Race Issues Are Queer Issues

During the post-CNN/Dan Savage Prop 8 debacle, it fell to black queer people to remind the “community” that we existed and that we did not all come from offensively homophobic families just itching to burn down gayborhoods like white people did to Rosewood, Pierce City, and others in the past. It also fell to the entire queer community/ies of color to remind both gay and straight white people that they had not authored, sponsored, nor ushered in the bill and that homophobia crosses race, class, and gender lines. More than that, people of color and allies had to trot out endless evidence that they had in fact organized against Prop 8 and that many had done so with no funding or support from larger queer organizations. It was the stuff of nightmares that reminded us all that despite all sharing one identity, the intersections crossing that identity meant that we were still, sadly, on different & exploitable divides.

Richard Settle/Flickr

Enter the immigration debate. At this past week’s Netroots 10 conference, at least one panel on immigration included a discussion in which a white queer blogger argued correctly that gay rights people need to fight for immigration issues because “when one of us is not free, none of us is free.” Though I share his sentiment, the juxtaposition of one community with the other once again renders them mutually exclusive. Yet gay immigrants not only exist, they have the unique distinction of being cut out of one of the major ways to gain legal access to citizenship in the U.S.: family reunification. After all, if your family isn’t legally recognized neither is its reunification. Even if queer immigrants are able to come here legally through other means, they also run the risk of having their legal marriages abroad considered null and void in the majority of the United States. So the marriage issue is in fact an immigration issues and vice versa.

Queer immigrants are also routinely denied asylum despite the fact that homophobic harassment, especially by police or military, should clearly qualify them. These denials have often sent queer petitioners home to their deaths a distinction they share with women escaping domestic violence and government sponsored rape and torture or immigrants whose ethnic or religious affiliation is no longer of import or has never been important to the political aims of the U.S. When HIV exemptions were still on the books, many gay men were denied citizenship, even when legally petitioned for as part of a larger family unit, based on the erroneous fear they were infected. Sometimes, the HIV exemption was used to punish citizen and asylum seekers for being gay; though statistics on how many were denied for this reason is hard to comeby, anecdotal stories from lawyers and advocates exist. The list of discrimination goes on.

So whether we are talking about equal access to marriage or not, as long as gay people have limited or no rights, certain immigrants will lack certain rights and vice versa. Ultimately gay rights and immigrant rights are not just equally important because of how oppressions are linked but also because for some people they are the same thing.

Understanding these connections are fundamental to an effective and inclusive gay rights strategy. Yet, prominent gay or queer (as a verb not a noun) artists seem to understand this less than the movement(s) itself. Last week Elton John played Tuscon AZ despite massive protest. In response, he told his audience:

“We are all very pleased to be playing in Arizona. I have read that some of the artists won’t come here. They are f***wits! Let’s face it: I still play in California, and as a gay man I have no legal rights whatsoever. So what’s the f**k with these people?”

His comment stood in stark relief against his decision to play Rush Limbaugh’s wedding, which not only flew in the face of the gay marriage ban in multiple parts of the U.S. but also his own rights as Limbaugh has spoken out against them on his show and supported others who have done so. More than that Elton seemed to turn the idea of shared freedom on its head, claiming “if I am not free, who cares if you are” in place of “if one of us is not free, none of us are.” Not only is this sentiment self-interested, hypocritical, and oppressive it also shows the underlining issues with how SB1070 is perceived and likely to be applied. After all, Elton John has no more legal right to be married in AZ than he does in CA but more than that, if the judge had not put on hold the ID portion of SB1070 this week Elton would have had to carry his papers to do any future concerts in the state. He did not think about that because he is white and European and like everybody else, he assumes he will not be stopped, harassed, or “accidentally” deported because he does not “look like an illegal immigrant.” That difference and the privilege to not only exploit it but also be completely oblivious to it is one of the fundamental problems with queer organizing in the U.S. and to a lesser extent Britain. Both groups continue to articulate themselves as white, upper class, and male. While they claim to be interested in socio-political issues outside of themselves, there is very little stated or real effort to be interested in issues related to poor people and people of color (both of whom are assumed to not be queer).

Elton is not alone in his complete denial of the import of immigrants’ rights. Lady Gaga plans to play Phoenix AZ at the end of the month. Though her appeal crosses sexualities and genders, Gaga has become one of the queer icons, in every since of the word, of our time. Like Madonna she has been taken in by a community that she claims while keeping her sexuality largely out of it. Like Elton John she has also made headlines for oppressive decisions like mocking trans women. And also like Elton John she has no qualms with playing a concert in a state that most artists have refused to play until the pass law comes down. Gaga’s concert also coincides with a week long solidarity effort called for by queer organizations, immigrants rights activists, and progressive organizations across the country asking everyone to use the week to raise awareness, organize protests, and refuse to have anything to do with AZ accept boycott. So in essence, Gaga’s concert not only violates an unspoken decision to boycott but also a very clear picket line.

In both instances, artists with considerable international fame and connections have simply snubbed their nose at human rights in the name of the almighty dollar. Neither Gaga’s silence nor Elton’s tried and true tactic of “hey look at that over there it’s much worse than this” can mask the fact that in a very public way white queer performers have failed to see the connection between the struggles of people of color and their own. They have once again transformed the public face of the movement(s) into one of racial privilege and racial disdain despite the work that queer people, regardless of race, have been doing to support immigrants rights and communities of color. They have made it that much harder for coalitions to be formed in the future and for new generations of activists to see their lives and their work implicated in the lives and work of people they perceive to be different from them.

Arizona is not California. But every activist involved in ending Prop 8 learned a valuable lesson about racial exclusion and racial myopia that everyone else should take note of if we are ever going to get equal rights in the U.S. Race Issues are Queer Issues. Queer Issues are Race Issues. And anyone who does not get that needs both education on oppression and an end to ticket sales. If you can boycott AZ businesses in the name of solidarity, you can stop listening to Lady Gaga too. There are several petitions circulating to try and get Gaga to cancel her concert, the most legitimate one seems to be here.

