“Science” in Right Wing Media

Oh, the National Post, are you even putting any effort into your bullshit?

Last month an article was printed in the “Health” section stating that men had to hang out with other men twice a week, and do “guys things” like drink beer and play team sports, in order to stay healthy. While immediately upon starting the article there is already much to question (I am a woman and I love beer and team sports… would the presence of my vagina at these events negatively affect men’s health? Or, even more obvious, are you REALLY saying that men who don’t like sports or who have a lot of women friends will be less healthy than guys who revolve their lives around trying to be the perfect (socially-constructed) image of masculinity? Or, wait, isn’t this just re-wording a more widely-accepted and reasonable belief that humans benefit from social interaction and physical activity, only with a ridiculous gender-bias?), it was the last paragraph that was the most surprising. Though the author of the article started with stating the oh-so-impressive academic qualifications of the (male) psychologist who came out with this backwards study, she ends with the oh-so-much-more-vital information that Guinness commissioned it.

While I wish I could say that everyone reading the article immediately realized the stupidity of it all because of this fact, too many people made the comment about how “cute” this is, and how “true” etc. Really, people? If you are not able to read through ridiculous gender-stereotyping and if you are not aware that there are “scientific” studies to “prove” virtually anything you want to prove, at least realize that if a corporation funds a study (and they most often do), they want to push something on you – in this case an image of masculinity that involves buying their product. This explains is why this article reads like a “scientific” version of a ridiculous beer commercial.

I was surprised that the author included this information at all, seeing as she was not being the least bit critical of the study, but was rather trying to promote it. I guess it shows the power of “science” when the author herself doesn’t catch on to the fact that she just discredited her entire piece.

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It’s not ‘slut-shaming’ to say ‘thank you MIA for keeping your clothes on’ at the CoronaFest 2013.

I went into this music festival not knowing what to expect. My experience as a woman living in Mexico City has been very specific: I love the Mexican friends I have made, and strangers are always so polite and kind to the poor foreigner who always needs help, BUT, I also know that if I leave the house without my male partner it will be a trial that I am not always up to facing. Men yell out of public transportation, from across parks, from cars, from construction sites, and from right beside me they try to start conversations or do a kiss noise. If I have a night out planned, I know I need to take a taxi from outside my door, because I cannot walk far in jeans and high heels without facing attention that basically tells me, “you clearly want to be approached, since you are dressed like that.” And by “dressed like that” I mean in anything that isn’t ‘masculine’ or dirty or baggy or torn. Honestly. It tells me this because when I go out dressed like so, men don’t even give me a glance; but add red lipstick to the equation, oh, I must be looking for a man.

Being a woman at a concert or music festival leads to particular experiences, because things like being packed in a tight crowd lead to being inappropriately touched (I was licked on the back of the neck at Motley Crue in Montreal, and my crotch was grabbed at a Social Distortion concert in Toronto), crowd surfing is an ‘invitation’ to groping, as anyone can see if they watch the women who do so, and moshing could actually get you seriously injured if you are a small woman.

My partner and I were at the very front when MIA began. We chose to do this because Blondie was next at this stage, and we wanted to be as close as possible. I like MIA, but I thought that I wouldn’t have bothered finding a front spot just to see her. I was soon to discover that I was wrong. This amazing woman had the crowd wowed for her entire performance, with the men and women around me singing along and cheering, despite the fact that… wait for it… she wore a baggy tshirt the whole time, and her drummer, dancer, and back up singer, though women, were all fully clothed.

I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t realized her show would be as impressive, if not more so, than the legendary Blondie. I was ecstatic the whole show, watching her tear it up and command attention with only her music and entertainment, not her body.

The point of all of this is not that I mind seeing naked or almost-naked female bodies. I don’t. But, I love seeing talent in different fields, and I love when a woman does not buy into the idea that they must also be ‘sexy’ (as has been defined by what men like) in order to be successful at music, acting, writing, blogging, protesting, dancing, or anything else.

