I Remember

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I was there when the events discussed at the beginning of this post happened. I started the Girlcot Seal Press accountability campaign. It is a traumatic story in the sense of cavalier disregard for intellectual property and closing of the ranks by certain mainstream feminists and a large portion of NWSA attendees that year as much as how the careers of those folks were completely unhindered by their involvement in both oppression and “potential” plagiarism. Yet it is also a powerful testament to the work woc social justice and feminist bloggers engaged in then and, if you know them, now. I am so proud of my virtual sisters for the community we built together and for all the amazing work I see them doing now. I too have grown and changed but I have never gotten to carry our histories with me.

Please click the link to read

An Open Letter to Amanda Marcotte

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Black Lesbian Excitement in Tejas

So … it seems two of my favorite people and/or their work will be featured in co-sponsored events by Allgo this week. For those who don’t know, Allgo is the place for queer people of color in Austin TX, a place I do not reside but Allgo often makes me wish I did. They sponsor artists in residence, film and discussion series, performances and activism, and just generally conscious-righteous stuff for the qoc.

This week they are featuring a poetic play by one of my favorite black lesbian authors, Sharon Bridgforth on Friday March 4 (TODAY PEOPLE):

8pm, The University of Texas at Austin, Winship Drama Building 2.180, 300 E. 23rd Street, Austin, TX

AND

Tomorrow after the amazing conference Performing Lesbian Archives, Allgo will be hosting an intimate dinner and discussion with  fellow blogger and newly minted PhD Alexis Pauline Gumbs (who I love and you should love too) and colleague in revolutionary black lesbian praxis Julia Wallace.

Bring a dish to share and get a chance to see footage from their amazing intergenerational project on black lesbian lives @ Out Youth 7:30pm 909 1/2 E. 49th Street, Austin TX 78751

And hey, if you can’t be in TX for these events, then consider getting your local college, women’s center, queer center, or feminist bookstore to invite these people out to your town.

Return to Kyrgyzstan


AFP/Unattributed

In June, I wrote a post about violence erupting in Kyrgyztan and its impact on women. For those who do not know, an unidentified number of Kyrgyz systematically targeted Uzbek neighbors for several days, including nearly burning down one of largest cities in the state and moving slowly out to the rural areas. Homes and shops were burned and women and children fled through the streets, being trampled, caught in the crossfire, and potentially targeted for sexual and emotional abuse. They were herded toward the border even though the Kyrgyz had intentionally blocked the ditch they would have to cross to flee to safety; in other words, the women and children were intentionally forced together in a holding area while Kyrgyz killed off the men. The first female acting-President, Roza Otunbayeva, begged for direct military action from international governments that came too late. Her ascendancy to power and proposed reforms, including the use of Kyrgyzstan by U.S. troops stationed there, is said to have sparked the ethnic cleansing attempt targeting her fellow Uzbekis and potentially fueling the inaction of the U.S. Base. Like the current scapegoating of Latin@ and Muslim immigrants in the U.S., the Uzbekis were targeted because of Political turmoil, unemployment, growing migration, criminal activity, and growing religious intolerance and at the center was the belief that an ethnic minority female president was not only unqualified to lead but also playing favorites by nature of shared identity.

A month later, women were at the center of rebuilding both the burned out communities and the sense of trust across ethno-religious lines. The city itself maintained a curfew and tensions continued in general, flaring up in small acts of violence on both sides. Like so many communities who experienced unchecked ethnic cleansing then end of major violence has left the population weary, scarred, and angry. Women in particular are surviving the scars of being raped, beaten, disappeared, taken hostage, forced to flee their homes, wounded, and killed. Many are trying to rebuild families that were separated only to find that most of their missing relatives are dead. And yet, according to Dr. Nurgul Djanaeva, the founder and president of the Forum of Women’s NGOs of Kyrgyzstan, no one had created bureaus specifically for dealing with women’s trauma, the potential for ongoing targeting of women in the aftermath, or the documenting of gender based violence against women during the conflict. One other major hindrance has been the stigma of rape and sexual assault that is making women wary of being counted or exposed while seeking treatment.

uzbek women voting amidst the ruble of their burned out home/unattributed

Women’s NGOs are at the forefront of bringing women together to heal. They are taking a lesson from other ethnic cleansing incidents in Europe, Africa, and Latin America to address specific gender based violence and support the centrality of women’s voices and experiences in rebuilding the nation. The hope is that rather than sparking ethno-religious misogyny in the future, women’s leadership will become a regularized part of Kyrgyzstan life.

