Feminism Isn’t For Me

Note: I’ll fix typos/grammatical/flow errors and add links later. I just had to put this out into the universe ASAP for my mental well-being. So, for now, enjoy typo and plagiarism galore:)

Twitter is a platform that has done a great deal to inform my perspective on today’s feminist movement. It is through my social media experience that I have concluded that feminism (whether it is white or racialized feminism) is an unproductive, exclusionary, and dismissive movement that silences struggles that are not women-centered and are thus of less perceived importance.

Many social justice activists denounce the comparison and quantification of oppression and social movements, but I think comparative dialogue is healthy and conducive to appropriate prioritization, progress, and equality. So, naturally, this will play an integral role in this piece.

Firstly, modern-day feminists on social media typically focus on oversimplified issues that rarely lead to action. They isolate incidents (the latest news stories, for example) and then create sensationalized hashtags to raise awareness about them, often without tackling the broader issue at hand. This is only one of the many traits that separate feminism from other recent social movements. For example, the Aboriginal “Idle No More” movement and the student-focused “Maple Spring” protests are two Canadian social movements wherein supporters were compelled to take organizational action to protect their rights and to achieve mere economic survival. Perhaps feminists uniquely enjoy a comfortable existence; their perceived struggles lack the sense of urgency that other movements, such as the Black Lives Matter protests, demand. Thus, their feminist identity is less visible beyond social media.

It is important to note that women in Canada, America, and the U.K. experience greater social mobility than people of colour in general. A British study based on 40 years of data found that 45.6% of white women transcended their father’s socioeconomic class, whereas only 43% of white men achieved upward mobility. Researchers found that, over the same amount of time, black people were more likely to experience downwards social mobility. In fact, unemployment rates are currently as high as 22% for black people in the U.K., male and female. Yet, it is the historical and political struggles of generalized women that are at the forefront of the Women and Gender Studies programs at several undergraduate universities. In fact, University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) has a Women’s Centre dedicated solely to empowering and improving the lives of cis and trans women. Meanwhile, issues of mental health, race, accessibility, and religious discrimination are lumped together and are less visible under UTSC’s Equity and Diversity Office. It is fair to infer, then, that the problems that black men face, for example, are less important and pressing than female struggles.

As of 2013, women compose 40.2% (almost half!) of University of Toronto’s faculty, whereas visible minorities make-up only 13.4% of faculty. Worse still, Aboriginals compose 0.5% of U of T faculty. These disturbing statistics only serve to prove that women-centered programs and campus services that universities disproportionately prioritize, whether financially or in terms of visibility, are manifestations of white supremacy, structural violence, and discrimination. Male or female, white experiences are still deemed more valuable than those of people of colour, even if their issues are not as prevalent and severe in nature. It is for this reason that, even as a black woman, I choose to ostracize UTSC’s Women’s department and center and feminism more generally in the same way feminism ostracizes several aspects of my identity. In fact, I am still waiting for UTSC to create an interdisciplinary Race Studies department , but I’ll save this rant for another day. 20th century feminism was not built on the inclusion of mine and my brothers’ struggles and mainstream feminism has still failed to realize its potential for even modest level of inclusion. Many white feminists and Eurocentric academic curricula fail to promote comprehensive, intersectional feminism, as you will see in the following example.

Feminists seem to coincidentally lose their voice when it comes to movements that do not center women. I have yet to see a self-proclaimed feminist Twitter user express disapproval of the Keystone Pipeline. Yet, many of them expect men and other groups of activists to naturally support their movements. One recent example of feminist ostracism is Patricia Arquette’s weak attempt at social justice activism at the 2015 Academy Awards ceremony. After Arquette used her acceptance speech for pay equity at an event with an “all-white slate of 20 stars competing for acting awards,” she went backstage and proclaimed:

“The truth of it is the older an actress gets, the less money she makes. It’s inexcusable that we talk about equal rights for women in other countries and yet…we don’t have equal rights for women in America. It’s time for all the women in America and all the men who love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve fought for, to fight for us now.”

While she failed to add that women of colour earn even less for doing the same work that white women do, she made sure to exacerbate racial tensions at an event that already lacked in diversity. Arquette engaged in egocentric individualism by complaining about being an underpaid actress (having a net worth of 20+ million dollars is nothing less than tragic and unjust) and by effectively silencing racial and LGBTQ struggles. It is unfortunate that Arquette’s divisive and self-centered logic is not vastly different from that of the average social media feminist (white or racialized).

