WordPress Wednesday

brittanica.com

Last week, WordPress Freshly Pressed highlighted a post written by a white female author about “turning Asian” in which she listed a bunch of anecdotal behaviors that highlighted the “strangeness” of Asian people. This post concluded with a reference to the way Asians speak English as “a special regressed level of English.”

It was the second time in less than a month that I had been deeply disturbed by what WordPress staff thinks is the best blogging WordPress has to offer. The first time, the highlighted post was written by a black woman excusing away black face in the fashion industry. Surprisingly, my twitter followers were more upset about the former than the latter even though both seem extremely racist, or internalized racist, to me.

When one of my twitter followers/blogging colleagues took the initiative to contact WordPress about their decision to highlight “racialized posts” on the Freshly Pressed page, the response she received was “what does ‘racialized’ mean?” In other words, not only are the people at WordPress picking posts with racialized and/or racist content as the best of the best blogs on their site but they are not educated enough about diversity to even name what they are doing and own, defend, or change their decisions.

So I decided to help them. Ok, well only indirectly. What I decided to do is document the disparity for all of you and to ask you to link to these Wednesday posts as a way to raise awareness about the problem. Hopefully, instead of getting further marginalized by my blog hosts, this will foster some learning and growth. If not, I’m sure it will make for great publication and presentation material the next time I am asked to present on social media at a conference or write about it for a journal or anthology.

simplyzesty.com

The Project: Every Wednesday I will present several stats related to highlighted posts on Freshly Pressed designed to show who and what is being valued and who and what is being erased.

The Method: The same questions will be asked of, data collected on, each Freshly Pressed post and the information will be made available here in both raw and analyzed form

While I have tried to remain consistent with the questions I’ve asked, the first week of collecting data has raised some important questions about unmarked distinctions in what I have been tracking. For instance do posts that have been marked as “white identified”, ie those that assume a white audience without racializing that assumption in offensive ways, always reflect race or does it some times reflect race and class together? Why did I choose to track sexism but not gender, when both of these seem like salient variables? And when a post is marked down as having photos of white people, should the number of photos be counted? ie if there are 12 photos and only one has a white person in it, then is it misleading to say this is the same as a blog that has 5 photos all of which are of white people? And should a photo be counted twice if it has a white person and a person of color (ie once for a white photo and once for a poc photo) or should there be a third category for mulitcultural photo? It seems to me that these distinctions matter when trying to quantify the identity politics, particularly racial ones, that seem to underpin the Freshly Pressed section of WordPress and ultimately the success of certain bloggers over others and the face of WordPress overall. So I;m still tweaking the questions/data collection process and it will likely look different from week to week until I am satisfied with a core set of questions. What this means is that some sets will not be comparable to others when all is said and done. For blogging purposes however, the key information will remain the same.

So Here is the raw data for week 1:

Every week there are 11-12 posts highlighted per weekday on Freshly Pressed. On the weekend 1-2 new posts maybe added to the highlighted posts for Friday, knocking off 1-2 Friday posts. The number of bloggers and blog posts available to choose from varies but on average there are between 277,000 and 278,000 bloggers and 300,000-360,000 posts from which to choose from. The number of bloggers of color, queer bloggers, female bloggers, etc. is unknown however several of the more recognized blogs from perspectives written by traditionally marginalized authors as well as academic blogs are housed on WordPress.com or wordpress.org vs alternative sites.

Race

When the racial identity of the author was unavailable, it was not recorded.

  1. pictures of people of color: 4
  2. pictures of white people: 29
  3. authored by person of color: 4
  4. authored by white people: 58
  5. colonial gaze: 4
  6. white normative but non-colonial: 7

Gender & Sexuality

  1. reference to wife/husband, kids, boyfriend/girlfriend (hetero): 13 – this item only counted 4 days
  2. reference to partner, bf/gf (same sex): 0
  3. reference to same sex attraction or queer identity: 0
  4. sexist content: 2
  5. image of big women: 1
  6. feminist: 1 (this post was about correcting disparities in women driving stick not a self-identified feminist post)

Content

This category includes data collected specifically because it violated the rules established by WordPress to qualify for Freshly Pressed status. These rules include: original photographs or properly cited and correct use of grammar.

  1. uncited or improperly cited photographs: 12
  2. grammatical or spelling errors: 14
  3. activist posts: 1
  4. product review: 6
  5. travel: 13

Other

This includes things that we found interesting because they stood out from other posts

  1. second reference to “real Africa” in less than a month, this time positively deconstructed
  2. “I was taught the laws are there to protect our freedoms” example of white normative but non-colonial/non-racist stance
  3. posts with pictures of older people: 3

I don’t have enough data yet to make conclusions. However, as you can see, it is pretty clear that the majority of wordpress posts highlight white, heterosexual, authors over the wide range of authors present on the wordpress format. I am also hypothesizing that the preference for artfully illustrated food blogs, travel narratives, and expensive product review tips the scales toward white and upper class authors and that all though today’s Freshly Pressed included a post railing against the baby products industry that there is an overrepresentation of young, urban, white, parenting authors as well. While I expected to see regularly offensive posts based on my random glance over the Freshly Pressed blogs over the past year, which included racial over tones and sexist images, I was surprised to find far less colonial gaze, outright racism, and outright sexism in collecting the data so far.

A Little Peace

Chris Clinton/Getty Images

Last night, I attended a dinner with at least 6 people with whom I do not get along. This situation was rare because it is still technically summer which mostly means I get to be more choosy about the company I keep and that in the waning days of Dr. Crackhead (she’s begun talking retirement), dysfunction in at least two of my Departmental homes is at an all time low. Put another way, for a surprisingly long time now, must of us at Pov U, have all gotten along quite well. Even the divas in our prospective departments have all been making an effort to hold up less meetings, growl at fewer Juniors, and stop yawning with menace at every tentative change in direction we discuss. It’s been a blessing that has formed many new and productive collaborations, funding deals, and exciting changes in the curriculum and type of students we have been able to retain.

As one of the more radical people on our faculty, you can imagine what went through my head when I looked around the room at last night’s dinner and saw people whose intellectual and political commitments include derailing the funding and mentoring of graduate students of color, the nearly successful attempt to return the “Great Books” to the core of the curriculum, and the intentional destruction of important global studies research and study abroad opportunities that were once envisioned as a cornerstone of our little U’s rebirth.

peter j wilson/2007

In sitting with people more radical than I, yes that’s what I said, those folks are the bada– that make giddy with the stupid when they get to telling stories of their “pre-ivory tower days”, I began to feel that familiar rumble. Like a volcano warning all life that had been living peacefully on its terrain, there was heat, electricity, and the promise of devastation lurking just beneath the surface of our pleasant little planning meeting. Soon Bambi would not know where to run to shed those big, big, “I’m innocent and their scary” tears. And the people in the middle would be seeking shelter in the no man’s land sprung up in the devastation.

But I just wanted to eat my veggie rolls in peace and get on with the 3.5 hours of boring presentations we had to sit through before we could vote.

And that is when it happened. I saw woman whose feminism means everyone but her can get out of the way or be called sexist who had single-handedly driven out an entire cohort of students of color from our department one year and instead of sucking my teeth from the tenure porch, I said hello.

I think I startled her.

I think I startled everyone.

