Quick Hit: “Racism without Racists”

Nicholas Kristof

The racism is difficult to measure, but a careful survey completed last month by Stanford University, with The Associated Press and Yahoo, suggested that Mr. Obama’s support would be about six percentage points higher if he were white. That’s significant but surmountable.

Most of the lost votes aren’t those of dyed-in-the-wool racists. Such racists account for perhaps 10 percent of the electorate and, polling suggests, are mostly conservatives who would not vote for any Democratic presidential candidate.

Rather, most of the votes that Mr. Obama actually loses belong to well-meaning whites who believe in racial equality and have no objection to electing a black person as president — yet who discriminate unconsciously.

Loads of interesting stuff (and horrifying statistics) there about the power of unconscious prejudice. Definitely worth a read for those who think that if you don’t actively hate people of color, your behavior can’t be called racist.

Guest Blogger Occhiblu: More Problems with Racism and the Fatosphere

Shapeling Occhiblu sent a version of this as an e-mail to us yesterday, hoping we could post about it. But she’d basically said it all, so we asked her to guest post. Thanks, Occhiblu!

Note to commenters: This thread will be moderated with a heavier hand than usual. –Kate

By Occhiblu

Sandy at Junkfood Science linked yesterday to a syndicated column published in the Indiana paper The Star Press. Sandy’s comment on the article was, “This is a profound article on where we’re being led in the name of perfect health and bodies, and in the war on obesity.”

The linked column, “Perfect expression of the communist machine,” was written by rightwing columnist Kathleen Parker; it is a pile of racist drivel about how the Chinese value collectivism because of Communist dictators and how “free” people value humanity while Communist people do not. [Note from Kate: If you want to read it, go via Sandy’s blog or Google it.]

Speaking about the substitution of Lin Miaoke for Yang Peiyi in the Olympic Opening Ceremonies because, she claims, Peiyi had imperfect teeth, Parker writes:

Sentimentality doesn’t enter into the totalitarian equation. In such a world, innocence is irrelevant, and deceit is a lesson best learned young. Who cares that a little girl was told she wasn’t pretty enough to be seen by the world and that her voice — though lovely — belonged not to her, but to the homeland?

That single gesture, relatively small amid the extravaganza, said more about China than all the fireworks, human kites and dangling dancers. It said: The human being — the individual — is of no importance. The objectification of that child, her voice commodified for the purposes of the state, was the real ode to the motherland.

As I commented at the Star Press site, while one could certainly make an argument that dictatorial countries prize perfection over humanity, this article is not that argument. Ms. Parker does an excellent job, however, of ignoring the United States’ mass-produced and internationally distributed form of aesthetic perfectionism — our Hollywood actors and actresses are not exactly known for their “normal” and “human” appearances, and the entire industry is pretty open about discarding the imperfect, the old, and the odd — and she quite glibly ignores the cultural importance of collectivism as a Chinese value, not just a Communist one.

Putting others first, working in harmony with the whole, and striving for the good of the family and the community rather than the glory of the individual were not invented by Lenin. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Eastern history and thought can trace these values back through Confucianism, through Buddhism, and through Taoism. Anyone with even a modicum of humanity can see the beauty, power, and wisdom of these ideals. While these values may have been co-opted to support a corrupt political system in China, presenting China as if it were the only country in which religious ideals were exploited in order to prop up a power-hungry leader and deny the humanity of large segments of the population ignores what’s going on in our own country.

Parker does not stop at ignorantly categorizing collectivism as some sort of totalitarian mind-trick, however, she also goes straight for the Godwin gold:

Inevitably, comparisons have been drawn to the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. Just as China’s selection as host country signaled its emergence as a global power, Germany’s marked that nation’s return to the international community following its defeat in World War I.

Although Adolf Hitler was already busy rounding up Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and others for detention and/or sterilization, the Games allowed him to pull a propaganda coup of peaceful tolerance. The Holocaust and World War II soon followed.

By implying that only totalitarian countries oppress their citizens, Parker ignores the United States’ wretched history of human rights abuses, including internment camps for Japanese- and other Asian-Americans during World War II, and sweeps away any bad that the West has committed (and there’s been a lot of bad). She’s also arguing that collectivist world views, which are strongly held by many non-Western cultures, lead to holocausts.

Sandy calling this article “profound” and explicitly linking it to weight-based discrimination in the U.S. is problematic, to say the least. Saying that this is where “we’re being led in the name of perfect health and bodies, and in the war on obesity” endorses this view that somehow the Chinese are more oppressively perfectionist than the West and uses the racism of the original column to erase the reality of Chinese culture in order to make a point about fat discrimination. She tosses Chinese culture and values under the bus in her effort to talk about why fat discrimination is bad.

I think it’s instructive to look at how the popular feminist site, Hoyden About Town, dealt with the same event. Writing about the substitution of one girl for the other, tigtog reinforces ways in which Chinese culture and Western culture are creating the same pressures on women. She writes, “Here’s just one high-profile example of how women are trained from a very young age to believe that their looks matter more than anything else about them, not just when it comes to finding a sexual partner, but also in terms of recognition and reward in other aspects of life.”

