What About Brisenia?

January 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

by KATIE E.

Story via Crooks and Liars.

I think it’s highly unlikely any of you have yet to hear the details of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, and almost as unlikely that any of you didn’t hear the details about Christina Taylor-Green.

Before the inevitable cries occur, yes, I think the shooting was a tragedy. I think the death of this clearly very bright, enthusiastic young woman was a tragedy. I think the media was right in covering her life and her story.

But frankly? It cannot be denied that Taylor-Green received the attention she did because her death didn’t reflect as badly on the rhetoric and policies we hold so dearly in the United States. You know, the ones that routinely lead to people of color being attacked?

Brisenia Flores was nine. Same age as Taylor-Green.  She lived in a town on the Arizona border with her parents and sister. Shawna Forde led a vigilante unit who patrolled U.S. borders with weapons. For patriotic “fun,” she says.

Forde decided to lead her absurd group in attacking supposed drug smugglers and using their money to start a “border race war.” One thing or another led to them heading for the Flores home, which had no drugs whatsoever in it.

They entered the home under false pretenses, leading Mr. Flores into believing that they were law-enforcement officials. When he questioned their motives, the group immediately shot him fatally in the head and went on to wound his wife, Gina Gonzalez. Bresenia pleaded for her life, but she was also shot fatally in the head. (Her sister was at a sleepover at the time.)

Brisenia and Mr. Flores were murdered because of the color of their skin. Someone has lost their father, daughter, sister, and husband because a group of people decided they looked too un-American.

Where were the headlines? Where were the feature stories about what Bresenia liked, what she did at school, what she wanted to do with her life? Where are the interviews with her family? Why wasn’t the president calling on us to make the future the way she would have wanted it?

It’s the simple, ugly truth: As Nathan at Dissenting Leftist put it, it’s only a national tragedy when a politician dies. And I’d like to throw in that yes, it’s often only a national tragedy when someone who’s white dies. Or when someone who’s death would not spark more opposition to current immigration policies. Someone who’s death would never inspire us to maybe change our rhetoric about the undocumented workers we, as a nation, so love to virulently hate.

What killed Brisenia and her family? Racism. Xenophobia. Hateful rhetoric. Constant promotion of illegal immigration as the worst thing that’s happened to this country, and even more promotion of the idea that anyone with brown skin must be a part of it.

And now, for the same reasons, her death is being put aside for ones that reflect on the U.S. a little better. After all, that’s always where the government and the mainstream media value.

On #mooreandme, Rachel Maddow, and the curse of “Being Grateful”

December 21, 2010 § 4 Comments

by ELENA

Today, my Internet exploded.

It started with Keith Olbermann inexplicably responding to my tweets about the #mooreandme protest, and ended with Michael Moore’s appearance on The Rachel Maddow Show, which is being filmed live this week at the 92nd Street Y.

The interview can be found here, and I shall paraphrase it as such:

Maddow introduced Moore by discussing when leaked information is inaccurate, and then discussed the specifics of the charges against Julian Assange, which she referred to as “date rape.” She then introduced Michael Moore, who mentioned several interesting things:

1. That he founded a rape crisis center in Flint, Michigan.
2. That he believes that rape allegations should be taken seriously.
3. That he supports WikiLeaks because of how he was raised as a Christian.

No, really.

Now, I am not going to question Moore’s faith, but I wonder if he ever read John 8, in which Jesus saves a “sinning woman” from being stoned to death (the common punishment for any sex-related offense) by saying, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7, NRSV). Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann have encouraged people to throw (figurative) stones at Assange’s complainants by labeling their allegations as “a smear/hooey/a CIA conspiracy/etc.”

After briefly discussing sexual assault, Moore went on to talk about war crimes/Bradley Manning’s detention/etc. Neither Moore nor Maddow mentioned the #mooreandme movement on Twitter by name, and Michael Moore did not apologize for the comments he made on Countdown With Keith Olbermann. Rachel Maddow did not press Moore further on the comments he made, and Maddow has not mentioned the #mooreandme movement on her Twitter page (although it was mentioned on @Maddowblog).

