyone question their vision of a progressive Scotland? But in their rush to condemn a Londoner – the mayor of all Londoners, no less – for his, in Nicola Sturgeon’s words, “spectacularly ill-judged” comments, nationalists missed an opportunity to recognise a degree of truth in Khan’s comments.

The SNP is fond of talking about “a fairer Scotland”, playing on the popular notion that Scotland is by nature more egalitarian than England. But this raises one unavoidable question: fairer than what? England, of course.

What we’re reading: on the women’s march and Buchi Emecheta

Our cynicism will not build a movement. Collaboration will. by Alicia Garza

… On Saturday, I joined more than a million women in Washington, D.C., to register my opposition to the new regime. Participating in the Women’s March — if you count satellite protests around the country, the largest one-day mobilization in the history of the United States — was both symbolic and challenging.

Like many other black women, I was conflicted about participating. That a group of white women had drawn clear inspiration from the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, yet failed to acknowledge the historical precedent, rubbed me the wrong way. Here they go again, I thought, adopting the work of black people while erasing us.

I’d had enough before it even began. 53% of white women who voted in the 2016 presidential election did so for a man who aims to move society backward. Were white women now having buyer’s remorse? Where were all of these white people while our people are being killed in the streets, jobless, homeless, over incarcerated, under educated? Are you committed to freedom for everyone, or just yourselves? …

The Black Woman’s “Women’s March” Problem: It Ain’t Just White Folks by Ree Walker

There are some great perks to living on the West Coast. I never thought, as a die hard New Yorker, that I would ever find myself uttering those words. Most would think it’s the weather but for me, it’s because of the time zone set up. Yes one could argue that you aren’t getting everything on television first, like you do in New York, which does kind of suck. But sometimes that time zone thing works out pretty well. One such instance was during the Women’s March this past Saturday. It was great because I was able to watch the march on television, that was well underway in D.C., before leaving to go to the one here in Cali. It was, overall, an extraordinary showing of solidarity and sorely needed at such a crucial time in our history. In fact, it’s long past due. Speaking as a black woman who has been an organizer around black feminism and black women’s issues for the last couple of decades however, unfortunately what I saw in D.C. was disappointing. As the march unfolded, I began to realize that it had been hijacked by male centered forces from the black patriarchy.

As I watched speaker after speaker emerge, I began to see a pattern unfold. The white women were mainly centered on feminist issues, while the black women were centered on the plight of black males and with, what the Oppressive Black Patriarchy (or what I call the OBP), had deemed as a priority and agenda for black women. I became more and more frustrated as I saw these women who represent the OBP’s agenda in black grassroots circles, gradually take over and push their way, center stage into this march. The vast majority of the black women who spoke didn’t utter a word about the rampant amount of victimization that black women suffer, as a result of black male violence against them, which happens on an hourly basis. They conveniently left out issues of rape, sexual molestation, sexual violence, child molestation, child support, familial neglect, abuse, domestic violence, neighborhood shootings, physical, emotional and psychological harm in relationships, female genital mutilation and rape in war torn areas of Africa as well as the abuse which occurs within male centered political and religious structures, grassroots and otherwise. All of these areas were omitted, along with all of the other oppressive types of situations that black women face as a result of the ongoing patriarchal oppression that exists within black communities around the world and on line. …

Women’s march and the selective memory of mainstream feminism by Paula Akpan

… And therein lies the problem for many people of colour: how does a black woman reconcile getting behind a women’s protest when 94 percent of black women went down to the polling stations and cast their lot with Clinton only to be thrown under the bus by a majority of white voters who could not see beyond their own interests to think, for one second, of the fear that a Trump presidency might invoke in people of colour, queer and LGBTQIA+ people, trans people and immigrants? What do you do when you’re expected to swallow your bitter disappointment and stand shoulder to shoulder with many feminists who only seem to stand up and make noise when they have a vested interest in the matter at hand? Like Mbakwe says, where were all these women when we lost Sandra Bland?

