No one would doubt Madonna’s commitment to gay rights but more importantly, few would doubt that she’s an archetypal American liberal. This is underlined in this speech to GLAAD, the American body which is widely seen (outwith American liberal circles, anyway) as the hobby horse of privileged white men. The American version of Stonewall, if you will, and as such hugely averse to radicalism and any meaningful discussion of inequality and the use of power. Madonna’s speech pushes all the right buttons in this regard: the American enemies of the great and the good gathered in the room are religious bigots who fixate on sexuality; some truth to this, of course, but neatly feeding the sense of victimisation which many of these people thrive on while obscuring wider and more complex inequalities.
If Madonna has restricted her comments to the Boy Scouts and religious bigotry in America, however, there would have been little wrong with this speech. Where it becomes worthy of criticism is when she moves onto the wider world with some banal but damaging observations on inequality and oppression. Israeli apartheid becomes a question of two mothers sitting down to speak to each other, the pervasive and pernicious fiction that the conflict is one of two equal ‘sides’ rather than one of oppressor and oppressed. Worse, there is a throwaway reference to “an Iranian gay man being hanged for falling in love with a man.” This is a favoured trope of liberals, even in situations where there is absolutely no evidence to support it, and it is unforgivable as it serves to increase the drumbeat for ‘intervention’ in Iran while completely ignoring America’s own complicity in and hypocrisy regarding the Iranian regime (and indeed support of regimes seen to be even more oppressive).
The reference to Malala Yousafzai and the Taliban at first seems straightforwardly ‘good’ - who could have an issue with this, after all? Yet it undeniably further serves American fantasies of promoting equality and justice in the world against dangerous, dark, barbaric enemies. It’s easy to be horrified when the Taliban attempt to kill a child - it’s braver to use your platform to draw attention to your own government murdering hundreds (at least) of children with its drone strikes and sanctions.
Indeed, the sense that you should hold your own government to account before deigning to wag your finger at others looms large in one inexcusable omission from Madonna’s speech. She speaks of Putin and Pussy Riot - again, a worthy cause but one which flatters Western notions of superiority. It is ‘insane’, she says, that Pussy Riot have been locked up ‘because they criticised the government’. Further, she notes that she doesn’t ‘know many brave people’ and draws attention to the line in ‘Nobody Knows Me’ which observes that “it’s so hard to find someone to admire”. You have to wonder, then, if Madonna (and indeed GLAAD) is aware of Bradley Manning, a truly brave (gay) American who has spent over 1000 days in prison and faced torture precisely because he wanted to draw attention to his government’s horrendous abuses of its power. I’ve written before about the silence of ‘Gay Inc’ on Manning and it is truly inexcusable for this room to loudly whoop and applaud their sense of righteousness over Pussy Riot while they continue to turn a blind eye to their own government’s persecution of someone who courageously spoke up. It’s possible to go further still, as Glenn Greenwald does here in a piece on Anwar Awlaki, an American citizen who was subject to extrajudicial assassination (ie murder) by the CIA. Greenwald argues that:
What prompted my opposition from the start to the attempted killing of Awlaki was that it was very clear he was being targeted because of his anti-American sermons that were resonating among English-speaking Muslim youth (sermons which, whatever you think of them, are protected by the First Amendment), and not because he was a Terrorist operative. In other words, the US government was trying to murder one of its own citizens as punishment for his political and religious views that were critical of the government’s policies, and not because of any actual crimes or warfare. (my emphasis)
You may have to read that a few times to fully take in its shocking message - one which completely demolishes liberal fantasies of a superior, secular America which can afford to cast its eye over the abuses of other governments and find them wanting.
Predictably, Madonna’s speech is proving popular with many; it’s being described as ‘courting controversy’ and ‘brave’. Yet what was difficult or shocking about it? It flattered the egos of everyone present, assuring them that they were on the side of ‘right’ and ‘good’ while still facing oppression from wicked religious people. The man the speech honoured is a mainstream journalist who waited until he was firmly embedded at the top of his profession before choosing to come out and there seems to be little that is truly ‘brave’ about his overwhelmingly conventional views. What would have been truly brave, truly shocking, truly controversial, would be if Madonna had challenged the smug complacency of GLAAD and, indeed, of the wider American liberalism and exceptionalism which she so perfectly embodies.
Yep. See also this.