While the conflict has led to opportunities for women, the trajectory of that conflict and its specific use of gender based violence largely unchecked by international peace keeping forces is becoming all too familiar. The strategic location of the U.S. military base in Kyrgyzstan and the ties to Russia were leveraged against the proposed autonomy of the people and the safety and security of women, children, and ethnic minorities. The rhetoric turning neighbor against neighbor is no longer the stuff of “never again” (WWII) but instead the common day occurrences that allow “good Americans” to burn other people’s holy books regardless of its impact on them or the U.S. troops they claim to support and have radio broadcasts using racial “puns” about rape and sexual assault of Latinas while others form vigilante groups and beat immigrants, often to death. What is the dividing line between those whose fears and misplaced envy is harnessed by radio stations and politicians into a lethal genocidal force and those who claim their references to “re-loading” are metaphorical? And why is it that despite what we know about how women are targeted both during these conflicts and in the makeshift camps built to keep them safe in the aftermath, why do we still fail to take this knowledge into account to ensure women’s bodily integrity? And why, after all the genocide we have seen in this world, are the military and economic interests of major Super Powers more important than safety and security of women’s lives? Haven’t we learned that societies where women have access to education, family planning, and representation and poor people have access to jobs, food, and shelter free of discrimination, are more stable than places where both populations, and their intersections, are exploitable? But then asking these questions might make us have to look at foreign policy through the lens of humanity rather than profit and ask when and where we are culpable and how these “exceptions” are in fact just more extreme versions of behaviors that permeate our own society.

Advertising for Traffickers

In 2008, one of my students in a global feminisms course I was teaching brought in a Google Ad for dating Indian women that kept popping up on her yahoo mail account. She pointed out how the ad capitalized on a generic image of Indian exoticism both in its images and text. She encouraged the class to consider what type of email they used outside of the university provided one because free email was being paid for through marginalization of women of color.

Bindi Girl Exhibit – Prema Murthy

(amazing feminist critique of exotic erotic images of Indian women)

We had just finished watching two separate documentaries on child sex workers in India at the time and one of the students asked if there was anyway to know whether or not the advertised “dating site” was involved in trafficking. My answer was to send them back to Google to do research. I told them to ask Google:

  1. how it screens its ads
  2. if there are any ethical standards related to safety (ie child safety, anti-trafficking, etc.)
  3. general questions about race and gender in its ads

The responses they received were fairly expected. Google does not screen its ads for trafficking nor check the background of the companies that place ads through Google. Their argument is that the volume of ads placed with them is too high to do the kind of individual human rights work implied by such a check. They also do not choose the ads you receive on your pages, so there is no standard form they could use to determine who sees what, ie boycotting yahoo would not stop those ad from showing up on other sites nor would everyone who used yahoo see those ads. Instead, Google uses a cookie system to track your internet usage that generates ads based on your supposed preferences. Since the program is based on a heterosexual white male model, that means if you spend a lot of time on sites about women, you are likely to receive dieting, shopping, and dating ads or if you spend a lot of time on sites about India or women of color in general, you will receive dating ads specializing in hooking men up with women of color. The assumption in both cases is that you are either a man, needing a heterosexual dating services, or a heterosexual woman needing a man, and therefore needing to meet beauty myth standards. To cover its basis it sends both kinds of pop ups to you.  As implied, these ads not only represent gender bias by centering both male needs and female insecurity but also implicate you in heterosexism and potentially racism, since the ads seldom include sites that are queer inclusive nor those that fail to peddle in exoticism assuming a white male audience looking for the “dark mysteries” of the “exotic erotic”.

Besides the invasion of privacy aspects, this makes Google seem fairly benign. Google does not make the ads nor determine who receives them based on any disregard for your politics or rights. However, the answer also reveals two key issue: (1) Google is primarily a search engine with both human and program-based web crawlers and (2) Google plants cookies to track usage. So why is checking basic information on the people who place ads too difficult a task? It seems that while people are not likely to be forthcoming about using the internet to traffic women, Google’s own search engines should be able to reasonably flag connections to known traffickers and subsequently deny advertising space. Given the volume of ads, it could not guarantee 100% success but it could be a step in the right direction.

The second set of questions has to do with general standards and modeling. There are a number of products whose dubious connection to human rights could easily be excluded from Google ads. While this leads to questions about market based freedoms and potentially freedom of expression that I think are equally important, exclusions have long been a part of advertising strategies for certain markets. A less sticky option, would be for Google to modify the programs that select ads to stop assuming a heterosexual white male norm. Thus when cookies reported you spent considerable time on pages related to women of color, it would trigger a subset of programs that would cross-reference that usage for things like “feminism”, “social justice”, etc. in the same way that it checks larger categories like “women”, “health”, “education”, etc. So that feminists and feminist web sites were not being supported by demeaning or potentially anti-woman advertising. By anti-woman advertising I mean, for example, ads that show large women as disgusting and then try to sell you dieting pills that we all know will likely be recalled the following year for causing all kinds of health problems and even death in users, or more benign ads that focus on a sexualizing gaze at various women’s bums in order to sell you shoes. Imagine these ads popping up on body positive websites.