(Update, this post was written prior to Gaga’s concert. You can read my response to her Sharpie activism during that concert here.)

——

images of Gaga, Elton & Eminem unattributed

Assembly Required

I just got my copy of Raymond Luczak’s book, Assembly Required, for a proposed faculty book group next semester on the intersections of ability, sexuality, and popular culture.  I’ve already suggested Eli Clare and just to push it into the poetic and the blogosphere as pop culture, “Tears and Beauty” by CripChick but I am looking forward to reading Luczak as another potential recommendation for our reading. As the video above points out, he is the editor of two anthologies on the Deaf queer community and the first to publish an anthology on the subject. I’ve been tempted to suggest one of the anthologies but we’ve tried to commit to single authored texts for the first book group . . . Mostly, I’m just excited that a few colleagues and I finally got a grant to bring these pieces together at the larger university level reading and hopefully what that will mean for inclusivity when everyone puts their syllabi together in the future.

Update on the Status of Women in Afghanistan

Women for Women for International would like everyone to know about today’s Public Broadcasting spotlight on the status of women in Afghanistan that includes interviews with women with whom they work.  The issue of women’s rights in Afghanistan helped fuel nationalist feminist support for the war in 9/11 but soon fell out of discussion as global feminists and decolonized anti-racist feminists in the U.S. pointed out that wars such as this one, have never benefited women, nor were women’s rights in Afghanistan a cause for national concern in the U.S. before the decision to invade but when the Taliban were taking over or still very much in power.

pbs

We must now return to discussions of the status of women in Afghanistan for multiple reasons:

  1. we are culpable in the current instability of the lives of Afghan women and girls
  2. an adviser to the president quoted off the record said that “women’s issues” may have to be left behind in order to win the war in Afghanistan
  3. Pres. Obama has recommitted us to a war in a region we once claimed was Russia’s Vietnam and in which those same military advisers warned was unwinable regardless of the circumstance

By listening to Afghan women outline their needs and what they want from us as global feminists, hopefully we can actually stand in solidarity with them from an anti-colonial perspective while also pushing for an end to this war in allegiance with the well being of both of our nations. You can read the Women for Women International 2009 report on the status of Afghan women here.

Ahh the Guests

So the boy is moving in for a while and we are going to do a series on the blog on gay marriage initiatives in the next week. The boy is a big time advocate who has been losing his cookies over all the gay baiting tactics in various states and I am 20 years committed but not married who finds the gay baiting out there as well as on the blog whenever I dare to write on the topic equally disconcerting, so hopefully writing together we will give you a balanced view of the marriage issue (ie that for some it means everything and for others it is one of many issues where we should have equality but not one we should think will suddenly make it so) then again we may just rant . . .

Thanks to the Guestbloggers for holding it down:

ES – thanks for CFP which looks fascinating and the voter rights piece which not only makes the mind boggle at high tech disenfranchisement but also how little history has changed. Some of the links are a bevy of local information as well which I can’t wait to dive into. I am thinking seriously on asking our poli sci fac to teach a course on feminist civic engagement next term, she does great stuff on race, gender, and voting.

Laura – I cannot tell you how glad I am you did the “link love” post, I’ve been meaning to give the Temple blog a shout out for a while so thanks for beating me to the punch and for tying it in to some of the “current affairs.” I’m telling you this blog is turning into an election reflection . . . which I only get excited about when I look at your post.

JT – I did not get a chance to look at my Taskforce newsletter before today, so thank you for posting this the more people who get the word out the better the results for the project.  I’m thinking there is another oral history archive with a trans section online . . . but cannot find it right now. (I’ll check in the office Tuesday)

Other things to look for:

Alejandro is finishing up a piece on HIV/AIDS and Aging for the blog which is his area. It is just a quickie but I am excited to see it since I have not done nearly enough thinking on the issue myself.

Final thanks:

To the 1000s of people who stopped by this past week looking to help in Texas, you are all amazing!!!  I got an email from one of the organizations listed saying that the blog post generated tons of needed funds and volunteers and that they were grateful to all of you. 😀 Thanks for reminding me how easy it is to transform blogging into important political work, however mediated by class it may be.

Hopefully regular posts will start again Monday

-pbw

Stephanie Tubbs Jones Dies (Feminist Spotlight)

Congressional MainlingsOhio Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, suffered an aneurysm while driving her car last night in OH. She was rushed to the hospital but did not recover. She was a Super Delegate who campaigned for Hillary Clinton.

Tubbs Jones was an important feminist inspiration marking several firsts in her career. Before becoming a Congresswoman, she served as the first African-American and the first female Cuyahoga County, Ohio Prosecutor. She was the first African-American woman to sit on the Common Pleas bench in the State of Ohio and was a Municipal Court Judge in the City of Cleveland.

In Congress, Tubbs Jones was the first African-American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives tubbshomelessnessfrom Ohio. She was also first African-American woman to chair the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (Ethics) and the first African-American woman to serve on the Ways and Means Committee.

Recently she worked alongside others to help with the mortgage crisis by helping to pass the American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Act and urging banking bail out discussions to include funds for community stabilization. Her eye on housing also included active work for homeless people’s rights and access to safe housing. She supported health care reform especially for the most vulnerable, including the elderly, and ensuring military and veterans benefits and tubbsjonesdifferentlyabledspending that supported the troops but capped perpetual war. She also supported immigration reform and educational spending and was a long time advocate for workers’ rights including differently-abled workers.

Tubbs Jones was also a strong advocate of GLBTQ rights in Congress. She co-sponsored inclusive legislation for the GLBTQ rights at work and supported legislation to repeal don’t ask don’t tell. She also helped expand federal hate crimes to include the GLBTQ community. And she was currently supporting legislation to provide same sex couples the same rights of sponsorship andtubbsworkerrally increased asylum as other immigrants. Given the overarching conservative approach to queer issues in OH her voice was particularly significant at the local level as well as a needed voice on Capital Hill.