I am not Chinese or Chinese-American, so it may be possible that I’m missing ways in which tigtog’s piece glosses over or misses Asian cultural pressures that are different from the West’s, but I was really struck by how the feminist site took this event and used as a way of finding similarities in oppressions and of reaffirming the humanity of the two girls, while the site on the fatosphere linked to an article that erased the humanity of the Chinese and reaffirmed the primacy of weight-based discrimination.

And given that the linked article included the Holocaust and Tiananmen Square Massacre as the natural outcome of the Chinese worldview, that’s a very large claim that Sandy is making.

Sandy’s site does not allow comments, so the fatosphere feed now has an entry linking to a nasty racist screed, calling it “profound,” and aligning its argument with the struggle for FA, with no way of publicly questioning the blogger on this statement.

I find that really disappointing, especially since there has been so much discussion lately about racism in the FA movement. So this is my public statement.

Quick hit: Racism and victory daps

The next time someone tells you that fatphobia differs from racism in being a “socially acceptable prejudice,” kick them over to this post. It’s a hilariously written but chilling roundup of histrionic reactions to the celebratory dap — sorry, GANG SIGN — between Michelle and Barack Obama last week, courtesy of Drive-By Assholes on the Internet. Here’s some of their more charming brainfruit:

It is more evidence of the penetration and corruption of our dominant culture by the minority.

I love the idea of a racist mullato being president. History has shown repeatedly, when Whites set up new countries and then give the control to the blacks, or any non-White race, it will soon collapse into another third world catastrophe.

I can’t be denied that just about all their dance moves , walks and crazy handshakes mimik some kind of animal motion. What’s next? the knee in the crotch-hands above the head greeting?

Another dispaly how Black “keep it real”-real dumb. Picture Obama and wife having to meet world dignitaries. 1st of all this Punk of a wanna-be presient doesn’t even salute his OWN flag. that will look retarted when the national anthem is played as he stands in front of other world officals.

You got to be kidding, The fist “bump”, .America “WAKE UP”, You are getting your first taste of what it is going to be like electing Barack HUSSEIN Obama for president. Next you are going to see southern fried chicken, black-eyed peas, corn bread, and watermelon as your daily meal. Let’s not forget what Obama’s middle name is, funny thing, he never wants to use his middle name on his campaign.

Racism may not be socially acceptable among the people we choose to socialize with. But there are entire communities of bottom-feeders among whom it’s a major social currency. Fatphobia is unusual, though not unique, in that progressives will be gleefully fatphobic, while they’d be ashamed to express racism overtly. But that’s progressives. There’s a lot of folks on this internet, many of them with real-world counterparts, who aren’t the least bit ashamed to be blatantly racist.

I read some of these aloud to Dan, including the one about having fried chicken and cornbread as your daily meal, and he said “hey, that doesn’t sound so bad.” He’s right — it wouldn’t be my first choice of menu, and it might get a little tedious, but compared to a bungled war and a tanked economy it looks pretty desirable. But this person didn’t namecheck fried chicken and watermelon because they were awful; he or she did so because they were racist stereotypes of food preferred by blacks. That’s how “socially unacceptable” racism is for some people — they’re more interested in just saying something racist than in saying something that actually conveys meaning. The idea, in theory, was originally to say something menacing about an Obama administration, but that goal is totally secondary. The real goal is just to be as racist as possible as quickly as possible without stopping for any reason. And these people aren’t doing this out of a self-flagellating desire to be socially shunned. They’re doing it to get accolades — but not the dap, that’s WAY too black — from like-minded bigots.

I know this isn’t news to most of you, but it’s a useful illustration of why official policy around these parts rejects the “last acceptable prejudice” bohonkey. Virulent prejudice — racism, sexism, homophobia, fatphobia, transphobia, ablism, stop me any time — is more socially acceptable across the board than many of us could ever imagine, or would ever want to imagine.

Hoochie Mama – The Other White Meat and Razor Wire Pubic Hair: Books as Stranger Repellent

A version of this entry appeared previously on Snarky’s Machine

As a person who does not particularly enjoy unsolicited social engagement, I find myself locked in an epic battle to protect my precious SAUs (social attention units). I am constantly road testing strategies to ensure this adorable and accessible looking face doesn’t start interactions this adorable and inaccessible mind is unable to sustain. If this is not your experience, I’m happy for you, but I can probably do without hearing all the ways in which this makes me “lucky”. I don’t feel lucky and if I don’t moderate my time I’m exhausted when it’s over and disappointed with myself I didn’t fake labor in order to secure my escape.

One strategy I employ involves heavy use of my cellphone. Seriously, I will not leave my house without my phone and will always call someone and talk to them. People often try to talk to me in public places, asking for suggestions or making nice nice. Now, when I’m in the south, all this goes out the window cause it’s real bad manners not to offer your opinion on the heat when asked by a southerner. Besides, they know when the conversation has run its course and are more than happy to mosey along their merry way.

The other strategy I employ is carrying around books. I read them in line and just about any place where there are a collection of strangers waiting for something to happen.

Here is Snarky’s Trust me I’ve done the legwork approved list of books that guarantee your personal space bubble will not be breached.* Inclusion on the list does not constitute a recommendation – though nearly all were enjoyable to me – rather it simply means the title provided effective protection of SAUs.