Incidents like these cause me to wonder why few idle feminists branch out to support gender-neutral issues that have very real and very severe consequences (i.e. economic destitution and government marginalization) to the extent that they support women’s issues. Is it because issues of racism (Native issues in particular), class, world poverty, unjust neoliberal policies, exploitative free market capitalism, Western imperialism (especially in Africa), Chinese colonialism in Tibet etc. are too deeply historical and political for the general public to understand and investigate?

Some feminists have attempted to advocate for inclusive activism by actively raising awareness about intersectional and LGBTQ issues. But is this enough? Racialized feminism has proved useful in highlighting important issues such as the prevalence misogynoir and black men’s sexual degradation of black women, but it has also proved to be divisive. Its endeavours can be off-putting to black men and it is not rare for black women to fall into the counter-productive trap of disparaging misandry. I believe that, for real progress to be made in racialized communities as a whole, unity is imperative. Exclusionary feminism does not generate practical unity, it does the opposite.

Feminism, it seems, is more of an identity for the general public than an authentic, evidence-based and objective-based social movement. Twitter users proudly display the label in their bios while engaging in vulgar misandry in their tweets. While passion, identity politics, empirical perspectives are crucial to all social movements, modern-day feminism lacks large-scale organizational action and feasible, specific goals; this is particularly strange for a movement that so many people pridefully claim. Such factors were characteristic of successful historical events, such as the pro-choice movement, the women’s suffrage movement, and the civil rights movement. To add insult to injury, feminism innately rejects inclusion and, quite frankly, just takes up space that could be used for more productive and unifying action and dialogue. In my experience with black struggle, solidarity amongst brothers and sisters is infinitely more urgent than black women’s solidarity with white women under a Eurocentric social movement that gives self-absorbed white women ample opportunities to turn the oppression spotlight on themselves at the expense of others.

“Academese” and Exclusivism

Les Reveries de Rowena

I’ve read a lot of inaccessible academic writing in my time, enough to make me cringe. I’ve also witnessed people not being taken seriously in intellectual circles as a result of their supposed “lack” of knowledge. All this has made me wonder what the use of writing something so academic, convoluted and pedantic that it’s practically esoteric is. Indeed, what is the role of the intellectual or scholar in society? And what do people get from alienating others from dialogue?

I don’t believe education or discussions about important issues should be exclusive or elitist. Anyone who desires education should be able to attain it. Unfortunately this isn’t always possible. Those of us who are fortunate enough, or motivated enough to do so should never believe we are better than everyone else. Nor should an individual’s opinion cease to matter just because they don’t have the “right” education, use the “correct”…

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Angela Davis: An Autobiography

Les Reveries de Rowena

“Some of us, white and black, know how great a price has already been paid to bring into existence a new consciousness, a new people, an unprecedented nation. If we know, and do nothing, we are worse than the murderers hired in our name. If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own—which it is—and render impassible with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”– Letter from James Baldwin to Angela Davis, in The Autobiography of Angela Davis

It took me a while to figure out that the Angela Davis with the big afro and the Angela Davis who writes academic texts are one and the same. Angela Davis  experienced more in the first 26 or so years of her life than most people do…

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Social Governance, The Third Pillar of Health Care Governance

Health Policy & Politics Network

The author of this paper would like to invite you for discussion of the paper. Please submit your discussion by leaving a comment on this post.

Chris Bem
Consultant ENT and Neck Surgeon, Bradford Royal Infirmary
chrisbem@btinternet.com
20
th May, 2008

Article for Bulletin of NHS Consultants’ Association

There are at present two pillars of governance in health care delivery today.  These are financial governance and clinical governance.  This article will argue that there is a need for a third pillar of governance within health care, if health care is to play its part in helping not just to repair broken bodies and minds, but to also help humans develop a healthy economy and a healthy society.  This third pillar of governance is social governance.

Social governance is governance that understands that as humans, we are social creatures who live in communities and that these communities extend both in space…

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Forgiving Racism: An Anthropological Analysis

Here’s a (rushed) paper I did for an anthropology course. It’s not perfect, but I’m pretty proud of it regardless:

 

In the context of white supremacy and privilege, racial hierarchies amongst minority groups, occupational power, and the “Canada polite” phenomenon, it is easy for bias media reporters and the masses to forgive blatant racism and pass it off as good humour or harmless behaviour.