I honestly hope Rachel Maddow didn’t think: “I don’t want to bring up this Moore and Me protest too specifically because I don’t want to piss off the live audience.” I honestly hope Michael Moore didn’t think: “Well, maybe if I say that I really, really, really don’t like rape, and I bring up that one time when I formed a rape crisis center, those feminists on Twitter will stop bothering me.”

There has been a lot of celebration on Twitter about the fact that a prominent filmmaker within the progressive movement did the truly shocking thing of briefly mentioning that sexual assault should be taken seriously. I am not “happy,” “excited,” or “grateful” that Moore said what he did on the Rachel Maddow show tonight. People who expect endless praise for the simple act of recognizing that rape allegations are not something to take lightly remind me of my 8-year-old self, who expected bottomless rewards for doing things like cleaning my room and loading the dishwasher.

I’m sure someone, somewhere out on the Internet (maybe Keith O. himself!) is thinking, “He said rape was bad! Isnt that what you wanted? Why can’t you [optional expletive] feminists be grateful about anything?”

Problem is, “Be Grateful” is a very dangerous phrase.

Workers are told “Why do you want to cause trouble by starting a union? You should be grateful that you even have a job.”

Women are still told “We gave you the vote — what more do you want? Why aren’t you grateful for everything we do for you?”

People whose race and ethnic background aren’t “Caucasian” are told “Look, racial equality comes slowly. You should be grateful for all of the achievements [insert minority racial/ethnic group here] have made already.”

Those who fight for rights of queer identified people are constantly told that progress on marriage equality/the implementation of the DADT appeal/adoption/rights and visibility for the transgender community are constantly told that “Progress comes slowly.”

When my mother was my age, her family were recipients of Christmas food, clothing, and toy drives. She couldn’t complain about eating dented cans of pimentos, or having to wear clothes that didn’t fit, or getting used or broken toys for Christmas because that would make her sound “ungrateful.” When she talks about those Christmases of cheap grace, she starts to cry.

“Be Grateful” frequently means “Don’t ask questions; it’s not your place to ask us why we discriminate against you, withold basic rights from you, or think you only deserve the dented cans of food to eat.” I frequently wonder if people say “Progress Comes Slowly” as a way for justify the harmful systems that do prevent positive change. If we think that progress happens slowly, then, more often than not, we will act slowly.

I will congratulate Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann when they simply apologize for their harmful and inaccurate comments, mention the many talented writers who powered #mooreandme, and pay more attention to how the rape culture harms everyone.

And Keith, if you want proof that feminists are fairly courteous, mature, and not a “reactionary” coven out to get you, I would be more than happy to appear on your show. All I ask in return is that my airfare and hotel costs are covered, and that you show up to your news desk with an open mind.

Laura and Me.

December 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

by ELENA

More than 20 years after his film Roger and Me, about Flint’s connections to General Motors, and how the city is affected by outsourcing, Michael Moore still has strong geological and emotional ties to the eastern side of the state of Michigan. He mentioned Flint in Bowling for Columbine and Farenheit 9/11, and was clearly passionate about shedding light on the disparity of wealth within Flint. Hell, his Twitter handle is @MMFlint. In his films and interviews, he frequently is seen wearing apparel with the logos of several Michigan colleges, including Michigan State University, and Eastern Michigan University. I wonder if Moore has visited Eastern Michigan University, or spoken at the school recently. If he did, he may have heard about what happened in 2006 to Eastern student Laura Dickinson.