Airports and such

  • This would probably strike most as counterintuitive, but AIRPORT LIT is the best choice to avoid AIRPORT bubble breachers. I’m talking about pulling out the big guns: Crichton, Grisham, Balducci, Grafton and Cook. People often romanticize air travel believing anyone flying has the potential to be enthralling.

    It’s a great time to pick up a copy of A Time to Kill This Close Talking Assclown or S is for STEP OFF BUBBLE BREACHER.** The key here is the copy should be totally brand new, preferably purchased from the gift shop. Extra points for using the receipt as a bookmark. Additional note: obscure titles are generally less effective and tend to welcome rather than discourage conversation.

Waiting Rooms – Medical

  • Since there is often a paucity of anything worth reading if you’re not say a parent, gun enthusiast or a card carrying member of AARP, the selection of periodicals provided offer no immunity from bubble breachers whose first comment will involve noting the vintage of the magazines. If you ARE a parent, gun enthusiast or a card carrying member of AARP certainly your lived experiences are probably a lot more exciting than what could be found in those stale periodicals.

    Books with provocative titles casting medical professionals or the profession in general in a rather unflattering light are the most effective. Your Dentist might not have read Marathon Man but it’s likely they will know what is meant by the phrase “Marathon Man Dentistry”. If this is the first time you’re hearing this phrase, google is definitely your friend. I’ll let you do the legwork on that one.

Waiting Rooms – Other

  • A diverse range of subjects are suitable for SAUs protection. I lean towards books overtly sexual in nature, though best selling “female” focused self help and astrology titles are useful as well. Car Dealerships are good places to bring out the feminist non fiction or a “Clown Horn” feminist work like Fear of Flying. There is something about a book exploring a woman’s sexual awakening that will make people scoot away and redirect their attention to The Price is Right faster than you can utter “zipless fuck”.

Coffeehouses, Bookstores and other “enlightened” spaces

  • Since folks often venture to these establishments for the express purposes of imposing themselves on strangers Young Adult fiction is often the best bet. Nothing thwarts this particular strain of breacher like the idea that you just might not be very well read.

Restaurants

  • “Offensive” titles are the strongest weapon in the bubble breach protection arsenal. Think of them as broad spectrum antibiotics to be used judiciously.

____________________________________________________
* offer void where prohibited. some restrictions may apply.
** actual titles may vary. check local outlets for similar products available in your area.

In Which I Am a Victim-Blaming Bitch

Dear Internet,

Pursuant to yesterday’s post at Jezebel, I feel I should clarify a few things.

1) If you are not an Oscar-winning actress or similarly well-known personage, I was not talking about you. I understand that if you don’t routinely get media inquiries about your personal life, you probably do not have people in your employ whose job is to keep the public from thinking poorly of you. This means that no one, least of all me, will ever expect you to issue a public statement regarding the actions of your douchebag partner.

2) If you are concerned that I would judge you by the actions of your douchebag partner, or that I do not understand how easy it is to be fooled by someone you love, please see the passage beginning with the fourth sentence of the goddamned post, which reads:

Don’t get me wrong: I am in no way suggesting that a wife is responsible for her husband’s behavior. I’m not even saying Bullock must have known; just as it’s possible for women not to realize their husbands are cheating or married to other people or, say, responsible for multiple murders, it’s surely possible to miss the signs that your partner is, if not an active neo-Nazi, the kind of twisted asswipe who finds humor in taking photos that suggest he is.

3) If you are concerned that I am unfairly judging Sandra Bullock herself, please revisit the post, paying special attention to the following lines:

  • “all anyone can do is speculate”
  • “all of the information we have comes from questionable sources”
  • “I have absolutely no idea what she knew and when she knew it, and no way of finding out”
  • “I like Sandra Bullock”
  • “I’m not saying we should be accusing Bullock, or assuming anything just yet”
  • “all I know for sure is that I don’t know the woman at all”

Perhaps that sort of close reading will make it easier to understand that I have not, in fact, decided that Sandra Bullock is a Bad Person. I have not, in fact, decided anything about Sandra Bullock as a person. What I have done is call attention to the following points:

  • When you are married to someone who, at the very least, thinks posing for a picture like that is funny, it may be unreasonable for people to presume you share his views, but it is perfectly reasonable for those who are interested in your life to ask you things like, “Um, do you think it’s funny too? And were you aware that he did? Hypothetically speaking, if your husband were shown to be an aficionado of Nazi culture, would you consider that a dealbreaker, y/n?”
  • When you are a very famous actor, fucking everyone is interested in your life. (This is why you have people to deal with your public image while you deal with your private life. See point 1 above.)
  • It is customary for very famous people who are at risk of being tarred with someone else’s douchebag brush to issue statements denouncing the douchebag in question. Ergo, it is curious that there was no immediate move from Bullock’s camp to distance her from a man who, at the very least, thinks posing for a picture like that is funny.
  • It is also customary for the media to talk all sorts of shit about celebrities who might plausibly be tarred with someone else’s douchebag brush. Ergo, it is also curious that so few people seem to even be idly wondering whether Bullock was aware of the breadth and depth of her husband’s douchebaggery.