Somehow, we have popularized the notion that being offended by a joke is wrong, that it’s your own fault for feeling that way and that feeling offended is your personal choice. If you say or even imply that something has offended you, you’ll likely hear something along the lines of ‘learn to take a joke.’ or ‘Get a sense of humor!’ Both of these phrases are dismissive, suggesting that you’re wrong to think critically about comedy and feeling offended is an invalid reaction.
What this attitude ignores is the underlying reason behind peoples’ reactions. Why were you offended by that? What about that joke made you feel uncomfortable? Sometimes people may be ‘overreacting’ to things that would not cause real harm, but in many cases, especially when the joke is racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise targets a marginalized group, there’s a good reason for people to be offended. These jokes, whether they’re intended to be harmful or not, have the effect of normalizing and reinforcing bigotry, prejudices, and stereotypes. What’s worse is that these jokes often feel like a direct assault to the people who are being used as the punchline, like the way rape jokes often trivialize the experiences of victims and make rape out to be a crazy happenstance instead of an atrocity. So, next time you feel like someone isn’t justified for being offended, try to find out why they felt offended in the first place. You might find that what sounded hilarious to you felt more like a punch in the gut to someone else, and it’s hard to laugh when you’ve just had the wind knocked out of you.
The 85th Academy Awards will, as every year, be a boring, overlong, masturbatory tribute to mediocre cinema. For decades now, the Oscars have predominantly celebrated middle-brow films that embrace shallow evocations of gravitas over anything approaching creativity. One thing about owners, about the old, rich, white and powerful, is that when it comes to art they are deeply stupid: confusing seriousness with artistry, the emotive with the emotional, realism with profundity. But when it comes to control, strategy, and power, these confusions become assets, foundational aspects of bourgeois subjectivity, of obedience and self-ignorance.
With any and all media, information and ideals are exchanged and enforced. If you create something, be it a Hollywood blockbuster or a self-published romance novel, you have become a part of the cultural dialogue, and you are opening not only yourself up to criticism but also whatever the ideal people interpret from it, which may be not at all what you intended.
The important thing you have to remember (and I have to remind myself of this all the time) is that it’s not always about you. If someone is pissed at you for something you said, wrote or liked, it’s because there’s a precedent for it in the life of the person giving criticism. It’s all part of a dialogue. Everything is derivative, all media is interdependent, and it’s never completely about you.
Themes, ideas and what people will read into your art is always a balance, and I believe that balance is different for everyone. Everyone’s process is different, what they like is different, their goals are different.
The key is, it is natural for us to get defensive about the things we like, create, or may someday create, but it is important also to fight against that natural impulse to get defensive and to listen to the dialogue others point out. Perhaps you misrepresented a certain viewpoint, or omitted another. Perhaps these things didn’t even cross your mind, but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored. An important part of our dialogue is to be open to different mindsets; you might learn from this sort of criticism, and end up with a far better product than you might have before.
…unless of course that person is being a miserable, unreasonable cockasaur. Those people suck. You don’t need that.
So sick and tired of people posting pictures of Afghan women in the 1920s and comment saying something like “wow luk how free they were!!11 Islam sux!!!”. A few things:
- It was a very, very, very, very small elite that dressed like that and had the privilege of having their pictures taken at the time.
- Women at the time were vastly illiterate, the revealing dress of the elite doesn’t eliminate the plight of the masses.
- The Burqa was worn then, too; it’s not something the Taliban invented.
- Many of the Talibans actions and policies are in direct contradiction with Islamic teachings.
Yes, Afghan women have been suffering greatly and have a number of struggles to deal with. But trust me when I tell you that not being able to wear a mini-skirt is the least of their concerns. So if you’re gonna use Afghan women to push your anti-Islam and/or pro-war agenda, keep in mind that you are as oppressive as anyone you claim to be fighting against.
If you were truly concerned for the “plight of Afghan women”, why don’t you take on the devastating number of mental illness, the poverty in the country and in refugee camps, the intra- and extramarital rapes, the forced prostitution, the crippled economy, the lack of literacy, the lack of representation in the media, government or other institutions, the lack of organization or empowerment, the lack of security when going to school or to work, the struggle when faced with the death of a husband, father or son, the never-ending effects of the war, the massacres, the drones, the drug war and all the other real issues they face?
You people just want everyone in the world to dress like you as if that somehow is going to free them of all their issues. Freedom and liberty is also freedom to follow your religion and culture, even if it isn’t the same as yours.