Laura Dickinson, a student at EMU was raped and murdered in her dorm room in December 2006. EMU originally told her family that she died of natural causes, and it was only after a suspect was arrested that the school informed Dickinson’s family that her death was a homocide. EMU was fined for violating the Beverly Clery Act (which requires colleges and universities to report felonies that happen on campus), settled with the Dickinson family out of court, and the President, Vice President, and Public Safety Director were fired. Dickinson’s death, EMU’s cover-up, and the murder trial were on the news constantly, and brought the kind of publicity that a small town in West Michigan does not want. At the same time, the Dickinson family held several benefits, with proceeds going to causes that Laura supported. Friends and neighbors stepped in to help run the family coffee shop during the months after her death.

It was hard to hear TV and radio reports about Laura’s death, because I knew her family, spent numerous hours in their coffeeshop, and it was sad that instead of being in the news because State Grounds supported the community by letting musicians perform in the space, or raised money for important causes. They were on the news because their daughter had died, and the institution that should have been looking out for her safety failed to protect her, and decided to lie to her family.

When I hear the phrase “travesty of justice”, I think about how EMU treated the grieving Dickinson family. I don’t think about Assange turning himself in, being jailed for a short period of time, being released on bail, and spending his holiday in an English mansion. It isn’t so much Moore posting bail for Assange (it’s his money, he can waste it however he wants to) that pisses me off, it’s Moore’s going on “Countdown With Keith Shouts-A-Lot”, and claiming that his donation stems from a belief that Assange was “set up” and that his complainants are merely upset groupies/”honeypots”/CIA informants/otherwise hell bent on destroying WikiLeaks. This is a criminal case, and instead of trying Assange and his accusers in the Court of the Internet (which is highly susceptible to severe cases of trolling), we should let the courts do their job. And we should reserve judgement about the veracity of the accusations until all parties must testify under oath.

Moore and Olbermann have been silent about their fantastically insensitive comments. I understand that having to explain their justification behind saying that Assange’s work was more important than having to do something as pesky as answer for a crime he has been accused of (and spreading misinformation about Assange’s accusers)  must be hard. How about they meet with the Dickinson family, and ask them what it was like to not only have a daughter die after being assaulted, but to have a university lie to them about her death? If Moore doesn’t particularly care about the whole “sexual assault is bad” thing, it would at least provide another example of why cover-ups, and the spreading of lies, by any person or organization, can be devastating and hurtful.

And then maybe, just maybe, Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann will realize why dismissing rape accusations comes off as hurtful, insensitive, pompous, and a slew of other unpleasant adjectives.  And then oh, I don’t know, donate at least a little bit of their fortunes to RAINN?

What Can We Learn From The Yale Frat Shitstorm?

October 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

by ELENA

Trigger Warning for  slogans promoting rape and assault.

Members of the Yale Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity have come under fire after members chanted slogans such as “No means Yes” and “Yes means Anal” in a video that went viral. While Yale is keeping quiet about what disciplinary actions the institution may take, the Yale Chapter of DKE is banned from doing any more pledge activities.

I am glad that  the Yale DKE has been disciplined by the governing body of the fraternity, but I’m still annoyed that this shit happened in the first place. What I do worry about are the many students who are involved in Greek life, who are smart, judicious, and care about community, who aren’t heard of because “Fraternities/Sororities Gone Bad” stories are all we hear in the media.

I have friends who are involved in fraternities an sororities that defy the stereotypes we have about Greek life. My friend Max is in a fraternity, doesn’t wear popped-collar pink polo shirts, doesn’t treat women like disposable blow-up dolls, and is very active in community events, when he’s not working for the local radio station as a sports reporter. My friends in Kappa Alpha Theta and Chi Omega sororities perform annual blood drives, hold fundraisers benefiting charities that help survivors of domestic violence, and can be seen in T-shirts, sweatshirts, and jeans, rather than anything from the infamous Pi Phi rush dress code.

I think it’s wrong to say “Oh, you’re in a fraternity/sorority? Okay, you’re so not feminist”. I think it’s wrong when Greek organizations permit disgusting behavior, like vandalism, classism in the form of demanding that all pledges wear Tory Burch flats, or perpetuation of rape culture. I think the hubbub around this case is a good opportunity for Greek organizations to come forward, condemn this behavior, and do things that promote them in a positive way, such as partnering with organizations like the Great American Condom Campaign, Men Can Stop Rape, Human Rights Campaign, EMILY’s List, and so on and so forth.