4) At the end of the day, I am really not all that interested in what kind of person Sandra Bullock is, and I certainly do not feel she owes me or the public a damned thing. But I am very interested in how the cultural conversation about a photo like this goes:

All too predictably, loads of people (in Jez comments and elsewhere) are saying shit like, “It’s just one picture” and “We don’t know the context” and “It was obviously just a joke.” To which I would respond:

  • How many pictures like that would you need to see to be appalled?
  • What context would make it okay?
  • What on earth makes it funny?

If all you mean is that it would be unfair and premature to conclude from this photo that Jesse James personally wants to commit genocide, I’ll grant you that. But I am entirely comfortable concluding from this one photo — let alone other recent revelations — that Jesse James is an epic fucking douche, and that racism is a noteworthy element of his douchiness.

That, of course, is what some people get so upset about. Heaven forbid we jump to the conclusion that someone captured on film doing a “humorous” Hitler impression perhaps has some problematic views about race. We’d better wait until we have the whole story before we go off half-cocked and say things we might regret! I mean, for all we know, he might have just been…

What? What would make that picture okay?

Hint: Nothing.

For fuck’s sake, what does a white person have to do around here before a critical mass of other white people are willing to say, “Yep, that’s some racist bullshit”? More than use Nazi imagery for laffs, apparently. And that, more than anything, is why it troubles me that Bullock didn’t immediately issue a statement, and so few people even seem willing to question whether she was aware that her husband held the sort of views that, at the very least, made him think that photo was funny — let alone whether she holds similar views. Because giving her the pure and unfettered benefit of the doubt at this point is only a milder version of making excuses for him. It’s all based on the same premise: that being called “racist” — or even questioned about your association with someone who, say, uses Nazi imagery for laffs — is such an unbelievably painful thing to endure, we must never, ever imply such a thing without hard evidence that the person in question deserves it.

Hard evidence like… well, something more than one photo taken out of context that was only meant to be a joke, surely. And if that’s not admissible, then merely being married to someone who would take that one photo is, without a doubt, utterly meaningless — so it would be tasteless and cruel even to ask the spouse, “Dude, what the fuck? Did you know about this?” In fact, the consequences of accusing a nice white person of racism, falsely or not, are so unspeakably terrible — why, some people might think poorly of her! — it would probably be better if we never used the word “racist” at all, except with regard to people who do, in fact, personally want to commit genocide. Just to be on the safe side.

And if that means we can never really confront racism when we see it, well… that’s unfortunate. But come on. We don’t want to make people uncomfortable. White people, I mean. I understand that racism itself tends to have damaging effects on everyone else, but since I’ve never personally experienced it, I can only speak as a white woman — and let me tell you, being told that something you’ve done as a well-intentioned, liberal white person was, in fact, racist? AWKWARD! So before you go trying to end oppression, you should probably take that into consideration, okay?

Look, I truly don’t have an opinion on what’s in Sandra Bullock’s heart. But I have an opinion on that photo: Appalling and inexcusable. And an opinion on Jesse James: Racist fuckwit. And an opinion on attempts to somehow justify that photo and steer the conversation away from words like “racism” and “anti-Semitism” and “white supremacy” at all costs: Bullshit. And all of that brought me to the opinion that if Bullock wants to keep the stink off her, she’d best issue a statement denouncing her husband’s racist behavior in no uncertain terms. As fast as possible. Which means, basically, yesterday.

That’s what I was talking about. Not judging her or blaming her or making presumptions about her, but expecting her, as a public figure, to take this seriously. Because that picture, despite what James’ defenders say, is fucking serious. And while it’s very possible for people to remain ignorant of a lot of things within a long-term relationship, it is also, exactly as I said yesterday, reasonable to wonder, and to ask, whether someone shares or condones or willfully ignores her partner’s odious views.

But we’re not supposed to wonder about Bullock. Because she seems like such a nice person, and she’s publicly said non-racist things, and she’s going through so much, sure. But also because it is considered rude and vaguely scandalous to not give an apparently nice white person the extreme benefit of the doubt where any suggestion of racism is concerned. And that’s bullshit. I don’t know one way or another what she thinks of that photo, but for those of us who have never met the woman, in the absence of a public comment there is no more reason to assume she deplores it than there is to assume she thinks it’s hilarious. So it’s really disturbing — albeit not unexpected — that so many people seem to think even posing the question is a vicious assault on her character. Jesse James does a Nazi salute with one hand and a Hitler mustache with the other, and people scramble to explain why we shouldn’t assume it means anything, you know, negative. But ask what his wife thinks about that, and why — for the sake of her own public image, if nothing else — she hasn’t commented (via a publicist, so it’s not like she has to be articulate in the midst of heartbreak and humiliation)? Tasteless! Insulting! Victim-blaming! Why, I never!

That’s pretty fucked up, folks. It really is.

Love,

Kate

Guest Blogger Tasha Fierce: A Maxie Girl In A Barbie World

Tasha Fierce edited the amazing ‘zine Bitchcore from 1998 – 2001 and co-blogs at I Fry Mine In Butter. Her writing explores black invisibility and racism in feminist spaces, sizeism and fatphobia, black queer invisibility, and transgender issues and subverting gender roles. Also, she’s my sister – okay not blood related – but she’s my family.