Some of the fundamental problems with the Washington march date back to months before it took place. Brittany T. Oliver, a women’s rights activist from Baltimore, voiced frustration with the Women’s March on Washington co-opting messaging from two prominent events of civil disobedience in black history: One Million Women, led by black women in response to feminists ignoring the experiences of people of colour in 1997, and the well-known March on Washington in 1963. Oliver states “politically co-opting efforts with “ALL WOMEN” and “ALL VOICES” is merely an attempt to erase the specific needs of people of African descent.” …

 

Buchi Emecheta, pioneering Nigerian novelist, dies aged 72

… Born in Lagos in 1944, Emecheta moved to England in 1960 with her husband Sylvester Onwordi, to whom she had been engaged from the age of 11. Her 1974 autobiographical novel Second Class Citizen described their unhappy and sometimes violent marriage, which included his burning manuscripts of her work. At the age of 22, Emecheta left her husband and worked to support herself and five children. During this time, she completed a sociology degree at the University of London and contributed a column to the New Statesman about black British life. The columns formed the basis of her 1972 book Into the Ditch.

Until 1978, she wrote while working as a community worker in Camden, north London, using her experience to inform her fiction. Her third novel, The Bride Price, was the first of many where she focused on the role of women in Nigerian society. Among her most famous works was The Joys of Motherhood, an account of bringing up children in the face of changing values in traditional Igbo communities. In 1976, her first play, A Kind of Marriage, was widely praised when it was screened on BBC TV. Ten years later, she adapted the play into a novel, in the same year in which she published her autobiography Head Above Water. …

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What We’re Reading: on white supremacy, racism and self-care

First Class Racism by Jamelia

…On Thursday my daughter and I boarded a Train at London’s Euston station after I took part in a photoshoot. We’d had such a fun day together, and looked forward to our journey home. Tiani, my daughter, wanted the window seat, she scooted in and looked for the book she was currently reading as I readied myself to be seated too. As I took my place, a woman in her early 40’s approached me and in quite an accusatory tone asked me “Do you have a first class ticket?” I was genuinely confused at her question, why would I be sat in the 1st class carriage without one? I look at her, she isn’t dressed as if she works for the company, I glance around and it clicks…My daughter and I are the only black people in the carriage. I feel it’s necessary to give her the benefit of the doubt, and for clarity, I ask “why did you ask me that?” she leans in, and in a hushed tone, as if helping me out says “well i’ve just seen the conductor, and he wont let you travel in this carriage” again, I ask “why?” she replies “you need a 1st class ticket” At this point I feel her assumptions are crystal clear, i’m offended and my daughter’s face shows she has understood the rhetoric too. I feel this is a teachable moment, for both the woman in question and my daughter. …


Read more What We’re Reading: on white supremacy, racism and self-care

What we’re reading: on identity politics, the War on Drugs and Ivanka Trump

All politics is “identity politics” by @MayaGoodfellow
via @WritersofColour

… The idea underlying this link of thinking is that the left have for too long focused on minorities at the expense of the “majority” (read: straight, white people), pushing the latter into the arms of the far-right. This comes from the age-old assumption– that has by no means been expunged from the left – that white, straight men have no identity other than one based in class (if they’re working class).

But all politics is identity politics. Nigel Farage pledged during the referendum campaign to “take back control” – not just from EU bureaucrats but migrants who were repeatedly racialised as a threat to this country. His platform was rooted in the politics of whiteness (and importantly this is a form of politics that doesn’t always exclusively speak to white people). It can be hard for some to see how this is true because whiteness masks itself as natural. As academic Gloria Wekker has said, whiteness is “not seen as an ethnic positioning at all”. It is the default – the identity contains worth and humanity. That’s why the working class is so often treated as a homogenous group that’s exclusively white. …

Princesses Are Terrifying. So Is Ivanka Trump by Sady Doyle via @ElleMagazine

For those of us who overdosed on Disney princess memorabilia growing up, good news: Thanks to Donald Trump and his legion of terrifying yet well-coiffed children, Americans are now closer to living in a monarchy than we have been since 1776. And Ivanka Trump—blond, pretty, well-mannered, given massive amounts of power over the citizenry thanks to nothing but her genetic makeup—is the closest thing we’ll get to a princess. Which is how we’ll all get to find out: Princesses are terrifying.