Take for instance, this blog. I recently discovered that there are similar ads to the one my student brought into class on my blog! These ads show up on pages about women’s sexual freedom and global feminisms. At least one shows up on a post about rape as a war crime. So on the one hand, my text is discussing women’s rights, equality, and to respect women as subjects and on the other advertising is telling you to participate in international heterosexist digital dating which may or may not be implicated in larger trafficking issues. A simple modification to Google’s programming could prevent such things from happening. However, I suspect that these types of ads generate more revenue than an ad for Make/Shift would. (There are also ads for skin lightening cream and hair straightening gel on posts about black women and beauty …)

The discovery of these ads and their offensive and contradictory placement on certain blog posts on this blog brings me back to the larger question about the meaning of “free” raised by my student. I regularly ask my students to think about “free” and “freedom” in my classes. I teach unit on reproductive justice where I point out how reproductive freedoms in the Western world were/are based on reproductive injustices to women of color, incarcerated women, and women in purposefully underdeveloped nations. The speculum itself comes from a myriad of abuses perpetrated against the bodies of enslaved black women and girls. Many advances in certain medical procedures and medications for birth control have been gained through practice or testing on marginalized women with varying forms of questionable consent. My goal in this lesson is to move them past the discourse of reproductive “freedom” to a global sense of reproductive justice in which one woman’s freedom is not bought on the backs of another’s oppression. Yet, it never occurred to me to ask who pays for my free email account? Who pays for my free blog? Isn’t my free lunch free?

For those of you who do not know, unlike other blogs, wordpress places Google ads on free blogs without the knowledge or consent of the blog owners. They recently let this practice be known because of questions raised by bloggers. WordPress claims that these ads offset the cost of providing free services to its 300,000+free blog users. WordPress and Google share the profit from these ads, bloggers receive none. You can opt out of this system by paying $120/year for your blog. Even if you are not as concerned about issues of oppression as I am, umm skin bleaching cream on a black is beautiful post had better upset you, basic math should point out that bloggers are getting worked in this system. If each time an ad pops up Google and WordPress split $1.50 even if each blog only had one visitor a day, that means they are splitting a revenue of $450,000/dy based on our collective labor while we get $120/yr in the form of a “free” site.

So it seems whether you are concerned about women’s and human rights or the market, there is a major problem here with how Google Ads work and for whom they work. Discovering these offensively placed ads on my site has not only made me have to take a good look at my own decision-making but also at the sustainability of this blog.

Ultimately, there was no real resolution to my student’s question nor the research projects and activism that it inspired amongst my students that year. Google is ubiquitous on the internet and so it seemed incredibly daunting to try and fight them collectively. Instead, we engaged in individual choice making in the hopes of making larger change. One of those choices, is that I pass out a handout on how to make complaints about Google Ads. While the most effective way to complain requires a google account and a complicated process for locating the actual complaint area on the page, you can also send a generic complaint via this link. If you see an offensive or offensively placed ad on my blog, please complain about it to Google.

Maintaining this blog, on this site, is a choice and it is a choice that is becoming more antithetical to my support of decolonized feminism every day. If you have suggestions of other blog sites that you are using and happy with, please let me know.

“From Text to Film”

blogging librarian flickr/ http://libraryofdigress.files.wordpress.com

One of the great perks about blogging is that you get to have conversations with a wide range of people about things you may not have thought about or about which you had not thought of in the ways you do as a result of those conversations. I’ve been joking around for a while now that I wanted to teach a class on novels adapted to film. While many people have done this before, and I get a lot of leeway in my department(s) with my cinema courses, novels to film is fairly clearly in the realm of the English Department, the one place at this uni I don’t teach. The other issue has always been that since my courses tend to meet both the gen ed and the specialization cores in several fields, there are certain expectations about the material my courses contain. In thinking about the novel to film genre, it means that I would likely have to expand to Made for Television movies to incorporate enough diversity into the curriculum and then the discussion becomes not only about shifts from one medium to the other but also the freedoms or lack there of granted television vs film. I did not want to get bogged down in discussions solely about the latter to the detriment of the overarching questions about identity. While I knew I could probably pull this course off if I modified the time-frame, ie set it in the historical period I teach, that would mean having to read novels that would ultimately get us bogged down in discussions about period and expectation around identity vs the movement from one form to the other. Ugh, does your head hurt yet? Mine certainly did. So I let it go.

