Everything is Gendered Forever

12/02/2013 § Leave a comment

Today, I ran an errand. My simple task, to pick up a box of Valentine’s Day Cards for the kiddo’s class exchange. As I was browsing through the cards,  a woman with two children stood next to me, debating which cards to get. Normal. One boy picked Spiderman. The woman insisted that he get a second set “for the girls.” He picked Hello Kitty, after which the other boy teased him about liking the Hello Kitty cards better because “he’s a sissy.” No intervention. I almost foamed at the mouth.

Gendering and heteronormativity at their finest.

Categories

27/11/2012 § Leave a comment

We call it a religious war, they call it “ethnic conflict.” We say it’s about Buddhism and Islam, they say it’s about illegal immigration from Bangladesh and national preservation. Who says there is a meaningful distinction between religion, nationalism, ethnicity &c as if all these categories aren’t protean and fluid, deployed (sometimes strategically) in various ways for various undertakings, forming emerging and fading constructions of Burmese-ness?

Abeysekara — I get it.

Fat Feminist

01/11/2012 § Leave a comment

Lately, my self-esteem has been pretty terrible. I am not sure what is going on, but it is largely bound up in my conception of my fatness. As much as I acknowledge my fatness, and refuse to believe that I am not fat, lately I have been feeling more than ever that my fatness is under scrutiny. What’s more, I worry that my fatness calls my competence into question. I worry that my ugliness and fatness are inherent in me, that my worth as a human being is lessened. I know people interact with me differently. I am conscious,  always, of the tilt of my head and how that impacts my triple chin, how the size of my ass means I bump into chairs and tables in restaurants. I worry that I take up too much space. Then, I don’t eat for two days until my blood sugar crashes, I cry because I hate myself and eat four bowls of ice cream, sobbing over how disgusting I am. I spiral into intense doubt about my academic competence, my ability to make friends, whether I am a good enough spouse.

I am a caricature.

I try to ask myself what it is about fatness and ugliness that is so offensive. Why do I feel like I am too loud, take up too much space, say too many stupid things? Why can’t I seem to internalize the good things about myself?

I could just go on a diet, but I resist that as caving in to some constructed beauty ideal. Either course of action turns me into something loathsome.

Being liked and admired is a pretty basic human desire. In standing at the intersection of fatness and feminism,  I am not sure what to do with myself. Where is the fat feminist’s handbook to weight loss?

Pornography: Please, try harder.

21/10/2012 § Leave a comment

When I was 18 or so, I thought that watching porn was possibly the best thing ever. My friends and I would pile on a couch and watch things like “Teen Girl Power” &c. After all, sex is sexy. Women are sexy. Women who do porn are powerful via their sexiness right? … Right?

Well, not always.

The probs with porn is the ways in which women become the object of men’s sexual desire, rather than women being capable of desire in their own right. Big-breasted, small-waisted, innocent, voracious, cougs (oh, cougs), women being sexy and having sex in ways that are sanctioned by men. Women deviously controlling men by the pants (because women don’t have real power). Shots that pan gynecologically close to a woman’s vagina, that forsake the whole of the people making the porn for the sake of in-depth presentations of testicular physics, the dissection of the body… Women who attempt to look interested in one another while they pantomime lesbian sex with four-inch fingernails. You know, going gay for the male gaze. These are not unproblematic things.  That’s not even counting that I can’t live up to their libidinousness. For that matter, it’s not counting that awkward moment when the person you’re intimate with tries something they “learned in a porno.”

But who cares, right? Women aren’t watching porn. Well…

…hawt…

Some of us ARE watching. Some of us know that women are sexual, and some of us are women who consume sexual media. The centrality of female pleasure is sexy. Watching two whole people having (flushed, sweaty) sex is better than watching a penis ram into a vagina. Women are capable of being sexual, of having desires, and people having sex are (hopefully) interested in fulfilling those desires for each other, rather than attempting to show the myriad ways in which women need penises to survive.

