Monday, July 30, 2012

Identity Labels

What is an identity label? It's simply a label that you use (or that has been assigned to you) that says something about who you are. That "something" is usually a socially constructed idea or value set that society is/has enforced. For example: Being a female means the label of woman is assigned to you at birth (but you can change it!) and is held that you should care about your appearance, not be sexual and submissive. This IDEA is associated with the label itself. These ideas will probably come into your mind when you think of a woman. But, the concept of woman isn't inherent on its is created and given meaning by society.

Identity labels can be helpful in terms of them creating the ability to quickly give an overall idea of how you identify. They are typically just one or two words that give people a context to interact with you in. The problem? The context is often filled and created by stereotypes. Because of this then, we often find ourselves being judged. If your identity falls into a marginalized group, you will probably face some sort of shaming or negative assumption made about you because of your identity. You are signified as less and thus treated that way.

Often, this is when we run into prejudice and oppression. Oppression is a not necessarily outright, overt or even  meant! It happens because of how we associate ideas and values given to us by society. Our brains compartmentalize information and form conclusions very quickly to know how/when to act, but this unfortunately perpetuates false ideas. When we see a black man dressed in dark clothing walking the streets at night, we assume he is up to no good because of the images we see in the media, the ideas we are given about people and the way our brain connects these notions. Black is bad and so is dark clothing and walking the street at night is shady. We then probably will feel our bodies tense as the person walks past us, even though there is no evidence that he is trouble. We assume it from foremost his skin color, which is associated with the identity label of black. Then all of the other contexts of the situation also come into effect as well as images we see and the ideas we get from those around us. This then creates the fear that we feel.

The fear comes from how our brains are wired and it's very hard for even the most conscious person to control. That doesn't mean we can't make an effort, though! The best way to go about negating these stereotypes and false ideas is to be critical. Think about how the books you read, TV shows you watch, social media you use and the video games you play contribute to your ideas and perspectives. Notice when you are consuming these various forms of media what your ideas are and how the reflect the ideas/images in the actual media. Notice your friends attitudes and how they change yours. Think about how your school or work activities do the same. Use this critical thinking to transcend these ideas and liberate yourself from their oppressive nature. Do everything in your power to change your ideas about people and catch yourself when you are making a judgement. Use your identity labels with pride (if you so choose) and never feel like you should be treated as less because of them. Treat people the way you want to be treated and don't made assumptions when you wouldn't want others to do the same for you. Basically, treat people with the respect they deserve and be critical in your actions so that you can do so.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cause of the Week: SlutWalk

I'm sure you have probably heard about SlutWalk before... men and women marching through the streets, scantily clad, with signs and chants about how society blames victims for being raped. That sort of paints an accurate picture, but you really have to understand SlutWalk's history to fully understand the movement.

According the Wikipedia, On January 24, 2011 Constable Michael Sanguinetti spoke on crime prevention at a York University safety forum at Osgoode Hall Law School.[8][9]He said: "I've been told I'm not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized."[9] Co-founders Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis decided to use the word slut in their response.[10] They observe that historically, "slut" has had negative connotations, and that their goal is to redeem the term.[5] They write that women "are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result." 
The first SlutWalk was born; over 3,000 people came together to speak and march to the Tornoto Police Headquarters. Women dressed like "sluts" in order to send a message. The movement caught on like wildfire and there have since been SlutWalks all over the world, including New York City, England, Australia, Seattle, and Asheville. It has gotten a slew of media coverage, press and attention from feminists
I think grassroots movements like this one are key to creating social change. For centuries, we have seen oppressed groups come together to strike, march and protest. This on-the-ground-activism has played a pivotal role in bringing issues like this to the forefront. Sure, women's rights advocates and prevention specialists have talked about slut shaming before. They have written books, given speeches, held forums and conducted research. But before SlutWalk, there was never any publicized events of this nature. There were never any public displays of slut...and did there ever need to be. Since SlutWalk began a year and a half ago, I have seen major changes in the ways activists treat women's bodies. I have seen mobilization where there was none, a voice, a passion given to women of all shapes and sizes. Suddenly, sluts had a voice and it was pretty damn cool to be one. Slut was officially taken back. 