Enter Scott Pilgrim and his bevy of fans + the book meme, in which I mocked the film “Bram Stroker’s Dracula” for not actually following the story and rewriting some key characters. Like an aha moment, I found these two blogging conversations combining to make me question the age old encoding/decoding debate in new ways. In other words, there is a metaconversation taking place about the meaning of movies that is radically changing the discourse of how see and understand film. This post is about those changes; if you want my movie review of Scott Pilgrim look here.

In talking about my experience of the film/reviewing it and  its racial and gender content, I have received multiple comments here and elsewhere that reference the graphic novels as counterpoint. In looking at commentary on the internet, I found the same thing. In other words, people reviewing the movie have largely talked about the movie itself: its content, the acting and directing, and the overall plot, and occasionally, its niche appeal. The people responding to their reviews have pretty much all gone back to the source material to contradict what people say is in the movie. Yet, what most have reacted to in the film: (1) the absence of female perspective, (2) the focus on a largely unlikeable character or characters, and (3) confusing or choppy plot, have all been fairly consistent. Are we to believe that because the original graphic novels make clear that Scott Pilgrim is meant to be unlikeable that the film does a good job of telling its uninformed audience this information when so many did not get it? Or are we meant to excuse the absence of female subjecthood in the film because the graphic novels apparently center them and their thoughts?

brian o’malley/oni press

As I said in my review, should Scott’s supposed growth, reduced to a few minutes in the film that I argue are undermined by the way he once again treats Knives at the end, negate racialized and/or racist depictions of API Americans in the movie? This is an issue that most reviewers and comment makers have yet to address precisely because one of the film’s more stereotypical scenes is taken directly from the pages of the graphic novel without any editing or changes; sadly, the reviewer from the Harold seems to explain it best when he says that as a white surbuban gaming male who fits the intended demographic he was easily able to overlook the bollywood scene until a comment on twitter about race in the film made him think through the movie with race in mind. Like it did for me, the meta-conversation surrounding this movie, ie between novel, film, and multiple internet and social network sites, is creating a radical rethink of meaning on all sides. And for everyone who has gone off the deep end over Dr. Laura’s comments, tell me, what is the difference between Dr. Laura  calling a black woman “oversensitive” because she does not like the racist jokes made by her white husband’s friends in her home and white fans of Scott Pilgrim saying “hater” to anyone who mentions the racial depictions of API Americans in this film?

Race issues aside, there seems to be a struggle going on between those who saw the film on its own and fans who saw the film and read the graphic novels or simply read the graphic novels but have not gone to the film. The latter have been quite vocal about the fact that people criticizing the film “don’t get it” despite the consistency of the reviews. This reaction varies considerably from earlier fans who willingly critiqued films for failing to represent the text upon which they were based. Films with huge fan bases in fact, have almost always had to address fan expectations in order to be successful at the box office. When fans say the film is not accurate enough, movies generally tank at the box office.

(note the Asian mom’s broken English)

Brian O’Malley/Oni Press

Scott Pilgrim is tanking at the box office. Yet fans are defending it and the studio is blaming it on Michael Cera. Apparently, several of Cera’s last few films did not do well, so he is an easy whipping boy. Yet I can think of no one better to play a 20 something year old slacker who quips about life, resents having to defend himself, and looks like the kind of guy you expect to see in the arcade and root for when attacked. I think he was a perfect choice and his comedic timing are spot on as always. Even if we factor in the people who have just had enough of his t-shirted, saggy chords, skinny boy schtick, there is still something more interesting going on here.

The cry from fans of “you don’t get it”, seems like a generational issue to me. In this context, the film becomes irrelevant. What is at stake is youth who identified with Scott Pilgrim as a graphic novel and see it as a depiction of their generational angst in the same way people thought of American Graffitti, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club, or even The Big Chill or Diner.  Their embrace of the graphic novels at a gut level combines with the total rejection of the movie by accredited film reviews who are all over the age of 30 (to riff on that old adage “don’t trust anyone over 30”). These “older” reviewers have combined their general dislike of the movie with comments about largely negative comments about the slacker generation and in some cases outright ageism. This stance makes them easy pickings for youth who already feel screwed over, ignored, or condescended to by the generations before them. The more these youth respond with “you don’t get it”, the more older people bristle. Yet the mode of this conflict is not one in which either side is openly talking about age and stage but rather cinema vs text, with one group pointing emphatically at the failings of the movie and the other willingly filling in the blanks or omitting those failings with the original text in order to maintain their stance.

I find this fascinating.

