Friday, May 8, 2009

Two quick hip hip hoorays and an apology

First, a mini hooray for Washington DC, where gay marriages performed elsewhere will now be recognized. It's not quite the same as legalizing gay marriage, but it's a great step in the right direction:
The D.C. Council overwhelmingly approved a bill yesterday to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, in a vote that followed a sharp exchange between an openly gay member and a civil rights champion and set off shouts of reproach from local ministers.
Yesterday's action could be a precursor to a debate later this year over whether to legalize same-sex marriage in the city. "There is no turning back," said Catania, who plans to introduce a broader gay marriage bill in a few months.
Secondly, a huge Hip Hip Hooray to Maine for legalizing same-sex marriage this week:
Gov. John Baldacci of Maine signed a same-sex marriage bill on Wednesday minutes after the Legislature sent it to his desk, saying he had reversed his position because gay couples were entitled to the state Constitution’s equal rights protections.
Thirdly, my apologies: there will be no Feminist Friday Interview this month. I've been working on a draft of the final chapter of my dissertation (woo hoo!) all month and just didn't get it together. I promise to resume in June, though...most definitely.

Have a lovely Friday!

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Meditation on a Radio

Yes, I actually listen to the radio. Sometimes I think I'm the only person left within a hundred mile radius who does. (What can I say? I drive an old truck with no CD player, and cassettes are a pain to record.) Still, listening to the [insert humorous noun] box is educational. I do like to think I know a bit about music - that means listening to the songs that most people listen to, not just Sleater-Kinney, Ani, and the Indigo Girls!

As it turns out, of course, I'm hardly the only one listening. When we include internet radio and other 'new' radio-like technologies, just as many people are listening now as ever. Radio is still huge. Music is still amazingly influential. Pop culture is still king. And realizing that makes listening to the radio frightening.

There I was, driving down the road, innocently listening to some random top 40 love song, when suddenly he sings, "I want you/I'm gonna make you miiine." Or something along those lines. Lovely, I think. More possessive gender roles. I change the station. A female singer here. Perhaps we'll stand a better chance for something decent. But no, "I need you to touch me, make me crazy all night long..." She's completely dependent on men for all forms of pleasure, and I don't want to hear about it. Before long, I'm listening to NPR news. The music is just too awful!

Now, I'm probably being a bit hypersensitive. What else should I expect, given the patriarchal culture? Internalized sexism, implicit homophobia, assumed racism, you name it, it's everywhere. But it's becoming subtler. It's tricky, subversive, almost as if it were planned. Now, I know that feminists insist that there's no patriarchal conspiracy to oppress, that it's just a name for the culture state, unconsciously perpetuated for the benefit those with privilege. But the media really couldn't be any more effective at promoting the *archy if it had been planned.

Don Imus says something racist? He gets fired. Enough people complain about an objectifying commercial? It gets pulled. And nearly everyone's mad at Miss California. Yet all the while, people are learning how to really behave from those little cues in music, movies, TV, and the internet - not to mention family and friends.

'Cleaning' the media isn't enough to stop oppression. I'm not sure it even counts as a first step.

It might even be easier if the hate and bigotry were still all out in the open where we could see it. As horrible as that 3OH13 song that Aviva posted about a while back is, I think most people (minus the trolls - including the troll band that made it!) would see it as at least mildly offensive, enough that they would only admit to liking it around the 'appropriate' audience (other sexists). And despite all of the anger and disgust that has been aimed at Asher Roth recently, it's not him, but the white suburban kids who actually like him that worry me. He'll go away soon, after people get good and mad. We'll suppress the overt idiocy. But his audience will have learned their lesson for the day: being a racist jerk is really cool.

I don't really have an overall point to this post other than to say, sure enough, womanists/feminists/anti-ablests/everybody-else-who-cares still have a whole world's worth of work to do. And each day the problem is becoming more and more obfuscated.


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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The All-American Cowboy versus the "Bionic Booty"

Please take note that the following post contains spoilers for tonight's Dancing with the Stars results show as well as a good ole' fashioned rant. Consider yourself warned.

My parents have been watching DWTS since it first aired, which is pretty miraculous to me since, up until recently, they barely watched any television at all. But I suppose it's because they're big fans of ballroom dancing and have been taking lessons and dancing together for the past twelve years. In fact, they got me into ballroom dancing when I was fourteen; I even briefly contemplated taking it up professionally when I was a teenager, but school commitments and other things came up and it just didn't happen. They also got me watching the show, although it took until this season for me to really become a fan.

At the beginning, my allegiance was split between Gilles Marini and Shawn Johnson--because Gilles was awesome, even early on, and I was such a huge fan of Shawn's plucky determination (and sheer unflappable optimism) during the Beijing Olympics (I also have a begrudging appreciation for Melissa Rycroft's dancing...but don't tell anyone). But rather rapidly, over the last few weeks, Lil' Kim and Derek stole my heart. Sure, I like Lil' Kim's music, but her celebrity has nothing to do with my adoration of her as a dancer.

