Author Archives: Sigel Phoenix

Introduction [Women and Violence, Part 1]

This is a bit of an experiment. This quarter I’m taking a Women Studies course titled “Women and Violence.” The final project for this class is open to creative interpretation, and so I’m attempting to bring together my academic feminism … Continue reading

Posted in Abuse, rape, and domestic violence, Feminism, Women and Violence | 13 Comments

The impossibility of dialogue

[Happy one two year birthday to the Official Blog! I’m very grateful that Andrea gave me the opportunity to join her site, and I’m glad she’s here doing all the work that she does. Here’s to many more years.]

As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently took a class on racism and white privilege. My professor was unflinching in his recognition that some things about anti-oppression work are “impossible.” And while this sounds like a pessimistic view of things, I think it was very important that he acknowledged this concept and repeatedly brought it to our attention.

I chose to write about this subject for the one two-year anniversary of the Official Blog because of that importance, despite the fact that it also sounds pretty dreary. I mean, it is a bit disheartening to commemorate the birth of an anti-oppression blog by talking about everything it can’t do.

But recognizing difficulties can always do two different things: it can bring you down, and it can also help you clarify your path to better accomplish your goals. As you can guess, I hope to do the latter. Continue reading

Posted in Eradicating Divisive Discourse, Related, The Evil -ism's | 10 Comments

On being an ally

Today, for the last meeting of my class on racism and white privilege, we had a panel of guest speakers who do anti-racist work from within the university. One was a white man, one a white woman, and one an African American man, so the issue was raised about allies. Allies, in the context of anti-oppression work, are members of a privileged group who work against that privilege: white people in anti-racism, men in feminism, etc.

Allies have a very different place in anti-oppression work than members of the non-privileged group. They don’t have the firsthand experience of oppression, and so their knowledge of it is incomplete. They constantly risk perpetuating the oppression themselves – which, of course, all of us do, privileged or not – but with the added risk that, when they slip up, they hurt others rather than hurting themselves. However, allies are also powerful and helpful because of their very privilege, because they can use the social power that they have been arbitrarily and unfairly granted in order to work against the power structure.

Being an ally (and staying one) is also difficult and complicated. The panelists’ discussions on what it means to be allies and to have allies (each of them was in a position to address both questions, due to their respective places in various social hierarchies) brought up several helpful points, which can help us as we think about creating and maintaining alliances in our work. Continue reading

Posted in Feminism, Privilege, Racism | 14 Comments

My yellow face

Body Outlaws, published by the woman-friendly Seal Press, is a collection of essays by women attempting to rewrite body image outside of conventional beauty standards – and not just white, middle-class, straight women, but women who experience all forms of oppression, including racism.

The first essay is “My Brown Face,” by Mira Jacob, an Indian-American woman who constantly finds herself fetishized by white men. Most women of color are familiar with this experience – the ‘positive’ counterpart of racist degradation – when men tell you how ‘beautiful’ and ‘exotic’ you are. This can be accomplished either through ebullient and chivalrous praise, or through crude and fetishistic verbal harassment; Jacob describes instances of both. These anecdotes are presented as contained sections of the essay, without direct commentary – and yet her indignation and disgust towards her ‘suitors’ is palpable.

I love this essay for the clarity and energy of the writing, the juxtaposition of caustic anger and humor, but also for the personal nuances that Jacobs provides, which are so gratifying to read because they echo my own experience. Very few voices from women of color are heard in the mainstream conversation on body image, and it was comforting to read things that were familiar to me, but so often overlooked by standard (white) analyses. Continue reading

Posted in Multiculturalism, Racism, Sex, sexuality, and sexual politics | 1 Comment

Sex does not determine racial identity

You know what’s sexist? White guys who see Asian women as exotic sex objects, something they can use in their porn-based fantasies about “sideways” vaginas. Why? Because everything about me is obscured by my sexual utility for them – they are attempting to define my identity through their penis.

You know what’s also sexist? Asian guys who think that Asian women aren’t “Asian” enough if they don’t exclusively date Asian men. Why? Because once again my identity is being defined by a man’s penis.

Take a look at this post by Jenn at Reappropriate, where she criticizes a new webcomic called Single Asian Female. While she mentions the good points about the comic (mostly its good art style), she worries that it attempts to portray the Asian-American women (AAW) experience as centering primarily on sexuality: white guys who try to date them, and the Asian-American men whom they should be dating.