In the hush that followed, I asked her how she had enjoyed the first several presentations on mundane drivel that keeps the uni running that we had been subjected to before “dinner.” Never one to think her opinion is not central to the inner-workings of the universe, she warily began to wax poetic about her thoughts on new heating coils for the gym. In the 20 minutes that ensued, we discussed both the mundane and the surreal that is part of life at Pov U with more than a few overlaps in opinion. To her credit, she only made one disparaging remark about non-gender specific identity studies and the scholars who engage in it and only one barbed comment about me personally. It was a record for her. And in exchange, I did not exploit her fears of women of color and sense of inadequacy around people who know more about certain subjects than she does. We both considered the conversation a fair exchange. When she left, she left smiling and nodding at me like she’d finally realized I was human. And I smiled back, hoping that this rare moment meant that maybe we could forge ahead with less conflict in the future.

At our conversations end, I noticed that others who had often been on the other side of major political battles at Pov U had drawn close to our conversation and were now jockeying for similar attention. More than that, I noticed the radical colleagues with whom I was eating had let the call of the thunder and lightening lull to a threatened of slight drizzle. It was odd and yet wonderful. Somehow, I thought we could keep the peace and the Golden Age of collaboration could continue.

But then I realized my naivete. The people crowding near our conversation did not want to discuss mundane Pov U business as a metaphor for working together and committing to decrease oppressive behavior on campus.  The woman who had tried to deny my tenure on the basis of … blackness… and who had made a career of encouraging students of color and queer students in her Department to quit school all together or “for the love of g-d, transfer!!!” stepped in front of me and painted a clearer picture with her broad smile and barbed opening, disparaging my intelligence and my outfit all in a single flick of her tongue. Her smile said she expected pleasantries and her demeanor said she’d beat them out of me if necessary because she too wanted a public chat in which everything seemed friendly and nice to observers.

Suddenly, I felt like an overwrought Priest during confessional.

Sorry lady, this chapel is closed.

Not every space has to be transformed into a war zone between the people clinging to power and the people exploiting their clinginess to wrench it from them. Sometimes, everyone is just grateful to keep eating. More than that, in a moment in which so much good is coming out of our ability to cooperate it would be a mistake to let people who tear things down have a forum in which to justify it. I understood this when I made the gesture to a woman I’d rather did not work here and she understood it when she took the offer from me, a woman she wished did not work at all.

And yet, even with this most fragile peace, there is always someone who wants to exploit the very well-defined boundaries to their own ends. If I had let her, the second woman who wanted to talk, who intentionally blocked my path to back to my table, would have torn the whole social treaty forged just 20 minutes earlier to pieces. And for what? She was not looking for a chance to chat with me anymore than I her. What she wanted was what all unrepentant guilty people want, a public absolution to go wreak havoc another day. In her arrogance and her sense of single issue victimization she believed such an absolution was her due and that my denial of it would be more proof that she was the radical and I the interloper.

Roger Corman/1962

This, by the way, is why people do not try. As long as the people with entitlement issues and privilege-evasive blinders think themselves the victims due apologies all the while oppressing everyone around them, their intended victims will always prefer attack or disdain over peace or learned alliance. After all, these are the colleagues who bring eggs and throw them, then complain about having to walk on eggshells whenever they are near us.

The impending conflict ended when two extremely Senior male colleagues got between us with the proverbial “Girls, you’re both pretty.” As she stalked away in a feminist huff, taking no responsibility for the problem but only marking the sexist way in which it was ended, she looked over her shoulder at me and said “Well, I guess we’ll have to talk later when you have time to be around the women of the college.” Score one for [single-issue] feminism or not.

The women back at my table simply laughed and asked if I enjoyed my turkey and pumpkin pie.

And so that little peace was shattered. Our Golden Age tarnished. Even now, my phone is ringing with colleagues wanting to gossip about the unmitigated gall of academics who see themselves as saviors because they occasionally mention race or class before reverting back to their navels. And I know exactly what was gained by the other side, because when we don’t work together then Pov U has little chance of moving into this century intellectually, economically, or with regards to diversity and that makes it easier to revert to conservative arguments about what needs to change and what does not. Score one for delusional bigotry.

Think Fast: 10 Songs You’d Sing in Public

Ok, seriously, I couldn’t think of anything to write about on the blog today that did not take more research than I wanted to do on a lazy Saturday. So I am staring at my navel and inviting you to do the same.

Today’s post, and its title, comes from an ice breaker that assumes you will answer the question:

  1. quickly, no pausing to think
  2. using a mix of songs that reveal something about you and/or are songs someone else who knew you couldn’t guess

For this post, I ruled out anything I’d put on the blog before or anyone I mention a lot which includes of course: Miguel Bose, Juanes, Brick and Lace, Joss Stone, most of the 80s (remember 80s Fridays), so it was tough.

Here’s my list in no particular order:

  • Rhianna Push Up on Me – because it is a song that me and my girls dance to a lot when we are just hanging out in the house and when I don’t want to clean the house, I turn this on full blast as part of a mix of similar songs and it turns sweeping up on its head

  • Annie Lennox & Chryssie Hynde Baby Give it Up – ok, the truth is I just want to be involved in anything that involves these two women on stage at the same time; I of course would be puddling myself in the corner

  • Laura Izibor I Don’t Want You Back – because I think this is the best break up song ever and I did sing it in public for a friend of mine who was all twisted over a drunk dialing from her ex and by the end of the song, the whole front row of the bar and a couple of the waitresses were singing along.

  • Rob Thomas Mockingbird – I went to a private concert this summer by the last boy I dated, 4000 years ago, he looked right at me & started to play this song and when he got to the part about walking away he handed me the microphone and we sang the rest together (who knows, if Rob Thomas had been around when we were kids, I’d still be straight … nah)

  • Camper Van Beethoven Take the Skinheads Bowling – come on, who doesn’t want to sing this in public?

  • Shakira No – in this case, I probably couldn’t sing this song in public because she has too many vocal changes for me in certain sections but you know if you’re gonna sing in public there should be some risk right?

  • Johnny Lang Red Light – now if you follow my twitter you could have guessed this one but most people would not have guessed this one  either I think, all though it was right up there with Sugarland’s Better than This as my theme songs back when Dr. Crackhead was in charge of the department

  • Hole Violet – this goes under the Dr. Crackhead files

  • La Ley Aqui – just cause

  • Son by Four El Puro Dolor – I saw drag kings sing this once and melted; I am not really sure I could pull it off but go big or go home

So what would your top ten songs be?

Quickies: The Catch Up Addition

(updated) So a lot happened in the world of fluff while I was away and, if my stats are to be trusted, some of you are really desperate to hear what I think about certain media moments. Here is the long and the short of it in the following order:

  1. Dr. Who Season Finale
  2. Wonder Woman Revamp
  3. Lindsay Lohan’s Arrest
  4. Despicable Me Review
  5. The Real L Word a Retraction

