On McKinney, Cosby, and Misogynoir.

(De Ana J is writer and sometimes smartass from Southern California. She podcasts for Nerdgasm Noire, writes for Arsenal for Democracy and acts out on Twitter as @NaniCoolJ. You can also sometimes catch her on her blog www.nerdygirlswag.com.)

Weeks ago in McKinney, Texas the police were called about a disturbance at a neighborhood pool party. In one of the many viral videos, there’s an officer running around cursing at teenagers – mostly Teens of Color. In the video you distinctly hear them ask why they were being detained and why they were being told to leave a party to which they’d been invited. Notably, they were asking politely. A bikini-clad girl looking for one of her friends is told to leave with another group of girls; as they leave, the officer becomes upset and grabs the girl, slamming her to the ground multiple times, while her friends ask why she’s being arrested. When her friends attempt to help her, the officer pulls a gun on the group.

Aside from the obvious racism, it’s important to pay attention to the racialized misogyny  (misogynoir) that also takes place. Looking at the videos, it’s clear to see that the officer, David Eric Casebolt, was being excessive in his attack on the girl, Dajerria Becton. It’s scary to see a grown man be so violent towards any small, bikini-clad 14 year old girl  – the officer treats Miss Becton as if she were a much bigger, much stronger person. It’s even more alarming when you realize that Casebolt was specifically targeting teens of color.

If that girl hadn’t already learned before — if any of those teens hadn’t already learned before — they learned that day that being Black in public is considered a threat to the police. Even if you’re doing nothing wrong. Even if you’re only 14. Even if you obviously have no weapon. Even if you are polite.

If a group of teens can have the police called on them for being at a pool party they were invited to, the problem isn’t them — it’s the belief that simply because they are there they are causing trouble. This is especially true for Black girls, who have to live at the intersection of racism and sexism that denies them their girlhood. As is evident from the altercation that got police called to the neighborhood in the first place.

In a YouTube video, Tatyana Rhodes describes how two white women at the pool were cursing at the teens at the party before the police arrived. She states that, initially, a younger white girl objected to the slurs the two white women. They began to curse at her, and when Tatyana spoke out against the women’s language, they initiated a fight. In both this incident and the officer subsequently slamming Dajerria to the ground, we see White adults attacking Black teenagers, ignoring their right to personal safety.

The “pro-police” reaction to the event has been cliche. Those who believe Casebolt was justified in violently assaulting a teenage girl use the same excuses as those used for all unwarranted abuses towards Black people. They say that the children were the problem and if they’d only acted more respectfully towards the police and residents they wouldn’t have been in this situation. This point of view completely ignores how polite the teens were as they were being detained by police and the fact that it was White adults who initially antagonized them for just being Black in public.

We’ve been told non-violent protests in the form of marches and boycotts in the 1960s magically changed the minds of the majority of White people and then racism ended. Because of this fairytale, the US has failed to unpack actual issues of systemic racism and the lingering effects of racist stereotypes that have developed since slavery.

This failure combined with sexist attitudes is especially harmful for Black women and girls. Even as teenagers, any break in respectable behavior is treated as a threat and the responses to these perceived threats is almost immediately violence. We’re not afforded the luxury of girlhood. If Black girls were regarded by society the way it views White American girls, it would reveal this violence against us to be as horrible as it actually is, for all to see.

The fact that so many are making excuses for violence against this girl shows they do not view her as a girl the way they would a white 14-year-old in the same situation. It is also almost certainly no coincidence that the cop targeted her with this extreme force while leaving the White teenage girls at the party alone, and only handcuffing but not roughing up those siding with their Black friends against out-of-control adults.

Unfortunately, this lack of girlhood affects the way adult Black women are treated as well. Recently, after another public outing of Bill Cosby’s sexual assaults on women, Beverly Johnson opened up to Essence magazine about being assaulted by Bill Cosby. Her story matched the stories of the other women who were brave enough to tell them, yet Mrs. Johnson was called a liar (among other things) and her despite her own successful career, people were quick to dismiss her and defame her character. Many saying that Beverly was trying to take down a prominent Black figure and therefore hurting Black people as a whole, while ignoring how harm to Black women also hurts Black people.

This isn’t just a race issue, this isn’t just a feminist issue, this is both. Black girls should be allowed the same safety and protection as their White counterparts.

“Transracial” and Transgender are NOT the same.

(Riley is a disabled Black non-binary femme in his late 20s. He is a CS and math student in NYC with history in art, music and writing, looking to complete the holy quadrilateral of creative capability with tech skills.)

I’m really tired of the bullshit, so let’s get down to brass tacks. I’m Black. I’m trans. I think I know a little about race and transgender issues by now.