She was serving her 5th term in Congress and despite being a Congresswoman, never moved out of the depressed local area where she lived most of her life. She was an important advocate for women of all ethnic and racial backgrounds bu especially poor women, women of color, and local women.

to learn more about her see her website here.

Learn more about signs of a brain aneurysm here

—-

images
  • Tubbs Jones speaking at meeting in Cleveland. Stock Photo. Unattributed
  • Tubbs Jones with homeless advocates. unattributed
  • Tubbs Jones meeting with differently-abled workers. unattributed.
  • Tubbs Jones at Rally for workers. unattributed.

Quote of the Week from a Blog Reader

I am wrapping up my travels in the land of P which means live blogging is back in effect starting now. I was at an impromptu retreat with 6 amazing woc professors representing the entire academic lifecycle this side of the PhD: a brand new junior scholar, some “I survived my first and second years,” some endowed chairs of all things everywhere, and some with one toe happily dipping in the retirement pool and me smack dab in the middle. It was the exact right place to be at this moment – when faith gets shaken, the call to mentor from marginalized students is starting to cap my academic email bandwidth (which by the way, why is it not unlimited?), and my hopes and dreams, that always spike this time of year, dance with my disappointments and dread across the landscape of my memories and my waking thoughts about this life in academe. I wish I could give each of those brilliant women a “shout out” but, ours is secret club in the good and blessed way. where we meet and dream together for the strength and peace of the spirit and the doing of the tasks at hand. We have no plans for shaping the world in our image or forcing out the unbelievers who are just as convinced that we are the problem. Instead, we are trying

  • to listen
  • to remember
  • to strengthen
  • to grow.

For endless screed (whose blog has been down for 6 months?! but still has an ejournal and a website) I can give a special shout out for putting the whole thing together. b/c when I asked, she said, making that head cocked to one side face of hers, “dude, I don’t care.” It was good to see her in her home town, her little kid energy is infectious. All of the young ones have that energizer bunny thing going on that makes me wonder if I missed the day they passed out batteries.

 

I am happy to report that despite the fact that google outed her as an “author of this blog” this past Fall without either of our knowledge/consent, grrrrrr, for those TWO archived pieces here on the Chavez Street controversy and gentrification, she is willing to write a few pieces here again, this time with credit. 😀 When I said, “what about what people said to you when they thought you were me,” she sucked her teeth and said “At least I know who your friends are.” Yep, me too. Ain’t blogging grand. (And this my friends is why I don’t tell you my real name, that and the fact that I don’t represent my uni, organizations to which I belong or for which I volunteer, or am the chair,  at the spot. Reality is, as much as it has hurt my soul to discover, some people are never so honest about what they really think about your politics, or about how they treat people they think have little to no influence, until they think you aren’t in the room.)

So it is in that spirit, that I bring you this week’s Best Quote, it comes from an old comment Selmas made in the Say Hey section. (Some of my feistier colleagues at the retreat are going to be disappointed that I did not use the Puro Pedo quote about women in ethnic studies that had us all rolling on the floor, but think about it, this one fits.)

Selmas was talking about why woc bloggers are important and about how blogging has provided a forum for women of color to not only speak but contribute publicly to the production of feminist knowledge that the publishing industry, departments, and other institutions often deny us or erase. The quote is technically from Alice Walker:

“Anything We Love Can Be Saved.”

This myopic moment has been brought to you by the letter P and the number 6 and a bunch of powerful and amazing women I am proud to know.

 

—–

 

images
  • coffee shop
  • before photo from so curls gallery. image unattributed.
  • untitled. flickr. awcc photostream.

 

Update on Maria and Bronco Wines

The United Farm Workers Union reports that over 3000 people signed condolence cards to Maria’s mother and are inviting everyone who has not done so to come to the website and fill one out.

They also held a pilgrimage for fallen workers from Lodi to Sacramento in Maria’s name on June 1-4, 2008. (I am sorry to have not reported it sooner but I did not know.) 600 walkers started at Lodi carrying 3 coffins – one for Maria, one for her unborn baby, and one for all the workers whose names we may or may not know. They were joined on the last leg of the march by another 500 people.

The pilgrimage concluded with a rally outside the capital demanding that the rights of workers and their right to unionize be upheld by the state.

What has happened since my last post:

  • Merced Farm Labor contractor, the company that hired Maria, has been banned from operating in California until all of the areas where they contract are in compliance with California state law. Read more here (don’t believe the caption, Merced can go back to work as soon as it is in compliance that is not “put out of business” as the caption and first paragraph claim.) They are now claiming that the family refused to get help for Maria and that her fiance drove her to a local grocery store offsite to try and revive her before taking her to the hospital. They are also claiming that they had no part in her death!
  • Farm inspections by the state, resulting from Maria’s death have unmasked violations across the agricultural sector in California. One inspection refocused the spotlight on cherries. However, it is unclear how much these “discoveries” are actually benefiting workers since these kinds of abuses are well known parts of the agricultural system in the U.S. and it seems like maybe all this “look at the horrible conditions” posturing may ultimately be just for show, or worse get workers fired or deported. Please write to the California State government and let them know that what you want to see is regulations followed, proper hydration, equipment, housing, etc. for workers and not a bunch of deportations and firings.
  • The Governer, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (dem), and Sen Darrell Steinberg (dem), have all expressed their commitment to ensure California state labor laws are followed and to make sure that safety is a priority to prevent any future deaths.
  • Assembly Speaker Emiritus, Fabian Nuñez (dem), also introduced a bill to ensure that existing State rules about unionization be followed and to allow workers to vote from home or at poll sites about whether they wanted to start or join a union. He and others argued that such safeguards would ensure that labor contractors and company’s could not manipulate or intimidate workers into giving up their rights.