DWTS brought out a side of Lil' Kim America hadn't really seen before. Instead of the tough-as-nails, "Queen Bee" rapper who gleefully tossed about obscenities and explicit sexual references, she revealed herself to be funny and a little shy and deeply committed, not to mention charmingly insecure despite her hip-hop cred. On the show, more than any of the other celebrities, Lil' Kim to me seemed remarkably human. The vast majority of her dances were excellent because she worked hard and, most importantly, because she's an incredible performer.

And, yes, part of her performance persona is that sexy, hip-thrusting style she's adapted from her hip-hop career, but I think she was never really given a chance to show other facets of her talent. In fact, every time she performed a dance that wasn't "raunchy" or "passionate" enough, she was penalized.

The judges were clearly very taken with Lil' Kim, and as shocked as I was that she was eliminated this week, but even in the final, tearful moments after her elimination, they were lamenting the loss of her "bionic booty."

Apparently, no matter how good she is, a woman of color is still judged on her "passion" and her ass (oh, er, her "assets," as they said tonight--haha). I'd like to see what would happen if Bruno told Melissa Rycroft to work her "bangin' rack"! Can you imagine?

(I could write volumes about the blatant racism of the judges' comments to Lil' Kim--especially when they were being "complimentary"--as opposed to how they address the other dancers, but...that will have to wait until I'm not, you know, trying to finish a dissertation.)

Just to be clear, I'm not angry because my favorite dancer was eliminated. Honestly, if Lil' Kim had gotten to the semi-finals and then had been beaten by someone equally good, like Gilles or Mellisa or even Shawn, I wouldn't have cared...much. But when the person who wins out over Lil' Kim is the one person left on the show who has absolutely no innate talent whatsoever? Well, then my feathers get a little ruffled.

Ty Murray is not a good dancer. He seems like a perfectly nice guy, I have no problems with him personally, and he's improved remarkably over the past few weeks. I'll even give him props for his Argentine Tango last week, which was pretty good...on a relative scale. However, he's stiff and stilted, still hasn't developed a sense a rhythm or movement after months of training and is simply worlds away from any of the other four couples.

I hate to speculate on things like this. What do I know, really? But I find it hard to believe that America didn't vote for Lil' Kim just because her waltz last week wasn't as good as it could have been. If that were the reasoning behind people voting, then Ty wouldn't have made it past the third week. It seems pretty clear to me that Lil' Kim's elimination this week has way more to do with people's privileging of the "All-American," white cowboy--clearly held to a different (lower) standard than any of the female contestants--and preconceived notions about how women of color are supposed to perform for us and how they're supposed to act.

And about yesterday's waltz? While I'm no professional by any means, I think I have a little more ballroom knowledge than the average Joe. Like Carrie Ann said, there were a few missteps, but it was still a beautiful dance (my goodness, ever-the-stickler Len even liked it), with some very graceful, sweet moments. Oh wait, I forgot. Black women aren't supposed to be graceful; we only like them when their booties are "bionic" and their dances are raunchy. Or, as Bruno said, "You tried to be a lady, but you're more comfortable being a tramp!" Um. Wow.

Let's tally things up, shall we? Lil' Kim has been consistently good, has excellent rhythm, and is a phenomenal performer. Ty has been consistently iffy, has no rhythm, and couldn't perform his way out of a corral.

Clearly, I don't get "American viewers" and how they vote. Or, actually, I think do get it. That's what scares me.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

R.I.P. Marilyn French

Marilyn French, Novelist and Champion of Feminism, Dies at 79:
Her first and best-known novel, “The Women’s Room,” released in 1977, traces a submissive housewife’s journey of self-discovery following her divorce in the 1950s, describing the lives of Mira Ward and her friends in graduate school at Harvard as they grow into independent women. The book was partly informed by her own experience of leaving an unhappy marriage and helping her daughter deal with the aftermath of being raped. Women all over the world seized on the book, which sold more than 20 million copies and was translated into 20 languages.

Gloria Steinem, a close friend, compared the impact of the book on the discussion surrounding women’s rights to the one that Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” had had on racial equality 25 years earlier.

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Feminist Flashback #35

Because I'm a little bit in love with Lil' Kim on Dancing with the Stars, this week's flashback is her--seriously Not. Safe. For. Work.--album Notorious K.I.M., which was a serious staple of my college audio library. My father says her music is basically pornography in rap form, but I know he says that with love. In any case, if you haven't heard her music, consider that fair warning:

How Many Licks? - Lil Kim

And, as a bonus, her most recent (awesome) dance on DWTS (which is, of course, safe for work):

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