Caitlyn Jenner comes out as transgender, and people think that comments like “if Caitlyn Jenner can change genders, why can’t Rachel Dolezal change her race?”

It’s very simple.

Trans people have historically experienced violence.

Note that I have not said “men” or “women” have experienced violence. Specifically, transgender individuals have a long history of suffering, abuse, poverty and murder caused by their transitioning and transgender status.

In other words, the act of being trans itself is brings violence, not simply the act of being simply a man or a woman.

Caitlyn Jenner submitted herself to a lifetime of this violence when she came out. Statistics have shown that the rate of violence against trans people, and particularly trans women, is particularly high. Earlier this year, a number of Black and Latina trans women were violently murdered, a fact most didn’t even realize.

There is no history, tracking, record, or give-a-damn for murders of white people “race-transitioning” (a term I use tongue-in-cheek, here) to Black. I don’t even think there’s a single record of such. There are records of murder against Black people, but it is not the act of “race-transitioning” from white to Black that yields violence…not to mention there is not much of a record on this, if any at all.

Because the transitioning is the crux of the violence, being trans produces in a lowering of status in the eyes of the respective group one transitions to.

Trans men are not accepted wholly as men amongst cisgender men. Trans women are certainly not accepted wholly as women by cis women, they’re often barely considered human beings, considered rapists and pedophiles and are ostracized from women communities while being abused in male communities. However, cis women accept other cis women’s womanhood. Cis men accept other cis men’s manhood. Non-binary people, as you can see here, don’t really exist on this extreme scale at all, and have no real place.

Rachel Dolezal went from being a mediocre white woman with no identity to the prize of a Black community. As a group, we treasure light skin, pale eyes, blond hair, and the “biracial look”, which Rachel Dolezal pretended being. Black people more than anyone else are accepting, and those who are pale as chalk and 99.9% white can get in if they claim a bit of Blackness, making it easy for Dolezal to slip in past the doors and achieve a position in the Black community that trans women are not afforded in the woman community, nor trans men afforded in the man community. By penetrating Blackness like a virus, she attained a teaching position in Africana Studies, teaching numerous classes, she ripped  away positions from Black people who have trouble getting the foot in the door at these universities. Black people, who are already overwhelmingly living in poverty were passed up by someone passing themselves off as light skin. She was exalted and held above the people she imitated, an experience that white people have no matter where they go in the world, no matter what culture they invade and overtake, whiteness and white features are loved and desired in PoC communities, assuring her seat of power amongst them.

But cis men and women are not passed over for jobs because trans people exist. Many trans women can’t find jobs at all. Trans men and trans women are not considered more attractive than cis men and women, respectively, and there is no desire, want or love of trans people in the cis community. They do not receive quarter there for having transitioned!

Race isn’t the same as gender.

On its face, it’s very easy to make some weak comparisons between trans-racial (a term actually used to describe adoption) and transgender, the idea of changing oneself overall, the thought processes that go into desperately wanting to be something people tell you that you aren’t. But once we get down to the specifics, we find differences that split the two wide apart.

Race is determined and experienced differently from gender.

Race, today, in the US in 2015? Is based on some bits and bobs and what your face looks like, the slope of your nose, the size of your lips, the shape of your eyes, the exact tone of your skin and curl pattern of your hair, your history and your ancestry. Many have come into their race as an identity, but there are plenty of situations wherein your race as determined by ancestry is completely different from your race as determined by your looks. Furthermore, it’s not only your looks, but how the racial class in power view and translate those looks.

In other words, race has history, but what determines one’s actual racial station is imposed. It’s not affected by how one acts or thinks, or how they adorn themselves. It comes from an external source. That is its history and has been since its inception.

Gender in a colonialist transphobic society may be based entirely on what bits you have when born (and if you don’t fit into two categories you are often violently altered until you do), but this is not the historical crux of gender, as this thing determined by a vapid declaration of one thing or another. One’s biological ancestral history has no effect on one’s gender; you are not your gender because your parents and grandparents were that gender. Gender is internal, and comes from the self, and that is its history, clearly displayed in a long line of various genders that have existed in PoC communities since the beginning of time. Thus, as it is internal, one’s own thoughts become relevant to one’s gender, and this simply isn’t true of race.

The respective communities are affected differently.

One suffers, the other experiences no difference at all.

What matters is the privilege dynamic. Cis women are not in any way deprived or damaged by Caitlyn Jenner or any other trans woman. The only person who stands to suffer is Caitlyn herself, whether or not the privileged community of cis women supports her, as a person who stands at the marginalized end of this stick.