First, I do think there is a generational issue in the reception of the film. I walked out of the moving clear that there were at least two cultural reasons why this film did not appeal to me and that they overlapped. I also know there were other people in my theater who felt the same way, because they kept looking over at me in confusion. And when I frowned at the racist parts, they were so attuned to my presence that they reacted as well. Nothing like being a zoo exhibit or a fossil at a movie screening …

Second, I’m wondering what it says about the nuances of marketing that they can graft a film so carefully onto an identity as to make those who identify with it ignore the disconnects present. In other words, when other movies have differed from the text people have complained. These films were marketed as stories or true adaptations not as cultural artifacts. This movie seems to be encoded and decoded by its core audience as the latter and therefore omissions and lapses are forgiven or ignored. Even the feminist viewers in this group have been largely silent about the absence of well-rounded female characters in the movie. Those fans who acknowledge it, only bring it up to once again point to the source material as a way of avoiding the critique of the film.

In some ways, it reminds me of the limited critique of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Despite including episodes in which Native Americans were evil genocidal ghosts on Thanksgiving, spreading syphilis and needing to be killed because “they were engaging in genocidal revenge”,  resurrecting “the primitive” in discussing Buffy’s origins, or including rape of beloved characters by other beloved characters, fans of Buffy refuse to address race and gender issues embedded in the show. Those who breach them are summarily dismissed as “not getting it”. And like Scott Pilgrim fans, when footage of these events or director’s script notes are actually shown to an audience as proof, as happened at two conferences I went to in the late 90s, fans simply make up elaborate excuses based on the overall storyline of the show. And of course there is always the a line or two that are included in these scenes to mask the overarching racism that they can glom onto.

So what is that spark needed to so thoroughly fuse audience with product? And why does it work so well at erasing or allowing for the justification of marginalization even for audiences who are quite savvy about how marginalization works? What makes something off limits? And why do these conflicts seem to take on generational significance whether it is between reviewers and fans or fans and older non-fan directors?

I’m going to be mulling this over for the rest of the term because, as I said, I find it fascinating but also because now I really am going to teach that course in a way that places it firmly in my disciplines and gets at some difficult questions about race, gender, sexuality, class and fandom. In Spring, the campus bookstore is going to be full up on graphic novels, required itunes passes for videos of tv shows, and classics on Race, Class, Gender and the Media. I can’t wait!

A Literary Meme! Oh Pick Me, Pick Me

I have not done a meme in a very long time. When I saw this one on Feminist Texican‘s twitter feed, I could not help myself. It is the end of summer/start of fall term after all and I’ve spent an entire summer with my nose in a book. Yes, I know this does not seem that different from any other time of year, do you have a point? … ahem … As I was saying, so what better time to do a 55 question ditty about literature? (By the way, I read a lot of fluff in the summer and looking over my answers, it shows & you thought I was nerdy all the time)

the meme

Current book cover art by Taeeun Yoo, showing ...

Image via Wikipedia

1. Favorite childhood book?

2. What are you reading right now?

3. What books do you have on request at the library?

  • On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers (this is course related)

4. Bad book habit?

  • folding over pages instead of using book mark
  • starting several books at same time

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?

  • this list is too long, mostly they are women’s health books for my course this term

6. Do you have an e-reader?

  • yes; if you count the apps on the ipad, I have several

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?

  • I should read one at a time to become fully absorbed, but I do read several at once

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

  • no

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)

  • It may end up being Club Dead pages 58-61 are particularly demeaning to women (both cis and trans women, both of whom are referenced) and the race & sexuality stuff in these books also makes me question the taste level

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?

  • The Uglies Series by Scott Westerfield – I read them for a series I am doing on female protagonists in Young Adult fiction & I couldn’t put them down; they even invaded my dreams at night, for real, I read the books well in to the night and then dreamt about the main characters all the way through it. When I got up in the morning, I would read them on the way to the bathroom to brush my teeth.
  • The Morganville Vampires Series by Rachel Caine – read these for the same reason and also found them extremely compelling until the 7th one; if you are reading insipid Twilight or been tempted to buy them for girls you know, STOP NOW!!! and go buy these books they have a strong female protagonist who is a math whiz, well rounded female and male characters, and never get sidetracked by love stories until near the very end of the first big story arc

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?

  • regularly, how else do you learn?

12. What is your reading comfort zone?

  • scifi, horror, victorian,post-colonial, women’s, magical realism, feminist theory, cutlural studies, psychology, critical race theory, disability studies, queer theory, young adult, etc.

13. Can you read on the bus?

  • yes unless the ride is bumpy or the bus is packed

14. Favorite place to read?

  • bay window overlooking tops of trees in our backyard

15. What is your policy on book lending?

  • I used to lend books, now I just gift them or forward the library hold information

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?