It’s not clear yet what role Ivanka Trump will play in her father’s administration. What isclear is that she will have one. It was reported Wednesday that she would occupy the White House offices usually reserved for the first lady. (Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks pushed back on this report.) Ivanka was initially tapped to join Trump’s two oldest sons as part of his “blind trust”—assigned the role of keeping the $3 billion conflict of interest that is the Trump Organization alive while her father was off presidenting. And yet, almost immediately after Trump was elected, she began holding meetings with foreign heads of state and hunting for houses in D.C. In subsequent weeks, Ivanka’s name was floated for every position from “climate czar” (although she has no relevant expertise re: climate change) to first lady (although Trump is married) to, most ominously, “women’s rights”and/or child care policy: “If you look at Ivanka—she’s so strongly, as you know, into the women’s issues and childcare…. Nobody could do better than her,” Trump told Fox News last Sunday.

‘Impunity has consequences': the women lost to Mexico’s drug war by Nina Lakhani in Jalapa

Ten years ago this week, Mexico’s then-president Felipe Calderón deployed thousands of troops to fight against organized crime, at the start of what became an all-out war on drug trafficking which has raged ever since.

Since then, more than 100 of the country’s most wanted drug traffickers have been captured or killed. Billions of dollars have been spent, but the campaign has not ended the narcotics trade, or enforced the rule of law.

On the contrary, the decade-long war has had a devastating impact on the country’s social fabric: violent crimes perpetrated organised crime factions – and the security forces themselves – have spread amid almost total impunity.

The human cost has been catastrophic: about 200,000 people have been murdered and at least 28,000 “disappeared” since 2007. Abuses by security forces are widespread.

Most of the victims have been men, but women also have been tortured, trafficked and targeted for particular brutality, with almost total impunity.

Official records indicate almost 7,000 women and girls have disappeared since 2007. But activists say the reality is much worse. The government register of the missing includes 164 women from Veracruz, yet a local monitoring group has documented almost 500 cases of girls and women who have vanished in the past three years alone.  ….

On Optimism and Despair by Zadie Smith  via @nybooks

A talk given in Berlin on November 10 on receiving the 2016 Welt Literature Prize.

First I would like to acknowledge the absurdity of my position. Accepting a literary prize is perhaps always a little absurd, but in times like these not only the recipient but also the giver feels some sheepishness about the enterprise. But here we are. President Trump rises in the west, a united Europe drops below the horizon on the other side of the ocean—but here we still are, giving a literary prize, receiving one. So many more important things were rendered absurd by the events of November 8 that I hesitate to include my own writing in the list, and only mention it now because the most frequent question I’m asked about my work these days seems to me to have some bearing on the situation at hand.

The question is: “In your earlier novels you sounded so optimistic, but now your books are tinged with despair. Is this fair to say?” It is a question usually posed in a tone of sly eagerness—you will recognize this tone if you’ve ever heard a child ask permission to do something she has in fact already done.