But most of the people who don’t support Rachel Dolezal are those that Rachel Dolezal oppresses. People she’s stolen from. People her existences harms. Her presence does not leave the lives of actual Black women intact, it robs them of enrichment. When outed, white people defended her. They tried to call attention to potential mental illness, they told angry Black people to leave her alone and let her live. Black men who hate Black women defended her, Black men who oppress Black women and often demonize Black women. Non-Black people of color flew from their caves to come and tell Black women to “leave Rachel alone”, to “let her be what she wants”, and tried to assert their own definition of Blackness on the people who live its reality!

The oppression that Black women already face was pronounced by Rachel Dolezal. Increased. Once more, pro-injustice from sites-that-shall-not-be-named came to renew and refresh their abuse of Black women on social media.

This did not happen to cis women when Caitlyn Jenner came out.

Rachel Dolezal was happily welcomed into a community based on recreating a background that didn’t exist. Her white features earned her spaces that were meant for Black women, a group of people she oppresses. In addition, she has tried to exercise that power against Black women by announcing that she doesn’t believe they should be given a platform to speak if they don’t buy her story. She dresses in a marginalized costume, but she then says that Black people who don’t side with her lies don’t deserve a place. A place that her white body is only able to fill because whiteness, lightness are treasured in all communities.

Anyone can be transgender. But only white people can change their race.

If a person determined irrevocably Black by white people tried to smooth into their society as Rachel Dolezal has done to Black people, the only thing that will happen is…well, historically, death. In modern times, ridicule, ableism in the form of insistence that it is a mental illness that should be medicated or hospitalized, or flat out ignoring it.

There would be no discussions. No conversations. At best, humoring the idea. Certainly no defense of such.

If a person determined irrevocably Black by white people tried to smooth into ANY other race as Rachel Dolezal has done, the same thing would happen. Hell, Black people who are multiracial are often forcibly delegated to the “just Black” category regardless of their history!

This is not an identity. It is simply an extension of white privilege to include the capacity to become other races freely, something that is afforded to no one else.

Rachel Dolezal flat out lied about her life and her experiences, and not to protect herself, but to protect the benefits she received and the space she acquired through those lies. She lied to protect her privilege, a trait of white people and all privileged groups. Her life could have been the same had she merely remained the white woman she was. White people already devour space in Black communities as a bonus of their whiteness, but she chose to take her farce further, becoming a “Black” woman who happened to be indistinguishable from the party in power.

There is no benefit to being transgender, and there is no harm, but there is every benefit and harm to a white person picking a less privileged race to join because white features are privileged in every race and identification has no effect on that.

Caitlyn Jenner is now being treated as a woman, and as a trans woman, and receiving every detriment of those two identities with no mal-effect on cis women, but Rachel Dolezal is still being protected and defended as white women are, to the suffering of the Black women she pretended to be. White people can reap the benefits of relative privilege in the PoC community they choose to inhabit, PoC can never, ever do the reverse. Rachel Dolezal lived her “Black life” centered and important in Black spaces, and trans women will NEVER be centered in women’s spaces, nor will trans men be centered in men’s spaces, and non-binary people will float in a void between the two groups.

There is a difference between recognizing a fact about oneself based on an identity aspect that is internal, like gender, something that harms no one, something where anyone can transition and become trans and deal with a similar set of experiences, versus joining a group of oppressed people and shoving them out of it, a privilege only afforded to white people, an “identity” that is at its crux nothing but white supremacy.

On Annie Lennox and erasure.

(Morgan Jerkins graduated from Princeton University with an AB in Comparative Literature and is currently pursuing an MFA in Fiction at the Bennington Writing Seminars. Follow her on twitter @MorganTheScribe or her Tumblr blog, “Black Girl in MFA.”)

When I initially heard that Annie Lennox was promoting a new album, I, like countless others, was excited about it. Annie’s a living legend who has been in the music industry for nearly 40 years, and she’s a well-known social activist, raising money and awareness for marginalized communities affected by HIV/AIDS. So it was safe to assume that interviewers were going to ask her about feminism, right? After all, feminism has been a hot topic, and Annie was alive during the earlier waves of feminism.

In an interview with Pride Source, Annie is specifically asked what she thinks of Beyoncé in the context of feminism. She says that Beyoncéas well as a few others—are “feminist-lite,”calling their brand of feminism “tokenistic,” “cheap,” and shallow since it does not delve into the depths of feminism wholeheartedly. The crux of Annie’s argument lies within the polemic relationship between a woman’s body and her agency to use it however she chooses. More than that, her thoughts become complicated when we consider the polarizing relationship between black and white feminists.