Don’t come to save us. Listen to us for once instead of talking over us.
Fuck this article. This is such a lazy summation of feminism, I could scream. In the first sentence alone, the author cites Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. Even though the author recognizes Friedan as a figure of controversy, Friedan and her ~seminal~ text are major focal points here and thus tools with which one should ~evaluate~ and ~critique~ Beyonce. In other words, the ~legacy~ of an openly homophobic, privileged, white, and now deceased second-wave feminist woman should, by all means, constitute a rubric for ~uncovering~ and ~problematizing~ everything that is apparently “wrong” with Beyonce’s feminism. Drawing from Beyonce’s recent interview with GQ Magazine, the author regurgitates the same tiresome remarks, reminding their readership that there is “more to Knowles than raging narcissism.” There’s no mention of — probably because the author is a white woman with, in no uncertain terms, a devastatingly unidimensional perception of feminist theory and praxis — the imperative project of radical narcissism and the ways in which Beyonce has brazenly cultivated and performed self-love, compelling women of all backgrounds to acknowledge and accept the transformative properties of personal (r)evolution. The author validates Beyonce’s astute deconstruction of women’s (dis)enfranchisement, but then makes the sweeping claim that “American women earn 77 cents to every dollar earned by men” which, by the way, is linked to a recent piece by the National Women’s Law Center clearly delineating that “the wage gap is more pronounced for women of color” (e.g., Black women with year-round, full-time jobs make 64 cents for every white male dollar while Latin@s with year-round, full-time jobs make 55 cents for every white male dollar). After conveniently evading the pertinent aforementioned statistics, the author essentially shames Beyonce and her contemporaries for their participation in “porn-like” photo shoots which “pander to the male gaze” and employ predatory villains like Terry Richardson. The author spends the majority of the article casually indicting Beyonce for “selling out” and “commodifying” her body yet refrains from going beyond one critical line about Richardson. How can one discuss what one believes to be the compulsory hypersexualization of arguably the world’s most popular female entertainer without even alluding to a paternalistic music industry’s racialized and gendered modus operandi? How can one not commend Beyonce for surviving and thriving in this environment? The article ends on a bitter note, mocking Beyonce’s conceptualization of women’s emancipation — the author dubs it “her Dworkin-ish call to arms” — and postulating the absurdity of “famous women [who] can sing about ‘independence’ and ‘girl power’, as long as they’re wearing next to nothing.” According to the author, it is these paradoxes, then, that “do not live up to” the ~dreams~ of Friedan. But what about women of color feminisms and the revolutionary practice of embracing contradiction, as it were? If we actually go beyond Friedan’s second-wave liberal feminist framework, we can explore the philosophies of groundbreaking Black feminist theorists, scholars, and activists such as Audre Lorde and Patricia Hill Collins and bell hooks and Pauli Murray and Elaine Brown and the Combahee River Collective and Angela Davis and Assata Shakur whose lives and works are testaments to the rejection of dichotomous thinking and, instead, the espousal of a “both/and” orientation that views thought and action as the same process, creating new possibilities for relationships between thought and action and valorously transgressing the confines of a white-supremacist, capitalist heteropatriarchy.
“I’m a feminist so I believe in inhabiting contradictions. I believe in making contradictions productive, not in having to choose one side or the other side. As opposed to choosing either/or, choosing both.” -Angela Davis
At its most basic: it’s the inability to understand that other people have had different lives and experiences. They think, “nothing like that has ever happened to me, so it couldn’t have happened to anyone else.”
And to reinforce that, they have “Well, this person must have done something to inherently deserve it, because if they didn’t, then bad things could happen to ME for no reason. Therefore, I NEED for them to have somehow deserved it.”
For people who do not experience the ugly end of racism, misogyny, ableism, homophobia and transphobia, it IS just a “disagreement”. FOR THEM.
These are the people who ask for “proof” that (insert oppression here) exists.
These are the people who defend perpetrators of individual and institutional violence.
These are the people who look at overwhelming statistics and see inferiority on the oppressed’s part rather than injustice on the oppressor’s part.
This is why no individual piece of anything can exist in a vacuum; this is why art is not innocent.
Every word or action or object that acts as a vehicle of oppression, that propagates stereotypes, that feeds into cultural bias is a stone dropping on the already unmanageable burden of a human being whose existence is expected to be encapsulated within a constant apology.