  • regularly

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

  • academic books yes, regular books no

18.  Not even with text books?

  • see above

19. What is your favorite language to read in?

  • the original one it was written in; sometimes things are so poorly translated as to be completely inaccessible

20. What makes you love a book?

  • literature: well written, imaginative, compelling, preferably no or limited oppressions or hegemonic assumptions, unique or expansion of existing drama, characters that resonate
  • research or theory: well researched, documented, verifiable examples or experiences that are not meant to reify but to expand concepts, clear methods and articulation of theories and ideas, lends to/expands/or radically challenges existing work in ways that move us forward, self-reflexive and anti-hegemonic

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?

  • if I love it (see above) or I am fairly certain someone else will
  • I’ve recommended books I don’t particularly like to people I think will like them or as examples of why we need a publishing revolution

22. Favorite genre?

  • see question 12

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)

  • I need to read more early N. American history and re-read civil rights history both seem  really important right now

24. Favorite biography?

  • I don’t read a lot of biographies but I did find Rosanna Barr’s My Life as a Woman really informative and interesting. There is a lot going on in her life and her childhood that I think people could learn from and speaks to why she was the first modern woman to give us a working class family show that did not insult other people or hold back from some of the things people outside of the working class would judge as declasse. Say what you will about her general taste level and behavior, in that tv show she gave us strong women, working class lives, and a myriad of female characters and young men learning what it means to be decent human beings when execs wanted to shut her down.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?

  • outside of my early volunteer work, no.

26. Favorite cookbook?

  • I’m a big fan of the Moosewoods – I met someone who worked there for years recently, that was a treat
  • Cranks – it was a collection of recipes from my favorite crunchy-granola place in Piccadilly, housed in a cider press, with the nicest staff ever – though it seems to have she-shed up a bit since then; I ate there every chance I got; it’s hearty, vegan and veg, and just plain good; seriously the original cookbook (I just learned there are several now, but back then there was just this one and the owner signed mine when I bought it in the restaurant) can help you transition to healthy food or keep your diet lively and filling tho it does seem they are more on the veg side these days

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?

  • The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne – I started this a while ago and was cruising right along until it got to the whole sex/love part, Protestant fears about their bodies and desires don’t make sense to me as a Catholic so that part was a bit much, but the rest is quite amazing. I am also a little creeped out by the new website I linked to which seems a little too much about Shane and not so much about the G-d he has so eloquently written about yearning for …
  • everything else I’d put here, I didn’t read this year

28. Favorite reading snack?

  • I try not to eat and read at the same time because I read a lot; so coffee maybe some home made trail mix (pistachios, dried cherries, peanuts, kashi protein cereal, and cranberries)

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.

  • Steig Larson’s books – everybody was raving about them, including alternative bookstore and feminist folks. I found the language stilted because of the translation and because I was expecting greatness it was so disappointing I never got past the 3rd page whereas I would have likely read it otherwise.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?

  • It depends. These days, many mainstream sources of book reviews are actually paid reviewers with perks from the publishing company or they may even work for a company that also owns the publishing company. Have you ever noticed how all of a sudden book X is the thing to read and every site for miles is talking about it? That is part of the advertising not serious review work. I tend to disagree with most of those people. But I have bought books based on the reviews of certain book blogs or Feminist Review or reviews referenced in book catalogues so …

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?

  • I do it all the time as a blogger and an academic. It is hardest when I know the author, they are well respected in their field (which I have only done once), or they come by the blog and tell me how hurt they are by my assessment. The latter is the worst. I don’t mean to harsh on anyone, but I do have a certain set of criteria when I write a review which includes issues of race, gender, and sexuality, marginalization and gaze, as well as literary and research quality. I can love your book or movie for its overarching narrative and ability to create new worlds or delve into important theories and still ding it for a colonial gaze. Some people hear that and make their peace with it, ie vow to think more intersectionally or admit they do not care, others are deeply hurt by it and engage in the normal, though annoying, struggle of trying to reconcile their view of themselves, what they’ve done/produced, and what I’ve said about diversity. The best is when they tell you things about the process you did not know. I’m always learning from the writers, artists, directors, and fans who engage in real conversation.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?

  • which language are we defining as foreign?

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?

  • Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko – it is a huge book with immense depth and I was writing my second book at the time so it was hard to juggle both; but it was so worth it. I don’t know anyone who has not read this book, but if you have not, you need to.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?

  • none

35. Favorite Poet?

  • Nikki Giovanni – it’s hard to pick just one, but I’ve met her, been delighted by every conversation or event where she is featured, and I buy her books regularly; more than that, when I take the books out to glance at, someone always stops and says how much they love her too and I almost always end up reading the poems out loud with someone in the middle of a coffee shop, bookstore, or park, that is magic.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?