I believe that SlutWalk will ultimately play a role in beginning the conversation in society about the double standard between men and women's bodies; men can show skin, be topless and its no big deal, it's not sexual at all; but if women do the same they are dirty, inappropriate and anything but proper. People are beginning to wake up and see the body shaming that happens every day. People are beginning to see the rape and sexual violence that happens because of it. People are beginning to see the destructive nature of this notion. People are beginning to change.

So go out there and be a slut, show your skin, love your body and don't be afraid! Love yourself and dress any way you feel comfortable dressing. Empower other women around you to do the same and challenge societies ideas about appearance. Encourage them and their journey of self discovery. Be bold, be proud, be beautiful. Be Slut. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Feminism is For Everyone

Recently, I read bell hook's "Feminism is for Everyone". I had been wanting to read the book for a long time, as I read a lot of feminist theory and also am a fan of hooks herself. So, I decided I would order a copy from my local library.

I was rather excited when I first opened it up. I found myself entering a world of intellectual honesty, hard truths and bravery. The way she presents the material makes you feel like she is both your sister and wise grandmother. She speaks about feminism, race, and history from a very honest point of view. She is willing to go where many feminists are not. She is willing to talk about the mistakes feminism has made. She addresses the seemingly taboo issue of man-hating within feminism. This fact alone put a huge smile on my face! If only she realized the dialogue she was opening, the critical thinking she was facilitating. This was the kind of book that needed to be on every bookshelf.

I was so excited to read a book that had passion and insight behind it. I've read so many other books by feminists that try to dress up the issues, to try and make them somehow easier to deal with. To make the pain and suffering experienced by many less vocal. It was this sort of dishonest rhetoric that has disappointed me time and time again. This book, however has changed all of that. It has made feminist theory and literature once again beautiful to me. It has created a sustaining dialogue that encourages radical thought.

The one major critique I have of this book is its redundancy. Bell seems to repeat herself over and over again throughout. While her points are excellent, they seem to be emphasized again and again. The book itself is only about 120 pages, but with the current content could be cut down to about 70. In fact, I think cuttings its length would strengthen the book. It would make the message stronger, the convictions greater and wouldn't leave the reader lost in redundancy.

Overall, this is a great read for any feminist, or anyone that is curious about feminism. It covers everything in a short, quick read from the basics in feminist theory to history to culture. It's everything you could want in a book about feminism!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Laci Green: My Take on the Drama

I have followed a social justice blogger and sexuality YouTuber named Laci Green for years now. She has always reminded me of myself; very passionate, intelligent, funny and beautiful! I aspired to be like her!

She hosts a YouTube webshow called Sex+ that explores sexuality, body image and relationships. She has over 180K subscribers and millions of views on YouTube.  It's really inspiring to see a young woman go out and create social change!

Lately though, some shit has been going down! Laci is an active tumblr user. She posts very often and also responds to her audience. A few weeks ago, she posted some "before and after" pics of her body transformation.

2 years ago, I weighed 162 pounds.  Today I weigh 126.
I didn’t lose the weight by hating myself down to a size 4.  Not through dieting, not through crazy amounts of exercise, not through calorie counting, or purging.
I lost 35 pounds by learning to love and take care of my body.  I realized that part of loving myself is giving my body what it needs.  I changed my diet to include mostly plants, I cut out soda and fought hard against my addiction to sugary/fatty foods.  I began to see food as fuel and to use it as such.  I also made sure my body was in motion for at least 1 hour everyday, and these days I am even working on becoming physically stronger.  I knew that my old eating/exercise habits would not suit me as I began to age.  I knew that I wasn’t treating my body well.
When I truly began to love it, it took a new shape.  I loved my old shape.  I love my new shape.  I love it all because I love me! x)

The problem? She has just posted a video about fat shaming. She is equating herself with what she eats, her habits and her size. As if that is what's important. How she looks. And as if HER habits are the BEST habits.

She later posted a half-assed apology, but I don't think the concerns of the post ever really resonated with her. I definitely see where she went wrong, but I also see that she was just trying to love her body and is happy with who she is. That's great. I think the whole issue comes down to a failure to recognize her own mistakes as well as an overreaction from the tumblr crowd.

