the media tightrope

Lord help me

In , crazy people, politics on September 8, 2010 at 8:46 PM

This guy is being ridiculous on a couple levels, but I’m posting this because it’s such a telling illustration of white privilege and its implications. It’s such a copout to attribute Detroit’s 15% unemployment to the people who live there, or to cite instances of welfare fraud as cause for scrapping the whole welfare system, or to stigmatize a whole population of people because “they can’t read or use computers” as if that’s THEIR fault. It astounds me when I hear an otherwise intelligent person say “Well my grandpa came to this country from Europe with nothing and he pulled himself up by his bootstraps and made something of himself. What’s that welfare queen’s excuse?”

Excuuuuuuuuse me?

1. People (especially those bastions of privilege that fall in the 16-24 year old age bracket who don’t have jobs, pay taxes, or contribute to federal infrastructure in any substantial way other than through spending the allowances their parents give them…spare me) have no business passing judgement on a mom with five kids who’s on welfare, or a guy who has been in and out of prison since age 16, or even a crackhead lurking in an alley. Know why? Because more often than not those who judge come from idyllic backgrounds that insulated them from crappy education systems, absent parents, bad neighborhoods, systemic violence and abuse, drug addiction, crime, and poverty. I myself am a product of privilege, which is why I try my best to recognize how my background influences my perspective and then check it when my privileged background would otherwise incline me to judge someone harshly.

2. For those we often label as lazy, stupid, unmotivated, or otherwise deserving of their destitution, the notion of “pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps” is a sad, sick joke. It’s easy for a white kid who’s great-grandpa immigrated here in the early 20th century to talk about the land of opportunity and the American dream. My ancestors came here at a time when the domestic job market was booming. While some of them were Irish, they managed to get jobs and unfailingly ranked higher in the employment pecking order than did blacks. Systematic oppression eliminated the possibility of an American dream for minorities, and even now as some people like to claim our society is “post-racial” (you know, since we have a black president and all), the implications still resound. To make matters worse, industrial jobs (the first stop on my ancestors’ journey to prosperity) have all but dried up in this country, and with the god-awful condition of American public education, there is no foreseeable way to correct the skills gap between the undereducated poor and the high-tech jobs that are becoming the backbone of our economy.

3. Of course there are those who cite people like Obama and Oprah as counter-arguments to my claims about how our perspectives are distorted by privilege. To me, that just sounds like blatant tokenism used to ameliorate white guilt and justify non-support of programs intended to help all the non-Oprahs out there. Let’s get real. Obama’s and Oprah’s life trajectories are celebrated because they are anomalies. Obama and Oprah absolutely cannot be used as synecdoches for the collective experience of American minorities.

If I sound a little ticked, it’s because I am. There’s so much I wish I could say to people who engage in such reprehensible victim blaming. Unfortunately I’m usually so aghast at the blindness afforded by white privilege that all I can manage is a mild “haha check your privilege” or else risk sounding like a crazy.

Okay, end rant.

PS – Does anyone know how I can blur out the person’s name in the above Facebook exchange? I don’t want to get sued or anything.

Run and tell that

In λ, rape culture on September 4, 2010 at 7:53 PM

If you read this random, vaguely publicized blog of mine, chances are you consume a high volume of online content and you’ve probably stumbled across this video. It’s been posted, tweeted, forwarded, and featured just about everywhere.

I thought I would dedicate a post to this Antoine Dodson phenomenon before it fades away into internet obscurity. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely chuckled in spite of myself when I first saw this video. (Then I immediately felt terrible for laughing at a family’s trauma, and I marveled that no one seemed to realize or care that a rape attempt was being trivialized like this.) So then I started wondering what it is, exactly, that makes this video funny. Not the sexual assault, certainly. We all agree that rape is no laughing matter, yet although it was (supposedly) the focus of this interview, the issue of sexual assault takes a back seat to the character that is Antoine Dodson.

So what’s funny? Is it the fact that Antoine Dodson is flamboyant and quite possibly gay? Or is it the fact that he’s black and poor?  Or is it the combination of his blackness, poorness and gayness combined with his pissed-offedness that makes it hilarious enough to warrant reposting? (It does make a catchy autotune song, to be sure.) I’m not trying to be a PC-nazi here, but I think the majority of people who laugh at this video don’t take the time to really articulate what they find funny about it. Indeed, a lot of the characteristics that make Antoine funny aren’t actually funny at all. I’m not saying we can’t have a sense of humor about cultural and social differences, and I have no reason to believe that Antoine Dodson feels personally victimized by the sensation he has caused. I just hope we can examine the cultural mores that teach us it’s okay to turn victims into caricatures.

HuffPo: throwing women under the bus one g-string at a time

In , feminism, politics, rape culture on August 30, 2010 at 5:15 AM

I think I mentioned earlier that I am an avid peruser of the Huffington Post. It’s a nice alternative to the more ‘meat and potatoes’-y type of news journalism like NYT, Christian Science Monitor, CNN, BBC, NPR, Politico, etc. I appreciate the way HuffPo blends super current breaking news stories; the choicest clips from the Daily Show, Colbert Report, Maddow, Olbermann, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, etc;  the kinds of blog posts and editorials that make me say “Amen” (journalism of validation…so shoot me); and (if we’re being honest) the fluffy stuff. Do I really care about “Who’s Best-Dressed at the Emmys”? Nooo. Did I look at the pretty dresses anyway? Yep. There’s only so much “7 More Americans Killed in Afghanistan” and “Unwanted, Unused Iraqui Prisons Part of Billions in U.S. Taxpayer Spending” type stories I can take before I need something meaningless and forgettable to offset all the doom.

BUT

The one thing that has always irked me about HuffPo is the seemingly gratuitous sexualization of women’s bodies. At this very moment on HuffPo’s front page there is a headline that reads  “Which Housewife Wears A Bikini Best?” Reread that a couple of times. (I presume they’re referring to the characters on one of the Real Housewives reality TV shows and not to random housewives. I’d rather not find out). That is a TMZ headline, and I’m sorry but it doesn’t belong on a panel adjacent from a story about the newly formed hurricane Earl. Even worse, Huffington Post allows people to vote for the bikini picture they think is the hottest. Is this Huffington Post or PlayboyU? Seeing “stories” like this always induces a cringe, but I generally ignore them (kind of like the sports headlines). Or at least I did until I saw this video from FeministFrequency.com.

Doncha love it when someone articulates something that always subliminally bothered you but that you never really stopped to think about? I do.

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