Women Hate on Women Writers Too (or, More on the David Gilmour Controversy)

It surfaced the other day that prominent, award-winning Canadian author (not to mention person-in-mind-shaping-influential-position-of-university-instructor) David Gilmour stated that he wouldn’t teach any women authors (other than Virginia Woolf), not to mention gay authors, Chinese authors, or anyone who isn’t what he calls guy-guys.

Though I have been loving the varied and colourful responses to this (“Do you Have a Penis? No? Then you Didn’t Make David Gilmour’s Reading List“, http://bellejarblog.wordpress.com/, “Why David Gilmour’s Advice to ‘Go Down the Hall’ Isn’t so Bad“), where various people point out how ridiculously sexist these statements are and yet how harmful they are because he is teaching views like this, I want to connect this issue to another fairly recent article that went around.

The Atlantic posted “It’s Frustratingly Rare to Find a Novel About Women that’s Not About Love,” in July. I am not a fan of The Atlantic in general, but this struck a particularly annoying chord with me. In this article, Kelsey McKinney writes things like there is no woman Holden Caulfield, there are few role models in novels, and that women in novels generally just want husbands instead of adventure or anything else. She calls the few exceptions she lists, “rarities,” and calls for more works of those kinds.

McKinney is similar to Gilmour. He may be a white male teaching university students, but she is reaching a wide audience, and she is a woman who feels that she can sum up women writers from her (extremely) limited experience with them. McKinney had good intentions, for sure. She points out the problem with the publishing industry being male-dominated; she mentions how not enough women make it into the canon of what some group of privileged people have labelled “great” literature. But, sometimes making a claim like that – how all women writers write about love and trivial things – is just as sexist as the Gilmour-like statements about how he can’t appreciate any woman author at all (not to mention McKinney’s seeming lack of awareness of any women writers who are not white…).

I find McKinney’s article just as disappointing as Gilmour’s statements. I have not found it hard to read many, many books by women authors, all of which offer varied perspectives and experiences, some of which are similar in subject matter and tone to male-authored works, some of which are not. The way McKinney handled the topic of women in literature reminds me of the liberal feminists who claim that feminism is irrelevant today because she and her friends don’t personally face any problems when it comes to men. It is individualistic and does more harm then good (if you care about analysing systemic problems, that is). McKinney discredits and ignores the achievements of so many talented women.

On that note, here is a list (part of which I posted as a comment on McKinney’s article) of books/authors that are not focused on love, and that have awesome or at least complex women characters. And yes, David Gilmour, the women on this list are some damn fine literary writers!

Esther Greenwood from The Bell Jar is a female Holden Caulfield.

Daniel Defoe, who wrote Robinson Crusoe, also wrote Moll Flanders, which is about an amazing female thief in London who is not interested in love or children.

Toni Morrison

Edwidge Danticat

Ana Castillo

Maureen Medved (Canadian)

Eden Robinson (Aboriginal Canadian)

Michelle Cliff

Adele Wiseman (Canadian)

Sky Lee (Canadian)

Beatrice Culleton (Aboriginal Canadian)

Alice Walker

Andrea Levy

Carol Shields (Canadian)

Iris Murdoch

A.S. Byatt

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Judy Fong Bates (Canadian)

Amy Tan

Suzette Mayr (Canadian)

Dionne Brand (Canadian)

The Female Quixote, by Charlotte Lennox

Angela Carter

Virginia Woolf

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

Wuthering Heights may be about love, but it has a kick-ass female protagonist, and is multi-layered.

Thomas Hardy wrote some really good female characters, whom he shows were held back by their times.