For clarity and comprehensive purposes, racism in the context of this paper is regarded as holding pre-formed negative opinions or stereotypes about a group or category of people, or treating people poorly or unfairly because of their group membership or social classification (Fish, 2011). Ford has repeatedly made racist comments that target various Canadian ethnic groups, but the media often fails to rightfully chastise him for it, perhaps because many desensitized-to-racism white media reporters and people fail to see the racist elements in Ford’s behaviour and statements. Considering that anti-earnest American values have heavily influenced Canadian values, this suggests that North American societies in general lack racial sensitivity. Because Canada has combined its American values with the ever-forgiving Canada polite, Ford’s actions have not generated serious, severe backlash from Canadian citizens and reporters, even though Americans severely chastise their black president over minor scepticisms. This is partly due to the absence of an “America polite” phenomenon, but perhaps is mainly a product of Obama’s skin colour.

After a night of heavy drinking in January of 2014, Rob Ford entered the Steak Queen restaurant in Etobicoke where he was videotaped speaking patois amongst his friends. Patois is a dialect spoken by native and diasporic Jamaicans (Alcoba & Visser, 2014). Rob Ford used the Jamaican dialect in a nasty manner: he spewed slurs such as “bombaclot,” “ras clot,” “cha,” “shit,” and “fuck.” Jamaicans use Bombaclot, a vulgar word for a menstrual cloth, to express emphasis or anger. Ras clot is a vulgar word that describes a wipe that one applies to the buttocks (Lee, 2014). In the context of his drunkenness, bias reporters forgave Ford for his vulgarity. Also in his drunken stupor, Ford rhetorically asks, “Who goes to [Toronto Community Housing] (TCH), James Town, and Jane and Finch?” (Alcoba & Visser, 2014). This statement implies that Ford, and other Torontonian politicians, are above the city’s largely run-down, low-income neighbourhoods. It suggests that he should receive special recognition for showing his face in the poor areas of the city that he is responsible for running and nurturing. This statement in itself is largely stereotypical and racist because it assumes that these predominantly non-white areas are violent and filled with delinquent minorities, and are thus not worth visiting.

Caucasian writers Visser and Alcoba completely fail to discuss the racist implications of Ford’s behaviour, but they immediately noted that Ford denied that his language was racist or offensive (Alcoba & Visser, 2014). The article was bias in that it only provided the argument against Ford’s racism. Visser and Alcoba compose the etic, but they both fail to engage in Geertz’ deep play by discussing how social institutions or structures and media behaviours have reinforced and symbolically represented this subtle racism as acceptable and humorous. Citing Geertz’ analysis, perhaps this is because asking these kinds of questions would be too risky in that they may provoke backlash from National Post readers and vehemently-in-denial racists.

Caucasian news writer Hopper made an offensively ignorant generalization when he identified “cha” as the Caribbean equivalent of “bah” (Hopper, 2014). Jamaicans, not all Caribbean people, mainly use the word “Cha.” Nevertheless, Hopper’s blatant ethnocentrism and cultural indifference prevented him from distinguishing Jamaican dialect from other diverse Caribbean dialects. This implies that ethnocentric Canadian society ignores the significant ethnic differences between black people from various islands. Instead, whites lazily group blacks into one ethnic, largely stereotyped group. In doing this, whites put blacks in an inferior position simply because Canadians learn about and readily recognize various European ethnic cultures, but engage in racism by ignoring ethnic differences amongst blacks.

York University professor Honor Ford-Smith who specializes in Caribbean studies argued Ford’s remarks were indeed racist (Lee, 2014). Ford-Smith argued that Ford was practicing hierarchal differentiation by appropriating Jamaican culture in a humorous context (Lee, 2014). She also points out that Ford was trying to gain the minority vote by exploiting Jamaican culture to seem fun and likeable amongst blacks. Ford-Smith questioned whether or not a black mayor would still be in office if he or she behaved as Ford has (Lee, 2014). Ford-Smith’s commentary shows that oppressed minorities who are a part of the emic are likely to be more sensitive to mockery that is racial- or ethnic-based, particularly if it targets their own ethnic group. Conversely, whites who compose the majority and thus, the etic, view it as a harmless joke that should not be taken seriously or punished. This also proves that emic media coverage is very important because it balances out media biases.

