Feminism & Politics

Failing words

I haven’t had the words to address the past couple of weeks and all the insane shit going on in our world right now. I still don’t have the words. I don’t feel that I can add anything to the conversation that would be helpful or comforting or productive. But I also don’t want to be can’t be silent.

The tension surrounding police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement has pierced through to everyone’s hearts. It is on all of our minds. Finally. White people have not had to face these things head on. We still aren’t, but finally this is something no one can ignore right now. It is coming up in my conversations at work, with friends, on social media – everywhere. People who might not normally think about these issues because of their privilege are thinking about these issues.

I honestly don’t know what to say. It’s odd, because if you meet me in real life, it becomes clear early on that I am not shy about talking politics. I am passionate about equality and I don’t try and hide it.

But for some reason, I don’t talk about it much on the blog. Sometimes it feels like work – I was a Sociology graduate student and talking about these issues was my job for a long time. It also is exhausting. Where do I even start? Do I do a post on what feminism is compared to what people think it is? Do I do a post about how reverse racism isn’t a thing? Then it feels weird to act like an authority on these topics or something, when I’m not… So I end up talking about how guilty I feel sometimes, and try to make sense of things through documentaries and helpful articles…. it helps sharing, but it all feels…inadequate.

But. I can’t be silent, and I have to use whatever voice I have to speak my mind. I can’t keep hearing people say “All Lives Matter” and feel like I am just sitting here, in my privileged life, appalled at the state of things, and not say anything – even if it is inadequate.

Bottom line – this is not acceptable. We cannot, as the privileged group in power, see these terrifying things, see our fellow citizens treated this way, hear them cry out in pain, and act like everything is okay. We can’t ignore statistics, we can’t ignore the stories and painful words of our neighbors in such pain and torment – we can’t support whatever systems are in place causing this pain. We have to listen. We have to look at each other and think of what we can do to help. This feels like the 60s – all of these clearly unfair and horrendous things happening in our cities, and white people are doing nothing. Much worse, some white people are saying, “Why do we need to focus on only that?”

I don’t know. My words are failing. They come out and just fall on the ground, just pathetic attempts to do – anything. I feel hopeless. But I don’t feel a fraction of the hopelessness others in this country feel.

I want to turn off the news. I want to not think about it for a while. But that is my privilege, right there.

I am going to share some things I have said and shared online as things were unfolding, in case they are helpful, or in case they speak better to what I wish I could communicate than what I can put in writing now.

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The status below came up in my “memories” on Facebook – nothing has changed. Or have things gotten worse?

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The beginning quote is from this powerful article, “I, Racist”.

One of my friend’s awesome commentary:

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A comic in the comments that was also perfect:

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Why white people freak out when they’re called out about race.

 

This clip of good people gives me a glimmer of hope.

 

 

 

And finally, why reverse racism is not a thing. I seem to be explaining that a lot lately, and this video sums it up way better than I can:

 

 

 

 

I hope desperately that we can all learn – quickly – to lead with love and listen first.

 

<3

 

 

Master of None – most recently devoured Netflix series

This past week has been tough – it is disheartening to read everything in the news right now. Things can look so bleak, and people can be so unkind. Sometimes I can get overwhelmed by the lack of change and how ignorant and awful our society can be. But certain things give me hope. Hope that we can one day be a society that is less xenophobic. That maybe we can have more enlightened conversations in the mainstream media.

In grad school, I studied media and the messages it sends to us about society – messages about gender, race, and class. I also have a love for TV, so I get so happy when I find a show that breaks the mold and tries something new – like sending messages about equality and changing the narrative. I love supporting these shows too, and seeing what they are doing and the conversations they are starting – shows like How to Get Away with Murder, Scandal, and Empire, for example. They give me the drama I love, but add a twist with strong, badass women of color as leaders who are complex, relatable individuals – something that is rare in popular media.

Aaaaanyywwaaaayyy, this leads me finally to Master of None. I don’t have cable, so I rely on Netflix to try and catch up on months-old episodes of prime time TV. Thankfully, they have their own shows now that I can binge on all at once (in this case, it only took me and Anthony a Saturday night to watch the whole thing since we were sick at home). Usually Netflix originals are good, and I like Aziz Ansari so we tried it out.

I now love Aziz Ansari.

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This show has a Louie feel (Louis CK’s show), but it’s much less dark and is just so good at understanding millenials so precisely, while presenting social issues in a simultaneously well-educated and funny way. Aziz is the main character, a single actor with late 20s/early 30s problems like deciding whether he wants to settle down and have kids, how to deal with a serious relationship, and seeing his parents in a different light.