Moffat/unattributed

  • Dr. Who Season Finale (Spoilers)- I admit that after much initial scepticisim, I decided I really liked the latest incarnation of the Doctor. As I said in my post “Dr. Who Super Quickie“, the writing, acting, and directing had finally seemed to gel, everyone was bringing their A game, and the storyline was finally distinctive and engaging. Unfortunately, Moffat could not just sail his own ship into Dr. Who history like the amazing writer, director, and fan he is capable of being. Instead, like a rejected child whose lost one too many fights with daddy, Moffat consistently veered the show back over Davies territory in order to rewrite, rehash, and re-envision what has come before instead of simply taking the show in the direction he would like to define it’s latest incarnation. As a consequence, many of the episodes and especially the first part of the finale played out more like “suck it dad” than creative expansion. I’ve never been one for Freudian dramas between men, but when the final episode pt 1 aired as a mirror of the first, full of pointless pontificating and the resurrection of doctors past dissolving into the underwhelming Matt Smith I’d had enough. When part II opened with all of the Dr. Who enemies past destroyed, I wanted to call about the BBC and demand an apology to loyal fans or at least get myself put on an important panel in Britain to give a scathing review up close. The ridiculousness of Moffat having to constantly remind fans that his Doctor is The Doctor and his Whoniverse was better than all the rest because ha, ha, he destroyed all the other ones, throughout the show ranged from the subtle changes that we could all get used to, to the drastic ones. He even stomped on Torchwood lore by making Rory somehow able to be human despite not having an ounce of human DNA left as a cyberman while Lisa, who was half human, could not pull it off. But the worst, was when his entire first season at the helm ended with “DO OVER.” Seriously? What kind of lazy writing does one have to engage in it that they offer up very little new material throughout an entire season and yet still can’t think themselves out of the one new piece of information they provided without just calling time, literally, and starting again? What is the point of a time traveling show if the solution to go forward and then backward in time to rectify one’s mistakes is not expressly prohibited? Where is the tension in the show, if at any time they don’t like the direction they can just yell “do over” and set the universe’s time clock back to the part they liked? And as for those of you wondering if Smith is coming back as the Doctor, he is. I’ve seen the early images from the second season filming and he is there in an even uglier tweed coat; but then this should have been obvious from both the ending of this season and the fact the man has a 5 year contract. The sharp distinction between Matt Smith as Doctor when the scripts really were new ideas devoid of Moffat’s posturing and Smith as puppet in Davies banishment is only slightly less striking than the caliber of the story lines, direction, and acting of the supporting cast in these same episodes. To see how great this show could be if Moffat would stop playing what one of my colleagues calls “penis, penis, whose got the penis” long enough to realize no one else is measuring makes me sad, at best, for how terribly mundane it will continue to be until Moffat let’s it go.  (I had a discussion about this on twitter with some filmmakers, fans, and DMs with a few former employees of Who, and everyone was in agreement that the show has potential but Moffat’s obsessions get in the way. We also agreed the finale was underwhelming for anyone who has been a long term fan of the show; people who are only 5 or so years in to their fandom may feel differently because they don’t recognize all of the elements that we do.) Here’s hoping that during the hiatus Moffat puts his issues to bed, realizes that he is the undisputed heir to an amazing fortune, and gives us the brilliance Dr. Who and Moffat’s own legacy deserve.

Terry Dodgen

  • Wonder Woman’s revamp. First, go read Gay Prof’s analysis because there really isn’t anything else to say about what is lost here. En breve: her proto-feminist legacy has been completely erased, no more matriarchy origins, no more island of powerful women aka Amazons, no more female defined moral code or ethics, and yes no more swimsuit. As I said, I could be analytical about it all, especially given the huge loss of feminism, proto-feminism, and even pseudo- or out-dated feminism that defined various incarnations of Wonder Woman, including her origin story, but Gay Prof has already done that so well. So Instead, I am going to tell you a story. A long time ago, in an isla far away, I used to run around in my front yard in my Wonder Woman underoos imagining I was a powerful Amazon who stopped bullets with my big, shiny, bracelets. Years later, I was a wee lass jumping over koi ponds and lassoing cacti with an actual golden lasso I found one day on a walk with my big sister, with the boy next door. He was Steve Austin and I was Diana and we were saving the world across the super hero-bionic divide. I credit these moments and all the ones in between them for my development as a femme. I was never insulted by the bathing suit, or the short skirt, I was empowered by it, because I understood that Wonder Woman was a powerhouse that even male superheroes and military generals respected and she did it in thigh high boots and those signature bangles I mentioned already. The only women who made me want to femme out more were probably the queens and female rulers on Star Trek who combined their minis w/ the most delicious fabrics and green, purple, and glittery eyeshadows. Like Diana, they could not be bested even by the likes of Captain Kirk. For me, the revamping of Wonder Woman into some watered down, feminist-history-absent, manga-esque (and I like manga), video game ready, no doubt wise-cracking ie makes fun of men to prove her superiority instead of just being superior b/c she is umm a superhero, teen girl with a bad hair cut and even worse fashion sense makes me want to go all Fembot on someone. So for all the feminists saying “at least she has pants”, your analysis of why she didn’t before was spot on with regards to gender inequity in the superhero universe, however, her pants come at the price of her actual feminism and feminist history. More than that it comes at the price young girls who are still bombarded with hypersexualized images of youth that never contained feminist messages while being robbed of the few cultural icons that did. Better to be a girl in the front yard in your swimsuit taking down bad guys than an equally young girl in the backyard wearing XW-inspired hoochie gear # 5 while practicing how to go down on them instead. Oh and one more thing, have you seen the drawings of Wonder Woman? Most, tho certainly not all, of the fan art shows her with powerful legs and biceps, looking strong enough to take on the world. Many of the women and men who emulate her at conventions, costume parties, and events do so with a sincere reverence, even when its campy, toward her strength, intelligence, and femme-fatale. And even music videos that do homage to her have all referenced her brains and her braun as well as her beauty. This stands in stark comparison to the re-imagining of other female heroes and side kicks found in graphic novels who have always been fully clothed; take good look at the fan art and you will see a pattern in which their drawings make Barbie look appropriately proportioned, I’m just sayin’ …

you thought I was going to miss the opportunity to do two Wonder Woman pics; silly

rjonesdesign/2010

  • Lilo’s arrest – am I the only one who thinks a critical piece of the puzzle is being ignored in the hate on Lindsay bus? While many child actors end up addicted and burned out, and Lohan made no friends with her pre-teen diva act, it seems to me that hating on her in the absence of similar critique for the industry that supplied her and every other kid on the block is not only wrong but incredibly short-sighted. Part of the reason the industry gets away with taking talented children and turning them into drug addled teens with one foot in the grave is that our culture engages in collective cognitive dissonance as a society; we know who gives them drugs, how and why, and yet we just keep on staring at the spectacle and blaming the victims. More than that somewhat predictable answer to the Lilo situation, I want to add a queer eye. At least publicly, Lindsay’s drug habit seemed to spiral at the exact moment she was considering her sexual identity. Her first reported major drug bouts came around the same time that the photos of her engaging in knife play with another actress surfaced. Both women denied the lesbian content of the images and the media was happy to spotlight the “freakery” and call it attention getting. Shortly after those images emerged however, Lilo was moving forward with Samantha Ronsen. And while she seemed to be occasionally better while with her, Lindsay’s addiction continued to flare up. Those moments when she seemed to cross the line from spoiled party-girl to addict seemed to always coincide with public humiliation surrounding her sexuality or with dwindling film options that everyone assumes are related to the drugs, and are to some extent. But no one considered how quickly the doors shut on her options while similar young women in Hollywood with far less talent and just as public drug use continued to find work; those girls were all straight. Young queer people self-medicate every day in this world especially in response to imagined and real rejection. They fall down the looking glass never to resurface. So I ask you, is it so much to think that maybe a young woman just discovering her sexuality, who still does not even use the word “lesbian” to describe herself, who has her sexuality discussed in public across the world as if her feelings mean nothing or worse are humorous or a publicity stunts, and who already works in an industry in which drugs come easy and fast to people in her position, is in fact partially medicating her way through a major identity change? And even if she wasn’t, knowing what we know about the coming out process in the U.S. do you think someone who is already using drugs wouldn’t consider turning to them for comfort when the whole world is taking opinion polls about her sexuality and mocking her sometimes heart wrenching break ups with comments like “even women don’t want you fire c—-h” and “ha ha, guess that lesbian thing really wasn’t the way to boost your career”? So I am not saying there isn’t a complex picture here in which Lindsay must take some responsibility, including for her own actions, but instead pointing out that there are both recognizable circumstances devoid of sexuality and very clearly documented issues with regards to them that everyone seems to want to ignore so that we can all point and laugh of the fallen child star. I for one think she deserves more than that.

