Yesterday I watched the live video feed of a Global Health working session at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. (The press can’t attend the actual working sessions, so we had to sit and watch from the press room.) A bit of background – at the CGI Annual Meetings, government, corporate, and NGO leaders get together to discuss major world issues and figure out ways to tackle them. Each day they break out into working sessions, each one devoted to one of this year’s four focus areas: Poverty Alleviation, Energy and Climate Change, Education, and Global Health. This particular Global Health working session was entitled “Healthy Transitions for Adolescent Girls,” which immediately jumped out at me as a topic of great interest, both personally and for folks at Feministe.
Archive for the 'sexism' Category
In today’s news: the House of Representative held a hearing titled “From Imus to Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and Degrading Images.”
I love hip-hop, yet I see the flaws in some of the music and culture, especially the corporately approved and pushed brand of hip-hop music and culture that dominates the scene. As a queer woman of color, there’s plenty of times when I’m nodding my head or dancing to a good beat only to find myself cringing at some sexist or homophobic lyrics.
But singling out hip-hop for scolding like this in a congressional hearing? Ridiculous. First off, while some hip-hop artists might be particularly direct in voicing their sexism and homophobia through their lyrics, hip-hop is certainly not the only offender when it comes to such things. Pop culture and entertainment is riddled with sexism, homophobia, transphobia and racism. Maybe it’s not as blatant as “the ‘B,’ ‘H’ and ‘N’ words,” as the AP article lists them, but it’s most certainly there. I don’t think I could watch TV for half an hour without seeing at least a few instances of such things, and I don’t think that subtlety or, say, being packaged as cheesy, harmless sitcom jokes makes oppressive imagery any less harmful or negative. Gentler, kinder isms are still isms, and may perhaps do more harm than the blatant stuff because, for most people, it’s totally acceptable, nothing to bat an eye at. Hip-hop though? Apparently a whole congressional session is needed to talk about dynamics that play out in every facet of American culture, just dished out by less convenient whipping boys.
Also – doesn’t Congress have anything better to do than wring their hands over hip-hop? If they’re so concerned about sexism and racism and violence, why are they worrying over symptoms instead of trying to deal with root causes and systemic injustice? Actually, it’s rather shrewd of them to make a big show over things like this while allowing the factors contributing to these larger, systemic problems to continue unhindered. As rapper and producer Levell Crump said during the hearings, “change the situation in [his] neighborhood and maybe [he'll] get better … If by some stroke of the pen hip-hop was silenced, the issues would still be present in our communities.”
Then there’s the title of and inspiration for the hearing. From the article:
”From Imus to Industry: The business of stereotypes and degrading images” was the title of the hearing, referring to former radio host Don Imus, who lost his job after making derogatory comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. The Imus incident has sparked debate within the music industry about black artists using offensive, misogynist and violent language.
This is what’s pissed me off about much of the reaction to the Imus incident. Virulent white asshole says something sexist and racist, and … Black artists come under fire? Folks start hollering for the banning of the n-word in Black communities? What is this, some twisted version of that anti-drugs commercial from the 80s, but this time with white folks saying “I learned it by watching you on BET!” when they spout the same racist and sexist bullshit that white people themselves came up with in the first place? PLEASE. This reminded me of an excellent Democracy Now! interview with Michael Eric Dyson that aired during the Imus brouhaha, during which he was asked to respond to the NAACP’s funeral for the n-word:
I think that there are many more issues that the NAACP should be focused on: structural inequality, social injustice, this war in Iraq, the imperial presidency, which has subverted the democracy of the country… I don’t think Don Imus can blame hip-hop for his problems. First of all, the demonization of black women is much older than Snoop Dogg. This is a history in America that is racist, that sees black women as oversexed, because they had to deal with the oversexed organs of their black men.
Word. It’s just incredibly frustrating to watch Congress spending time on something like this when white culture and the white power structure is riddled with prejudice and discrimination that has done and continues to do far more material damage than hip-hop ever could.
So, I have to admit – I was a little nervous when posting about street harassment the other day. I was really eager to open up the conversation, especially because it was focused on a queer/gender non-conforming/trans experience and perspective that I’m not used to hearing. But I was also worried about certain dynamics that tend to surface during these conversations, namely dynamics of race and class.