I have a deep, abiding love of fashion and the various bibles that dictate the terms of such. No matter how many times I tell myself I’m not going to pick up another fashion magazine, no matter how many times I reflect on how damaging staring at anorexic-thin models in clothes I will never fit into is, and no matter how many times I cancel my subscriptions, I still eventually give in to the lure of “100 Accessories under $100 You Can’t Live Without” and buy the damn magazines again. And start another subscription, because, you know, 12 issues for $8 is a really good deal.

So since my chosen career path is “fashion/beauty editor”, and I have started my own nascent fatshion blog to hone my skills, I find myself needing to exist partially in that world that really wants nothing to do with me. At least, until the next “love your body” phase comes along and “plus size” models are all the rage — and even then, I don’t exactly have the shape or height of your typical plus size model. Loving Chanel but knowing Karl Lagerfeld is hugely fatphobic, to the point where he can’t even stand the thought of fat women wearing his diffusion line at H&M, causes serious cognitive dissonance. Writing about fashion requires looking at current runway looks and trends, and while plus size fashion has come a long way, it really pales in comparison to the variety, beauty, and creativity you find in designer clothes made for “normal size” women. It’s extremely hard to desire the amazing looks but be unable to wear them. While low end retailers are going up to larger sizes, you still need to be at the smaller end of the fat spectrum to fit into those sizes, no matter how much stretch they put in their clothing. And even those who can get with the stretch would be hard pressed to fit into the non Lycra-infused items.

All this requires me to live in the “double consciousness” described by W.E.B. DuBois, not just in the fact that I’m a black girl living in a white world, but also in the fact that I’m a fat girl desiring to live in the fashion world. DuBois describes double consciousness as such: “[…] this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” How accurate that is when applied to my relationship with a world so obsessed with being as small as possible, but that I at the same time love so much. Battling diet obsession becomes that much harder when you’re doing research by reading magazines full of stories of severe calorie restriction just to fit into a size 2. And battling self-hatred is that much harder when l’m looking at runway looks I’d love to re-create but can’t because the designers just don’t see me.

But this is the field that I love, that I feel drawn to. So it falls on me to continue to love myself in the face of if not hatred or disdain, erasure and invisibility. Because I’ve chosen this. It’s not something forced on me; this is not some other oppression. I can work to change the way the fashion world works, and thankfully there are a growing number of women doing that right now. Some may say it’s a silly world in which to try to create some kind of movement for inclusiveness, but hey, what can I say. I love beauty in all forms, and there is beauty in fashion, just like there’s beauty in fat bodies and the way we dress them. And I think, just maybe, if we can effect change in the fashion world, the larger world, which is very much influenced by fashion’s ideals, might change too. That’s the more noble purpose I strive for. And if I get to wear cuter clothes because of our success, well, I’m not going to object to that.

Black Women Need Not Apply

I found an OK Cupid forum post asking for honest answers to the question of attraction to black women. Look, no rational person goes in search of nuanced discourse on a dating site forum, so save that critique for someone who gives a shit. However, it does shed light on the way in which the beauty ideal is framed. There is a huge chasm between white women who frame their experience in terms of feeling pressure to live up to a harsh set of standards versus women who live on the margins yet are still expected to adhere to the same standards that do not even recognize their existence. The former often focuses on specific traits such as blondness, thinness without much critical examination, with the expectation that intersectionality should have no bearing on the discourse.

I bought some of the, “Black women can be fat and still be desirable” snakeoil often peddled by white people, never seeing it as a form of subjugation. Not hearing, the rest of the sentence, “…for black women.” Not realizing my existence was still being framed as less than. And then there’s the Black Don’t Crack meme now utilized to sell botox and wrinkle creams to women of other races. Again from an unexamined perspective it feels like progress, but, of course, it’s not. It’s using the cult of youth to force women into obedience.

The dating world is often where the unchecked assumptions and the unvarnished truths are revealed. Want to know how your pursuit to oppress women is going, spend a few moments perusing the profiles and forums of dating sites. Places where men feel entitled to select mates as though they were flipping through a catalog and where women are instructed – by men – just how to be attractive and successful at dating. Irrespective of the kind of things that sociologists suggest are useful tools for mate selection – commonality of interests, life goals and values – the dating world is still steeped in enforcement of beauty standards, which precious few can meet and within that very few who can, most of them ain’t Black.

What’s great about how our beauty oppression opperates is white women can still feel like feminists when they engage in hand wringing about their looks being picked apart by men without once having to examine their race privilege or acknowledge the way in which their status as highly valued hurts and oppresses marginalized women. They can fixated on their breast size, their hair color, the shapes of their thighs and find support for their anger at those who possess the very traits they covet while at the same time never having their unchecked feelings of desirability entitlement or their feminist cred questioned.

But make no mistake, if you are a white cisgendered able bodied female in Western society your beauty is privileged above other women. Ab dab dab dab *holds up hand* – It doesn’t matter if you’re fat or your boobs aren’t big or if your hair isn’t blond. Look around you. Who do you see the most represented as “beautiful” in society. Remember, rattling off a couple of very, very, very famous WOC who are often visibly of mixed race and whose features and hair often adhere very closely to white standards of beauty doesn’t count.