disney/2010

  • Despicable Me – the first hour is a snoozefest facilitated by the major jokes having all been included in the trailer. The last 1/2 an hour however is endearing and entertaining. Despite being billed as a supervillian movie, it is really a modern Orphan Annie in which the main character falls in love with three Orphan girls while trying to steal the moon. In finding his inner-parent with them, he also resolves his issues with his own judgmental mother and makes peace with the ways she tore down his dreams of going to the moon that led to his criminality, and plot to steal the moon, in the first place. There are 5 main women and girls in this movie, all of  whom are white. Some of them are stereotypical, like the overweight Southern Belle-turned-B–ch who runs the orphanage and the overbearing, uncaring, mother. The girls, on the other hand, represented a range of female identities none of which are disparaged despite the fact that one or two of them are extremely different. One girl wears glasses but there are no other disabilities present in the film. There are also minor female roles in which the women are also stereotypes, including the overbearing and over-indulgent N. American tourist mother and the overweight black mom. Minor male characters with lines are more varied: there is an overweight, clueless, N. American father, and over-indulged obnoxious N. American tourist son, and the annoying-but-meant-to-be-slightly-creepy, scientist, who is not emasculated but instead used as the source of jokes about age and aging; there is also a black male tourist with no lines and two Egyptian guards who are so dumb they don’t know the pyramid has been stolen, there roles as really minor. The major action takes place between the male supervillians and the bank, also run by a man, and most of the comedy involves yellow aliens who speak a mixture of Spanish and gobbledy-gook, which of course is insulting.

showtime/2010

  • The Real L Word – I know I said it was like bad dyke drama that you cannot turn away from in my original post, but seriously now it’s just bad. Since that first episode, I have not been able to sit through an entire episode of the show and I stopped watching all together when Rose, one of two Latinas and the only one who is light but not white appearing, through a party at the home she shares with her girlfriend and then spent the entire night demeaning her and acting like a loud mouth. When her girlfriend Natalie tries to confront her sexist and belittling behavior, Rose simple tells her to move out if she doesn’t like it and seems completely unfazed when Naatalie says she might and started to cry. In fact, Rose went downstairs and continued her boorish behavior with her guests. It was the kind of moment that makes you question whether a reality show should be a “true” reflection of the diversity of the lesbian experience, which includes boorish, self-absorbed, women who really don’t care about anyone but themselves or if it should make an effort to show lesbians in as positive a light, without losing sight of reality, as possible because it is only one of two reality shows to be centered completely on us. And these questions are colored, pun intended, by the fact that the only person acting this way is the only visible woman of color on the show; though, admittedly, she is not the only one who plays with women’s emotions and puts her needs first. I fall somewhere in the middle on the issue, in that I believe that a diversity of experiences need to be shown but that when you are among the first to represent a community to a wide audience you need to engage in point and counterpoint, ie that there needs to be a balance of identities and that race needs to be a factor in making the decisions about who you cast. In this case, if you have a loud mouth sexist Latina lesbian than you need to have a loving non-sexist Latina lesbian alternative precisely because the former plays into the stereotype of sexist hotheaded brown folk. Technically the L Word has provided this alternative in soft-spoken Tracy, the problem is Tracy is a white Latina (white appearing in the language of the U.S., blanca, ie white, in the language of Latin America) and therefore is not a visible counterpoint to Rose at all. And while we are talking race, there continues to be the ongoing issue of an utter absence of people of color in the “Real” L Word’s version of LA. If we removed Rose and Tracy LA could pass for a really sunny Sweden; when you film somewhere as diverse as LA, you should be able to get some people of color in the background shots just because they are there. This lack of reality has been a bone of contention amongst culturally conscious lesbians since the fictional L Word but there is also the issue of unreality in general in reality shows and what it means for the stories we see rather than the ones that were told/filmed. For more insight into that from a couple on the show we participated in order to help people struggling with self-acceptance or figure out how to fit into a sexual identity that has become synonymous with a lifestyle they may not lead see here. The women of Velvet Park also discussed in detail the way the show seems to want to exploit every negative thing about every member of the cast and turn this show into a sort of “Real Housewives of Lesbian County” which seems inappropriate in general and especially in the context of groundbreaking television. And so, I have to remove my endorsement of the show as something painful and yet compelling to watch. I’m not watching and from what I can tell neither is anyone else who is media savvy.

On Humiliation

Jan Coztás/2006

An interesting multi-blog conversation is unfolding in the academic blogosphere about the role of humiliation in academic relationships. While the conversation is quite complex overall, I find myself fixated on a single supposition: academics seek out humiliation. From my limited vantage point in the conversation, I have not read the book they are discussing nor been an active participant in the conversation, it seems the idea is based on a discussion about a “fictitious” academic from a working class background writing about a series of humiliating events in her early career. Part of that writing includes the fear of being outed as a poor girl in a field in which everyone is assumed to be rich and talking class is often the surest way to get shoved to the margins.

Long time readers, no doubt, can see why I might fixate on such a point. Perhaps it is because I am a poor girl who was given endless “tea cup tests” (does your pinky stick out or not) at my first appointment at Snooty Poo U. Perhaps it is because I chose to work at an extremely poor university that serves even poorer students and spend a ridiculous amount of my career saying to those who assume we are all elite surrounded by over-privileged students that not only is their reality not mine but there is nothing wrong with me, my scholarship, or my cognition because I chose to leave New England. Or Perhaps, it is just because I read, research, and work with and for people who have all at some point suffered serious humiliation at the hands of elitests who shrug off their cruelty like a stray cat hair on their sweater. I don’t think any of us seek out humiliation and if some do,  in this context, I would argue that it is about internalized shame taught to us outsiders to keep us from ever reaching for things we are allowed to dream about but never call our own.

More than that, I wonder about those who delight in shame. Is the delight in recognizing behaviors you have once engaged in but now have the privilege to forget the desperation that motivated them? By which I mean, when one seeks out counsel from Super Star X as a junior scholar, isn’t the motivation primarily to learn what Super Star X knows? Or if you are more self-interested, then perhaps the goal is to be taken under Super Star X’s wing so as to sail through tenure (which seldom happens by the way)? And in that instance does the humiliation stem from the system that marks out Super Star X as untouchable and therefore able to publicly humiliate others or even destroy their careers? Are you really a self-hating fool for talking to Super Star X if this is the only system in which you can engage him and he you?

Let me put it another way. Hegemony is based on naturalizing inequality to the point where we no longer recognize it and/or engage in it without the intent to do so. As students and junior scholars your success in academe is often based on networking with Senior scholars who have the power to radically impact your funding, advancement, tenure, and overall career. As you pass through each stage of academe the power they have over you diminishes. However, in order to pass through those stages you will likely have to swallow your pride, dilute your morals, and except things that in any other field of work you would be empowered to change. Those little compromises make you more and more immune to the vast array of inequalities and oppressions that fester in the academic world. This happens to everyone regardless of identity but is exacerbated by membership in a marginalized group and multiplied outward by the number of groups to which one belongs. This is something that we all know, that is written about in anthologies, and the subject of endless panels, and yet it is something that most would deny when reading it so starkly written out on a page as I have done here.

