Monday, October 20, 2014

IT'S NOT ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS (Or "Let's Talk White Privilege")

Trigger w-- Ah, fuck it.
I've just been told my posts on Facebook in regards to racism and white privilege in America have a lack of compassion for my white friends as individuals. Even to the point where I have been accused of being bigoted against white people. My first response was “HUH?”, my second response was to write this. It’s not an attack, it’s me asking you for help:
I have noticed over the years that I grow more and more weary of writing about white privilege and the consequences thereof – consequences that directly affect me and my fellow people of color – because I am afraid of being called a reverse racist by my white friends. Now, all my friends on this site – you know who you are, because you're seeing this – are very dear to me. And I know none of you are racists. But I can't keep this in any longer.
Reverse racism and calling out instances of white privilege are NOT the same thing. Fact is, reverse racism is nonexistent. See, if I held a position of power and systematically discriminated against white people – made it harder for them to get a job, let a guy get off for shooting a white kid who was getting a pack of Skittles, creating a system that makes it necessary for the riots in Ferguson to be happening – because of the color of their skin… THAT is reverse racism.
Now, I am also constantly being told that by talking about white privilege and the systematic racism of the United States I am "generalizing" about white people, and am constantly being reminded that "not all white people are like this." I'd like to kindly remind everybody that my parents are indeed white people – both of whom acknowledge as allies to their POC son that their lives are automatically better for them in this country because they were born white. So thanks for the reminder – I know.
I'd like to point to a similar idea that is being proposed by men whose feelings are hurt by feminism: the "Not All Men" argument. Now this argument is often said by men who feel victimized by feminists – as I consider myself – as they feel insulted by women who are sick of the systematic bias against them because they have a vagina. And you know what? It doesn't fucking help. What feminists KNOW is that not all men are sexists and rapists – hell, look at ‪#‎HeForShe‬ reaching across the table for male allies – but enough do. The "Not All Men" argument is a statement made by somebody who holds a place of privilege and refuses to acknowledge it. And it HURTS the feminist movement, it prevents people from becoming allies because they mistakenly believe that feminism is anti-men, rather than pro-equality.
So this is the "Not All White People" argument. You're sick of hearing about racism? Is my calling out of white privilege making you feel victimized? Well how do you think it feels to have your whole LIFE be based on feeling victimized? I mean after being looked at ONCE. I mean being a black pre-med student and not being able to wear a hoodie without a cop frisking you. I mean walking down the street and having a little kid yelling "CHING CHONG CHINAMAN" in your face (that one happened to me). I mean not being able to walk through certain neighborhoods. I mean – when time travel is invented – not being able to travel back in time because you'll probably get killed (which sucks because my dream is to be able to travel through time).
OF COURSE I KNOW NOT ALL WHITES ARE RACISTS, LET ALONE YOU. But the people in power who are slowly choking the life out of our basic rights as human beings are most certainly white. So no, not all white people are racists and I know you all aren’t racists either. But fuck if I’m going to say the people who hold the power and are still letting people of color suffer injustice and intolerance aren’t white. And by mistaking my cry for equality as a cry against white people as a group, you are HURTING the battle for equality more than you are helping it (which is not at all).
If you wish to be an ally of POC, you can't make this discussion about your feelings. You have to accept that you hold a place of privilege, that you – being a white person born in the United States – cannot be discriminated against because of the color of your skin (your gender and sexuality for sure, but that's another discussion entirely). If "you can't see race" that's wonderful for you, but unfortunately I – and my fellow people of color – have no choice but to see race. And that isn't our fault. It is the fault of a system that FORCES us to take our race into account, so that we can be more acceptable to a culture that was undeniably created by and for white people. If you want to elevate all races equally, HELP ME DO THAT by ACKNOWLEDGING THAT THERE EXISTS AN IMBALANCE, and we all know which way the scale favors.
Subsequently, I have been asked "but what IS white? What is a person of color?" Glad you asked. White is a skin color by which you will never be judged simply by its color. Irish, French, Russian, whatever. Person of color? I'm talking African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, South Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American… Groups that – PLEASE acknowledge this – have all been discriminated against by white people in America.
Am I asking you to say you were responsible for slavery or the Japanese internment camps? NO. Because you weren't. What I ask of you, my white friends, is to acknowledge that you will never be judged immediately by the color of your skin. That you are more likely to get a job than a black man. That a person will never cross to the other side of the street because they see you coming. Are there extenuating circumstances? Of course. But not enough that it lets you go by without acknowledging it. If you want to be an ally of any person of color, you're going to HAVE to acknowledge it. It's okay to feel uncomfortable saying it, but you have to. I wish it were different, but you have to.
So I wish I could say I was sorry for bringing this stuff to your Newsfeed every day – but I'm not. Because racism is not a discussion from which I can walk away, it is my life. As long as racism is still alive in this country, I will be talking about white privilege. And if it doesn't end in my lifetime I will NOT silence myself because I'm afraid of sounding prejudiced against white people. I will not feel ashamed about saying that white people hold a place of privilege in this nation. And I am not afraid of asking you as my friend and ally to acknowledge your privilege.
I hope from the bottom of my heart that you will join me in this fight, because I really do value you as a human being and an individual, and we as POC need all the help we can get. Thanks.
If you want to know more, feel free to message me. Jon Stewart also does a wonderful bit on this. Google it, it’s a great watch and says more or less what I needed to say.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