What We’re Reading: male violence, the ‘War on Drugs’, and being single

Singleness and the world of ‘not belonging‘ ASHA L. ABEYASEKERA openDemocracy

… Feminists have highlighted how ‘single women’ as a category continues to be regarded as a ‘problem’ that must be rectified. Psychologists Jill Reynolds and Margaret Wetherell (2003), for example, illustrate how the notion of singleness as a ‘deficit identity’ has a powerful influence over how single women present themselves: justifying their decision to be single, and claiming meaning and their life’s worth as originating outside of marriage. Anthea Taylor (2012) argues that single women are ‘pathologised’: their independence and autonomy often read as a poor ‘trade-off’ to marriage and family.  In Sri Lanka, as in other parts of South Asia and elsewhere, the ideal of companionate marriage—imagined as a union of two persons and based on intimacy and pleasure—amplifies the marginalisation of single women. The repertoires about single women are unequivocal: without a husband and children, single women signify ‘lack’—they are incomplete and, therefore, do not belong. …

What lies beneath prostitution policy in New Zealand? by Maddy Coy and Pala Molisa at  openDemocracy

Prostitution and trafficking are increasingly contested in international human rights and policy forums, with debates polarised around the question of whether the prostitution system entrenches institutionalised male dominance, or if its harm grows out of associated criminality and stigma. In April 2016 France joined other countries in adopting the approach now often referred to as the Nordic Model – decriminalisation of selling sex alongside exit and support programmes, together with criminalisation of sex purchase. This human rights approach sits in sharp contrast to the endorsement of the New Zealand approach by Amnesty International and in the interim report of the UK Home Affairs Select Committee.

Impunity has consequences': the women lost to Mexico’s drug war by Nina Lakhani in Jalapa

Lizbeth Amores dropped off her son at her mother’s house before heading to a house party with her friend Verenice Guevara. They were last seen at a bar popular with local gangsters.

The following night, María de Jesús Marthen was among a dozen or so young women invited to a private party at a ranch about an hour east of the city centre. On her way to the event, Marthen messaged her boyfriend, pleading for help.

The next night, Karla Saldaña and her friend Luisa Quintana went out for tacos. They were spotted leaving a bar in an unknown vehicle.

None of them were ever seen again, but they were not the only women to vanish: over the space of three nights in November 2011, at least 50 women disappeared in similar circumstances from Xalapa, the capital of Veracruz state, which had been convulsed by cartel violence and political volatility.

Custody in crisis: How family courts nationwide put children in danger  via @Salon

In family courts throughout the country, evidence that one of the parents is sexually or physically abusing a child is routinely rejected. Instead, perpetrators of abuse are often entrusted with unsupervised visits or joint or sole custody of the children they abuse, putting children in danger of serious, often life-threatening harm, according to children’s advocates.

Our two-year investigation – which includes interviews with more than 30 parents and survivors in California, Ohio, North Carolina, New York, Georgia, Texas, Tennessee, Maryland and New Jersey – uncovered stories of children consigned to suffer years of abuse in fear and silence while the parents who sought to protect them were driven to the brink financially and psychologically. These parents have become increasingly stigmatized by a family court system that not only discounts evidence of abuse but accepts dubious theories used to undermine the protective parents’ credibility.

What we’re reading:

16 Ways To End Violence Against Women And Girls by @EVB_Now  via @HuffPostUK

Since I gave you a phone it’s not rape by GUILAINE KINOUANI at openDemocracy

Dutch race hate row engulfs presenter Sylvana Simons — BBC News

Transforming a victim blaming culture | openDemocracy

White Skin, Black Masks: On the “Decolonial Desire” of Vasco Araújo by Efua Bea via

What we’re reading this week (19.11)

Internet politics: a feminist guide to navigating online power by Zara Rahman at openDemocracy

In feminist activism, it goes without saying that the personal is political. Our technical decisions, however, are subject to far less scrutiny but their effects have equally far-reaching consequences upon our activism.