Soak in that for a moment and then read the following pull quotes from men responding to a black woman’s inquiry as to why she can’t get something going on a particular wildly popular dating site.

FULL DISCLOSURE: While I know one doesn’t make for a revolution, I should note I met my partner (who is White) on the very same dating site. And I should also note there are many things about my appearance that closely adhere to white standards of beauty, namely my nose, lips (which are full but not, “too big”), my skin tone, an extremely youthful appearance that still gets me carded for rated R movies despite being 37, the shape of my eyes, which often mark me as multiracial and of course my hair which when straighten is long and swings like silk curtains in Savannah. Though it’s a tight coil of righteous afro puffs 99% of the time. That said, at the end of the day, even with all of that, if my sisters – all women, even women with more privilege than me – aren’t free, then I ain’t either.

I have opted not to provide commentary because I want folks to read the comments displayed here without benefit of a healing salve, the way I often have to and other women on the margins have to. This is not the time or place to commiserate about “dates from hell” but rather to really unpack what we mean when we suggest we aim to resist the cultural instruction around beauty standards.

From moneymitch88

i like classy girls, no matter what race they are. i think that a lot of black girls get rejected becuase of a “ghetto” stereotype, i could understand this. who wants to date a girl that’s always cussing, fighting, and being rude? i dont need that in a girlfriend, thats what my guy friends are for.

From TSNM:

I mostly think it’s because of the physical attraction…

I for instance, having grown in a different country, didn’t really know about all the racist acts here in the US before 50s. Therefore I never thought about discriminating and that was not because I was raised by instructions about how not to be racist based on color, but it was because I wasn’t even aware of something like that… But still, I’m just not physically attracted almost any black women. I don’t even check out the profile because I just don’t get that “Wow” thing when browsing through the little profile pictures in the “matches” section… Sorry but you asked to be honest…

I need to know the percentage of the ethnicities of the members, and if they are physically attracted to x race (May that be caucasian, black, middle eastern, asian, latino etc.)… So if the guy, even at a sophisticated wine bar never has that thought about approaching that race-x lady because he’s just not attracted to that race, that guy will not even look at the profile…

That’s what I think…

Good luck

TSNM

From foolishsucka:

I’m white and I generally prefer darker exotic women – latina, black, crazy island mixes. Most latinas seem to be Jesus freaks though. The only race I’m really biased against are asian women. I’m just not into them for some reason – maybe they are too submisive or pure for me or something. The one exception is girls from Singapore, but you rarely see them off the island.

FWIW most of my friends are latino and asian.

From Stevian

I will admit, I have ventured outside of my race. My ex fiance was of Costa Rican origin (latin), but even now I still know nothing of what Costa Rican’s are. It does tend to come down to the individual. This is an interesting thread. Before reading this thread, I didn’t know desi’s existed. It’s really interesting to fathom, to say the least.

Onto the question at hand, yes. Race does affect me as far as interests go. You are attractive elle, make no doubt, but it seems every time I meet someone of your descent [BLACK WOMEN], they go out of their way to be mean to me, or at extremes, be rather violent with me. I am not foolish enough to believe you would do so, not at all. But I honestly just wouldn’t feel safe. I imagine I am not the only one that thinks so.

You may be the sweetest girl in the world, but unless your entire family and your family friends are nice people, I don’t think I would be happy.

From silent_male, who oddly enough talks a lot of smack and doesn’t know the meaning of the word “silent”. perhaps it’s meant to be ironic:

I tend to go for women who are not very short (not below 5’0″ or so – I am 6’2″), speak English well (Indian/Aussie/American accents in addition to standard British English are ok, but no hood type talk “yno watimsayin”), have a fairer complexion than I am (women aren’t called the fair sex for nothing), are professionally / educationally driven, have a spiritual side, a certain depth of character, come from a family that is hard working / education oriented, aren’t smokers / serious drinkers / drug users, are family minded, are not single moms, not Muslims (or hardcore Christians/Catholics), and do not have any serious personality related issues.

I recently got out of a short but intense (long distance) relationship.

My history is now: 1 Indian and the rest white. That one (painful) experience with an Indian girl (and observations of other Indian girls who were with friends) were enough to put me off Indian women for life (I think). Most Indian girls do not like (actually actively despise) Indian guys in the first place (too many reasons to list or matter).

I have never dated any Asian, AA, middle eastern, or Hispanic women. In my line of work, the workplace is either Indian, Asian, white or even some middle easterner (- and overwhelmingly male, hard sciences / engineering are like this for whatever reasons). Hardly any Hispanic / AAs (we have one Hispanic guy and 2 AA guys in my immediate circle of 200-300 colleagues). I am culturally aware enough to know that there is a certain angry AA woman stereotype. Regarding Hispanic women, though many of them look somewhat similar to Indians from more southern parts of India (I am originally from northwestern India and hence have a slightly fairer complexion than most of my countrymen), there are significant enough religious differences (my religion and serious Catholicism definitely do not mix) to preclude any such possibility. So, is Jennifer Lopez good looking – you bet. Would I date her ? Not a chance.