When you cross the line from un-ternured to tenured, the game changes immensely in some ways and not nearly as much in others. However, tenure provides a certain kind of safety that when coupled with years of minimizing and intentionally forgetting, ultimately translates to forgetting what it is like to dependent on good evaluations, Senior scholars liking you or at least not being annoyed with you because you wore purple on a Tuesday, and people perceiving of you as smart but not a threat to any of the status quo ideas that predate you. People forget what it is like to be the girl in the corner with one wool sweater, sleeves rolled up to hide the hole, in a room of girls with closets full of cashmere (to reference Pat Hill Collins essay on class antagonism in academe).

And while I am making critical feminist references to class analysis and academe why not trot out some tried and true readings on the subject; each of the books below contain essays on the subject:

  1. Alsion Trash
  2. Anzaldúa & Moraga This Bridge Called My Back
  3. Collins Fighting Words
  4. Kadi Thinking Class
  5. Langhout et. al “Assessing Classism in Academic Settings”
  6. “Classless and Clueless at NWSA” (haven’t read this but have had it on my to read shelf for a while)

So I put it to you dear readers, those of you who are working class academics or simply people whose identities have been the source of others attempting to humiliate you in the workplace:

  1. do you seek out humiliation?
  2. If so, why?
  3. what do you think the purpose of humiliation really is regardless of your own relationship to it?

As I always, it would be great to discuss it here for the people who don’t use twitter, but if you want to talk real time you know I’ll always answer your tweets.

Brotha Can You Spare Some Change …

UPDATE: A little before 5 pm EST, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack apologized to Sherrod and offered her an alternative job. While Vilsack says he will be disturbed by his actions for some time, I’m sure it pales in comparison to how Sherrod feels now and will likely continue to feel if she in fact returns to work at the USDA in the new position, because she still can’t have her old one back. THE WHITEHOUSE ALSO APOLOGIZED, late this afternoon after the writing of this post, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs apologized to Sherrod on “behalf of the entire White House” and seemingly admitted that the firing was made based on calls to the WH immediately following the airing of the heavily doctored video by Fox News.

Shirley Sherrod holds her Family Farm Champion Award from farmers in GA

On Monday, Shirley Sherrod lost her job. An outspoken advocate for the rural poor farmers, Shirley Sherrod is credited for having saved many rural people’s farms. As seen above, she has won awards for her hard work on behalf of farmers.

Sherrod is also a woman who is secure enough in her beliefs about economic, racial, and social equality that she readily talks about her own racial awakening in mixed company. Her story has been a cornerstone of speeches about equality, service, and struggle that she has given around the country. In March of this year, she told it to the NAACP at a filmed dinner. It begins with her talking about how a struggling white farmer, worried about losing everything, still hung on to his racial superiority when faced with having to ask a black woman for help. Sherrod admits that in the face of his racial acting out, she considered using her position as GA’s head of the USDA Rural Development Office to deny him assistance for which he qualified. But unlike the myriad of documented cases of white USDA workers doing exactly that to black farmers throughout its history, Sherrod chose to see the humanity of the farmer and to do her job. The result was that the family kept their farm and both they and Sherrod learned a valuable lesson about looking past race and racial history toward the struggle for equality and survival that we are all engaged in.

Not only does the promise of shared struggle and commitment inspire but Sherrod’s story is the kind that plays well to both racist and non-racist audiences. For racists and racism deniers, Sherrod’s example is proof that “really we are all racist.” In this version, racism is not a systemic inequality running through the heart of our country (the United States) that ultimately infects all communities precisely because of the way the master’s tools are both utilized by oppressors and internalized by many of the oppressed but rather individual acts in a vaccuum in which 9 times out of ten black people are the problem because they won’t “let it go.” Since Sherrod did in fact “let it go” it further proves reifies in the racist mind that when “black people stop being racist, racism will stop existing.” It’s a cognitive nightmare version of what she said but never the less would make her story resonate in positive ways with people prone to racialized thinking who do not think themselves racist.

In a less cynical light, Sherrod’s story represents a stark reminder that when white people resort to racial tension in the face of their own anxieties about marginalization (in this case potentially losing their farm because of very real classism embedded in how we treat small farmers and rural people) black people do not often respond in kind. For people who understand how racism works in this country, her experience provides a counterpoint to the feared Fanonian moment in which oppressor and oppressed simply trade places. More than that, it shows us that by looking at each others humanity rather than the things that divide us we can actually end racism and racial tension in this country.

Whether you view her story through a racist lens or an anti-racist one, Sherrod ultimately reminds us of several things:

  1. by engaging one another as equals, embracing our shared humanity, and investing in our shared success we can end racism and discrimination
  2. that the investment in white supremacy in this nation is so ingrained that even when white people are the targets of classism, regionalism, or even homophobia, many will still fall back on whiteness to feel better rather than address the real oppressors
  3. unlike the stereotype and growing fear of “reverse discrimination” most black people confronted with white racism will still do their jobs correctly and fairly
  4. riding out fear and anger, regardless of your position (poor farmer/USDA rep), can ultimately lead to racial reconciliation on all sides and away from more oppression

So how does such a positive message get twisted to the point that Sherrod is monitoring her own hurt-propelled anger on national news as she talks about being called repeatedly on the road and then finally, cruelly, dismissed from her job mid-route? As she put it on MSNBC last night, “Shirley, they want you to pull over … They want you to resign.”

Shal Farley/ 2009

Andrew Breitbart, a commentator for The Washington Times, former editor of the Drudge Report, former researcher for HuffPo, and current blogger/journalist for his own website breitbart.com, aired a heavily edited version of Sherrod’s speech on Monday on his blog biggovernment.com under the title “Proof the NAACP Awards Racism.” The video of her speech jumped from her childhood commitment to serve rural black people in GA, a group traditionally exploited, harassed, and even physically threatened to this day, to her story of the white farmer whose racialization of their encounter changed her world. The edit of the video removed Sherrod’s discussion of how she actually did not discriminate against the farmers in the story or how her interaction with them ensured that she would not discriminate against anyone else. It also intentionally left out her philosophy about the humanity and equality of all people and how it is the government’s job to represent and help all people. Finally, it erased the real discrimination that went on in this story between rich young white male lawyers and a poor, white, elderly rural, family and how the former’s discrimination shed all to necessary light on why we need to stick together across racial lines if we are ever going to have real equality in this nation. In other words, Breitbart took a speech about equality and humanity and transformed it into “reverse discrimination.”

Fox news, then allowed the story to be posted on their website without doing any fact checking and reported on it on their network. Fox employees, like Rush Limbaugh also lambasted Sherrod and the White House without fact checking. The soundbite was simply “proof ‘reverse racism’ is the norm under Obama.” Neo-Conservative Pundits, talk show hosts, and tea party spokespeople finally had their whipping boy girl.

Instead of countering with reasoned and documented information, or even following basic legal procedures governing the hiring and firing of Federal employees, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack demanded Sherrod’s resignation. His racial indignation was so great that he harassed her with 3 separate phone calls while she was driving home from work, finally having his office request that she pull over to the side of the road so he could fire her then and there. Apparently, when a black woman says in public that a lifetime of racism against her momentarily colored the way she viewed white people, she does not have the institutional protection of facts or laws nor the humanity in the eyes of her employer to at least warrant allowing her to reach her destination before losing her job. Instead, the side of the road will do.

