Tag Archives: sexism

how white patriarchy stays afloat

posted by jroselkim

missmsian already wrote a great post about the negative press about too many Asians trolling Canadian universities, so I won’t talk about the offending articles from yesterday in detail. I do, however, want to discuss the growing trend in this paranoia-mongering “research” that The media’s obsession with asking whether Asians are going to dominate the world and make the whites suffer is not unlike its other obsession: whether men will be less successful than women because education is becoming more and more “feminized”. The Globe and Mail ran a week-long feature on the “failing boys” syndrome series last month.

My first reaction to these questions, as both a woman and a person of colour, is to say, “seriously?”

Let’s do the math.

How long did it take for people to notice that maybe women should also receive the same accessibility to education as men, and civil rights?
Centuries.

How long did it take the media to worry that boys were falling behind the women?
About 2 or 3 decades.

How long did it take the governments to realize that people of colour deserve the same rights as the whites, and apologize for their past wrongdoings to minority groups?
Centuries. And sometimes, never, if we’re talking about apologies.

How much time does it take the administrators to get nervous about this so-called takeover of the people of colour?
Much, much less than a century.

Don’t get me wrong, it worries me too that Quebec’s male adolescents have a 40% high school dropout rate. Studying how demographics shift in institutions can be a very interesting study. But what I really want to point out is the sense of urgency and panic that many of these articles seem to have about the threat to maleness and whiteness. When there’s even an inkling of a chance that maybe the white patriarchal hegemony is maybe kind of on the way out, society is IN DANGER, people. And of course, when one asks “is XXX too white?” the answers always tend to be “you’re so sensitive,” toward the interrogator, but when the question “is XXX too [insert minority group here],” the response seems to give the interrogator more rational credit.

One day, I hope to open a newspaper or a magazine and not be compelled to throw it out the window. One day.

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azns in hip-hop [1]

posted by djtrishna

In the land of hip hop, female MCs are a rare breed. At least that’s what the mainstream would have us believe.

Right now there are countless female artists fighting intense discrimination in the industry while producing some of the best hip hop out there. Many of whom are reppin it for us Azns.

Case in point? Shadia Mansour.

If you’ve never heard of this extremely talented artist before, you are in for a treat. I would describe her as the more intelligent, politically conscious, Palestinian female version of Drake. Just kidding, that would be a complete diss to Shadia because she could totally tear Drake apart in a throw down, just sayin.

Why should we be paying attention to her? Shadia’s flow is intuitive, expertly dropped over well produced beats and vocals that could carry her career on their own. Her lyrics resist the current trend of mainstream hip hop to produce formulaic lines that ignore social and political realities, which she does without getting cheesy. And the first single “El Kofeyye 3arabeyye”, off of her new album features M1 of Dead Prez.

Yes, as in Dead Prez, Dead Prez. If you don’t think this is a testament to her skills and potential as an MC, perhaps you should examine what you think you know about hip hop.

El Kofeyye 3arabeyye is a brilliant track that explores the cultural roots of the Kofeyye and challenges its appropriation.

Her depth and dynamism as an artist can be seen in this track but also through her collaborations and performances with other Arab artists such as Canada’s own The Narcicyst and the UK’s Lowkey in which she holds her own amongst the presence of such strong men.

Shadia is also uncompromising her in image as a Palestinian female performer. She rocks keffiyehs and traditional Palestinian dress onstage, constantly reminding us of her identity. Shadia has been nicknamed the First Lady of Arab Hip-Hop. To me, this is particularly important in an era of hip hop in which artists would rather wear Louis Vutton in an effort to assimilate to whiteness than have their audiences deal with their racial other-ness.

Her album is set to drop sometime before year’s end. You can be sure to expect big things out of Shadia in her reclamation of hip hop.

Check out her myspace here.

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only abstract apologies allowed

posted by jroselkim

Apologies for wrongdoings of inconceivable scale in the past strikes me as a bit of a funny concept. But I do recognize the symbolic value of one government apologizing to another for colonialism. And it happened recently – the Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan issued an official, government-approved apology to the Korean government on the 100th anniversary of Japanese colonial rule in Korea, and promised he would also return many historical artifacts taken during colonial times to Korea “soon.”