Few would deny that control and power are feminist issues. But what about digital control or online power?  …

White Skin, Black Masks: On the “Decolonial Desire” of Vasco Araújo by Efua Bea  via @WritersofColour

… I watch this all play out before me and begin to understand the title of this exhibition – decolonial desire. Even in a space of “decoloniality”, the insatiable hunger of whiteness for the exoticisation, objectification and devouring of the black body persists, pervades, penetrates. Women of colour in the space start to recover from their shock and round on the artist who is laughing, comfortable, excited; others shake their heads quietly and sadly before they fold in on themselves and leave. White audiences exclaim how beautiful, how interesting, and stimulating the work is, or else exclaim in performative horror. I wonder if underneath his self-assuredness Araújo is aware that he has, in this room, recreated the human zoos he is trying to critique. I wonder if he would care. …

Chair of BAME prize slams UK publishers after lack of submissions by Sian Cain
Read more What we’re reading this week (19.11)

What we’re reading

End this misogynistic horror show. Put Hillary Clinton in the White House by Barbara Kingsolver

….I’m horrified to watch the bizarre pageant of my nation pretending these two contenders are equivalent. No one really imagines Donald Trump applying himself to the disciplines of the presidency, staying up late reading reams of legislation, instead of firing off juvenile tweets. It’s even harder to imagine Clinton indulging in the boorish self-aggrandisement, intellectual laziness, racism and vulgar contempt for the opposite gender that characterise her opponent. If anyone still doubts that the inexperienced man gets promoted ahead of the qualified woman, you can wake up now. …

Women and Black Lives Matter: An Interview with Marcia Chatelain  via @DissentMag

… A growing number of Black Lives Matter activists—including the women behind the original hashtag—have been refocusing attention on how police brutality impacts black women and others on the margins of today’s national conversation about race, such as poor, elderly, gay, and trans people. They are not only highlighting the impact of police violence on these communities, but articulating why a movement for racial justice must necessarily be inclusive. Say Her Name, for example, an initiative launched in May, documents and analyzes black women’s experiences of police violence and explains what we lose when we ignore them. We not only miss half the facts, we fundamentally fail to grasp how the laws, policies, and the culture that underpin gender inequalities are reinforced by America’s racial divide. …

Equal rights, different needs by @pollyn1

We need to encourage all victims of domestic abuse to come forward, writes Michael Malone for the Telegraph. Yes, indeed. Until we are a society in which seeking help is normal, and abuse of any kind no longer tolerated, we tacitly allow those in situations of power to exploit it. This is to the detriment – or even destruction – of those who have less power.

Superficially, Michael and I agree. But the key to where we differ is in that word “power”.

And let me say right now, I am not pretending to support the arguments his article makes. Where we differ is where there is any notion that supporting all victims of abuse means treating them all the same. Because doing that means ignoring the causes of so much of the most deeply ingrained abuse, both in our society in the UK and across the world: unequal power, and the sense of entitlement, the tools to abuse and the protection from censure that this inequality brings. …

The Importance of Conversations and Community by @jendella

I didn’t realise I had postnatal depression until I wrote about it. And even then I didn’t accept it fully until other mothers read what I had written and told me, “I had postnatal depression too!”

I’d been diagnosed with depression and anxiety before, and had spoken about it and my experience of therapy openly, but with PND it felt different. The chasm between the expectation of the warm completion of parenthood and the violently overwhelming reality was filled with shame. It wasn’t until I actually felt myself stop wishing for a time machine and some contraception, and began to actually bond with my son that I felt I could comfortably address it. Once I started loving my son like an “ordinary mother”, I felt like I could talk a bit about the time I felt like I could not. …

First issue of the newly relaunched Feminist Times is out now!

What we’re reading (5.10.16)

Stanford Sexual Assault Case Survivor Emily Doe Speaks Out via @glamourmag

… From the beginning, I was told I was a best case scenario.