As if all this wasn't enough, she then got into it with someone else, talking about Islam. Basically, she bitches and moans about how organized religion sucks and her upbringing was filled with sexism.

Q: Sorry if you already answered this, but I came across your other channel and just watched the video where you say Mormonism is “probably one of the most sexist [religions] that I’ve come across, beside Islam.” Since you are white and have never been Muslim, could you issue an apology, or update the video with an apology in the description? I am an atheist too, but there is horrible sexism in many religions, and in secular culture as well. It’s not right to single out Islam. It’s Islamophobic.

A: You’re right, it’s not right to single out Islam. Many religions and cultures are extremely sexist and I despise them all equally. This wasn’t the intent of my statement and I apologize if it came off that way.

The video (which is kinda old and came before I learned how to be fully “PC”) is about my experience, and in my life, Islam has perpetuated more gendered violence and sexism toward the women in my life and family than mormonism ever did. Both these religions have wounded me and my loved ones deeply, much of which was on the basis of sex and gender. Just writing about this makes my heart sink. No amount of screaming “Islamophobia” will change that, and it’s actually a wonderful example of how childish and ignorant religion makes people out to be. People get so wound up in defending anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-human, piece of trash organizations that they can’t hear criticism for what it is: a human experience that is real, that is valid, that is unjust.

Yes I am white and no I am not Muslim nor have I ever been. There are certain experiences I can never speak about, such as actually being Muslim or being a person of color. I can, however, speak about my own, and to argue that I must have dark skin or have been a practicing Muslim in order for me to do so is more of the same oppressive bullshit.

I grew up in a multicultural family. My dad’s side of the family immigrated from Iran 20 years ago. My dad himself immigrated to America when he was 16. My family is Muslim on my dad’s side and Mormon on my mother’s (although my dad eventually converted to mormonism). I grew up in a climate where these two religions dominated my life in a really painful way. 

I don’t owe ANYONE explanations of why I feel the way I do. I don’t need to rehash things that have hurt me and that I’ve moved on from. My feelings and experiences are perfectly valid on their own. If you want to call it “Islamophobia”, I’ll call you ignorant. This isn’t about quantifying pain, this is about my own experience with that pain. Calling that “Islamophobia” undermines what Islamophobia really is and how it operates. I fucking hate organized religion, including Islam, and all the pouting in the world won’t change that.

OK here's the deal: she is allowed to have her own opinion about Islam and religion in general. But, where she crosses the line is in insulting and attacking someone else's beliefs. Attacking and slandering others because they belong to Islam. That is called discrimination. Which she actively speaks out against. Hmmm......

NOW she has received death threats from some haters. They sent her pictures of her apartment building, her address and threatening messages. She is in great distress and has thus left tumblr for the time being.

hey peeps,
i am going to be taking a break from tumblr.  i’m not sure how long. i have been getting a slew of people (who i can only guess are from “social justice” tumblr) telling me to kill myself, making violent threats, sending me my home address they somehow found.  my inbox this morning was graced with pictures of my apartment building. 
i honestly have no words.  
love you all.

I am outraged by this. This was taken WAYYYY to far out of context. Harassment? Threats? NOT COOL! NEVER! IDC what the other person has said or done. It never is okay to do that to them. This is really why the internet gets such a bad name and why it has done so much damage to so many. 

So while I feel the outrage towards Laci was justified, I feel the actions this group are intolerable. It really sucks that this stuff happens and we have to be aware and speak out against it.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

We Can End Sexual Violence

1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will be victims of sexual violence in their lifetime. These statistics astound me, as I question my society and am enraged by our culture. It is a culture that allows sexual violence to happen. It is a culture infused with negative ideas about sexuality. It is a culture of hate.
I want our society to wake up and acknowledge the problem that is happening. The tragedies that take place right before our eyes. For it is unjust to suggest that this is random, that it is out of our control. In fact, we have the power to end sexual violence. We have the power to stand up, speak out and use our voices. We can create social change and rise together, we can be strong. We can be advocates.