Get your rocks off conscientiously, with the centrality of mutual pleasure.

I’m pissed. Deal with it.

19/09/2012 § 1 Comment

Lately, I have been thinking on (and, frankly, getting very angry about) the myriad ways that people respond to anger, bitterness, and so on, especially with regard to the anger and bitterness of women. I apologize if I am too vague in what I am arguing against, but I am simultaneously trying to make a point and conceal the source of my ire. Still, I think I can make the argument generally against a characterization of feminists as angry man-haters, especially when we fail at perfect equanimity.

The contention that feminists are angry (and therefore off-putting) in some way implies that women have no reason to be angry. It’s almost as though, if women feel like there is something to complain about, it ought to be put forth in the least upsetting way possible.

Bad: Men should stop raping women. The onus for rape is on the perpetrator.

Good: Gee, rape is terrible. Something should really be done about it, don’t you think?

What on earth is so bad about being angry? Some things should be worth getting angry about. For myself, injustice is just about the only thing worth getting angry about.

I wonder if this is fundamentally a problem of pluralism and tolerance shielding injustice from inquiry. We have a blessed, sweet rainbow of (in)difference, a tolerance of intolerance.

Wake up! Sexism, racism, classism, all forms of oppression cannot be simply a tolerated difference of opinion. We are talking about people’s lives here. We are talking about policies, institutions, social structures that are actively causing people harm. There is reason to be angry. I am angry. In my view, everyone should be angry.

Anger at oppression means I feel something for other human beings. Deal with it.

Privilege Guilt

16/09/2012 § Leave a comment

Last night, Quin and I had a talk about white, heterosexual, male privilege. These sorts of things are always on my mind, but more so than usual this semester, as I work in a women’s studies course. We talked about how he feels when white, male privilege is pointed out to him, and he responded that, although he acknowledges that he has privilege, he refuses to accept that he must be made to feel guilty because of it. I wonder, how much of this feeling of guilt is caused by someone actually working at making you feel guilty, and how much of it is derived from simply feeling guilty when unearned advantages are pointed out? Why are we all so defensive about this?

If you are in a privileged group, it isn’t your fault. That’s why it’s privilege. On the other hand, if your privilege is pointed out to you, and you respond by saying something like “Well, that other person may be privileged, but I’m not because I’ve got black friends.” or myriad other deflections, or if you deny it outright, then there is a big problem. In my mind, the consistent denial of one’s own privilege is grounds for feeling guilty. So is an acknowledgement of privilege but failing to work toward change. As Ani says, “If you’re not trying to make something better, then as far as I can tell, you are just in the way.”

More: Big ups to all the people out there who acknowledge their privilege, accept that it’s no one else’s responsibility to make them check that privilege, and work to be a better person.

African women need your bras?

05/08/2012 § Leave a comment

I have recently (like 20 minutes ago) learned about several different charities working to send bras to African women. Bras are, apparently, sought-after luxury items in the second-hand clothing market in Africa. Charities donate them for women to sell (in the case of Free the Girls, they establish operations with victims of sex trafficking, in order for them to make money and keep them out of the sex trade).

I find this pretty problematic, for a number of reasons, but first let me say that in general, I have no problem with programs that help (especially) women (but also men) to find sustainable work that will help them avoid doing work that is harmful (I qualify sex trafficking as harmful, although not prostitution in general). For example, I do really enjoy organizations like Kiva, that fund microloans to people across the globe (including in the United States).

I find the bra trade problematic because it assumes 1) that the cast-offs of our (western) consumerism are an adequate solution for people in developing countries 2) that there is nothing at all curious about western undergarments as exotic/luxuries 3) that there is nothing curious about class relationships in all this, given that (some) people suggest that the wearing of western-style undergarments will prevent rape because women wearing western-style undergarments are perceived of as being from a certain class background (are the bras visible?) 4) the selling of (ostensibly) exotic(izing) undergarments highlight specific ideas about women and sex.

Props because we’ve all got to start somewhere.

Image