Now, I cannot blame Annie for talking about Beyoncé because the interviewer, Chris Azzopardi, geared the question in that way which elucidates a point: the mainstream media is fascinated with Beyoncé’s feminism. He didn’t ask what Annie thought about Emma Watson’s feminism, but Beyoncé’s in particular. It’s not enough that Beyoncé said in an interview with British Vogue that she calls herself a feminist, believes in equality, and advocates for women to be whoever they would like to be. It’s not enough that Beyoncé included Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s famous “We Should All Be Feminists” speech in her song Flawless. It’s not enough that Beyoncé had a huge neon sign with the word “feminist” behind her during a MTV Video Music Awards performance. It was not enough, because Annie took it a step forward. In a later interview with NPR, Annie praises Beyoncé and says that her critique was centered on the singer because she was asked about her, which is fair. But she then goes on to say that twerking is not feminism.  Granted, Beyoncé’s feminism may be debatable to some because of her sexualized dance moves and her Bow Down lyrics, but whose feminism isn’t? What about Miley Cyrus, who popularized twerking for mainstream audiences, and proclaimed that she was one of the biggest feminists in the world in a 2013 BBC Radio 1 interview?

I don’t know what was going through Annie Lennox’s mind during either of these interviews. I don’t believe that she intended to maliciously single out Beyoncé, even though she and her interviewers know that Beyoncé is the biggest black female pop culture icon of this generation. However, we mustn’t forget how often Black female artists are challenged for their forms of feminism with a degree of severity. For many Black people across the globe, Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, and Rihanna are feminist role models; but to others, their feminism is not feminist enough.

This inability to see eye-to-eye on how the black experience is oftimes misunderstood, neglected, or condemned revealed itself once again in a recent interview with Tavis Smiley, during which he asked Annie about her decision to cover Billie Holiday’s iconic song “Strange Fruit.” Annie was right in saying that “Strange Fruit” was a protest song but then fell down the slippery slope of political correctness when she said, “This subject of violence and bigotry, hatred, violent acts of mankind against ourselves…it’s a human theme that has gone on for time immemorial.” The song’s subject is the lynching of black people in the American south. It was not a violent act of mankind against ourselves, but a systemic and almost carnivalistic practice of lynching Black people that was carried out by racist whites. This song was specifically tailored to this “cultural sport,” which is why her words are so hurtful. One should not make the words of “black bodies swinging in the breeze” a universal issue.

Was it her intent to minimize the black experience in this country under the huge umbrella of universality? Perhaps not. But that’s the thing with words: you have to mean what you say and say what you mean. She’s a highly intelligent woman and I, as well as others, expected her to say outright what the song was about. It’s not enough for us that the song is not metaphorical even in the slightest. It would have been nice if she acknowledged what the song was truly about.

Shortly afterwards, Tavis Smiley rushed to Annie’s defense, arguing that those who were upset with Annie’s explanation of “Strange Fruit” because she did not say “our word of choice” were arrogant. Yes, lynching is bigotry and violence, but that is not the point here. What we seek is acknowledgment. The song is specifically about lynching. Lynching was racialized bigotry and violence.

How many people, especially Black men in media, have ran to the defense of Beyonce or Nicki Minaj whenever they were being attacked for their views, sexuality, or song lyrics? T.I. threatened to assault Azealia Banks, but rushed to rapper Iggy Azalea’s defense when Snoop Dogg lambasted her looks. These conversations about feminism and intersectionality seem circular because the same things keep happening: black women continue to be criticized for their choices, and left unprotected. Historical components of the black experience continue to be sugarcoated or ignored. When will there be a change?

The Politics of Respectability is not Revolutionary.

(Hi, everyone! Happy New Year! We return to our regularly scheduled programming with another guest post, this time from Loryn C. Wilson, a womanist and digital media professional living in Washington, DC. You can follow her on Twitter at @elledub_1920.)

TW: Violence, Misogyny, Fatphobia, Racism

Recently, I participated on a panel about leadership, movement building, and using social media to create change. I spoke to about 200 African-American student leaders; I was only one of two women on a panel of about 8 people, and the youngest speaker. One of the male panelists asserted that the politics of respectability was an act of resistance in a time when Black people were treated as less than human. He gave the example of a woman being able to keep a clean house.

Silly example aside, I was most concerned that a group of young people were once again being told that if they just act respectable enough, they will defy white people and somehow rise above oppression. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Respectability politics, simply put, is a dangerous attack on Black people in general and Black women in particular. It is a way to make white people feel more comfortable with us, and not to make us feel more comfortable about ourselves. It is selfish, not selfless. And it is not something to aspire to.

Respectability politics is divisive. Point blank.