Japanese colonialism is characterized as one of the most efficient colonial rule, as the government was one of the most recent colonizers who got to study other forms of colonialism and analyze what worked best and what didn’t.

I recall my grandfather, who was only a child during colonial rule, telling me one of the most chilling cultural colonial techniques to which he was subjected. Not only was he forbidden from speaking Korean (or reading it) at school, there was also an ingenious monitoring system to enforce the rule. The child who spoke Korean would be given a card that condemned them to cleaning the washrooms daily – until he (apparently this punishment only applied to boys) spotted another kid speaking Korean. Then bam! He could hand over his awful washroom-cleaning punishment onto the next kid. Such measures eliminated any kind of solidarity between the kids to speak Korean collective, but also turned them into docile, disciplined bodies efficiently monitoring and enforcing state rules. Foucault would be so proud.

(Side note: my grandfather and grandmother speak Japanese fluently, but they refused to speak it after the colonial rule was over until recently, when they visited Canada for the first time and struck up a conversation with a Japanese woman at a pool.)

The colonial rule not only forcefully made disciplined bodies out of children, but of women as well. The word “comfort women” is slowly becoming familiarized in Western media (Vagina Monologues now has a monologue on the issue), women kidnapped and held hostage to “comfort” – i.e. commit sexual acts against their will -the Japanese soldiers. The Japanese government still has issued neither an official apology nor compensation, despite the ongoing protest of the remaining alive comfort women. January 2010 marked the 900th week of protest against the Japanese government in Seoul.

The overly generalized nature of the “apology” that refuses to address the specific victims of colonial rule – particularly, to those who were denigrated to being the “lowest factions” of society by stripping their rights and freedoms to act as sex objects – is telling. It is telling of the inadequacy of such an apology, as well as the continued oppression of women who are excluded from “official” discussion of culture and nations.

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one for my mother

posted by jroselkim

My mother is always prepared for everything.
She would peel countless cloves of garlic
while watching her evening television
so she wouldn’t waste any time
idling around, even when she’s idle.

Setting a straightforward path
with simple steps, she says.

A perfect housewife,
she was bred in a women’s university.
One that produced headstrong women
writing the country’s prominent feminist manifestoes like
Women, Become Terrorists!
(before 9/11, of course.)

But she
thought the feminists on campus were
“too much,”
and did what she was told –
study English literature,
a “useful subject” for gaining employment in Korea.

And gain, she did –
as one of the few women who obtained a
prestigious position at a foreign bank,
working past her marriage –
working past having her daughter.

In her complacency to follow the rules
she went further than she was supposed to;
and in her unknowing progression
she was ostracized –

by her colleagues,
(a nanny for her daughter?)
by her equally headstrong sisters-in-law
(how can she run her household?).

So she resented them,
resented them for being resented
for following the path too well –

Perhaps, if this were a Hollywood narrative
there may be dramatized struggle,
but then some kind of a happy fanfare –
a closing of an arc.

But real life keeps going.
She quit her job and learned how to cook,
learned to keep her resentment in check
and learned to
“worship the husband and the in-laws like Gods”
like she was told
all the while being skeptical of what she was told.

My mother is still wary of the feminists –
calls them too strong-headed,
too judgmental.
She just followed the rules.

But somewhere along following the strict rules
she broke some of them,
and
made a rule-breaking feminist out of me.

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whose body is it, anyway?

posted by jroselkim

the slurring man on St-Laurent
announced me an

“Asian whore.”

the stooping man in Dublin

guessed that
I would have a tight Asian pussy.

in their eyes, I am

too loose
and too tight,

offensively innocent,
and innocently offensive.

I could never respond to them

not because of fear
but because they always fled

immediately

constructing me as a
non-responsive entity –

(a lack,
psychoanalysis labelled women.

but I am
a lack,
lacking

its discreet white normality)

dear white men,

my impossible existence
on a balmy sunny night

is not yours to judge
or hold
or violate

but mine only.

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niqab isn’t the issue; racism is

posted by missmsian

This week, the highest court in Ontario will rule on whether a woman should be allowed to wear her niqab while testifying in her sex assault case.