So are my preferences a little racial (given the personal history) ? Possibly. Are they racist (“I do not care how good she is inside, I will not date her because of her racial affiliation”) ? I think not. Are they tinged with considerations of certain expectations of what would work long term and what might not ? Definitely.

From zhillsdude, a white person who thinks his lack of race consciousness is noteworthy and amazing:

I barely even think about race. Sometimes I’m surprised when I hear someone talking about race because it doesn’t mean anything to me but to others that’s all they can think about.As I recently said in another thread, racism and homophobia are stupid.

A version of this was originally posted on Snarky’s Machine

Meat and metaphors

The wonderful Jenna Sauers of Jezebel posted recently on PETA’s attempts to be edgy and arresting in their support of animals at the expense of women, minorities, and basically all people except thin white patriarchy-lovin’ youngsters. Jenna outlined some of PETA’s worst antifeminist offenses — equating women with meat, putting them in cages, building campaigns on the naked airbrushed bodies of D-listers, basically extra-blatant versions of everything the fashion industry does with a little more subtlety. She also provided examples of PETA’s racist advertising, which equates farming and animal slaughter with slavery and lynching. It’s a thorough and stomach-turning denunciation.

What Jenna doesn’t address, though I’m sure she realizes it, is that PETA isn’t only trying to use shock and sex to get attention — they are also attempting a kind of satirical analogy. (In some of the ads. Some are just gross.) They intend to use our natural tendency to be shocked at cruelty against humans, a tendency they believe they can count on, to make a point by analogy about animals: why aren’t we shocked at similar treatment there? The imagery is (in some cases) not intended to be gratuitous, but to make a point about hypocrisy. I’m generally a fan of that approach — satirical analogy is used to great effect by my favorite political cartoonists, Jon Stewart, etc. So why does it fail here so thoroughly?

For one thing, there’s the naivete of believing that PETA’s target audience of class-privileged white teens is going to reliably experience shock at seeing women mistreated, or seeing historical images of the mistreatment of black Americans. Certainly there are white college students with a deep understanding of cultural pressures on women, an awareness of patriarchy and privilege, and a sense of how historical oppression feeds ongoing inequity, but they’re not exactly the go-to group for such things.

More than that, though, I think this reflects the power of conceptual metaphors. I’m not a linguist, though I sometimes think I should have been, but I’m fascinated by metaphors — both those we build specifically to illuminate, and those that are so entrenched in the way we use language that they actually affect how we view and speak about the world. I will let T-Rex explain.

What people in the PETA demographic fail to realize, or don’t want to realize, is that the WOMAN AS MEAT and POC AS ANIMAL and WOMAN AS PROPERTY and POC AS PROPERTY schema are still absolutely alive and well, absolutely entrenched in our current language and expression and understanding and visual rhetoric. That’s the status quo. I’m not going to go deep into the realm of example, because I think Advanced Blamers will see this as obvious, but just off the top of my head: LeBron James in Vogue, Naomi Campbell and Li’l Kim, gendered food, the entire “Objectification” tag on Soc Images (which includes both women-as-thing and nonwhite-person-as-thing).

This implicit metaphor makes the explicit metaphor fall flat. The PETA ads purport to say, for example, “treating a nonhuman animal as meat is just as bad as treating a woman as meat.” But the idea that a woman is an object for consumption is so ingrained that the analogy reads as “treating a nonhuman animal as meat is just as bad as treating meat as meat” — or, and this is probably more what the experience of viewing the ads is like to many, “treating a nonhuman animal as meat is just as bad as having more or less exactly the same images of women that we always have in every ad we see.” Not exactly a call to action. With the satirical content deflated, what’s left? Just a girl in a bikini in a cage — what the fuck else is new? (And of course, the preponderance of animal-women in PETA ads just reinforces the woman/meat metaphor, making every subsequent iteration even less surprising and therefore less effective.)

Metaphor is a minefield. When wielded well it’s a tool for revelation. When wielded badly, layers of intended and unintended analogy can lead to really stunning outrages (which will instantly be written off as “oversensitive” by people who are undersensitive, of course — part of the reason metaphors are powerful and dangerous is because they’re so often obscured). PETA’s attempt to pretend there’s something subversive about comparing a woman to food smacks of similar hamfisted analogies like “feminism is exactly like sexism” and “whites-only basketball leagues are just like organizations for minorities.” When I see these, my reaction is usually just to bang on whatever’s nearest and yell “it’s NOT the SAME!” This is part of why I am currently the least prolific contributor here — because most of the time I decline analytical writing in favor of the bang/yell approach. But we can, in fact, tease out why things that are NOT the SAME! are not the same. It’s because systematized oppression doesn’t cut both ways. It’s because there is not a finite amount of human dignity, and raising up one group is not the same as debasing another. And often it’s because of unexamined metaphors that scupper the intended one — because of the ways in which we unconsciously compare one group to something less-than or different-from. (For an example of how this can be exploited satirically, see the now-classic videos of people asking pro-lifers how much jail time women who have abortions should receive.)