If you are a person of color in N. America, you have either lost a promotion, job, grant, publication, etc. or know someone who has on the basis of rumor and innuendo about your “anger” or “ability to play ball.” In academe we use the word “fit” and “fit” is used to deny outspoken people of color tenure, advancement, or even hire. The fear beneath the “fit” is often about the fact that these people of color make white colleagues uncomfortable because they talk “too much” about the realities of race, racism, and the meaning of equality. Often, if the school is as entrenched as mine, the discussion will sooner or later turn to “reverse discrimination”, ie the fear that white people will feel by black people in positions of power. In the case of academe that translates to white paranoia about exclusionary pedagogy and curriculum that amounts to little more than professors of color calling on everyone in the room equally and producing a syllabus that does not tokenize authors of color. Bad evals, much like doctored videotapes of speeches, are used devoid of context to “prove” that “reverse discrimination”, often called “bad teaching” or “lack of collegiality”, has occurred. It is a story so old, I am sure the first black people freed from slavery can tell it as easily as those of us living today. (image above: Kimberly White/Reuters)

So what makes Sherrod’s case so important?

In the wake of the NAACP posting Sherrod’s entire speech online and the white farmers in the story coming forward and saying how much help they received from Sherrod, the White House is refusing to reinstate her.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, continued to assassinate her character nationally late Tuesday night even though he now admits she was not guilty of supporting discrimination in her speech nor is there any evidence that she discriminated against anyone she worked with in her position. He went on record saying:

First, for the past 18 months, we have been working to turn the page on the sordid civil rights record at USDA and this controversy could make it more difficult to move forward on correcting injustices. … Our policy is clear. There is zero tolerance for discrimination at USDA and we strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person. We have a duty to ensure that when we provide services to the American people we do so in an equitable manner. But equally important is our duty to instill confidence in the American people that we are fair service providers. (Politico.com)

Like his Republican counterparts, Vilsack seemed to be implying that black people are somehow responsible for the “sordid civil rights record at the USDA.” Never mind that this would be impossible given that USDA’s history of discrimination in the region is about black farmers losing their land because of faulty loans, lack of loans or aid, bad seed shoved off on them, discriminatoryu siezure of their land or harrassment and/or intimidation, or their please for help falling on def ears at the offices meant to help them. In other words, Vislak is implicating Sherrod in the very history of white racial discrimination that spurred her into the position she had in the first place. She has worked for farmers for 3 decades to help ensure equality for all rural farmers in Georgia.

Worse, Vislack clearly believed that white fears of “reverse discrimination” trump the realities of black people’s lives. In this case, that reality includes the fact that this entire story stemmed from poor white farmers resorting to racial superiority against a black USDA employee, in order to mediate their own class fears, and that instead of shutting them down, she helped them save their farm. It also includes the fact that they bonded over the experience of fighting against the people who actually discriminating against the farmers and that these farmers stood up for Sherrod when people called for her head on a platter. These facts are apparently irrelevant in the face of white supremacist paranoia of which Vislak bought in.

The President has also refused to stand up and bring the Change we were promised. Though the President said nothing about the incident involving a Federal employee,  according to CNN the White House released a statement on Tuesday morning saying the President had been briefed on the Sherrod situation and supported the decision to accept her resignation. According to the same Politico post cited above, by Tuesday evening the White House was backing off from responsibility for the firing but still said nothing in Sherrod’s defense. This is the third time an African American public figure has experienced some form of discrimination or seeming discrimination in which the President has offered us minimization, beer summits, resignations, and/or silence. Like when he said “the policies to help unemployed people will help those men just like everyone else” in response to a black journalists questioning what he was going to do about the disproportionate number of black men targeted for unemployment and lack of rehire during the recession, it seems that the change the President has brought to this country with regards to the lives of targeted or struggling black people is race blind euphemisms in the mouth of a black man instead of a white one.

The idea that he needs to appear to be “everybody’s President” has quickly proven to be code word for being everybody’s President until dominant culture gets their undies in a wedge. Once that happens, then it’s every black man or woman for themselves. “Everybody’s President” means EVERYBODY.

The Democrats are not alone in crucifying Sherrod. Not only did Fox and Breitbart run with this story without doing even the most simplistic fact checking, but the conservative media has been milking it for all it is worth.

Brietbart went on Hannity and claimed the issue was not whether Sherrod was racist but that the NAACP is “racist.” In his mind, they attacked the Tea Party for being racist when they were not and he did not do anything worse than they did. Never mind that no one in the Tea Party was fired or even effected by the NAACP’s resolution to condemn racism in the Tea Party movement nor that many of their members have been caught saying racist things, circulating racist emails or messages on chat boards, or holding racist signs. (One might infer that Brietbart engineered the Sherrod incident to prove how easy video is manipulated these days with little regard for what would happened to the specific black woman he targeted; which I personally would call racist. Then again, I’m only inferring, maybe the unidentified and “unknown to him prior” white farmer he says called him and gave him the tapes really does exist and his only fault is failing to live up to the journalistic standards that he seemed to uphold in his jobs for multiple other journalism sites in the past …)

Rush Limbaugh, who retains his job after commissioning and playing “Barack the Magic Negro” on his show, calling the President racist, and feeding the racial tensions in this country through a series of racially tinged comments and tirades on his show, is also calling for Sherrod and the President’s head on a platter. On last night’s show, he argued that Sherrod was a symptom of a much larger issue ushered in by the election of President Obama: the era of “reverse discrimination” in which white people would now be denied health care benefits, farm aid, or anything else they had “earned through their hard work” because some black person was going to discriminate against them. Not only does he have no evidence for this supposition in general, the white farmers in question have said Sherrod helped them and the U.S. Government has said Sherrod’ record is clean of any accusations of discrimination.

Fox news also joined the picnic, pun intended, when Meg Kelly repeatedly stated Sherrod would be coming on to discuss the controversy throughout her show. Then at the last minute, announced that Sherrod was not coming, and then preceded to disparage the decision claiming that Fox had done the right thing trying to give her an opportunity to respond to accusations. Never mind that Fox news was the primary network responsible for spreading the rumors and employs most of the reporters engaged in Sherrod’s character assassination and the “reverse discrimination” fervor. (image left: http://www.cromwellburnsinhell.com)

Despite condemnation coming on both sides, the difference between Conservative Pundits and White House officials condemning Sherrod is huge. Conservatives see Sherrod as their poster child for finally proving that black people are the real racists in this country and that white people are “victims of a vast black conspiracy to destroy them.” Never mind the truth that according to the white farmers in question, and all records on the case, Sherrod’s helped them save their farm and Sherrod lost her job over doctored material proven to be complete lies. The White House on the other hand is supposed to be the shining example of what our nation is capable of, of its potential to overcome difference and strife and unite disparate people in the process of nation building, and under the leadership of President Barack Obama, it was supposed to be a new chapter in race relations. While I never expected President Obama to dawn a cape and save the universe, I leave that to Ms. Magazine and other misguided liberals who think one black man in a position of power means racism is over, I did expect him to take a reasoned and effective approach to the many issues impacting N. Americans, including those that take on racial, sexual, or gender dimensions. His inability to do this even amongst his own employees and especially in the context of racialized cries of “reverse discrimination” that make this country even less safe for black people and even less likely to employ and retain black people in middle class positions, cannot help but make me question “Brotha, can you spare some change?”