I had forensic evidence, sober un­biased witnesses, a slurred voice mail, police at the scene. I had everything, and I was still told it was not a slam dunk. I thought, if this is what having it good looks like, what other hells are survivors living? I’m barely getting through this but I am being told I’m the lucky one, some sort of VIP. It was like being checked into a hotel room for a year with stained sheets, rancid water, and a bucket with an attendant saying, No this is great! Most rooms don’t even have a bucket.  …

The Historian’s Altmetrics: How can we measure the impact of people in the past? by Dr. Michelle Morovac

Almetrics is a buzzword I’ve shameless repurposed to give some cachet to my desire to find women who contributed to this academic artifact called “feminist theory” but who have largely been relegated to peripheral role in the history of its development.  Having already done a highly subjective project in this vein, the current iteration takes up the question I posed at the end of Unghosting Apparitional Lesbian History. What about all the other Bonnie Johnsons?

What would a historian’s altmetrics look like? How can we measure the impact of people in the past?   My community clustered under what we call “women’s liberation” in the US is represented both in print and in person, I looked at anthologies from 1970, monographs from 1975-1981, an academic journal, and a central conference, The Scholar and The Feminist (1974-1984). …

With Brexit the Tories have made sure we all have egg on our faces via by Kiri Kankhwende @WritersofColour

UK politics at the moment is characterised by a series of hostage situations and bad ideas.

Depending on who you listen to, the Labour Party is either being held hostage by the UK’s thousands of communist sleeper cells or by Tories who got lost on the way Conservative Party Conference somewhere around 2007.

The truth, like the issue of who actually gets to vote in the leadership contest or how Labour MPs will perform the vital task of Her Majesty’s Opposition in the aftermath of Labour’s bizarre and bitter leadership contest, is more nuanced and complicated.

But Labour’s travails are really only a sideshow to the real drama: Brexit. The referendum was the easy part. Now Prime Minister Theresa May is tasked with implementing something that is proving a legal and political nightmare. …

For the White Woman Who Wants to Know How to be My Friend: A Black Feminist Guide to Interracial Solidarity by @ClaireShrugged

Whenever I discuss racism in the feminist movement, this question is invariably asked as a result: white women wonder “what, specifically, can I do about racism? How can I create solidarity with women of colour?” It’s a complicated question, which I have been considering closely for over a year now, and there is no one simple answer. Instead, there are many answers, of which none are static and all of which are liable to shift in relation to context. The reality of the situation is that there is no quick fix solution for the hundreds of years’ worth of racism – racism upon which our society was built, its hierarchies of wealth and power established – that shape the dynamic between women of colour and white women. That imbalance of power and privilege colours personal interactions. It creates the layers of justifiable mistrust that women of colour feel towards white women – even (perhaps especially) in a feminist context. …

Feminism, pornography and lots of crying in the loos: Lennie Goodings reflects on 43 years of Virago 

… I asked her, ‘Why did you start Virago?’ The answer came in a beat: `to change the world, darling – that’s why.’ …

The Stunning Literariness of Solange by Panache Chigumadzi

“Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well?”

An arresting, striking, seemingly rhetorical question that begins Toni Cade Bambara’s 1980 novel The Salt Eaters and grounds much of the experience of Solange Knowles’ A Seat At The Table.

When Knowles describes her album as a “project on identity, empowerment, independence, grief and healing,” I’m tempted to nudge her to go one further and describe it as a literary project, because if you are to listen carefully, it echoes a great archive of Black women’s literature. In particular, A Seat At The Table finds many resonances with the writing of the Black Arts Movement, the cultural arm of the Black Power Movement.  …

Shortlist Nominees for the 2016 Write to End Violence Against Women Awards  via @WritetoEndVAW

….

Best Blog

Why did my rapist’s lawyer reveal my medical records?
Sarah Scott

Indebted Women
Erin Slaven

Lads Lads Lads: Sexual Violence and University
Ailish Carroll-Brentnall

A Women’s Aid group contributes a poem of strength and support
Nellie, Fiona, Priscilla, Sharon, Polly, Elaine, Brenda, Penny and Marian, User Group at Women’s Aid East and Midlothian

Self-Care or Speaking Out? A Black Feminist Dilemma
Claire Heuchan