Gone with the Wind

Vanity Fair by Thackary

George Eliot

Howards End by E.M. Forster

Nella Larsen

Zora Neale Hurston

Esi Edugyan (Canadian)

Tea Obreht

Harper Lee

Mairuth Sarsfield (Canadian)

Margaret Laurence (Canadian)

Alice Munro (Canadian)

Nadine Gordimer

Makuchi

Nalo Hopkinson (Canadian)

Elizabeth Nunez

Margaret Cezair-Thompson

Olive Senior

Lee Maracle (Aboriginal Canadian)

Maryse Conde

Muriel Barbary

Sarah Waters

Kathryn S. Blair

Pat Barker

Esmeralda Santiago

Lola Shoneyin

Kyung-Sook Shin

Ami Sands Brodoff

Jeanette Winterson

Shani Mootoo

Arundhati Roy

Linda Hogan

LeAnne Howe

NoViolet Bulawayo

Sefi Atta

Fine, Racism against White People Exists…It Just Doesn’t Matter.

For every article written and comment posted about how white people are privileged or how there is no such thing as reverse racism, there are WAY too many comments that vehemently argue the opposite. (see Idle No More on Facebook daring to post a tongue in cheek picture with the caption “White Privilege: ‘We’ll decide what is racist and what is not racist. We’re the deciders of everything,” and consequent backlash. http://www.facebook.com/IdleNoMoreCommunity)

That is why I am deciding to say to all of you who have been making your cause the fight against racism towards white people: you get a sticker. Yes, you can insult a person and include the colour of their skin, whatever it is, and it technically becomes a “racist” comment. Because, race = a made up concept based mostly around skin tone that has become an extremely important factor in the power structures of our world.

But, when I say “important”, do I mean important in the same way for all races? And that all races suffer equally because of their skin colour?

No. Of course not.

And that is why, if you are white, then racism against you for being white does not matter.

Allow me to explain.

You are called a “stupid white privileged person” by someone, anyone. So, you get upset. You know that you are a good person, and you are not racist, and you have worked hard for what you have in your life, and that still isn’t a lot, it’s not like you’re rich.

This clearly isn’t fair, but will you be ok?

Yes, you will. Our social system is set up to allow you to be ok. When it comes to skin colour, you do not have a single thing holding you back. Other races do. You do not.

Commenters are saying:

Any form of discrimination because of skin colour is racism and therefore matters

This objection is frequently made, and though other people have tried to reason with those who say it, (see: http://callingoutbigotry.tumblr.com/post/51288105158/why-reverse-racism-doesnt-existhttp://everydayfeminism.com/2013/08/racist-against-white-people/http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/http://feminspire.com/why-reverse-racism-isnt-real/), the strongest argument against this is the fact that there is a big difference between the outcome of racism towards white people vs racism towards PoC.

Let’s look at immigration, an issue very much tied up in race and racism.

Firstly, there is immigration by PoC to powerful, wealthy countries like America, Canada, and Britain. The majority of these immigrants arrive with the intention of staying – to avail themselves of the possibilities of jobs that were not available in their countries of origin, to escape from war or civil conflict in their countries, to make money for their families, to get an education in a way that might not be available in their countries.

If these are the reasons, then when these people face racism in their new country – be it from not being able to get a job, to being told to ‘go back where they came from’, to being looked at funny for how they dress, to being dealt with sharply because of their accent or their level of English comprehension – do they have the viable, attractive option of just going back to their country of origin? You could say yes, they have the option, but is it one they would like? Probably not, this is why they undertook the major event of moving their entire lives to a new, different, and sometimes hostile place.

So, they stay, and whatever level of racism they face in their daily lives, they deal with in their own ways individually. Some people develop bitterness, some people become depressed, some people feel trapped, and a few find that they can adapt themselves into what their new country expects from them, and thereby live a life with fairly little racism. There are many different personal reactions, but the overall message here is that these people will stay, and work towards their goals, while dealing in their own way with any racism and oppression they face.

The second type of immigration is what privileged white people refer to with the euphemism of being an “expat”. It is when (mainly) white people – that group so used to traveling to other countries because of colonialism first, and then relative wealth compared to the countries they visit second, immigrate to a new country. A major difference with this type of immigration? It is normally not viewed as permanent, but is done with a privileged sense of ‘I can come and go as I please.’