  • Not many, I tend to buy my books because when I was a kid we could not afford alot so I would go to the library twice a week and fill up my backpack. I promised myself when I got older, I’d own my own books. That said, I think I have 10 or 15 out right now.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?

  • seldom. you know, you can always renew them.

38. Favorite fictional character?

  • really rosy

39. Favorite fictional villain?

  • Bram Stroker’s Dracula of course

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?

  • whatever I am reading at the time (see question 12)

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.

  • without reading a book would be 48 hours, without reading anything, 1-3 hours

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.

  • Siddhartha by Herman Hesse – I read it with a group of rich white youth who were just so enthralled by India so …
  • Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser – such whiny drivel masquerading as social commentary

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?

  • the phone, the dogs

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?

  • I’m a purist so …

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?

  • “Bram Stroker’s Dracula” – umm, because it does not actually follow the book it claims in the title, including changing some of the characters completely ugh; seriously, if you are going to put the author’s name in the title of your film at least do them the courtesy of actually reproducing their work

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?

  • on personal reading: $850
  • when I was a student: $1,000 (I went to an undergrad where you read at least 8-12 books per class/ in grad school it was 11-13 per class)

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?

  • I usually skim things in the bookstore before deciding to buy

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?

  • death of a beloved character or similar traumatic events – I once stopped reading a book (The Last Blue Plate Special by Abigail Padgett) because the dog died and I put down Tipping the Velvet for months because of what Kitty did to Nan

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?

  • if you count one in every purse, the car, the basket in the front of my bike … sure
  • yes. Most of my books are in shelves in my home library or in the office and I know exactly where they are, it just when I run out of space that it is harder to keep organized

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?

  • I keep at least one copy of every book I love, but I give copies to others all the time if I love them

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?

  • like a book that is stalking me or just won’t stop calling already? no.

52. Name a book that made you angry.

  • It’s a Jungle Out There by Amanda Marcotte – I think the marketing, illustrations (especially the history that includes the racist images being approved after the first draft images were massively critiqued for racism while everyone involved pretended they didn’t know the images were racist a year later amidst a second round of racial critiques post-publication), the press which has its own recent history of exclusionary practices and denials, the author’s potential plagiarism or a woman of color and the flippant way she dismissed intellectuals and feminists of color when called on it, all come together for me as one of the biggest examples of mainstream feminism fail in the publishing industry and an example of how younger women continue to make the same myopic “mistakes” and excuses in the name of feminism that I really hoped my generation or the generations before me could have put to bed already. When feminists not only fail to address ALL women, but then respond to that failure with derision, evasion, or my favorite “I thought it was funny”, they do the entire movement an endless amount of disservice and damage and ensure that women will never truly gain equality. (Yes, boys and girls, I’m a historian, I have a very long memory and it is full of facts and figures, names and dates) On a personal note: it makes me extra sad to have to write this because Amanda was one of the first people to draw attention to my original blog and compliment my blogging and I really love Pandagon.
  • Sarah Palin wrote a book this year didn’t she?

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?

  • Happy Birthday or Whatever by Annie Choi – It wasn’t that I did not expect to like it as much as it was that I did not expect to like it as much as I did nor find my own reflection in many of its stories. I even read some of it to my mother.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?

  • There are two fan favorite vampire book authors on this list both for writing racist, homophobic, and/or transmisgyinistic material in their books that had nothing to do with the plot, the characters, or anything else in the book. When you can literally edit out the material without making a single other change to the book and read it without confusion or a blip in continuity, that means that ish is just there because the author is oppressive. If you don’t know who I mean, go back over your vampire book collections with an intersectional eye and see if you can find it. I’ll wait.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?

  • have I not mentioned the word vampire enough for you people yet? thhhppppttttt

WordPress Wednesday Aug 18: The Fail Continues

Think about this as you read these stats, blogging is not only the new way of publishing it is increasingly the way to access the old way of publishing as well, it is also second only to twitter as a go to source for media pundits looking for “the pulse of the nation” or the “important story”, and it is one of two media sites that form the basis for much electronic research. When we are not included in the places that legitimate and draw attention to the voices on the internet we are in essence once again being erased and shoved out. Since blogging is a medium that so many diverse people have made their home, and wordpress among the top places to do it, doesn’t it warrant at least a question about why they choose such a narrow focus in representing both their brand and all of us?

brittanica.com

Here are this week’s stats:

Images

  • men of color: 18
  • women of color: 6
  • TOTAL PICS OF PEOPLE OF COLOR: 24
  • white men: 40
  • white women: 32
  • TOTAL PICS OF WHITE PEOPLE: 72

The number of white people pictured on chosen posts outnumbered people of color by almost 3xs as much this week. All of these images were of able-bodied cis gender people. Images of white women were 5xs more likely than images of women of color and even more were likely to be seen on the Freshly Pressed page pointing you there because images of women of color appeared in posts with images of white people and the latter were almost always chosen for the Freshly Pressed page image. White men outnumbered men of color two to one and would also have been overrepresented on the Freshly Pressed page for the reasons listed above.