“Did You Even Have a Childhood?”

No, I have never seen “The Little Mermaid.”
No, I never watched “The Proud Family.”
Yes, I hated “Space Jam.”
Yes, I grew up in the 1990’s.
Yes, I am a 90’s kid.
“Jesus Christ,” you’re thinking. “Did you even have a childhood?”
Potter, Disney, Nickelodeon, and the like have become so much a part of American culture that to not have grown up with certain facets of the decade’s culture is completely unheard of. Having the knowledge of these parts of culture is like having a common language with the rest of the world.
With television and media in the 90’s being so much more dominant than it ever had been in the past, it became the main way that children – in my experience – would relate to each other. Imaginary worlds created on the playground or in the backyard, as children are more exposed to fictional worlds on television and books, often become more adapted from the ones they read in books or see in the movies.
You can imagine that most of the conversations in which I must admit I did not spend any time during my childhood reading the Potter books or watching the Disney Channel – or for that matter, any of the princess films or what have you – generate looks of shock, confusion, almost outright disgust.
Followed by the question: “Did you even HAVE a childhood?”
Let’s see… from a cultural point of view.
I read “Peanuts” and “Calvin and Hobbes” in the newspaper, every Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket novel ever published, “Captain Underpants” which I ordered from Schoolastic. I used to spend hours in the worlds of “Fawlty Towers” and “Keeping Up Appearances” on PBS’s broadcast of BBC sitcoms, laughed for days at “Looney Tunes” and “Popeye” tapes I bought with my allowance, borrowed National Geographic specials from the library, ran to screenings of Chaplin and Marx Brothers films when they played at the cinemas where film from before 1980 still clung to cultural relevance for dear life.
You were inspired by the adventures of Harry and Hermione, I took my cues from the bold heroics of Shade Silverwing and the heartbreaking kindness – often at his own expense – of Chaplin’s Little Tramp.
My point, one that I will make concisely here instead of going off on a tangent, is that you never would know I hadn’t grown up with Potter or “Lion King” until I actually tell you so.
Did I have a childhood?
I made fart jokes with the other guys, played tag and capture the flag on the playground. I went camping. I sprayed water guns. I chased the ice cream guy screaming “YO PALETA.” I spit watermelon seeds into the dirt, imagining a gigantic watermelon sprouting from the soil in less than a month’s time. I cried when war seemed near, I threw rocks off a bridge at a passing barge (sorry about that). I learned to swim and feared drowning, I learned to bike and feared falling.
So to answer your question: Yes, last time I checked, I most definitely had a childhood.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Response to Lauren Martin's "The Actual Difference Between Women Who Are Hot and Who Are Beautiful."

The attached article from EliteDaily's Lauren Martin has been frequently popping up on my Facebook feed for the past couple months. The first few times I saw it I scrolled past it, simply noticing that the large majority of people who were posting it were men. Finally, one day in February I clicked on the article and briefly glanced over it – I can't quite recollect what I was doing the night before, but I was extremely tired at the time. It wasn't until one of my friends pointed out some vital flaws in the article that I gave it an actual thorough read.

I was about one paragraph into the piece when I suddenly said aloud to myself in my room…

"Fuck you."

Now, this is not a very nice thing to say to an article or to my laptop (which is relatively new and is making my life quite a bit easier). I normally reserve this sentence for somebody who has wronged me or for the N/Q/R when it stands still for literally 10 minutes at 34th Street for no apparent reason – sorry.