While women and other gender underprivileged folks of all races, ethnicities, and classes can and often do experience street harassment, the voices that I usually hear in these discussions are most often of women with either race or class privilege. This is not unique to conversations about street harassment: most larger conversations are dominated by the voices with the most privilege. In conversations about street harassment, though, this has an interesting and profound effect, as you’ll often have some very complex and conflicting power dynamics going on: men exerting their gender privilege and sexism over women who have class and/or race privilege over them.
Yesterday morning I listened to a segment on the Brian Lehrer show about street harassment (cat-calling) in NYC. Lehrer interviewed three women: Latosha Belton and Ashley Lewis, two Brooklyn teenagers who worked with Girls for Gender Equity to create “Sisters in Strength Strikes Back: Our Struggle with Street Harassment,” a city-wide summit this past May; and Maggie Hadleigh-West, maker of the anti-street-harassment film War Zone.
The three women talked about their extensive experiences with street harassment directed at them from men of all ages. Ashley Lewis described how she feels like her new way of responding to street harassers is better than staying silent:
The approach I’m taking now, I feel like it’s better ’cause I’ll ask a man something, “Do you really think it’s appropriate to come at me in the street?” And they’re so taken aback by the question that they’re stunned, they don’t know what to say. So instead of answering it, they kind of walk away from me, so it kind of helps.
Hearing that, I couldn’t help worry that the girls would encounter some men who would do far more and far worse than run away. Continue reading ‘Gender/queerness and street harassment’
Planned Parenthood has launched a campaign around the Florida rape survivor who was arrested and subsequently denied emergency contraception after going to the police. Take a moment to go to the PP page and voice your outrage to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. (Thanks to Jessica at Feministing for the heads up.)
That’s precisely what happened to a young woman in Tampa, Florida. After reporting her rape to the Tampa police, she was arrested and kept in jail for two nights after the police ran a background check and found a four year old warrant on her record. This article from the Tampa Tribune describes how this incident brought together so many deeply disturbing things: a callous and sexist disregard for the needs and rights of a rape victim; an inherently flawed criminal justice system; and, on top of it all, how the so-called “right” of medical practitioners to impose their religious beliefs on their patients has seriously jeopardized this woman’s physical, emotional and mental well-being.
The woman’s mother sums it up well:
“You’ve got to make sure you throw somebody in jail on a four-year-old felony warrant after they’ve been brutally raped?” the mother said. “It was a failure to take the actual dynamics into play.”
And as if the arrest alone wasn’t infuriating enough:
Adding to the mother’s ire is her claim that a jail nurse prevented her daughter from taking a second dose of emergency contraception prescribed by a nurse at a clinic as part of a rape examination. The jail nurse, said the mother and the victim’s attorney, denied the medication for religious reasons.
The article describes a police department policy that advises against arresting victims of violent crimes on outstanding warrants, stating that “the severity of the injury suffered by the victim compared to the seriousness of the crime specified in the warrant.” However, this policy only explicitly names misdemeanor warrants, not felonies.
“It’s rare in police work that someone isn’t arrested on a felony warrant, but you always want to have compassion for a victim,” police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said Monday. “This may be a case where we need to revise our policy.”
No, really? Brilliant that this conclusion is reached after this woman is jailed, denied emergency contraception, and basically put through hell – all as a result of reporting the violence committed against her. As the article points out, this sort of thing only adds to obstacles that frequently prevent women from reporting when they’ve been raped.
Bonnie Bucqueroux, a victims’ advocate and coordinator of the Victims and the Media Program at the Michigan State University School of Journalism, said the handling of the situation could have “a chilling effect” on this case and others.
“This is one of those cases where they made the wrong call,” she said. “Spending two days in jail … certainly adds to the trauma she endured. … Why would victims who had any concerns about any dealings in their past come forward?”
Edited to add: In her post on this incident, Jill from Feministe cites this statistic: forty percent of rape survivors in Connecticut, for example, aren’t offered EC in emergency rooms – in both secular and religiously affiliated hospitals. Unbelievable.