Missing the Big Picture: AR Wear and the White Supremacy

I’ve been fairly open about my criticisms of AR Wear’s crowd funding in order to design a new range of “anti-rape” underwear.  Iranted on here, wrote a sensible piece for Everyday Victim Blaming and then wrote a piece for the Huffington Post. I stand by what I wrote in all three pieces but I also missed two very important issues; two issues which fundamentally change what I should have written.

These are the two issues I missed:

  1. The Patriarchal Fuckability Test
  2. The White Supremacy
The first is rather bizarre since I write a lot about the patriarchal fuckability test. Missing the fact that the models used in the crowding funding video are all very young and thin is weird. I should have seen it but didn’t. I should have noticed the implication that only young, thin women are rape victims. I know this is a common rape myth but I didn’t notice. Maybe because I was angry at the rape myths and didn’t take the time to stop and think it through but that would be an excuse. The point is I missed it and I shouldn’t have.The second part is my white privilege. I missed the fact that this video only featured white women; that the implication isn’t just that young, thin women are more likely to be raped. It’s that white women are more likely to be raped. I missed the fact that this product erases the experiences of women of colour despite the fact that, in North America, aboriginal women are more likely to be victims of rape than white women. I missed the fact that this product isn’t just predicated on the belief that rape victims can “prevent” rape by doing what they are told. I also missed the fact that this product implies that only “good” women need protection and that these “good” women are inevitably young, thin and white.This is white privilege: that I can rant about a product and for that rant to go viral without even noticing that I have missed the existence of the white supremacy.

These are some great responses to AR Wear’s campaign that need to be read:

What the company marketing anti-rape underwear gets wrong about rape at ThinkProgress.org
“Anti-Rape wear” reinforces every rape myth you can think of at Colorlines
Twelve questions about AR Wear’s anti-rape underwear at Feministing
The chastity clothing line which creates victims at Nouse

They wrote about the issue which I missed and for that I apologise.

Well, hello there racism. Long Time, No See*

Another blond, blue-eyed child has been taken from a Roma family in order to “prove” whether or not the child has been kidnapped. This case is in Dublin and follows swiftly on the heels of a case in Greece where a blond, blue-eyed child was taken into care and the Roma couple who cared for charged with kidnapping. The similarities between both cases is obvious: it’s racism; systemic racism against the Roma people which has existed for hundreds of years. 

In the case in Greece, and ignoring the unbearable racism of some of the reporting, the couple have never claimed to be the child’s biological parents. Instead, they have been clear that they adopted the child, according to Roma customs, when the birth mother handed the child over to them. Whether or not this is true remains to be seen; unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that we will ever know the truth in this case as both the media and the Greek government have decided that the child *must* be a victim of kidnapping as there is no other reason that a white woman would hand a blond child over to non-white people. Jane Fae and RoseAnna Star have both blogged responses to the media reporting of this case, therefore I won’t go into more detail but just reinforce the issue of systemic racism in this case: would a brown-haired child adopted by a Roma family ever have been taken into care based on an assumption of kidnapping? Would the authorities, who found the child during a “raid”, even noticed that the child was adopted? If they could prove the child had been kidnapped, would there be national press about the case? The answer to all three is fairly obviously no.

The Dublin case has one major differentiation to the Greek case: the Dublin Roma family have publicly stated that they are the biological parents of the child. The reason the child was taken into custody: she is blond, blue-eyed and pale skinned. Her parents are not. Even I, who only passed grade 10 biology due to an extra credit for taking care of the class gerbils, knows that genetically it is perfectly possible for two parents with brown hair and brown eyes to produce a child who looks nothing like them. Hell, stand in a school playground and try to guess which kids belong to each parent. You may get a couple right away and you might be able to match siblings but it would be very difficult to match every single child to a biological parent.

The only reason anyone would doubt the parentage of a blue-eyed, blond haired Roma child is racism. The racism faced by Romas is constant and it has not decreased since the Nazis exterminated nearly 25% of Europe’s Roma population. Roma still face discrimination in housing, healthcare, employment and schooling. Myths of Roma’s as thieves and kidnappers never stop. 

Removing a child from the custody of their biological parents when there is no evidence of abuse and based entirely on skin colour is racism. 

It really is that simple.

*And just in case there are any misunderstandings: the title is meant sarcastically. 

UPDATE: The child has been returned to her parents in Dublin after DNA tests proved they were the child’s biological parent. According to the BBC article linked, a two year old had been removed from his Roma parents for the same reason in County Westmeath. 