In late 2013, Ford made light of the Washington Redskins’ controversial name and logo, stating, “What are we going to call the Cleveland Indians? The Cleveland Aboriginals? Where do we start? The Skins are the Skins and I stick with the Washington Redskins.” (Alcoba & Visser, 2013). Even though Ford is a Canadian politician who is presumably well aware of the governments historical and present-day oppression of Aboriginals, his knowledge does not resonate emotionally or empathetically because he is a part of the etic and has not experienced Aboriginal struggle or symbolic Aboriginal oppression. Ford’s comments are racially insensitive.

Unlike Ford, some people consider the football teams’ name to be a disparaging and ethnically stereotypical. Obama expressed his disdain for the name (Alcoba & Visser, 2013). African-American journalist Clarence Page once commented, “[The Washington Redskins] are the only big time professional sports team whose name is an unequivocal racial slur…How would we react if the team was named the Washington Negroes? It is more than just a racial reference, it is a racial epithet,” (Page, 1992). Page is racially respectful because he is in structural solidarity with other minorities as a part of the emic. However, Ford’s behaviour is indicative of his racist tendencies and lack of tolerance for Aboriginal minorities as a part of the etic. Emic media coverage like Page’s is vital in provoking empathy amongst the etic.

Alcoba and Visser present Ford’s supportive argument for the team’s name along with his logically comparative rationale. Next, the writers briefly cite Obama’s opposing opinion on the name, but intentionally exclude his argument-strengthening rationale. After mentioning Obama, the writers quickly remind the reader the Redskins’ white owner is opposed to changing the team’s name (Alcoba & Visser, 2013). This shows that the media values the etic voice more than that of the emic’s. It also shows that the writers, and possibly the larger society did not see anything wrong with Ford’s comment that warranted an explanation or argument for why it was offensive and how city councillors should reprimand him.

In 2008, Ford was videotaped saying that Asians “work like dogs…They are workers non-stop. They sleep beside their machines. They’re slowly taking over,” (Mahoney, 2012). Again, this statement is not only stereotypical, but the comparison of Asians and dogs is racist in itself. The phrasing of the friendly generalization turned it into something that is racially offensive to Toronto’s Asian community. To make things worse, Ford used “Oriental” in place of “Asian.” Oriental is an ethnic slur that Europeans used to demean or “other” Asians(Mahoney, 2012).

Perhaps Vincent’s article is the most bias. Vincent focuses solely on the fact that Ford meant well, and totally ignores the offensive discourse that Ford used. Vincent made sure to include all of the quotations in which Rob Ford stood up for himself. In one quotation, Ford argued that by saying that Asians are taking over, he was implying that Asians have progressed significantly in the corporate world over the duration a century. Vincent also explained that the comparative use of the word “dog” kindly implied that Asians work very hard. This article is largely one-side because, while including Ford’s justifications and contextual information, it excludes powerful, in-depth criticisms and arguments against Ford’s comments.

All of these instances beg the question, if a non-white politician in a Western setting made blatantly racist remarks and had a history drug use, would he or she be so easily forgiven? While Obama has experienced little backlash for racism or drug use, he has experienced severe resistance for something as trivial as failing to display his authentic birth certificate (“Barack Obama’s birth,” 2012). Several news articles were published on this situation. Obama experienced widespread opposition when conspiracy theorists claimed that he was not born in America. Several Americans and news reporters, including Donald Trump, pressured him to publically release his birth certificate, even though they had no evidence to back up their racially-driven claims (“Barack Obama’s birth,” 2012). The media rampage created by Obama’s birth certificate situation shows that, a dark-skinned person who lacks white privilege while living in a context of white supremacy is more likely to experience popular backlash over trivial matters, no matter his occupational power.

General Conclusions

Geertz argued that the etic was the outsider’s view that tried to understand the symbolism and logic behind seemingly illogical behaviour. Rosaldo recognizes the emic as the insider’s emotional force that drives them to behave illogically and to understand why they are behaving this way.

In this paper, the etic would include people who make up the white majority, whereas the emic would include minorities, or people of colour who are in solidarity due to structural white supremacy. People who were a part of the etic tended to pass off Ford’s behaviour as harmless or acceptable, whereas the emic were often the ones who vehemently opposed Ford’s behaviour and language, labelling Ford as offensive. Rosaldo, conversely, would argue that the emic provides the most important perspective because the emic experiences the emotional force of racism, whereas the etic fails to experience this. Emotional force is the key to empathy.