Since I have personal experience with this type of immigration, I will share my experiences with racism abroad, and what it meant for me.

I was born white, to parents who, though they both came from poor families, were both able to secure teaching jobs at a young age during a time when PoC would have been much less likely to secure the same jobs. They had many years to work their way up to become first consultants, then principals, with very little standing in their way.

I, therefore, was raised in comfort. So, when I reached a certain age, I wasn’t worried about locking down a job to make sure I could have a stable economic future. No, I had the luxury of wanting to “see the world”, to “try new things”, to “enjoy life”. So, I became an “expat”, and moved to South Korea.

There, because I am a tall, light haired woman of Eastern European background, I was frequently mistaken for a prostitute (many prostitutes there are Russian and Eastern European), and followed home, and harassed, all despite the fact that I was dressed exactly as the South Korean women were dressed, and behaving just as they behaved. This is an unmistakable case of racism against a white person.

So, did I stay there, and endure, because that move was important to me? Of course not. I enjoyed myself with friends, got to know Seoul, made a bit of spending money and got experience through teaching, and then when I felt like it, I went home. Back to my parents’ house to figure out what I would do next.

Was I uncomfortable while I was being followed, and do I wish that it hadn’t happened? Yes. But it in no way affected my life. It in no way brought down my confidence, or made me feel stuck, or made me change who I am to fit in.

This is just one way that the outcomes of racism towards white people are very different from racism towards PoC.

Commenters are also saying:

Racism incites hate. Hate is bad. So, racism against white people matters.

Frequently people point out that any racism is bad, because it is a negative thing and it just makes people hate each other.

Well really, do I have to say it? If, as a white person, you start to feel hatred towards other races who have said mean things to you about how you are white, then you need to rethink what is important in life. How about, instead, you think about why other races feel anger and resentment towards white people. Even if you believe you don’t fit into the category of “bad, racist white people”, you can still begin to educate yourselves about what it is that white people as a group have done over the centuries to create a negative image for themselves. If you understand this, then maybe you can realize that when other races say bad things about your race, it isn’t personal to YOU, it is a comment on an experience in general. White people have the advantages passed down from generation to generation. White people took over many countries. White people still exercise power over many countries. White people have the high up positions in companies. White people control the government (yes, even if the figurehead is a black man).

Non-white people have centuries of reasons for feeling bitterness towards white people, reasons that have directly affected them and their families.

You, on the other hand, just “don’t like it” when you are lumped into a racial category, or when people make assumptions about you.

You will be fine. Your racial category will not hold you back from doing anything in your life. Other things might hold you back, but not your race.

So, the next time someone says something racist about white people to you, realize that this must mean that that person still experiences racism FROM white people in their life, and that is why they have animosity towards white people. Therefore, the solution won’t be found in you getting upset for yourself, it will be found in trying to fix the situation for oppressed people, making things equal for all races, and then people will no longer have a reason to think ill of white people.

It is actually the very fact that you will get upset about this justifiable racism against white people that will build hate in the world, not this racism itself. In your desire to pretend that racism against white people exists in a social vacuum and is unfair to you personally, you are allowing yourselves to become distracted from what actually matters in the big picture. It is fair, because even if you have not done anything to directly further the social dominance of white people, you have not done enough to try to stop it, either. How do I know this? Because if you had, you would have by now developed enough of an understanding about racial politics to realize that racism against you doesn’t matter.

Do you really want to be That Guy who points to groups of people with long histories of oppression behind them and says, “You aren’t allowed to feel angry. Hate is bad.”?

If you have a problem for being called out for your inherited racial privilege, take it to some White People Problems discussion board and complain about it to other people who think that it is the biggest issue right now. Please don’t bring it to sites that are trying to make a difference for those who need it.