Please consider giving to UFW to support their continued work for farm workers rights. If you do not have money, send a letter of solidarity and ask to be put on their mailing list so you too can help raise awareness about what is going on.

I’m Back – Women who ran for president

As a former Hillary Clinton fan (back before Bush), and a person that has just spent way too much time in the frozen, uniform gray rainy liberal feminist mecca of stumptown, I can’t help but weigh in.

Some have already noted that in the 25-30 minutes she spoke, Clinton spent only 4.5-6 minutes directly addressing Obama, using the rest of the time to talk about her own place in history, mainstream feminism, and the Democratic Party. As a historian, I was struck by the way she acknowledged the Suffragettes and white female abolitionist and wrote herself into this herstory absent of Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and so many other suffragettes and abolitionists of color. Though I was less surprised about how she avoided the similarities between her own frustration with Obama and Stanton & Anthony’s with Douglass right down to the race baiting. (Stanton once said she would not stand for “the n—–s and the paddys getting the vote before women” and Anthony wrote a scathing letter when black men got the vote before women stating “the negro question and the woman question are now and forever two separate questions” refusing to ever support another black person again; much like some of Hillary Clinton’s supporters now.) I was also struck by the length of the speech dedicated to speaking for women, rallying women, and placing herself at the head of women’s history as the woman who made it possible to believe “women can run for president.” These are the women who have run before her (taken directly from wikipedia up to 2000 election & the World Wide Guide to Women and Leadership):

U.S. Presidential candidates:

Year Name Party Running Mate
1872 Victoria Woodhull[1] Equal Rights Party Frederick Douglass
1884 Belva Ann Lockwood National Equal Rights Party Marietta Stow[3]
1888 Belva Ann Lockwood National Equal Rights Party Alfred Love
1940 Grace Allen Surprise Party N.A.
1968 Charlene Mitchell Communist Party Michael Zagarell
1972 Linda Jenness Socialist Workers Party Andrew Pulley
1972 Evelyn Reed Socialist Workers Party
1972

1972

1972

Shirley Chisholm

Patsy Takamoto Mink

Bella Abdzug

Democrat”Independent/feminist party”

Democrat

Democrat

1976

1976

Margaret Wright

Ellen McCormack

People’s Party

Democrat

Benjamin Spock
1980 Ellen McCormack Right to Life Party
Carroll Driscoll
1980 Maureen Smith Peace and Freedom Party Elizabeth Cervantes Barron
1980 Deirdre Griswold Workers World Party Gavrielle Holmes[5].
1984 Sonia Johnson Citizens Party Emma Wong Mar
1984

1984

Gabriella Holmes

Patricia Scott Shroeder

Workers World Party

Democrat

1988 Lenora Fulani New Alliance Party Joyce Dattner
1988 Willa Kenoyer Socialist Party Ron Ehrenreich
1992 Lenora Fulani New Alliance Party Maria Elizabeth Munoz
1992 Helen Halyard Workers League/Socialist Equality Party Fred Mazelis
19921992 Isabell MastersSusan Block Looking Back Party?
1992

1992

Gloria LaRiva

Millie Howard

Workers World Party

Independent

Larry Holmes
1996 Monica Moorehead Workers World Party Gloria LaRiva
1996 Marsha Feinland Peace and Freedom Party Kate McClatchy
1996 Mary Cal Hollis Socialist Party Eric Chester
1996

1996

1996

Diane Beall Templin

Elevina Hoyd Duffy

Georgina H Doerschuck

American Party

Republican

Republican

Gary Van Horn



1996

1996

1996

Isabell MastersS

usan Duncan

Ann Jennings

Looking Back

PartyRepublican

Republican

Shirley Jean Masters
2000

2000

Monica Moorehead

Millie Howard

Workers World Party

Independent

Gloria LaRiva
2000

2004

2004

2008

Cathy Gordon Brown

Carol Moseley Braun

Millie Howard

Cynthia McKenny

Independent

Democrat

Republican

Green Party

unnamed?

unnamed

unknown

Rosa Clemente

Hillary is the first woman to garner slightly less than 18 million votes but she is not the first woman to assume she had the right to be President nor to test that assumption at the polls. The most famous of these women: Shirley Chisholm. Chisholm was also a Democratic Senator from NY when she ran and endured endless sexism, as well as racism, from the media and other sources. When the media announced her running they said she had “thrown her bonnet into the race.” Rather than point to the similarities in their historic races and write Chisholm back into our herstory/history, Clinton and the media’s insistence that she is the first has largely eclipsed Chisholm’s legacy. Chisholm also refused special interest money a full 36 years before Obama did. It is likely that while Clinton will be added to the history textbooks, Chisolm still will not.

Clinton was not the first woman running as a member of a major party either. That distinction goes to three women running in 1972: Bela Abdzug, Patsy Takamoto Mink, and Shirley Chisholm. Hawaiian candidate Mink and mainland white female candidate Abzug both dropped out well before the convention. However, Chisholm won 150+ delegates at the DNC. All three candidates received some support from the “feminist party” a group of high profile feminists working to get women on the ballot. They threw their full support behind Chisholm, including Gloria Steinem who later referred to this support when trying to get out of her “gender over race” comments during the current campaign.

Clinton is not the only woman running for president in 2008. Former Panther Elaine Brown was in the running before splitting with Green Party over Radical politics. Mckinney is still running, currently beating Nader for the nominee by 130+ votes, tho completely ignored. No one has mentioned the gender dynamics of the media attention to Nader’s Green Party bid vs. its complete inattention to McKinney’s.