As it begins, it seems like a perfectly harmless statement against misogyny, the objectification of women, and the overwhelming power of the male gaze in the portrayal of women in the media.

"When was the last time you heard a man describe a woman by something that compliments her soul and her inherent elegance? When was the last time you heard a man describe a woman as beautiful?" asks Ms. Martin.

Well, if you're asking when have you literally heard the word "beautiful" to describe a woman let's start with every dude's anniversary Facebook post – but I see your point. What Ms. Martin appears to be saying here is that men have lost the ability to see a woman through any lens except one of a sexual nature, that objectification of women has become commonplace.

As a straight male myself, I want to wholeheartedly disagree. But I simply cannot, as that would be a lie. The presentation of women in a sexual nature has long been implanted in the American culture, from the Fleischer Brothers' Betty Boop cartoons to every single advertisement for Vodka ever made.

Worse than that, what young girls learn from all this is that they are obligated to dress and behave in such a way that will attract men – and for that reason alone.

So, Ms. Martin, we're on the same page here.

"Men look at women as pieces of tail, 'things' to be conquered, rather than appreciating women for their individuality," she continues.

I agree, Ms. Martin. I would say that not all men do this, but given the aforementioned sexualization of women in the media, I think your generalization here is pretty justified.

"[Men are] programmed to believe that any woman with a sculpted body and perky breasts is attractive."

Yes, this is true. Not that it isn't attractive, but I agree that it's wrong that young boys are programmed to believe this as the sole truth.

"What about the women who don't want to indulge in the male fantasy?… Isn't there attractiveness in that? Isn't there an appeal to that sense of confidence?"

Of course there is, right there with you.

"It's time mean realize that women have more to offer than just a body."


What follows is a list of comparisons, attempting to show the difference between what is "hot" and what is "beautiful." Some examples from this list include the following: "Hot is an appearance; beautiful is more than skin deep. Hot is conventional beauty is unique. Hot is devious; beautiful is innocent. Hot is her curves; beautiful is her eyes."

Remember when I mentioned I said "Fuck you" to this article? This is about where that happened.

Now before we proceed, we are all agreed that girls are fed a certain standard of beauty from a very young age – which is absolutely horrid, told they are expected to be what Ms. Martin might deem "hot" (which is not entirely true because some perverts have even found a way to sexualize what Ms. Martin calls "beautiful").

Now here's where we run into a problem.

Ms. Martin's language does the exact same thing she completely rails against in the opening section. To pretentiously quote Shakespeare, "The latter end of [her] commonwealth forgets the beginning."

For somebody who makes herself out to be such an advocate for individualism, Ms. Martin sure likes telling men what's attractive and what isn't – and in turn telling women how to dress or behave in order to attract men. Her language quite literally states every line: "This is what you think is attractive, here is what is actually attractive. Guys, listen up, because this is what you should want. Girls, listen up, because this is what men should want. Be what they want."

I think you've completely missed the point, Ms. Martin.

Being an individual means doing what makes you happy. Being an individual means dressing the way you want to dress, be it conventional or otherwise.

Telling women how to act or dress to impress men and telling men what to be attracted to is not only not helping your cause, but actively fights against your cause.

Don't shame a woman who wears makeup, because this is the way she chooses to present herself. If you want to enact change in the way women are perceived, you're barking up the wrong tree.

Convention can be unique. Where the hell does convention start but from a unique idea that spreads to a wider audience?

Here's how I might rephrase this section to make a different point:

Some women dress in tight skirts and wear quite a bit of makeup. Some do not. Some women care very much about their physical appearance. Some do not. Some women are devious. Some are innocent.

Hotness can be beautiful. Beauty can be hot. There also exists a middle ground. And millions of intermediary grounds between the middle ground and both of the extremes.

Here's what I'd advise to people who have read this article and was as insulted as I was:

Do whatever thing makes you happy. It doesn't matter if anybody else thinks it's attractive. I guarantee you whatever you do, somebody will love you for it. Unless it's murder, cocaine, or fascism – if this is the sort of thing that makes you happy I suggest you seek the aid of a good, well-intentioned doctor.

So if I may again rewrite your article, Ms. Martin…

Just do what you want.

It's hot.

It's beautiful.

Anyway, who gives a fuck? It's your damn life, and anybody who shames you for it can – as I'm sure many sophisticates say – shut the fuck up.