Everyone remembers that classic scene in School Daze where the Jiggaboos faced off against the Wannabes. That scene demonstrates one of the biggest problems with respectability politics – it’s divisive nature. It further divides Black people into the Bourgeoise versus “them n*ggas over there,” setting a stage where middle and upper class Black people can look at their low-income brethren–and somehow think they are better than them. If a way of thinking makes me treat one of my own with anything less than love and compassion, then I don’t want to subscribe to it. We need approaches that bring us closer together, that can lift us up as we climb. If it doesn’t unify us, we don’t need it.

Respectability politics dehumanizes Black people, especially women.

As it’s been noted before, if a white woman proudly and publicly embraces her sexuality, white people praise her as an example of sexual empowerment and body positivity. However, when a Black woman does the same, those people treat her as though she is less of a woman. People are quick to police our bodies and tell us that we are ugly, fat, unlovable bitches.

Saartjie Baartman is an early example of this. She was an African woman held in captivity like a circus animal, made to perform for white people on account of her voluptuous body. For a small fee, whites could watch her perform and even touch the “Hottentot Venus.” And this was simply because of the way her body is shaped – a characteristic that she had no control over. There are countless modern-day examples of this – from Beyonce getting her ass smacked by a fan during a performance to Nicki Minaj having the same thing done to her by Regis Philbin on national TV.

Respectability politics suggests that only certain Black people are even worthy of respect to begin with.

Implicit in telling black men to “pull up their pants” or a black women to “keep their legs closed” is the idea that if they do not do these things, then they can’t or shouldn’t be respected. Oftentimes on Facebook, I see the meme of young black men with sagging pants alongside a picture of young black men dressed in suits from the 1960s with the caption “Back then men were real men.” But here’s the problem with that: During the Civil Rights Movement (and even before), Black people wore suits, pressed their hair, and were still beaten and killed – so why even compare? The way one wears their hair or clothes, the way they express themselves, the choices they make—none of these things should be used as a litmus test for respect given or denied.

Respectability politics ignores the fact that Black people are not a monolith.

Blackness is so amazing because it is so varied. There are so many different ways to be black—and no way is more correct or acceptable than another. A black woman will quote bell hooks and dance to Beyonce and y’all will deal. Blackness is not a morality play. It is above the law. It is not meant to be contained or put in a box by anyone or anything—including respectability touting know-nothings.

Why We Can’t Have Black Feminist Pop Icons.

(Lesli-Ann Lewis is a small, queer and brown invader of homogeneous spaces. Fancying herself a burgeoning writer, this is her first piece for Hood Feminism. She can be found on Twitter, all too often: @lesellele.)

The "new faces of feminism" look a lot like the old ones.

The “new faces of feminism” look a lot like the old ones.


Remember several weeks ago when blogger and writer Jincey Lumpkin called Miley Cyrus a feminist icon? Outspoken Black feminists took her to task for ignoring Miley’s exploitation of Black women. The backlash was so fierce that Jincey apologized.

Fast forward to November 13th, an ordinary day made extraordinary by the declaration of Lily Allen’s “Hard Out Here” as a feminist anthem and her video as a “genius” satire of pop videos. The video swerves into Miley’s lane featuring a relatively covered pop singer surrounded by scantily clad Black women. It features close-ups of Black women twerking, a long-standing hip hop dance for which has bizarrely been given credit Miley Cyrus. Lily Allen herself claims it’s satire but, given her iffy take on the black female body during a spat with Azlia Banks and the lyric “I don’t need to shake my ass for you because I have a brain,” timed right as one of her Black dancers bends over, it’s unclear what she’s satirizing, exactly. What is clear is that Jincey should have never apologized. Miley Cyrus IS a feminist icon and now, so is Lily Allen. They are feminist icons, and that feminism is White, cis, well-to-do and disingenuous.

Black women have been fighting for space in feminism since Sojourner asked anti-abolitionist suffragists “Ain’t I a woman?” There is a long, sad, and complicated history of white women being active participants in the (ongoing) colonization and exploitation of Black and brown women the world over.  Funnily enough, Lily Allen sings in her slut-shaming “feminist” anthem “We’ve come a long way, and if you don’t see the sarcasm in that, you’re missing the point.”

We see this history come out to play when mainstream feminism shuns Black celebrities for the very things they laud their White peers for. So far, the list who gets the feminist badge looks very Caucasian and contradictory. Miley Cyrus is a feminist icon for getting naked. Lily Allen is a feminist for slut-shaming Miley Cyrus.
With this happening so frequently, it begs the question: what is the standard for mainstream feminism when it comes to claiming pop singers and celebrities?