Yet Clinton’s historic place cannot be forgotten nor slighted. Her legacy while inspiring to many also left many more wary of a woman who would reference assassination and white rural voters “who will never vote for a black man” as reasons she should triumph. Still she brought older women, first time female voters, and many more to the polls (as did Obama). She called out politicians and reporters alike on their real sexism: from the cleavage comments, to the “take out the trash” and “nagging wife” comments, to the “shrew” and “witch” labels she endured. She stood up for her daughter as a mother and as a public figure throughout the campaign, and long before it. And yes, her candidacy no doubt opened the doors for white women to be more often featured as pundits; ensuring Rachel Maddow a particularly unprecedented amount of air time despite not being on the Clinton bus for too long. Together with Obama’s campaign, she forced the door open for women of color, since people brought them in to act as foil or “traitors” to whichever id. they were trying to discredit or undermine. Sadly, such tokenism of all women does not sit well with the idea that women should be sought out for their opinions as thinkers and experienced analysts which is what we feminists should champion. The failure of the media to do so is the fault of neither campaign; Hillary’s camp certainly demanded women be taken seriously.

As the dust settles for the moment, and I believe it to be only a moment, I am left to wonder what the election would have looked like if we had talked about multiplicative and intersecting oppressions and not false hierarchies and binaries? What if Hillary Clinton had shown herself to be as quick to stop racism as she was to confront sexism by saying to any of her supporters who disparaged the realities of race in N. America that she disavowed them, their support, and their tactics? What if she had pointed to the intersection of racism and sexism by demanding Bill O’Reilly be fired for supporting the lynching of Michelle Obama, the same way she demanded other reporters be fired for saying she had “pimped out Chelsea”? Such stands might have made Hillary Clinton seem like the legacy of camelot that she and Bill appeared to be during their campaign. They might have reminded people that the educational attainment, home ownership, and general wealth of African American families went up for the first time in decades under the Clinton administration.

And what would have happened if the media actually dealt with the statistics that show Hillary only swept women 50 and above? She was equal or only slightly higher in demographics amongst women 30-50. Obama swept women in the 18-25 year old category. While she garnered a slightly larger percentage of white women and Latina votes, she did so poorly amongst black women that in some states she only got 20% or less. Stats on Asian women were not available but there were Asian women’s caucuses for Obama. Would a discussion about race and age polarization have led to a re-evaluation of how we all do feminism and potentially reinvigorated the movement through new commitments from the presidential candidate down? Would we have been able to move past the oft disproved suffragette assumption that “women vote as a class” to actually addressing how class, education, age, location, race, sexuality, etc. impact women’s voting? Would we have been able to develop nuanced ways of talking about “women’s interests” that showed how understanding our differences can turn into strengths for female candidates and for issues we all hold in common instead of opening up the world to comments that we were “mindlessly voting id,” invested in essentialism that “proves feminism does not work,” or worse “hopelessly divided” none of which is or has to be true.

If Hillary Clinton had owned her part in NAFTA instead of having it exposed by The Nation and then made a commitment to stop trade policies that exploit women and exacerbate existing gender inequality in other countries, would she have won over immigrant women and college aged Latinas, Asians, etc.? And would such ownership have led Clinton to also renounce her work defending Tyson chicken whose subsidiaries have been exposed for human trafficking to staff their chicken processing plants? If so would she have set a precedent in which being “the voice of women” as she claimed today, would mean that we were finally talking about all women? Or even better that the men who ushered in those policies and perpetuate them would finally be held accountable for the way their economic policies are in fact engendered?

Think of the possibilities available for women globally if the top contenders for the Democratic nomination had owned up to their part in economic oppression of women in order to shine a light on a myriad of disastrous policies for women. Would Clinton’s ownership of her continued legal work for Monsanto have opened the way to confronting the global food crisis that is disproportionately impacting women, girls, and people of color globally? Could such a discussion about the connections between corporations and women’s rights have opened the door for talking about femicides, war and genocide related trafficking of women and girls, and the sanctioned mass rapes and bodily mutilations of women that go on so that we can have cheap computers, access to oil, and rainforest wood furniture? If Clinton had been so brave as “to speak for [all] women” as she claimed, could all of this had led to the Democrats mapping out a way to bolster our failing industries, struggling farmers, and growing working class as well as the women of the world instead of both candidates talking about “outsourcing” as some invisible evil untied to trade policy and trafficking?

How could the support of working class women have been built into the election if Hillary Clinton’s lawyering for Walmart was not countered with Obama’s taking funds from a convicted slum Lord? What if both of them had owned what they did and then outlined how they would support working women in the future? What if Hillary had said she knows working to protect the heads of Walmart at the expense of female workers and her husband’s passing of welfare reform has set working class and rural women so far back economically that she knows she has to center them in her campaign to make things right? And if such a commitment moved beyond rhetoric to concrete policy how many women would have benefited and/or been drawn into the fold? It certainly would have rang more true than her quick reference to supporting unions in the speech today, given that the previous Clinton administration helped break up unions and continue Reagen inspired monopolies.

And if Hillary had stood up for all of these things, how would it have shifted the way we were and are able to talk about Obama’s sexist comments like “sweetie” and calling Florida a “beauty pageant”? Afterall, these criticism were largely eclipsed by the gender over race arguments that ensued or were embedded in these arguments. But if the precedent had been set that we would talk about gender AND race, and that everyone has both, then could we have forced the Obama campaign to own these moments and promise not to engage in them in the future? Could we have been more diligent and effective in raising awareness about his voting record on reproductive choice? He has several policy papers on women and large support from a female base of especially young, college educated, women regardless of race but what precedent would have been set if we had forced him to talk about women’s rights more often and more throughly by making them part of a democrat agenda rather than a gender over race discussion?