Those of us who refuse to apologize for existing are seen as an aberration; we are the ones who serve to make an example of why these horrors are “justified”…we are seen as the ones who create the machine, who somehow had the power to create the machine, when in fact it was the machine that created us.
The powerless are not the ones who created the machine that grinds their lives exceedingly fine, even when their hand is forced to operate it.
Pointing out that something is problematic is not the same as “being negative”.
TW: RAPE, MISOGYNY, TRANSPHOBIA, VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, SEXUAL ABUSE, ABUSE, ABLEISM, HOMOPHOBIA, RAPE PROMOTION
Reddit Refusing To Remove Popular Subpages That Promote Harmful Behavior
I’m writing in an attempt to bring awareness to a current petition going on trying to enforce Reddit to actually act on their own User Agreement and remove all their pages (subreddits) that do not follow these guidelines.
“You agree not to use any obscene, indecent or offensive language… [material must not be] defamatory, abusive, bullying, harassing, racist, hateful, or violent….further agree not to use any sexually suggestive language…” - taken from Reddits User Agreement
Unfortunately right now Reddit is ignoring their own rules and letting pages like the following exist with little to absolutely no moderation:
These all exist on Reddit~ one of the most popular social networking sites that has had 34 MILLION UNIQUE VISITORS. Reddit gets around 1.8 billion page views every month. These subreddits are not that unknown either. If you go through the top subreddits on Reddit you will find almost every single one of these within the first 10-20 pages. This is simply something that everyone that uses Reddit, including their own moderating team, turn a blind eye too.
Recently one of the most popular subreddits on Reddit “creepshots” that was dedicated to users taking suggestive pictures of woman without their consent and putting it online without their knowledge was taken down. Users of this subreddit were known for posting pictures of underage girls, a teacher was even fired from taking pictures of his students and posting it on creepshots. This subreddit was deleted by the creator of creepshots because someone was blackmailing him and threatening to expose his identity. It was not taken down by Redditors moderators even after all the media backlash and arrests made that have come from Creepshots.
Related reading on the awfulness that existed in creepshots that was allowed to be there by Reddit if you are not convinced by my words alone:Obviously, a lot of bad came from creepshots. Was this all really worth leaving it up for? Can we now learn from creepshots that getting like minded people talking about taking advantage of/raping/and even murdering is only going to lead to worse actions and encouragement of individuals to do harm to others.for more examples of the TERRIBLE BEHAVIOR and related news articles about said behavior on these subreddits please visit: http://predditor.tumblr.com/
This poster was printed and distributed in the US in 1991.
Laurence Berg, Canada Research Chair for Human Rights, Diversity and Identity, disagrees with the idea that PC language and policies are oppressive. Why? Because he doesn’t really believe that PC policies existed in the first place.
“What [they]’re calling the ‘PC movement’ I would call a social movement by marginalised people and the people who support them,” he said. “[A movement] to use language that’s more correct—not ‘politically correct’—that more accurately represents reality.”
Berg is referring to a way of thinking that many of us students were too young to catch the first time around. For us, the term ‘politically correct’ survived the 90s, but the term ‘human rights backlash’ did not. Will Hutton, former editor-in-chief for the UK publication the Observer, described in his column how the term ‘PC’ was never really a political stance at all, contrary to popular belief. It was actually perceived by many as a right-wing tactic to dismiss—or backlash against—left-leaning social change. Mock the trivial aspects of human rights politics, like its changing language, and you’ll succeed in obscuring the issue altogether.
Berg believes this is what political correctness is all about: “The term politically correct is a reactionary term,” he said. “[It was] created by people who were worried by [social] changes…that affected their everyday understanding of the world in ways that pointed out their role in creating or reproducing dominance and subordination.”
According to Berg, the indignation people feel against PC ideas reflects the discomfort we feel when language and politics begin to pull away from the dominant values we grew up with—in other words, white, middle-class values. It’s no small coincidence that the concept of political correctness originated in the 80s and 90s, just after human rights concerns and visible minority groups started getting real attention in politics and the media.
Berg explains that in its original context, PC was a pejorative term used by people who felt they were losing something. Exactly what they were losing is very hard to describe, especially to them. But many sociologists and historians today have come to a consensus on what they call it: it’s a loss of privilege—and in terms of race, a loss of white privilege.