It seems that any white celebrity who is both successful and female gets branded as some sort of feminist whether or not she has even called herself one. Looking at the low standard for who gets to be a feminist pop icon, I’m left wondering why Rihanna hasn’t gotten her badge yet. Rihanna has done more work in the field of feminism than any of the pop stars in her age group. She quite eloquently discussed rape and rape culture in her Man Down video. She chose to address domestic violence in her “We Found Love Video.” Most recently she centered the female gaze AND celebrated the athleticism of strippers in her Pour It Up video. Since the infamous domestic violence incident, Rihanna has made a commitment to live her life on her terms. It permeates her every choice, especially the ones we, the public, do not like. That alone is a powerful statement to other survivors of domestic violence, like myself.

All Miley had to do was sit on a wrecking ball, naked.

While almost every White pop star gets rewarded a feminist badge, the list of who mainstream feminism has declared “bad for the movement” looks quite uniform and Black. Beyonce suffers from internalized misogyny. Nicki Minaj is oversexed and suffers from internalized misogyny. Rihanna is a confused, oversexed victim…who suffers from internalized misogyny.

The fact is, Rihanna doesn’t get dubbed as a feminist icon for the very same reasons her white peers do: the black female body is deemed as overtly sexual. So much so Miley Cyrus can derive a sexual identity just by associating with Blackness and Lily Allen can make a critique of hyper sexuality on our backs. Rihanna being Black and female must work from proving she isn’t just a sex object. Miley gets to be naked and feminist because it is presumed that she is “innocent” and that enjoying sex—for White women like her—isn’t the norm, but a revolutionary act. This was the justification for the rape of Black women, the very reason Saartjie’s genitals were carved from her body, to prove our inherently sexual nature and to prove the White woman’s asexual (and therefore, pure) one.

When pop stars are declared to be shining examples of feminism while continuing a legacy of shaming and sexualizing black bodies, mainstream feminism is sending a clear message: we still ain’t women.

HF around the web, Renisha McBride, and other matters of import.

It has been a long, emotionally exhausting week, but at least it’s ending on a (somewhat) positive note now that Renisha McBride’s killer has been arrested. Writer/activist dream hampton is just one of many fighting on behalf of the murdered teen and her grieving family, and talks with Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman about the “criminalizing of black corpses” here. Her parents speak out here.

Friend of HF (and thewayoftheid girlcrush) Moya Bailey pens an open letter to Nelly that should have the St. Lunatic in his feelings for a while. Bailey and her fellow Spelman alumnae will be on HuffPo Live Monday, November 18 to discuss it.

First Lily Allen, now Peggy Noland: when it comes to objectifying black women, white women are having the best week ever.

Oh, and we’ve been a little busy writing stuff. You can check out Evilene’s Scandal-inspired post on “homewrecker” hate for Blogher here, and Jamie’s Scandal-inspired post on gratuitous tv rape for xoJane here.

Also, we’re planning another Google Hangout soon, so keep your eyes peeled.

And now, for a little bit of awesome that’s been making us grin all day (despite only getting three hours of sleep):

Meet Batkid, our new favorite superhero.

Meet Batkid, our new favorite superhero.

And a message we can all use:


              Have a good weekend. 🙂

Using WOC in the Natural Childbirth Debate: A How-To Guide.

(Michelle Bowen-Ziecheck is a writer currently living in Maryland. This is her first piece for Hood Feminism.)

To the untrained eye, this is just another mother and child. To a Natural Childbirth Warrior? A living, breathing talking point.

To the untrained eye, this is just another mother and child. To a Natural Childbirth Warrior? A living, breathing talking point.

There are two kinds of “Women of Color.” The first is a resident of Africa City, a destitute woman from a non-specific brown country who barely has the energy to keep flies from the corners of her mouth. The second is the woman of The Ghetto in a “developed” country; poor, uneducated, just keeping her head above water, perhaps pausing occasionally to watch the asphalt grow.

The women of Africa City are noble. Unspoiled. Close to The Earth. They have much to teach us about The Old Ways, or they are lamentably, garment-renderingly out of touch with them. If they are out of touch, this has nothing to do with colonization or white racism (maybe just a little bit, but that’s in the past). If they are Close to The Earth, this is also because they have somehow escaped colonization and racism.

If you are a progressive in the Natural Childbirth Movement (or any other, for that matter), use Africa City women to promote the idea that “natural is better.” Talk about women who toil in the fields, squat down to give birth and return to picking rice. Or peanuts. Or anything else that can be picked. After all, the women of Africa City are resilient!  Strong. So strong that they do not even require support from the other women of Africa City. Or medication. Or comfort.  This example–of giving birth in the field–illustrates how over-reliant “we” have become on useless technology. Of course, you don’t expect “us” to be quite that strong.  We are not beasts of burden, after all. But from the comfort of our leather computer chairs, we can still make time to pay our respects to the women of Africa City for their unwavering and superhuman strength.