I want to make clear that I’m talking here about PETA’s rhetoric, not its goals. I don’t want this to turn into a discussion of the value of animal rights activism, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals vs. People for the Ethical Eatment of Animals, or anything. (Joke shamelessly stolen from NPR.) This blog doesn’t have an official position on meat-eating; I believe all five of us do it, none of us do it all that much, we all give a shit about unethical farming and its effect on both animal welfare and the environment because our capacity for giving a shit about important things is limitless, but it’s not our main focus because our energy is not. But the truth is that the messages and images I’m condemning here don’t forward PETA’s agenda whether you believe in it or not — quite the opposite. Here’s what SM said when we discussed this post:

SM: I actually think in some ways we might be MORE shocked by the animal images than by the people images, since there are huge industries dedicated to hiding the cruel aspects of factory farming — but there are huge industries SELLING US the cruelty to humans images.

Dang, that’s smart! The point here is that we do not live in a society where you can make a subversive analogy between women and meat, because that analogy is being used in earnest to sell us things or shut us up every day. These underlying metaphors are often so common as to be transparent, which is what trips PETA up when they make them overt — the image is all the more abhorrent because of the injustice that underpins it, and the satire is completely flaccid because the metaphor is a commonplace.

Separate But Equal Holiday Gifts

I like to think of myself as thoughtful gift giver, but after spotting The New York Times gift giving guide, I might have to reconsider. The New York Times has thoughtfully created a separate – but equal – guide guaranteed to other your friends of color in style.

As Gawker puts it:

So, if that special someone says, “This year, what I’d really is stuff that focuses exclusively on my race, with little to not attention to my interests or our personal relationship, other than your horror with the fact that I am not white,” here’s NYT’s guide to “gifts created for and by people of color this holiday season,” including a “Wise Latina” tee-shirt and The Mocha Manual to Military Life: A Savvy Guide for Wives, Girlfriends and Female Service Members.

Relax, there are no Sambo print tablecloths. That’s not what’s going on here. Racism isn’t always dressed in the white sale collection from JcPenney. What is going on here is the covert form of racism, which seeks to reaffirm POC status as the other. The gifts aren’t horrible, but they also cannot anticipate the preferences of ALL POCs.

It’s one thing to create a gift guide based on some other unifying characteristic – like a guide for foodies. Granted, the guide probably wouldn’t be comprehensive enough to satisfy every food enthusiast, but it’s unlikely your hypothetical foodie friend would scoff when presented with a set of mixing bowls.

On the other hand, I would very much be offended if presented with a book like say – The Conversation: How Black Men and Women Can Build Loving, Trusting Relationships by Hill Harper (featured in the guide) – especially since its very inclusion makes some problematic assumptions.

When I give diversity presentations these are kinds of examples I use to demonstrate the insidious ways racism is woven into the very fabric of our society. This guide, while seemingly harmless, is in fact reductive.

And Gawker again:

It’s a celebration of the racist assumption that “people of color” are defined by their colors—but white people get to self-define with their interests, hobbies, and desire for “Home and Decorating Gifts for $25 and Under.”

Yeah, I’ll take a hot bag of no thanks on that. Bring on the mixing bowls!

Posted in Fat

Some applicants are more equal than others

Hey, remember when Sonya Sotomayor was first nominated for the Supreme Court, and the White Dude Cabal attempted to claim that having one fucking Latina justice ever was an outrageous act of racism and sexism, and every thinking person in America was furious that the WDC was unable to distinguish between the concepts of “shameful oppression” and “owning only 99.99 percent of everything”? Tom Mortenson, of the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, missed that day. On NPR yesterday, he had the following to say about the fact that women have overtaken men in college admissions, with the result that some colleges are now discriminating against female applicants:

Mortenson: They graduate from high school at higher rates than men do. They go on to college at higher rates. They complete college at higher rates. And I see nothing right now that’s going to turn that around.

It’s so unfair! Maybe 150 years ago, men were the only people allowed in college, and now they’re not only forced to share, they’re getting outstripped? Someone needs to do something! What could make those ladies stop submitting strong college applications and getting accepted? Quick, deploy a fashion magazine!

Let’s not forget here that we’re talking about higher education — a pursuit that, just a hundred or so years ago, people thought would overload women’s fragile little mind-meat like botulism in a can of soup. Some people thought education would give women brain fever, whatever that is. But when instead of obediently falling down in fits, educated women start clawing their way to equality and beyond, the menfolk (and even some womenfolk, like a dean of admissions interviewed by NPR) apparently get the vapors.

Mortenson: And the people who work on these campuses say that boys, frankly, are not at their best where they are outnumbered two to one by girls.

Yeah, the Beach Boys beg to differ.

Seriously, do we really have to be saying things like “correcting an inequality is not the same as gaining an advantage”? Okay, maybe we have to say that to Pat Buchanan, but do we have to be explaining to researchers and college administrators that when someone climbs out of the howling canyon of disadvantage, you don’t really have to put your shoe on their face? This is like saying that if your broken left arm heals, you should probably rebreak it, because it’s going to get an edge on your right one.

Note to the Dudes in Charge: I understand that it throws you off balance when the people you’ve been standing on finally stand up. But that doesn’t mean you get to kneecap them.