Authors

  • men of color: 3
  • women of color: 2
  • TOTAL AUTHORS OF COLOR: 5
  • white men: 12
  • white women: 30
  • TOTAL WHITE AUTHORS: 42

The number of people of color featured remained constant from last week representing an average of 1.7% of the total available bloggers for highlighting. The number of people of color blogging on wordpress is unavailable but they certainly make up more than 2% of the 280,000 bloggers from which to choose. There were also three authors of unknown race, only one of whom was a woman and one author who identified as asexual gender neutral, who was white.

Gender & Sexuality

  • pictures of cis women: 37
  • pictures of cis men: 55
  • pictures of trans women: 1
  • pictures of trans men: 3
  • female authors: 33
  • male authors: 17
  • gender unknown: 1
  • gender neutral: 1
  • articles about feminism: 3
  • articles about queer rights: 1
  • articles about, related to, or otherwise assuming overt heterosexuality: 17

Interestingly, this week marked the first time since the study began where a photo of a white women used in the post was replaced by a photo of a white man not used in the post to highlight the post on the Freshly Pressed page. In other words, the blogger used an image of a woman and the wordpress staff replaced it on their page with a picture of a man.

On the plus side, this week marks the first time a post about transgender, gender queer, and transmisogyny has been highlighted during the study and in all the time I can remember glancing at the Freshly Pressed page. On the negative side, that post included 4 photos of transgender or gender queer people engaged in a photographic awareness campaign, none of whom where people of color. In looking at the source material I discovered that of the 20 photos in the exhibit the author had to choose from, there was only one person of color photographed. The failing then is both with the author of the blog post who failed to mention racially disparity or choose the only pic available of a person of color to include with the group of other images chosen and the project itself. I also noted that while this post was highlighted, there were several posts, including on this blog, about a similar project specifically highlighting the dual erasure of black trans people from mainstream society and trans communities, as well as highlighting their diversity across the African Diaspora, none of which were ever featured on Freshly Pressed.

There were an unusually high number of feminist posts this week as well given their general absence on the Freshly Pressed page. One of these posts highlighted global feminism but was actually a blog for an organization that features innovative speakers and puts the videos up on its website. The post was literally the name of an international speaker and the theme of her talk accompanied by the video. There was no analysis, no prose, nothing. Given the number of posts written by marginalized people on wordpress about global feminism this seemed like an odd choice to represent the best wordpress has to offer. Another post on feminism praised a movie that was essentially a colonial fantasy in which a white woman finds herself through a vacation in India, Brazil, and other exotic erotic places, complete with hooting at brown men, spending money to “save” poor kids, etc. The point of the post: anyone who disliked this movie was a sexist hater. The final feminist post critiqued the same film and originally questioned the classism and racism involved but was followed up by a non-featured post apologizing and claiming it was really a critique of narcissism.

While we are documenting the number of posts that reference heterosexuality outright, please do not take this to mean other posts are sexuality neutral. With few exception all of the posts highlighted on wordpress are written by or read as heterosexual posts due to their lack of queer content.

As white women continue to gain in the featured section, I wonder if this is why we cannot get any traction on this issue. Like the woman who sees critiquing colonialism as a sexist endeavor, is the fact that white women often dominate the freshly pressed section preventing them from engaging in a feminism or social justice mindset that includes the rest of us? And if so, why is this an all too familiar position for a group that would largely define themselves as socially engaged and inclusive? It should be noted that many of the people making decisions about features on wordpress are also white women who considered themselves social justice folks.

WordPress Criteria

  • grammatical errors: 11
  • copyright: 41

This category counts the items wordpress says will preclude you from being featured. Interestingly, this week wordpress published another post referencing the importance of copyright on images used on blogs at the same time that the number of copyright infringement based on freshly pressed images was at its highest.

This week also saw the largest number of blogs featured that had been featured before and/or were not actually blogs (company “blog” pages that simply pointed people back to the company and magazines that are hosted on wordpress.org) instead of looking at diverse authors who had not been highlighted prior. The number of professional journalists and photographers is also much higher in general on the freshly pressed page than people who blog as bloggers. Given the gender, race, sexuality, etc. disparities in print media, you can see how this would translate to similar disparities on the freshly pressed page.