People do look up to Greek organizations, so if they set a good example about safer sex, what consent really means, promoting equal rights, etc, others just might follow suit.

As a side note, once Yale resolves this current controversy with the fraternity, I’d like them to continue on a more pressing issue: Actually providing scholarships to their graduate students. Come on Yale, you have more money than God. It’s wouldn’t’ kill you to spend some of it on your students.

Really Colorado, Really?

October 5, 2010 § 1 Comment

by ELENA

Two years ago, the state of Colorado voted down a proposed “personhood amendment”, which would declare that “the term ‘person’ shall apply to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.” Evidently, anti-choicers can’t seem to take “no” for an answer, and Amendment 62 is yet again on the ballot this November.

Choice USA’s video points does a better job of poking holes in Amendment 62’s logic than I ever could.

Colorado readers–please fight tooth and nail against this anti-choice, anti-woman, and just plain idiotic proposal.

(Via Feministing)

More Things That Aren’t News

August 5, 2010 § 4 Comments

(Trigger warning for transphobia.)

by KATIE E.

Seth Macfarlane epicly fails.

“…a recent episode titled “Quagmire’s Dad” shocked some of “Family Guy’s” gay fans with a storyline about the title character having to accept his military father’s feminine manerisms. Quagmire’s father explains to him that he’s not gay, but is a “woman trapped in a man’s body” and is going to have a sex change. The show’s main family characters show virtually no sympathy for their neighbor, referring to the newly out “Ida” as “odd” and a “he-she” who is having her penis “lopped off.” At a post-surgery dinner, they invite Ida and Quagmire to come over, but throw out a dessert that she contributes. That’s followed with lots of rude comments about gender reassignment surgery. Quagmire and Ida have a falling out, and Ida leaves to go to a bar. There she meets the family’s male dog, Brian. They talk, then kiss (and assumably have sex). But when the family finds out Brian has fallen for Ida, they laugh at him. Once Brian connects Ida to Quagmire, he engages in a 40-second vomiting gag. Later, Brian is seen panting and washing desperately. In the meantime, Quagmire reconnects with Ida. But when she tells him about Brian, Quagmire rushes next door to beat the dog to a pulp.”

And his comment:

”[The unhappy reaction to our transgender character] surprised me. I don’t meet a lot of stupid homosexuals. They seem to be a pretty smart bunch. But it seemed that they were not picking up on the fact that it was a very sympathetic portrayal of a transsexual character….  Look, Brian happens to be a heterosexual character, as I am. If I found out that I had slept with a transsexual, I might throw up in the same way that a gay guy looks at a vagina and goes, ‘Oh, my God, that’s disgusting.”’

Isn’t Seth Macfarlane just that wonderful LGBT ally he always says he is? Afterall, sensitive portrayals of trans* people always need to include misgendering, othering, and cliched I-just-did-it-with-a-transwoman panic.

The biggest fail here has to come in his surprise. Really, Seth, you’re SURPRISED that “stupid homosexuals” were not pleased with your “sypathetic” portrayal of a transwoman? You’re surprised that promoting the trans panic scenario that routinely gets trans people killed didn’t bring in the lulz? You felt it was okay to attribute all the outrage to “homosexuals,” and not bother to even give trans* people a voice?

 I am so sick of white, straight, cis men thinking they know everything about oppressed people. Especially someone like Seth Macfarlane, who already has millions of fans (why, I’ll never know), giving him even more power. Soon enough, his privileged fans will start parroting this, and the vicious cycle of transphobia and lesbo/bi/homophobia will continue. People living in ignorance of privilege will continue to try to tell us that words can’t hurt us, but it’s words like these that create a culture in which trans* people fear for their lives daily.

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