If you support natural childbirth or homebirth, use the women of Africa City to illustrate the point that birth usually goes well without medical intervention. Talk about the Old Ways. Quote white people who were made honorary princesses and priests by the women of Africa City. If you can’t quote those white people, quote white people who paraphrase those white people. Use Wikipedia.

If you oppose the Natural Childbirth Movement (or any other, for that matter), use Africa City women to remind “us” of how bad “we” used to have it, before all of our live-saving medical advances. If women die in childbirth in Africa City, it is only because they lack the Modern Technology we should be grateful that every last one of “us” has unfettered access to. Use infant mortality statistics from the most war-torn countries to argue why a healthy woman from Portland shouldn’t give birth in her bathtub with a midwife who carries oxygen and a cell phone. Redact all mentions of Africa City women who are not hopelessly impoverished. Ignore those who are systematically abused with Modern Technology, sacrificed as Guinea pigs on its altar. All bad outcomes in Africa City are due to the lack of Medical Technology, never unrelated to it, and certainly never caused by it.

No need to implicate colonization or white racism for the desperate state in which they find themselves. Be sure to use passive language.

The women of Africa City are pitiable. They wish for nothing more than to have access to all of “our” miraculous advances.  They spend every moment of their hunger-induced-hallucination-tinged waking hours praying for cold metal stirrups, off-label Cytotec and coin-flip-accurate fetal monitors mandated by legal departments. These wretched waifs need more access to things like emergency C-sections and Pitocin for post-partum hemorrhage, and they are willing to give up any semblance of autonomy and respect to get them. Because they are good girls who know their place. The women of Africa City, like other beasts of burden, are easy to control.

Now we come to the women of The Ghetto. Per the above, if you oppose the Natural Childbirth Movement, be certain to emphasize the fact that Ghetto women are not interested in this debate at all. They are too busy being fat and sassy so they don’t know nothin’ about birthin’ no babies. Their white teeth shine between fat, sassy lips as they cackle about them crazy white ladies who love them some homebirths! Ghetto women don’t care about how they are treated in “Western” hospitals. They’re just grateful they’re not in Africa City. Why they’re not in Africa City is best left undiscussed.

If Ghetto women are not sages in their own, simple-minded sort of way, then they are willfully ignorant, insolent, indolent and not worth including in any debate that requires higher brain function. That nearly everyone you encounter in the Natural Childbirth Debate seems to be white is clearly due to the fact it is not salient to the women of The Ghetto. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Be sure to emphasize this indisputable fact no matter which side of the debate you fall on.  If you are a detractor of the movement, use it to underline how far on the fringe and out of touch the movement is. Use sexism to shame others for their racism. Make sure to point out that the nonexistence–well, as far as you’re aware, anyway–of Ghetto women on the side of the movement is indicative of how silly and trendy and insubstantial the so-called movement is.  Kind of like Brazilian waxes or platform wedges. If defenders get indignant, helpfully suggest that they’re probably premenstrual.

Pointing out that the movement is white is a particularly good strategy for a detractor, as “progressives” hate to be accused of not being “inclusive.” Never mind that you never, ever notice (or comment) on the dominating presence of whiteness in any other context. It’s fine to use it as a one-time strategy to discredit people you dislike, though you would balk if accused of something similar.  Your keen eye for racism is best suited as a rhetorical weapon against your white progressive enemies. Remain colorblind, should anyone bring up the fact that Ghetto women are far more likely to be subjected to unnecessary medical interventions during childbirth than white women. That’s playing The Race Card.  You’re the only one who should be doing that.

If you’re a supporter of the Natural Childbirth Movement, you, too, must concede that Ghetto women simply aren’t talking about childbirth. They have so many children and so many limitations, they are barely even aware that they give birth. Be sad about this. Use words like “regret” and “unfortunately” and other terminology that convey both a sense of sincere liberalism and futility. This will ensure that you don’t actually have to do anything about your own racism.  Your intentions are clearly good.

Defend yourself against accusations of exclusivity and whiteness with a two-pronged approach. First, offer proof of your complete and utter lack of racism. A Cherokee Princess great-grandmother may not be enough. A Mexican grandmother could work. Or time spent in the Peace Corps, preferably in Africa City. Second, argue that Ghetto women WOULD care about childbirth, they just don’t know they’re being oppressed. Talk about how you’re planning to educate them. Make the plan as vague as possible.  No need to follow up.