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The great thing about this show is that it isn’t just a comedy with a cute and relatable person that we follow through the growing pains of a young life – it changes the narrative. For example, instead of having the typical group conversation at a bar with members of the opposite sex about gender stereotypes (“Women, you know? Always so misleading and dramatic!” *high fives* “Oh yeah? Well men just think with their penis and have no emotional capabilities!” *banter ensues*), this show has a conversation about the commonplace harassment of women over beers, with a supportive and thoughtful dialogue.

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They hit a ton of amazing and thoughtful topics in the first season – immigrant parents and how different their lives are from their children, aging and relating to the elderly, sexism, racism… I mean, it’s a sociologist’s dream. There might be room for improvement (like always) but this show really blew me away. I was so impressed how well they handled these sensitive topics and made it look easy – and everything was still funny and interesting as hell.

I want mainstream media to take notes – you can be funny, and not a downer, and successful and hip, and talk about these issues appropriately while using a diverse set of characters. See?! No excuses.

 

Have you seen it? What did you think? What is your favorite show right now?

 

 

White Guilt

 

I was in college, in a multicultural psychology class when I almost started crying in front of everyone when my professor pushed me to elaborate. After stuttering out some confused emotions, she said “What you are feeling is white guilt.”

*Sniff* “Ya.”

Just a few weeks later, I fought with a white male engineer friend about whether he should be able to say the n word without a backlash. He was convinced that it was “just a word” and he shouldn’t be penalized for using it. Not that he was throwing it around everywhere he went, but it’s not a huge deal anymore. Black people use it. It’s just a word. It’s not like he’s racist or anything.

When I made a comment just a year or so ago about how expensive Disneyland has become, one person said “Well, I think that’s how they keep the riff-raff out.”

(Note: who says riff-raff. Seriously.)

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I can think of other moments where I encountered these racist comments and opinions among my mainly all white groups of friends that I have had throughout the years. These moments are notable because I rarely need to think about race, and my white friends and colleagues hardly talk about it. That’s white privilege. I choose when to think about this toxic part of our world that is sewn into every aspect of our society. I’m not forced to think about it daily and deal with rage and injustice and feeling less than human.

I still encounter these moments, where someone says something so offensive, but in such a casual way that you think they must not know what they’re saying. You thought you knew where they stood- they’ve made comments to you about LGBT rights or global warming. You saw them as someone you relate to. And yet, they start a completely offensive story with “I’m not racist, but…”

When the Baltimore riots were happening, I heard a lot from the people around me about what they thought the rioters should be doing instead. Or what the people who were enraged about young black men and women being murdered on a regular basis by our justice system should do about their feelings. A lot of opinions on what “they” should do. How they should act and react. What about white people? What are we doing about it? It’s not someone else’s problem.

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I have always lived along the coast of California (my life is hard) and I am used to a liberal political landscape. But I have realized that in these all-white towns, liberalism only goes so far. “I voted for Obama, but seriously this neighborhood is starting to feel sketchy now that there are all these weird markets and mexican food places around.” I run into that type of crap way too often. And I might be wrong, but this kind of passive racism seems more dangerous than the overt, uneducated, hateful and obviously-wrong-to-everyone racism we see from time to time.

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The white people in my town see confederate flags or swastikas and shake their heads. “How can people be so dumb?” They are not racist, because they had a black friend once. They voted for Obama. But then they don’t see police shooting black Americans as their problem – and also, poor cops, right? They are getting such a bad rap with this stuff.

What makes me different? Nothing. What makes me not racist? What makes me not part of the problem, but part of the solution? That’s what I am trying to figure out.

I have wanted to be an ally for minorities for a long time, but never knew how. I post articles that shock me on Facebook, because maybe they will shock others as well, and help spread awareness. I try to stay informed. I have the privilege to have these horrifying truths never cross my path if I wanted to avoid them. So I try to spread the word to others who might never hear the news otherwise.

I find it easy to discuss sexism and homophobia with the people I encounter. I find it easy to find people who feel the same about LGBT rights in my community. Feminists are a little less common, but I have learned how to call people out and bring up sexism relatively easily. I am comfortable defending feminism, even if it makes people feel uncomfortable. I feel like a terrible person when I say that I can’t discuss racism with the same ease. I am adamantly anti-racist and want to be an ally for minority groups in our country who still cannot find basic justices after hundreds of years of horrifying oppression. But I hear someone say something racist and…

I freeze.

“I’m not racist, but…”

After I leave that encounter I think of a thousand things I should have said.

“I’m going to stop you there, because whatever you are going to say after that disclaimer is probably awful.”