Please consider signing the Color of Change Petition to save Sherrod’s job and let the President know what you think of the decision to support blatant lies over an employee with a proven record of fairness. click here

Inception a Review (Spoilers)

What do you get when you add 5/12 Matrix, 1/4 The World is Not Enough, 1/6 Shutter Island, 1/3 espionage/thriller, 1/12 original story? Inception in a nutshell.

Inception/ Nolan/Warner Bros/2010

For Nolan’s follow up to the successful reinvention of the Batman franchise and the noir thriller genre in general Inception is a spectacular disappointment. On the positive side, Inception is visually stunning. The bending sets, stairways to nowhere, and fight scenes that would make the Wachowski brothers wonder if Hugo Weaving zipped himself up in a Gordon-Levitt suit do not disappoint. On the other hand, if you’ve seen an Escher or gone to any of the major action films of the last decade, you’ve seen everything Inception has to offer before. Even the love plot is rehash, oscillating between epic French drama and another movie starring DiCaprio, Shutter Island, that has barely left the theaters, The plot of Inception is only less thin than the science fiction aspects of the story which, though present, are not the thrust of the story.

ibid

In essence, Inception is a corporate thriller in which the head of one corporation manipulates the father issues of the new head of another corporation in order to gain control of his assets. He does this through the invasion and manipulation of his rivals dreams. The love story subplot comes into play because the team of dream thieves he hires is run by the mentally unstable Cobb whose subconscious continually destabilizes his work due to unresolved issues with his dead wife. These issues, though rehash, are far more interesting than the espionage plot particularly because Nolan provides no context for either corporate player and thus, no investment in their success or failure. Worse, while invading the multiple layers of the dream world Nolan’s film quickly loses directions, descending into a completely plagiarized snow battle with literally no point whatsoever.

People of Color

ibid

There are two people of color in this film played by Ken Watanabe and Dileep Rao. While the Asian businessman engaged in corporate espionage is all too familiar in the thriller genre, Watanabe’s character is not an offensive stereotype. His is intelligent, shrude, and holds his own in both the dream world and the real one while never resorting to “wise old confuscious-bastardization” nor “Kung Fu master.” Watanabe’s Saito is, at best, simply a man trying to manipulate business interests through new technology that ultimately bests him. His character is as benign and tangential as Cyllian Murphy’s counterpart, Fischer, the other shrude businessman, who is taken for a ride.

Dileep Rao’s character is equally predictable and yet inoffensive. On the one hand, Yusuf is the dealer who mixes the drug cocktail necessary for the espionage to work. In this sense he could be interpreted as stereotypical in as much as he is an international drug mixer. On the other, his skill is specific to the task of dream manipulation that everyone in the film is working on. He is all an integral part of the team sense without the drug no one can enter the dream world, and without “the kick” he devises and the others help carry out, no one can escape it. His knowledge more science than criminal and his science is tempered by an equally adept engagement in the action sequences. It is Rao’s skilled driving that keeps the dreamers alive in the first layer of the dream.

Women

Inception/ Nolan/ Warner Bros/2010

(the tag for Barcroft Media is inaccurate. copywrite is held by Warner Bros)

There also two women in the story played by Ellen Page and Marion Cotillard. Ariadne (Page) is the brilliant architect who replaces the less competent Nash (played by Lucas Haas). Her skills in design seemingly rival only DiCaprio’s character, Cobb, and his wife, Mal (Cotillard). While there is a very faint undercurrent of sexual tension and subsequently less faint competition between Ariadne and Mal it is never so overt as to become an important plot point. Ariadne sees Mal as a dysfunction of Cobb’s disturbed mind and encourages Cobb to reject her solely for the restoration of Cobb’s sanity and the safety of the group. Mal, on the other hand, has a pathological dependence on Cobb that is acted out both through violence against other people in the dreams and Cobb himself. She is played as an independent character, both in terms of the backstory of his actual wife and as an actor in the dream. Mal is also a projection, a piece of Cobb’s mind whose job it is to defend the dream world against intruders. The complex, Freudian psyche, of the dream world is meant to mediate the crazy-woman in the attic that is Mal’s character in life and dream. Yet the engendering of her madness is only really undone in the final scenes where Cobb admits both that Mal is not real and that he is the cause of her insanity in both the real world and the dream. The cruelty with which he talks to her in the end if supposed to mediated by the fact that she is not a distinct person but simply a part of himself; as filmed, I am not sure that mediation is successful any more than the fact that Cobb is guilty mediates the fact that Mal’s main dialogue, and how we know her, is implanted by Cobb. In other words, the staging of the character retains sexist elements, even while the writing and revelations about her serve to destabilize them.

There are no women of color in this film and no out queer characters. There is the flimsiest of homoeroticisim between both Cobb and Saito and Arthur and Cobb but only if you really, really, reach for it.

Conclusions

ibid

While Nolan offers a film that is inoffensive on almost all levels, he also offers us a movie that is entirely too long and too dependent on worlds, techniques, and plots we have all seen before. His actors all do a stellar job but from the cameo by Haas to the starring role by DiCaprio, most of his actors are underutilized. Given the level of acting everyone in this film capable of, from Cillian Murphy, to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, to the brilliant Ken Watanabe and Marion Cottilard, the waste is a travesty and never more obvious then when Dileep Rao and Tom Hardy delightfully scene steal. If you like action films and gun battles, or special effects devoid of much compelling plot development, this film won’t disappoint you. It is easy watch, only drags when they reach the 007 moments in the snow, and many of the scenes are visually stunning both in terms of special effects and noir staging. While I would not go see Inception again I do not regret having watched it. In a summer full of bad movies and throwaways that makes Inception better than most Summer 2010 releases so far.

Mel Gibson Spectrum Disorder

Having recently returned from a mental health seminar abroad, I feel particularly well-prepared to tackle Mel Gibson’s outbursts over the years. In fact, with the help of several colleagues currently practicing in multi-culti or LBT centered facilities around the world, I already have.

You see, a famous therapist presented an in depth study on “the importance of diversity” in health practices at the seminar/conference. Despite his obvious commitment to trying to welcome diverse clients into mainstream services, it became obvious that he had started from the all-too-familiar supposition that emotional reactions to oppression were pathological. In other words, if you are angry because you live in gentrification grand central, or you are acting out in class because you are experiencing all kinds of bullying around your first attempts at gender transgression, it is because you have “maladaptive coping skills” (ie your anger is “inappropriate”). And if you get mad at your therapist, stop treatment, or otherwise try to seek real help by indicating the problem to someone else … oh yes, my friend, you are not only exercising maladaptive coping skills, including triangulation (when you try to get a third party to uphold your “crazy, crazy, fantasy land”)  but you are CRAZY with a capital CRAZ and YYYYYY. (image to left http://www.snoopy.com)

What exactly does this have to do with Mel Gibson, you ask?

You can imagine that several of us were unhappy that once again the “doing diversity” plan was to talk “inclusion” at the same time equality was completely ignored in favor of pathologizing people’s response to a lack of it. So when it came time to do break out sessions, my colleagues and I leapt at the chance to answer the break out session question:

Identify a behavior or disorder that you believe is directly related to diversity issues, locate it on a spectrum,  and explain how you would engage in inclusive therapeutic techniques to ensure that everyone was served.

(note: the new big thing in mental health is to cut down the number of disorders that stand alone and incorporate them into a larger spectrum in order to give people wiggle room with diagnosis and needs.

Also note that this project was an attempt to confront the way the medical model pathologizes difference and reframe it in a way that actually addresses real pathology in our society.)