Scheper-Hughes shows how structural violence shapes cultural norms and values. Because of chronic, institutionalized poverty and unemployment in Bom Jesus da Mata, Brazilian women who live there do not mourn miscarriages, still births, or child mortality in the way that Western women do. These women are less emotionally invested in their children due to the possibility of poverty-induced death, so the embraced the loss of a child as liberation from an economic burden.

The media’s tendency to pass off racism as humorous and harmless while ignoring the negative aspects of such behaviour can implement institutionalized stereotypes and prejudices that exacerbate social issues such as intimate apartheid, racism, and discrimination. It will also desensitize readers and citizens to this behaviour, causing them to think that it is acceptable to treat others in offensive ways and call Asians ‘Orientals.’ A system of structural violence makes it acceptable for Mayor Ford to behave this way without any criticism. Due to the desensitization and institutionalization of the mockery of Jamaican patois, and other foreign accents, people are opposed to punishing Mayor Ford for his behaviour. Instead, white people justify Mayor Ford’s actions without considering how minorities feel about it. The etic often argues that it is just a joke or just satire, not an serious insult to a particular community.

In Miner’s article, he exotifies American culture and makes it seem unique and different from all other cultures. Miner used awkwardly scientific words such as ‘latipso ceremonies’ to describe the act of an America, or Nacirema, going and seeking treatment at a hospital.

Ford mainly engaged in other-ing and ethnocentrism when he commented on the Asian community. He implied that the Asian community works harder than everyone else and they work like dogs. His comments are exotifying generalizations and inaccurate stereotypes. Ford also others Asians by assuming that they are not human-like. Instead, they are brute-like people who constantly work. Instead of giving the reality of the Asian-Canadian experience, Ford paints it with glittering generalities that lack evidence and glamorizes it, thereby setting Asians apart from the rest of Torontonians due to their stereotyped behaviour.

Ford asked “Who goes to [Toronto Community Housing] (TCH), James Town, and Jane and Finch?” In asking this rhetorical question, he implicitly asserted his white and superiority over low-income minorities who live in these poor areas. Thus, Ford inadvertently supported the alienation and other-ing of such communities simply because they differed from Torontonian culture at large.

While the Edgewater homeless engaged in the appropriation of African-American culture, as Ford did with Jamaican culture, the homeless separate themselves from blacks unless it benefits them. Ford separates himself from low-income blacks unless he is pushing for the minority vote that would result in his re-election. It is during the nearing of elections that Ford visits poor areas in Toronto and behaves as a Jamaican in front of his black friends to make up for his cocaine-smoking and non-redistributive policies that perpetuate the stagnant mobility and vertical stratification of poor Torontonians.

While Ford praised the Asian community for their work ethic, Toronto is still largely segregated. Asians and whites, including Ford, rarely live in the same neighbourhoods. In fact, Toronto features the ethnic enclave of Chinatown (Waugh, n.d.). Additionally, Near Metro Toronto, Markham, Riverdale, and Little India are all areas that are predominately Asian, with few white residents (Waugh, n.d.). Vincent’s article failed to mention this. Ford does little to address this racial segregation, even though he praised Asians.

Whereas Edgewater homeless often call blacks “niggers” when they are not around, Ford essentially called Asians dogs in a public setting, which is an example of positive ethnocentrism. Ford implied that Canadian culture is not hard working, but Asian-Canadian cultures and values entail hard work and success.

As final food-for-thought, news articles are more sensitive to the racial struggles of Asians rather than Aboriginals and blacks. This says a lot about the values and norms of Canadian society. Asians are higher up on the social hierarchy than blacks and aboriginals area, partly because they dominate much of the corporate world, the income and academic hierarchy, as well as the largely economic-based immigration rates. Perhaps Asians’ light skin also plays a role in North Americans’ relative tolerance of and support for the Asian community. Finally, Ford has been forgiven as a result of his white privilege and power as an admired Mayor.

Poetry 4 Dayz: A Momentary Escape

Another oldie:

 

A liberating paralysis,
Cleansing a distraught mind like dialysis.
An escapist’s favoured source of freedom.
A momentary ride that renders the mind numb.
Instantaneously providing contentment for the brains it feeds on.
Inducing a slow fall into a familiar subconscious
And creating a sudden rush that will leave one breathless.
Gladly abandoning their stressful reality,
The victim gains entry to a world never before seen.
Vivid visions fabricated by the dealer itself,
Composing a world where pain cannot be felt.
The victim warily anticipates the cards they may be dealt
Before waking back up to an existence they wished they could forget about.