And what if the queer community had spent less time claiming Hillary Clinton had a better record because of the one time support of Melissa Ethridge, who along with other high profile members of the queer community, including former Clinton Administration members, are actually voting for Obama, and Clinton’s historic march in the NY Pride parade (the only first lady to do so) and actually demanded that the democratic candidate support equal rights for GLBTQ folk? Currently neither Obama nor Clinton supported gay marriage. Only Obama has detailed GLBTQ policies up on his site, Clitnon does/did not. Would putting an end to vilifying Obama for beliefs they both hold have led to discussions of Obama’s support for gay immigrants rights? And if so would we have written queer back into immigration debates and forced discussion of EVERYONE’s rights in policies in which they are absent? Would such discussions have led us to talk about the ways families are being broken up, women and queer people are abused by border patrol and non-governmental border watches, and how the immigration debate has been framed in such a way as discourage equality, women’s safety, queer and straight family unity, and workers rights? Could this have opened up a larger discussion about basic civil and human rights in the same way the film pictured to the right was able to do when discussing queer immigration in the U.S.? Again imagine the possibilities for moving across and within intersections to build an platform that really did support ALL women AND showed us all how we are intimately tied together in loss when anyone is discriminated against.

Like it or not, Obama is our candidate. He is, as Hillary put it, our only hope to turn the tide against Republicans and their policies that harm ALL women. If she had represented all of us, I believe she might have been the chosen candidate. And even if she had still lost, because of sexism and the fear of “legacies” or something else, such a stand would have forced the Obama campaign to publicly address women’s issues and policies impacting women. If both candidates has been forced to constantly center all women in their platform the face of the democratic party would have surely changed no matter who the democratic candidate was or will be in the future. It would have forced feminists to do better on addressing the needs of all women and stopping the cycle of erasing or abusing the many for the “universal” few. And it would have forced an ongoing discussion about sexism that will be silent in many corners because of the oppressive binaries so many involved in that discussion continue to use. The insistence on hierarchies clouded the moments when sexism should have been crystal clear as surely as it clouded the racist ones.

So while m
any cry over the loss of “the women’s vote” and the “only female presidential candidate,” I cry over a history littered with women candidates and marginalized women and queers thrown under many a campaign bus at one time or another during the primaries. Like others I do not have the luxury of choosing gender over race, nor do I subscribe to a politik that would ask me to put anyone’s suffering over anyone else’s and erase those whose suffering lies in multiple identities. Nor are all my hopes lost nor won in the campaign of a single woman because I know the history of all of the women who built the road she walks on. I also have faith in all the women who will come after Clinton, faith enough to know that not all of them will be in her shadow but rather locked arm in arm with the multitude who paved the way. And maybe they will be globally minded enough to have been inspired by other feminist female presidents and prime ministers around the world as well as all of the feminist female candidates in N. America (and no I’m not saying all female leaders are feminist, far from it).

For me, the strongest moment in Hillary Clinton’s speech will likely be one that was missed by most. When she said that she hoped her campaign had not discouraged any young women or any women at all from running, I like to think that for that moment she was talking to all of us. She was not just saying to the women who were disappointed by her loss that they should keep trying, which is a powerful message in itself, but also to the women her supporters have wronged, her policies have left behind, and who shuddered when she said she could rock the racist vote, that they too should know they have a place in the Democratic Party. For that apology, Senator Clinton, you have earned back a small piece of my respect which you so sorely lost and tossed away most of this campaign.

And for the record, Obama’s campaign does inspire me to tell my girl children they can be president just as much as my boy children not because we share a racial history but because I know what happens to black men who “over step there place” especially vis-a-vis white women’s desires in America. More importantly, unlike Clinton my history of the path both she and he took today goes all the way back to the “real dream ticket” in 1872 when a white woman and a black man ran on the same ticket to show their understanding that our oppressions are ultimately and intimately tied together.

No amount of rhetoric will make me forget that part of Obama’s historic place is in the candidacy is the struggle of Shirley Chisholm, Winona LaDuke (VP), Carol Moseley Braun, and most of the women listed above (not including the Republican ones), and all of the women who fought at the DNC for or against the Michigan and Florida votes to ensure that representation was fair and equal and who now fight to unite the party. Just as my hopes are not dashed by Ferraro, who took what many felt was Jesse Jackson’s hard earned place as the VP on the ticket (the same feeling that now permeates the Clinton camp), and spouting ever increasingly racist nonesense to anyone who will listen; nor is it dashed by Harriet Christian (youtubed in the previous post) who called Obama “an inadequate black male” and whose claim to vote for McCain in the name of disgruntled women and Americans is echoed by far too many other women using more “polite” language. While I can empathize with women who genuinely thought Clinton was the better candidate, I cannot empathize with those who ignore racism, champion gender over race, mean “white women” when they say women, or who are so bigoted that they would vote for a Republican who is anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, anti-social programs that benefit women and people of color, anti-ERA, etc. all women’s issues that Obama has committed to supporting accept the equal marriage initiatives and we have to call him on that at every turn.

For me Obama’s white mother, Asian sister, and black wife who through modeling their own strength and abilities as successful women told him he could do anything he wanted, stand out far more than those showing how clearly dominant race intersects gender in this campaign. Like Kennedy and Chisholm, Obama’s insistence on being honest about race, consistent in his message regardless of the cost, refusal to play dirty, compassion in the face of others loss, and consistent support of the troops by refusing to authorize an unjust war, inspire me to vote and to encourage anyone who wants to run to do so. I don’t need him to be a woman for that. I am old enough to know that what matters is not what is between his legs but what lies in his heart. Not all women are feminists and sadly, not all feminists understand what it means to support all women.

Lets hope Obama becomes and proves to be the kind of feminist who supports all women, or at the very least is influenced enough by them that women’s rights are not just rhetoric in his campaign in the coming years and that Clinton finally gets what it means to represent all women in her next endeavor.

May Day Petition & March

UPDATE:

I apologize for putting this on top of an important announcement but I have no other recourse due to the blatant misrepresentation of events and the name calling being done by another blogger with regards to this post. People interested in the event or signing the petition please scroll past the update. The saddest part about this is how he is distracting all readers from the activism scheduled for tomorrow.