Our answer “ripped from the headlines”:

unattributed

The Disorder – Colonial Fantasy Syndrome

A disorder in which a member of the dominant culture believes that their experience is normative and any other experience is therefore deviant or abnormal despite evidence to the contrary.

Indicators

Sufferers must meet 5 or more of the following criteria

  1. delusions of grandeur
  2. preference for a world in which the fantasy of their dominance supersedes the realities of diversity in the real world
  3. an overwhelming sense of persecution or victimization
  4. frequent projection (ie accusing others of the acts in which the client is actually engaging)
  5. manipulation of interpersonal relationships for one’s own gain while claiming otherwise
  6. egocentricism often masked as selflessness or self-interested demonstrations of selflessness
  7. characterized by sublimation in which one’s sense of superiority is masked by seemingly altruistic acts toward the targeted group(s)
  8. subset of sublimation defined by hypocrisy in which the sense of superiority is masked by calling out others for same or similar behavior, espec if members of targeted group(s)
  9. desire to belong to a group, see one’s self as, or otherwise engage in elitest or exclusionary practices
  10. engages in emotionally or physically threatening behavior with those who challenge the client’s world view
  11. tendency to blame addiction for incongruencies in one’s worldview or self-image (may or may not be accompanied by actual drug & alcohol dependence or abuse)
  12. willful disregard for the truth when confronted

Spectrum – The Mel Gibson Spectrum Disorder

AP Photo/Ric Francis

This spectrum includes all 9 indicators within its definition and may express itself through racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, or any combination therein. It is characterized by hypermasculinity distinguishing it from other similar illnesses. This spectrum is also distinguished from other illnesses by the presence of membership in the dominant racial group and most often, the dominant gender. While some believe absence of membership in heterosexuality exempts one from being located in this spectrum, this is unfortunately not the case.

While it is often characterized by alcohol dependence it may also include people who call any of the other 9 indicators addiction in and of themselves.This behavior is seldom a recognition of the problem but rather an avoidance technique designed to evade or minimize responsibility for one’s actions.

Examples:

  1. Michael Richards
  2. John Mayer
  3. Don Imus
  4. Prince Harry
  5. Dan Savage (who was the first blogger to blame black people for prop 8 & refused to intervene when commenters on his blog engaged in blatant racism, including epithets, when discussing the issue)
  6. Moderators at Boxed Turtle – who allowed anti-immigrant threats to dominate a discussion of a homophobic hotel owner (including against all immigrants not just the hotel owner) until I called them out, then allowed people to attack me and threaten my own status in this country, defended their lack of moderation, and then months later quietly deleted all reference to calling INS on all immigrants, me, and all brown ppl everywhere as well as other threats related to skin color or status from the thread.

Treatment Issues

People in this spectrum are often accompanied by enablers who make treatment of the problem nearly impossible. These enablers include people with more mild forms of the same syndrome (like wordpress itself, whose highlight page consistently includes racialized posts about black people and now Asians rather than highlighting posts written by & abt poc or by white ppl who are actually engaged in decolonized praxis rather than hipster colonial fantasy), other related syndromes or disorders like Goldberg Disorder I or II, etc.

Treatment can also be impeded by the ubiquitousness of the disorder across class lines. For instance more widely recognized cases may be defended by the media, perpetuated by it, or erased through it (which directly contradicted Savage’s part in and continued defense of blaming black people for the loss of gay rights).

Treatment

unattributed/redwinebuzz.com

Cognitive Behavioral modification that engages the client in understanding their faulty thinking about themselves, the world, and others and provides alternative modes of interacting with targeted group(s) that do not reflect maladaptive behavior. Ongoing intervention in childhood messages that allowed clients to internalize feelings of superiority, actions of violence to reinforce that superiority, and a sense of victimization by anyone who did not confirm their belief systems so as to remap cognitive processes away from cognitive splitting (when a person believes one thing even when seeing another. Example: they are being arrested because the police officer is female and Jewish not because they are driving drunk).

Ultimately, treatment depends on environmental (revolution), intrapersonal (addressing the whack-a-mole mind), interpersonal (friends don’t let friends drive, write, call, etc. while oppressive), and familial (so you say your dead was a Holocaust denier) aspects. Thus treatment is holistic and active at its base.

Being diagnosed with Mel Gibson Spectrum Disorder should in no way be seen as an addiction. Both the Spectrum and its distinct disorders are a choice not an illness beyond one’s control. People can completely heal from Mel Gibson Spectrum Disorder and their healing will ultimately help heal the world. As such, we must not fall into a pattern of excusing or minimizing the behaviors of MGSD but engage it head on rather. In so doing, we understand that MGSD is the pathology not the people who are often the target of people with MGSD.

Conclusion

Weave Mirror/ D. Rozin

In concluding our diagnosis, we pointed to the many ways that Western Society pathologizes victims of people with Mel Gibson Spectrum Disorder while giving people who continue to embrace the disorder and refuse to change a free pass. John Mayer is a perfect example of this phenomena. While he was under intense scrutiny for several days, he was back to tweeting, blogging, and major ticket sales before the end of the week of his racism incident. He is already being featured in a morning show concert series. Don Imus is back on the air and Rush Limbaugh was never taken off it. And I don’t doubt that my willingness to include Dan Savage in this list will raise the ire of some of my longstanding queer readers.

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So was this post really about Mel Gibson? It would have been easy to link to his “crazy” via TMZ or youtube and laugh and laugh and laugh some more with you all. However, ultimately, it is easy to point at the latest spectacle of oppression. But unlike a train wreck or an accident on the freeway, you can’t just slow down, stare, and then move on because when you do, you are in fact ensuring that the number of people with Mel Gibson Spectrum Disorder grows.

For those unfamiliar with the way MH diagnosis work, you may want to look up the list of symptoms we listed here. The reality is that each and everyone of them is actually included in one or more major personality disorder diagnostic criteria. Yet, that criteria is utterly devoid of oppression work. In other words, you are narcissist if you are self-absorbed, a sociopath if you engage in violence without remorse, oppositional defiant if you attack authority figures; but you are none of these things if you beat your wife, girlfriend, or partner, threaten to lynch, beat up, or kill a person of color, trans, or gay person, or try to get your black, queer, or differently-abled doctor, professor, or grocery store clerk fired. When you are deemed crazy in our society, you are expected to seek out treatment and work your treatment plan. Often when you are personality disordered, you are also highly stimatized as dangerous, violent, and in need of supervision. When you are racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. you can simply excuse away your behavior with “I’m sorry you interpreted my behavior that way”,  giving to charity or playing on stage with a differently-abled or young child, or a trotting your gay-black-trans friend, ex-wife, or tweens who pee their pants when you come around. No one watches out for or over you or is warned about you being dangerous. And while the medical model often pathologizes and polices people who do not deserve it (including people with personality disorders who have not been violent or whose violence is contingent on not getting treatment which is exacerbated by the way they are pathologized during treatment) the fact is that in the case of oppressors such labels and warnings would actual shift the medical model toward those people who are in fact violent (emotionally, physically, sexually), unrepentant, and therefore likely to be repeat offenders.

Hi All

I’m baaaack!

I have a whole list of posts I want to do, but silly me, I checked my work related emails before sitting down to post and oh the drama!!! So, I just wanted to let all of you know I am no longer knocking on death’s door nor blissfully oblivious to the universe while attending fascinating seminars abroad. I am however, still surrounded by interoffice politik and students on the verge … who says academics get summers off?!?

Someday soon, I will be posting that “Mel Gibson Spectrum Disorder” post tho, don’t you worry.