Then, as quickly as possible, recede into colorblindness. The very idea of race makes you uncomfortable. Which is why you don’t have one. If Ghetto women are not discussing these issues with white women, it cannot be because white women have dominated the conversation and alienated many of them.  White arenas are not white—they are just regular. Colorblind.

Someone may suggest that perhaps Ghetto women ARE discussing these issues—just in terms and contexts that were not created and defined by white people, thus rendering their discussion invisible. This is simply not possible.  Refer them to the tree and the forest.

(Don’t worry about the women of Africa City in all of this. They are either illiterate or too busy communing with The Earth to be a part of the discussion at all.)

Hopefully this guide has clearly demonstrated the correct use of women of color in the debate regarding Natural Childbirth Movement (or any other, for that matter). If the guidelines are too confusing, simply remember this: “women of color” are entirely theoretical. The word “women” is misleading.  They are not people– merely rhetorical strategies. Use them properly in service of your political agenda, and they’ll be sure to disappear entirely.

Good Government Job, A Myth In Three Generations

My day job involves working for the federal government. My particular agency serves a vulnerable population, and as of this week most of my coworkers were deemed as essential. We’re part of that million plus going to work every day & hoping that we’ll get paid for it. Eventually. Like any job, I have a laundry list of complaints about my office even when the government isn’t shut down.  I don’t voice most of them in public (we are subject to all sorts of rules and in my position its easier to just steer clear of naming my agency at all), but I can’t resist the occasional bout of nondescript venting. This is not that. It could be, but really I’ve said enough, and recently I decided to leave my good government job. Because it really isn’t so good, and I’m tired of doing work I don’t love for a future that isn’t guaranteed.

I admit that like a lot of people of color, I was raised on the ideal of a Good Government Job. In my grandmother’s mind, a government job was the best anyone black could hope to achieve. You got a job with Uncle Sam or the state, county, or even the city and you stayed in it for 30+ years. It paid a living wage, and guaranteed a decent income in retirement. As the Holy Grail of jobs, it could come with any number of problems, and all of them would be worth it. You got your foot in the door and you stayed there. My grandmother preached the Good Government Gospel to her children and grandchildren. Mostly we listened, especially as it became clear that my grandmother’s friends with Good Government Jobs fared better financially than those without such exalted positions. Granted, my grandfather and grandmother never quite achieved that level of stability (they prospered from vice, small businesses, and a general ability to hustle), but then they were ones who went out to work young and who never had quite the same level of education and access that they sacrificed to obtain for their children.

Two of my aunts had Good Government Jobs that made it possible for them to sustain not only themselves, but my grandmother at times over the years after my grandfather passed and medical bills from his myasthenia gravis and my grandmother’s cancer ate up their savings. As state and city employees, they waded through rivers of red tape and came out the other side with some measure of stability. However, they are having two very different retirements. One aunt (a former state employee) is getting by on a fixed income that would have been comfortable pre-recession, and that is barely making ends meet now. The other (a former teacher and principal with Chicago Public Schools) is in better shape financially, but because Chicago teachers are excluded from social security, she is still working post retirement to make insurance payments until she is old enough to qualify for Medicare.  Neither of them are having the kind of retirement they were promised 30+ years ago.

Their retirements have been…instructive for me as I stare down the barrel of my second government shutdown. I’ve been essential both times (I was in the Army during the first one), and this time as I sit in a job that I hate for other reasons, I’m trying to imagine 30 more years of this kind of stress, as well as the chances that the promises being made now will be kept then. There’s this ongoing anti-government worker rhetoric that frames the services we provide as things that should be charitable donations.

The Good Government Job has long been the key to accessing financial stability for workers of color. I know more than one single parent who would not be in any position to care for their families without the benefits and pay offered. And make no mistake, despite the negative hype attached, government workers are doing important necessary work to run this country. But at what cost? Aside from the risks inherent in counting on a pension that may not exist, there’s the reality that government jobs don’t lend themselves to creativity.

Like a lot of us that grew up poor, I was always encouraged to think of writing or any other creative talent as a hobby. The Good Government Job was the best option, with a “real” job in the private sector as the second best option. Now, as I sit here with writing opportunities on one side, and furloughs and rhetoric on the other? I can’t help but think that the Good Government Job is dying on the vine, and just maybe it’s time to teach poor kids to reach for their dreams instead of wasting years on jobs that won’t keep their promises in the first place.  If we can’t have financial stability, at the very least we can pursue the things we love and hope that they can sustain us. What were you taught? What will you teach? Am I the only one that’s ready to give up on the idea of a single job being enough to pay the bills?