Lo and behold, one of the first comments attempts to discredit Jenn’s perspective through – you guessed it – bringing up her sexuality. Continue reading

Posted in Gender Caste, Privilege, Racism, Sex, sexuality, and sexual politics | 20 Comments

A conversation on body image

When I was growing up, I didn’t wish I was white. I didn’t look at my Barbie dolls and ask my parents why I didn’t look like her. I didn’t envy my white friends and think, “If I was their race, my life would be better.” Of course not.

It was never that obvious.

Here’s what I wished: I wished that my eyes were blue and not so narrow, because the ideals of beauty I saw and read and heard about had wide, sky-blue eyes. I wished that my nose, which is wide and flat like my father’s, was more narrow and perky. Even though I loved my long hair, and I felt flattered when all the girls would ask to play with it, I wished it weren’t so stick-straight, and that it would fall in waves or curls like theirs. I wished that my lips weren’t so full, that my smile would be more of a thin, dimple-inducing curve (oh, and I felt left out because I didn’t have dimples). I worried that my voice sounded like a boy’s, and I wished it could be high and cute like other girls’.

I didn’t wish I was a white girl. I just wished I was exactly like a white girl. Continue reading

Posted in Gender issues, Popular Culture, Racism | 14 Comments

Ellison digs himself deeper into the hole

Aaaaaaand there’s more! Via , we have another response by Ellison regarding his groping of Connie Willis. And no, this isn’t him dropping all sarcasm and misguided attempts at humor in order to make a straightforward, sincere apology. (We can only dream.)

Since jfpbookworm did such a great job deconstructing the first “apology”, I think it’s only fitting that we subject Ellison’s newest offering to analysis as well. One, because he’s so spectacularly idiotic – but more importantly, because of the unexamined privilege that drips from his words alongside the expected arrogance. He may be a talented writer, but that skill does nothing to save him from his underlying sexist assumptions. Continue reading

Posted in Abuse, rape, and domestic violence, Popular Culture, Privilege | 9 Comments

The Harlan Ellison Incident

A few days ago at the Hugo Awards ceremony at Worldcon, Harlan Ellison groped Connie Willis on stage. The primary source of the news is Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s report, though Ellison himself confirmed it in the (ostensible) apology on his message board. (Text provided here by Elizabeth Bear. Also see her post on the original incident.)

He wrote the “apology” yesterday, even though the event occurred a couple of days ago, because he had no idea that there was a problem until he saw the reaction online. In other words, he didn’t know it was wrong until someone else told him. This is the kind of behavior that you would expect out of children developing their sense of politeness and ethics, not a grown man (especially one with as inflated a sense of self as Ellison apparently has).

Connie Willis is one of the most respected science fiction authors writing today – certainly one of the most well-known women in the field. She did not invite the groping, nor did she give him permission. Ellison calls it “intendedly-childlike,” and supposedly it came as part of a comedic schtick. However, Willis was not previously informed about his intention, and since she immediately removed his hand and continued on without comment, it’s obvious that she didn’t feel inclined to join in on the “comedy.”

His behavior – the fact that he even thought that this was an acceptable action (or at least funny, maybe “cheeky little bastard,” but not reprehensibly sexist), and furthermore, had to be told that it wasn’t – speaks to a deep disrespect for women. A disrespect that, really, isn’t all that uncommon. Continue reading

Posted in Abuse, rape, and domestic violence, Gender Caste, Popular Culture, Privilege | 26 Comments

Anger and Educating the Privileged

I realize that, lately, I am an angry person.

I read the news, I get angry. I read my blogs – most of which are political in nature – and get angry. I see things in my daily life that make me angry – hateful misogyny, self-serving racism, ruthless economic exploitation, and on and on and on.

On the one hand, I think that’s a good thing – “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention” is a truth I live by. While I’m not glad that I’m angry, I’m glad that I have some sort of response to the oppression and mistreatment that goes on every single day in this world. I’m glad I notice at least some of all this, and that I have a visceral response that this world isn’t right. If I can still feel outrage – and thus, a desire to change things – then I know I’m still human, and not totally numb or complacent. Continue reading

Posted in Eradicating Divisive Discourse, Privilege, The Evil -ism's | 10 Comments

Fighting Words

[Hey everyone! My name is Dora and Tekanji recently invited me over here to guest blog. I have a personal/political blog on LiveJournal. I’m a college student majoring in English and Women Studies, and my interests include gender, race, and all things geeky. Nice to meet you all!]

I’m lucky in the people I geek out with, because it’s a mixed-gender group, mostly socially aware, and made up of generally good people. I don’t have to worry about guys telling me I can’t play something because I’m female, or looking down on what I’m interested in.

But I never hear the word “bitch” so often as in the middle of a tense battle in a game. Continue reading

Posted in Feminism, Gender Caste, Popular Culture | 9 Comments