The Irish government and the local police forces have some very serious questions to answer about institutional racism and their child protection policies. I hope both families sue.

Victoria Secrets’ Annual Demonstration of Misogyny: This Time With a Side of Racism

Victoria Secret’s annual Fashion Show is testimony to the mainstreaming of the pornification of women’s bodies. It represents everything which is wrong in the Patriarchy rendering women not only into objects for men to wank over but commodifying their bodies with the woman given the honour of wearing a $2.5 million dollar diamond studded bra considered The Ultimate Woman. It isn’t so much a fashion show as a live action soft porn show with titillating photos of the models leaked online prior to the broadcast. I won’t link any here but the images are the same poses as found in Playboy or any other mainstream soft porn magazine. Victoria Secret’s trades on an image of respectability despite the fact that it uses the same techniques as porn to entice men. They reinforce rape culture by parading women in their underwear for male audiences. They are not selling underwear to women but the image of fuckable women to men who then by the underwear for their partners who can not be expected to look like the models who routinely go on crash diets involving only liquids in the run-up to the show so they don’t look “fat”. It normalises the Patriarchal Fuckability Test on women who have no hope of passing it.

The women-hating and exploitation of Victoria Secret’s has become so common place that I don’t even notice them anymore but this year they added racism to their bow. One of the themes of the production this year was the calendar and November was represented by a white model wearing a fairly racist signifier of “Indian”. The use of a Plains Indian Warbonnett as a signifier for all Native Americans, First Nations, Metis and Inuit people is racist because it is reductive. You can not reduce huge, disparate cultures down to one item which was worn by men who had earned the honour and pretend it isn’t anything but culturally insensitive. The cultural appropriation of such item on the objectified body of a white woman is doubly insensitive.

It really isn’t that hard to take ten minutes and think about cultural appropriation. It isn’t that hard to think about the links of a nearly naked white woman dressed in cultural signifiers of ‘Indians’ when Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than any other group of women in the US. The majority of the perpetrators of this sexual violence are non-Native men. Yet, the representation of white women dressed in outfits sexualising a construction of Native Americans derived from racist discourse in ‘Cowboy and Indian’ films has become a trope in our visual culture, one which has been repeated multiple time in the last couple of months. Lana Del Ray’s latest video is possibly the most offensive of the recent insurgence in cultural appropriation; interestingly she seems to have received far less backlash than No Doubt or Victoria Secrets. Whilst I don’t think No Doubt’s apology is a proper apology what with the whole we have non-white friends trope being called up, they at least seem to understand that they have caused offence. Neither Del Ray nor Victoria Secret’s appears to have understood at all. No Doubt pulled the video within days of the complaints arising. It seems unbelievably arrogant for Victoria Secrets not to take 10 minutes to rethink the outfit a week later.

And, FFS, using a cultural signifier for ‘Indian’ in the month of year where the major American holiday is a celebration of their genocide seems, I don’t know, really fucking stupid. 

How to tell if you’re racist:

If you agree with this arsehole, then you’re probably a racist. I say probably only insofar as it’s equally possible you’re just really, really stupid. Tom Brodbeck, of the Winnipeg Sun, has written quite possibly one of the most ridiculous examples of white privilege I’ve come across in a while. Basically, he’s arguing that it’s racist for the Manitoba government to focus on the violence experienced by Aboriginal women and develop specific strategies to help these women, despite the fact that they are more likely to experience VAW or be murdered by their partners than non-Aboriginal women. Apparently, developing any strategies which are specifically targeted at one group of incredibly vulnerable women is “racist”. 

This is what he actually says about the fact that Aboriginal women are three times more likely to experience violence, in any form, that non-First Nations, Metis and Inuit

But what should any of that matter when it comes to finding more effective policing and public policy strategies to combat the problem of missing and murdered women?
Should police agencies treat missing and murdered aboriginal women differently than women from other ethnicities?

It’s pretty fucking obvious that the police already treat missing and murdered Aboriginal women differently than they do missing or murdered white women. After all, does anyone really believe that Robert Pickton would have managed to kill as many women as he did if his victims weren’t vulnerable Aboriginal women trapped in prostitution? I don’t. 

Thing is, Brodbeck clearly doesn’t give a shit about Aboriginal women. No one who cares about the racism and misogyny experienced by Aboriginal women would be so arrogant as to say this:

Singling out missing and murdered aboriginal women is racist, plain and simple. We shouldn’t judge, treat, or deal with people based on their ethnicity.