Tom at 2015, the person who took my post, continues to misrepresent his actions on his blog. He actually claims that because he did not copy the entire petition, he cannot be held responsible for copying my entire written work as in the part I wrote and is therefore under my copyright. And concluded this misrepresentation by “documenting” his failure to copy the petition (which is not my work) and calling me “delusional.” All tho he has now approved my comment pointing this out for the third time, he followed it by saying “If those last paragraphs are yours . . .” once again trying to mislead readers into thinking that he did not take my entire text. I don’t understand this level of entitlement. But I will not tolerate it either. I sent a very polite email thanking him for the link and reminding of my copyright. All he had to do was announce the petition and the walk from the beginning; barring that, he could have listened to my friendly reminder and fixed the post. Instead something rather simple has been turned into a childish assertion of supremacy that has NO BASIS IN REALITY. I have forwarded the exchange and all posts to my lawyers any future violation of my copyright will be handled by them. If you are unfamiliar with e-evidence firms and you blog, you should get familiar. For instance When Tom changed the text of one of his comments after I said I’d forwarded all the information to my lawyer, they already had snapshots of the originals. And are permanently tracking any changes made to his comments or posts related to this issue. This whole thing is ridiculous. end of update.

Even if you are not a member of the GLBTQ community you can get involved with online petitions or just have conversations with your non-immigrant co-workers about the importance of immigrant rights especially now with the border fence going up and border states reaching new levels of anti-immigrant sentiment/legislation.

If you are looking for ways to participate I have linked to the organizations in the petition, many of them are national organizations with local chapters around the U.S.:

OPEN LETTER IN SUPPORT OF IMMIGRANT RIGHTS
TO LGBTQ COMMUNITY MEMBERS & ORGANIZATIONS IN PUGET SOUND

We, the undersigned individuals and organizations, join Allyship in calling upon our sisters and brothers in LGBTQ and allied communities to express solidarity with immigrant peoples of all races and ethnicities in Washington state.

We especially encourage participation in the upcoming Immigrant Workers’ March taking place in Seattle on May 1st organized by Comite’ Pro-Amnistia General Y Justicia Social.

A queer contingent will be marching. We will gathering at 20th & Weller in Seattle between 4:30- 5:30pm on May 1st across from St. Mary’s church (and in front of the food bank). Look for the posters of a pink triangle smashing ICE.

We call upon as many LGBTQ community members as possible to participate in this march. It will proceed to the Seattle Center, where we encourage community members to join us for the rally.

Many people believe that these issues are separate, but for those at the intersections of the queer and immigrants rights movements do not have the luxury to separate their communities. We call on people who believe in true social change to fight for all human rights and all the parts of people’s lives and/or lived realities.

The issues of economic justice for all people need to be examined and how certain “issues” have become wedge issue to further divide the call for true liberation of all people, so we must stand together to fight side by side.

Many immigrants are queer. The reasons for coming to this country are enormously diverse, which may include: harassment based on sexual orientation and/or gender non-conformity, economic oppression, war, family members who are here, economic opportunities.

The struggles that many immigrant communities face parallel struggles that LGBTQ communities have also faced.

For example, while many immigrants enjoy legal status in our country, other hard-working immigrants are considered illegal. We note that many hard-working people who serve in the U.S. military are also considered to be illegal simply on the basis that they are queer.

Justice is sorely lacking for undocumented immigrants in this country who are terrorized by vivid threats of deportation and police raids in their workplaces. Many queers in this country are terrorized by bullies and others who abuse their power.

Many immigrants and queers, especially queer immigrants, have felt the contempt, prejudice, and institutional discrimination from those who are more privileged. We believe vulnerable populations become stronger when we work together toward a better world for all of us.

In this spirit the United Farm Workers- Pacific NW, LELO, the Asian American Labor Alliance– Puget Sound chapter, CARA, African Youth United (Seattle) and many other related groups have often taken strong stances in favor of LGBTQ rights.

May Day is an opportunity for us to express our support for immigrant rights.

Come out and march on May 1st!

If you agree with the sentiment of this letter, please add your name and city. Email to allyship@yahoo.com. as soon as possible for inclusion in future distributions of this letter.

The Greatest Silence Premieres on HBO Tomorrow

UPDATE:

In original post (below update):

  • film announcement/ promo video
  • brief analysis hoped for
  • Director’s interview
  • link to HBO pages on Congo and film (If you missed the premiere – replays Wed. & Fri.)

Get Involved: You can Donate to help with efforts to help women through the International Rescue Committee, Women for Women International (which I routinely give to and can attest does amazing work/was featured for being one of the only groups providing rape survivors usable skills in the capital in the documentary), or any of the groups listed on the HBO web site.

Film Review: I have now seen the film and can say that this film does an incredible job of centering women’s voices, refusing to fall into the trap of exceptionalizing the event while remaining thoroughly grounded in the specificity of thetsg_poster DRC experience, and in being a part of the hope that this will end. As I watched I was grateful for the hope the documentary brought for the women even as I wondered how much good it would do. The self-reflexivity of the director (which never takes over the story or re-centers it on her), the unwavering commitment to give women a forum to speak to those with whom they could not either because of space or social stigma, and the powerful interviews with perpetrators and men engaged in stopping the violence make this film teachable on multiple levels but also a powerful testament to decolonized feminist solidarity that has been lacking in other discourse about women’s rights around the globe. Jackson not only shows the problem, but goes out of her way to show local solutions such as: the Panzi hospital ward that serves these women and helps them regain as much physical mobility and normalcy as possible after brutal attacks designed to permanently disable them, the Catholic Church who has consistently taken survivors in and provided support groups, children’s homes, and refuge centers for survivors, and the ONE woman sexual violence and violence against children police unit. She also shows international efforts that include a coalition of African women from the region (Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, etc.) working through the UN to put pressure on the entire region to end sexualized violence against women in war zones, refuge camps, etc. and congo-groupWomen for Women International’s program to provide usable skills to survivors so that they can hopefully thrive economically in a world that has largely shunned them. In most of these examples women are doing powerful work for themselves, and in all of the examples, they are at the center of the work and in every example of international organizing the voices of Congolese women are centered or in concert with other women rather than mobilized for foreign agendas. Thus these images/examples work to remind us what global feminism looks like. It is local and global, it centers women at all times even when working with men, and when it is global, the needs of the local are central to any organizing or action.