“Wait – I bet you $50 what you are about to say is actually racist. Sorry to interrupt, I just really like gambling.”

“No no no no no no no” *runs away*

…See? Not very good at it, even after analyzing it after the moment has past. I just want to do something different than go silent and look like a deer in the headlights. And then everyone keeps talking like nothing awful just happened. We shouldn’t be okay with this.

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Two things happened recently that really made me feel like I needed to start examining this more closely – with the people around me and in my own patterns.

1. Gay marriage was declared legal in all 50 states.

2. Someone started an awful story with “I’m not racist, but…” (again.)

I was thrilled when I heard about the supreme court decision. But it was bittersweet. No one should have to live with injustice, no matter how short or long the duration – but it was sad to me that LGBT individuals saw so much progress, while the state of race relations in our country is archaic to say the least. I celebrated, don’t get me wrong. LGBT rights are still not even close to fully realized, and so many groups worked so hard and waited for so long to see this kind of progress.

I just wish I could celebrate something like that for racial minorities in this country.

But every time I listen to the news or look online, I am disgusted at how little we have achieved. So I am trying to figure out what I can do. I don’t want to be a part of the problem. I don’t want to live in blissful ignorance because of my privilege.

I don’t want to be part of the problem. I want to help.

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What do you think white people can do to become allies and try to make positive change? If you are an ally, do you have any experiences to share?

I do have some articles that I have found super helpful when learning more about my white privilege and race in the US and some things that have been in the news lately. Check them out if you want to learn more:

What’s wrong with cultural appropriation?

The video of Sandra Bland’s arrest before her suspicious death

A story of injustice and prison

7 ways our justice system is racially skewed

When to take a stand – and when to let it go

I, Racist

Understanding white privilege 

 

 

 

*Click on images for source*

 

 

 

 

The Place I Live In

Hello all you lovely people.

Emily and I have been pretty busy lately. It’s so annoying when life keeps us away from our favorite people – our faceless and nameless readers who we imagine laugh at all of our jokes and who never criticize us.

I wanted to share some stuff that’s been on my mind… namely how messed up things are. And I don’t want to depress anyone, but if you’re looking for some interesting ways to get some more information about the current state of things, I was hoping to give you a good start.

As many of you may know, I got my master’s in sociology and have never stopped being interested in the inequality in this country in all of its forms. The outrageous things happening in Ferguson have been weighing on my mind, as well as the current efforts to make colleges a safer place for women and the gruesome story of a MMA fighter beating his girlfriend.

I have just been hungry to understand more about what I am hearing and seeing on the news and try to connect to it and empathize… If you are looking for context, or some answers on how things became this way… I would recommend these articles and documentaries:

The House I Live In

Anthony and I watched this on Netflix last night. It shook us both and explained the state of race and drug laws in this country in such a compelling way. It summarizes the history of race relations and economics in the US, and really communicates the context of being an African American today. It was a great refresher for me as far as the socioeconomic research goes, and also a great reminder for me as a white person living in the US – that I do not live in the same country as my minority neighbors and friends.

Here is an amazing article that a friend posted on Facebook that almost made me cry. It helps to try and put yourself in the shoes of a young black man in this country – even though it is impossible to even grasp the kind of effect that can have on one’s entire psyche and life path.

Miss Representation

This is one of my favorite topics – how women are represented in the media. It is completely fascinating and infuriating to me, and this documentary sums it up very well. These images have widespread and dangerous implications. The story of MMA fighter I mentioned above, for example, just chills me to the bone. Anthony was the one who told me about it and he said he read his Twitter feed (Anthony loves torturing himself like that) and it was insane. We decided that this guy literally had a disease of just extreme stereotypes of masculinity.

I also read this article of a trans girl, Rachel Pepe, who has enough to deal with – but now her school is saying that they are not okay with who she wants to be and has a right to make her life hell. She is only 13. What a brave person to be able to declare who you are despite the fallout. I hope that as she grows up the world gets it together regarding transgender rights.

How I Stay Informed

It can be overwhelming to try and keep up with all that’s happening here and around the world. Local news, US news, world news…how do you keep up with it all?

If you are interested, I find it super helpful to listen to the news during my commute. It makes the drive go by fast and I feel pretty caught up on things. I listen to NPR, but of course you can find a podcast that is geared more to what you are interested in.

I also follow pages like Feministing and Sociological Images on Facebook and Pinterest to stay in the loop with my particular passions.

Check out my Pinterest board for some fun/inspiring/enraging feminist pins to cheer you up…

Here are some of my favorites:

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What is weighing on your mind lately in the news? What is inspiring you? I could use some mood lifting, so please share if you have stories of hope!

<3

 

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