Nor would they be so arrogant as to quote the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as if it was applied equally to all citizens and residents of Canada. This is just another example of white male privilege trying to minimise and isolate women to prevent us rising up as a class to Smash the Patriarchy. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is just a piece of paper. It is only as good as its enforcement and, frankly, Canada’s history of enforcing this legislation is shameful.

We will never be able to Smash the Patriarchy without acknowledging the way it uses racism, homophobia, disabilism and misogyny to isolate women. Acknowledging that Aboriginal women are more likely to be victims of Violence Against Women isn’t racist. It’s stating the fucking obvious.

We’re a Culture Not a Costume:

I love Halloween. It is my favourite holiday ever. When I was a child, Halloween was about making the most original costume possible. Witches, skeletons and cats were dull. I have been a ladybug, a broken heart, a cabbage patch kid and a punk rocker; my mother being far more artistic than me. Unfortunately, the push to be creative at Halloween involved costumes based entirely on offensive and racist stereotypes. I frequently find myself with clenched teeth handing out candy to small children dressed as “Indians” wondering why their parents thought it was a good idea to dress their child up as a racist stereotype.

Last year, a group of students from Ohio University’s Students Teaching about Racism started a campaign called “We’re a culture, not a costume’ on this issue. These are some of the brilliant posters from this years campaign whose tagline is “You wear the costume for one night. I wear the stigma for life”. For me, this is a feminist issue. The Patriarchy requires racism as much as it requires misogyny to keep functioning. We can not destroy the Patriarchy whilst this type of racism remains socially acceptable.

Caitlin Moran: Excluding WofC isn’t Feminism

I have long been uncomfortable with the construction of Caitlin Moran as Britain’s Number One Feminist for a while now; especially after her dismissal of beauty practises and housework as feminist issues. Whilst I agree with this sentiment:

 ‘What? You don’t want to vote? Do you want to be owned by your husband? Do you want your money from your job to go into his bank account? If you were raped, do you still want that to be a crime? Congratulations: you are a feminist.’ 

It’s not enough to just proclaim oneself a feminist. You actually have to live as a feminist and, yes, it is hard to live as a feminist in a society which punishes women for critiquing Patriarchal structures. None of us are perfect and we all fail from time to time. We live in a Patriarchal society which is inherently racist, homophobic, disablist and misogynist. We have all internalised these structures since birth. We can strive to live outwith the endemic violence against The Other but sometimes, a lot of the time, we need to be pulled up on a thought or an action which causes pain to others. Part of being an adult with critical thinking skills is to not get defensive when someone calls us on our privilege; no matter how difficult or humiliating it is. 

The problem with Moran’s construction of Feminism is that it is of the “I’m alright so the rest of you must be moaning about shit because you’re whiny” school. She has no self-reflection and seems incapable of seeing outwith her privilege. It involves victim-blaming as much as it involves a construction of Moran’s feminism being the only feminism. 

Many of us watch American television. We all know that racism is endemic within it [and British TV for that matter]. We all know that shows like Friends are racist because of the total failure to include any PofC. The fact that mainstream culture is so steeped in racism that a program based in New York, like Sex and the City, manages to be completely “white” without any real criticism is the problem. It’s one of the reasons that Law & Order was so different from other TV programs: it had African-American characters within the police and judiciary as permanent cast members. Yes, it got stuck in serious racial stereotyping in many other ways but it was a start. This is why Lena Dunham’s Girls is such a disappointment. You simply can not have a cast which is all “white” and pretend they live in New York city. It’s unbelievably stupid and racist. But, for Caitlin Moran to dismiss the concerns of others by stating that she “literally couldn’t give a shit” about the representation of PofC in TV; well, that’s just taking the piss. And, it isn’t Feminism. It will never be Feminism.

Feminism is the political theory which is concerned with the liberation of ALL women from male violence; not just ones who happen to be white.

Pimp my Whatever is Vile Misogynistic Twaddle

I can not express just how much I hate this expression. I genuinely can not believe that people blither on about “Pimp my ride” and don’t get just how offensive it is. The origins of the term “pimp” are obvious. It originates in patriarchal-capitalist discourse. The term refers to the prostituting and sexual abuse of women’s bodies. Pimps make money from the rape and abuse of vulnerable women.