The film also questions the local and global reasons for war and how this translates to violence against women and children. The DRC controls over 80% of a mineral necessary to create cellphones and laptop computers. In order to loot multinationalgenocidethe DRC, multi-nationals need war, chaos, fear, and disposable children. In order to stage wars in surrounding nations, local groups need the DRC to remain in chaos so they can keep their bases. The wars they stage in their own nations also aid the mutlinationals through the control of their natural resources, access to child labor, and sexual exploitation of women for foreign investors both regional and global. Without going over a lengthy history of the legacy of colonialism and neo-colonialism, Jackson clearly gives us a picture of internal and external culpability that is thoroughly grounded in a long history of exploitation.

I urge you to watch this film and discuss it widely. The resilience of these women gave the director strength, it gives me strength, and if you watch the documentary I hope that it does the same for you. Time and again the women in the documentary also talk about how their participation in the film also strengthens them. Despite all of the gendered violence in this world, and in the DRC specifically, women still survive. Theirs, and this film, are a powerful testament to how truly brave and strong they all are. End of Update.

The Greatest Silence addresses nearly 10 years of rape and sexual violence against women in the Congo as part of a larger conflict in the region. The title refers to how little has been said and done to address the issue of violence against these women. While British journalists have talked about the rapes in the Congo and N. American journal magazine 60 Minutes did a report on it, no regular reports nor large scale movement has grown around the sexual violence and trafficking of women in the Congo. The silence is particularly striking given the amount of attention spent on discussing the plight of women in Afghanistan and Iraq by N. American feminists – though far too many have remained largely silent about the subsequent rape and trafficking on women and girls from this region since the start of the war. The Greatest Silence hopes to raise awareness and create discussion by not only highlighting the conflict’s impact on women but by showing women telling their own stories of abuse.

I have not seen this film yet, but will be watching tomorrow to see if it covers the issues of rape and sexual violence as weapons of war in the Congo not as exceptional or part of a racialized narrative, which has been the way these issues have been presented to date, but rather as part of an increasingly astute understanding of how women’s bodies are part of the battleground in wars around the world. I am looking for this, not to erase the specificity of the violence in the Congo, which is a necessary part of any analysis, but rather to develop a language of addressing sexual violence that deals with its use as a tool of war throughout history and allows us to deal with the specific use against, and experience of, women in any given place. From ancient empire building, to colonial conquest, to present day ethnic and economic inspired wars women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive capacities have always been treated as:

  1. ways to hurt the enemy
  2. spoils of war
  3. sideline and post-war profit
  4. a meansof ethnic cleansing through not only murder but also reproductive interference.

These forms of abuse are well documented but seldom weaved into a coherent theory in favor of spatial and racial arguments that elevate cases to exceptional status. The result is an erasure of the ways in which this misogyny has held sway throughout time and across space and race. It also leaves us perpetually unable to create praxis that addresses the way sexist and sexual violence works across fields (the home, the workplace, sports, war, etc.) and to potentially develop astute skills at dismantling the root causes of the misogyny that underpins all fields.

I have said this before, it is important for us to develop a complex theory of sexual violence that includes war and theories of war that includes sexual violence as a tool. Once we do, we will be better able to address the specific cases of sexual violence in war zones and better protect women outside of war. This is particularly important given the rampant trafficking on women in the Middle East and Africa as a result of wars, the sexual violence against women in refugee camps and immigrant detention centers around the world, and the ongoing rise of ethnic cleansing in Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere.

The Director’s, Lisa F. Jackson’s, recent interview about the Greatest Silence highlights her own understanding of the ways that sexual violence is being used as a tool of war and how her own experience helped her enter into and gain entrance into her subject matter. She begins with a discussion of the UN report in 2000 about how sexual violence and her own desire to do a survey film that would show women talking about surviving across the globe. She provides some context to how the war in the Congo started calling it a “resource war” and also “a war in slow motion” both of which are very astute and succinct descriptions of what is going on. Perhaps more than discussing how and why the film came to be, her statements about how important it was to the women themselves to have a forum to tell their stories speaks to the import of this film. Rather than the West looking in or using these women for their own narrative and socio-economic-political ends, this documentary is partially a tool of the women themselves to heal and to speak. (The interview is long but extremely astute).

The Greatest Silence is available for ridiculously high rental fees at Women Makes Movies (please someone tell them that not all schools and certainly not all WS programs/departments have the kind of rental budgets the top 10 have) or you can watch it on HBO starting tomorrow. The WMM description is below:

Shot in the war zones of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), this extraordinary film shatters the silence that surrounds the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. During the decade-long brutal war in the DRC, many tens of thousands of women and girls have been systematically kidnapped, raped, mutilated and tortured by soldiers from both foreign militias and the Congolese army. A survivor of gang rape herself, Emmy-Award® winning filmmaker Lisa F. Jackson travels through the DRC to understand what is happening and why. This moving, award-winning documentary, produced in association with HBO Documentary Films and the Fledgling Fund, features interviews with activists, peace keepers, physicians, and even – chillingly – the indifferent rapists who are soldiers of the Congolese Army. But the most moving and harrowing moments of the film come as dozens of survivors recount their stories with an honesty and immediacy pulverizing in its intimacy and detail. A profoundly disturbing portrayal of the ways that violence against women is used as a weapon of war, this powerful film also provides inspiring examples of resiliency, resistance, courage and grace.