The lawyer asking for the removal of the niqab argues that “face-to-face confrontation with witnesses is vital to an effective cross-examination.”

Would a woman be asked to remove her cross necklace before testifying?

I see the eye rolling. “It’s an unfair comparison ,” some may say.

No; it’s perfectly fair. The niqab and cross necklace are both worn for religious reasons. Neither is more/less threatening or more/less conspicuous than the other. (Whether something is “conspicuous” rarely has to do with its size and visibility, but more often to do with how the viewer judges it. If Christianity offended me and I took the cross necklace as a representation of Christianity, even a tiny pendant tucked under a shirt, barely glimpsed by me, would seem extremely conspicuous.)

“But one covers most of the face and the other just hangs from the neck.”

What is with this sick, Orientalist obsession with unveiling, exposing, “seeing”? The woman in the case would be testifying in front of the court. That means everyone in the courtroom would see her. Maybe they wouldn’t see her bra straps and neck tattoos, but one would hope a lawyer wouldn’t have to in order to make a fair assessment of her testimony.

To borrow from the arguments this woman’s lawyer makes: what if the lawyer or judge were visually impaired? Are people who are visually impaired incapable of making accurate judgements because they don’t see facial expressions?

What about witnesses who are nervous and exhibit all the apparently ‘telltale’ signs of lying–shifty eyes, etc.–while trying to tell the truth?

Here’s another one the woman’s lawyer didn’t mention: what about protection for victims of sex assault?

There are rare cases where victims are allowed to testify from behind a screen–usually when the victim is a child, I think.

Why isn’t this sort of protection an option for all victims? Is there no recognition that it could be re-traumatizing to make a victim look at the assailant?

By demanding that the woman remove her niqab, the lawyer is implying that she would be unbelievable otherwise–calling her character into question before her testimony even begins.

Three male superiors will be making a precedent-setting ruling. Sex assault is already an under-reported crime. Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund lawyer Susan Chapman has said, “It’s no coincidence that this is a sexual assault case. This is the last case in the world where the court should be ordering a woman, over her objection, to remove her clothing.”

I hope they keep this in mind.

And for those who haven’t been paying attention to the proposed Bill 94 because it ostensibly affects only Quebec, think again. Depending on the ruling in this case, something similar for Ontario might not be far behind.

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sexism or clever self-promotion?

posted by missmsian

My old feminist self wants to kick my newly non-feminist self a little for thinking this. But this week’s Kardashianesque scandal about a former Citibank worker who was allegedly fired for being too hot to handle is, well, a little hard to handle.

Debrahlee Lorenzana says her male managers told her to stop wearing turtlenecks, fitted suits and heels because they were “easily distracted” by her figure.That’s completely inappropriate. It’s their own problem if they can’t keep their eyes in check. That part’s easy.

The harder part (it usually is) is understanding the media coverage. Lorenzana has announced she wants to sue Citibank because they essentially stopped her from wearing business outfits. However, most of the news articles have accompanying photos of Lorenzana posing in completely unrelated outfits, baring cleavage.

Huh?

Whether or not she was subjected to sexism at work, she’s definitely being subject to it in the media now.

“Before she was bounced by Citygroup, busty banker Debrahlee Lorenzana sent the interest rate soaring – among male fans eager to catch a glimpse of her assets.” — a New York Daily News article, June 4, 2010

Entering murky waters; cue Jaws theme.

I can’t decide if she’s been doubly victimized (by her managers and the media) or if she’s a marketing genius. I mean, she agreed to the sexy photos, right?

It’s also disappointing so few people have brought up the fact that this entire debacle has reinforced traditional Western beauty standards. Every story I found described Lorenzana’s 5’6, 125-lb frame. Her wavy brown hair. Her perfectly tanned (note: but not dark!) skin. Her bodacious bod. We get it.

Some sites are actually polling readers on whether she’s too hot to handle. The implication is obvious: okay, she’s hot, but how hot?

I post up almost the same measurements as Lorenzana, although I’m about 1″ shorter, 15 lbs lighter and have a smaller frame. I would be considered non-traditional or “exotic”. Would Lorenzana’s issue ever come up for me?

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