I don’t buy into this theory that we can reclaim the words of our oppressors. The meaning of pimp is the practise of rape. The increasing use of the verb “pimping” to mean promote or decorate an item is beyond disrespectful to the women’s whose bodies have been abused, tortured and raped because of pimps. Language has power. The word pimp is misogynistic. It should not and can not be used in a “positive” manner. The excuse of “evolving” language should not apply to words whose origins are in racist, disablist, homophobic or misogynistic language. The women and children whose bodies and souls have been harmed by prostitution deserve better than to hear their experiences obscured by minimising language.

Dear Dunfermline Abbey: Racism isn’t the best way to advertise

So, this has nothing to do with feminism or women. But, it fucked me off as a historian. It’s racist, ahistorical and just all kinds of stupid.

Dunfermline Abbey, in it’s official, tourist description says this:

Having only around 200 hundred years of history of their own, Americans and Australians find it particularly hard to grasp that just by going through the door of the Church into the Nave, they are travelling back from 1818 when the new Church was begun to 1072 when Queen Margaret`s Church was begun.

And, yes, I had to read that at least three times to understand that which ever tool wrote that blurb and the other nincompoops who approved it don’t believe that North America or Australia have a history more than 200 years old. Even if you were so unbelievably stupid and you went with the White Supremacists version of history, white people have been running about the North American continent continuously since the 1490’s. Hell, the first public school opened in Boston in 1635 which is just slightly more than 200 years old. There is even evidence of a Norse settlement in L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland Canada which dates to about 1000 A.D. But, that’s only if you’re a white supremacist and stupid.

Those of us that aren’t clinically stupid may have heard of these people called the Indigenous Americans, the Inuit, Inuvialuit and numerous First Nations people who have definitely been strolling about North America for roughly 10 000 years. Australia too, funnily enough, was inhabited by non-white people for a rather longer period of time than white people have been there. I don’t know who wrote that blurb but they shouldn’t be allowed to write such racist shite. It’s embarrassing , arrogant and unrelentingly stupid. FFS, a semi-literate 6 year old with access to google could tell them they were wrong. How a group of adults got together and decided that was okay to print boggles my mind.

Not to mention, the whole insulting your customers isn’t the best way to encourage business. But, mostly, I’m pissed about the racism. And, before I get any white supremacist apologists leaving stupid comments, erasing the very real history and culture of First Nations is racism.
UPDATE: Dunfermline Abbey seems to have changed the link. Here is a link to the original post:
The full text is here:The tomb of King Robert the Bruce with many other royal and historical associations attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year. The Abbey Shop has a fine selection of Scottish visitor collectables.Each year approximately 30,000 to 35,000 visitors make their way into the Abbey Church and there are a variety of reasons why they do so.

Some visitors come to ask about the history of the Church and its connection with St Margaret, some are keen to know about Robert the Bruce or one of the other seven Kings of Scotland who are buried in the Abbey.

Having only around 200 hundred years of history of their own, Americans and Australians find it particularly hard to grasp that just by going through the door of the Church into the Nave, they are travelling back from 1818 when the new Church was begun to 1072 when Queen Margaret`s Church was begun.

Visitors who are especially interested in stained glass also come to admire the magnificent windows, each by a different artist and from different dates. Each window has a story or a little secret hidden in it, remember to look for the tiny Bruce spider and try to find the Crown of Scotland hidden in a half open cupboard. Should you come to look at them remember to bring binoculars and you will be amazed at what you see.

The pulpit is a wonderful example of the craftsman`s art and it is much admired. Visitors marvel at the story that it tells and the quality of the workmanship. It is hard to believe that it cost £270 in 1889. Every once in a while a visitor can be found wandering around it looking longingly up – we can now tell when a visitor is a Minister nine times out of ten.

Occasionally, the interest is in the graveyard helping someone to look for a member of their family and it is wonderful when they are successful in locating a headstone or a plaque in the memorial chapel to someone they know. In 2008 visitors contributed to our Church the sum of £4,500 via the donation boxes and this is excluding the money they spend in the shop.

We always try to give our visitors a warm welcome to the Abbey Church and regularly the same people return and bring their families with them, even from as far as Australia.


The original wording is still listed here: http://www.exploringscotland.co.uk/printer_friendly.php?id=3685

Black History Month

February is Black History Month in North America so I thought I would read books written by women who identify politically as Black; although not necessarily American. I’ve lined up Harriet Jacobs slave narrative, Patricia Hill Collin’s From Black Power to Hip Hop, Jennifer Hayashi Danns with Sandrine Leveque’s Stripped, Sapphire’s The Kid, Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I’m looking for more recommendations of Black women writers in time for Black History Month in the UK in October.#readingonlybookswrittenbywomen