And yet he still has a (multi-million dollar a year paying) job

The last thing the NBA wants you to think about while the playoffs are in full and exciting swing is one of its most habitually toxic players pleading no contest and then being sentenced for a misdemeanor domestic violence charge.

Ron Artest is, without a doubt, the single worst role-model when it comes to active professional athletes so it comes as no surprise that though reported, it’s of little concern to the sports world when upsets and game sevens are amuk in the NBA. Artest is also one of the best defensive players in the game and, strictly for his on-court performance, one of the most sought after. So sought after, in fact, that his current team, the Sacramento Kings, agreed to take on Artest after the infamous Malice At The Palace and then stood behind him throughout the entire DV ordeal with talk about “everyone makes mistakes,” “think of the children” and “second chances.” He likely won’t be dismissed from his current team and even if he is, there are always other franchises looking for a gun-for-hire regardless of how they conduct themselves off the court.

The NBA, and professional sports in general, is extremely forgiving (if not purposefully forgetful) when it comes to their male players physically abusing their wives or girlfriends (as well as sexually assaulting women). Jason Kidd’s career survived a leaked 911 domestic violence phone call made by his then-wife Joumana which chillingly illustrated his abusive and manipulative ways (“you think they’re going to believe you?!”). Jason Richardson of the GS Warriors, Shaquille O’Neal, and yes, Kobe Bryant have all been accused/alleged/convicted in crimes ranging from DV to rape and sexual assault. But of course it’s not just basketball. In baseball, Dmitri Young received a legal slap on the wrist for his DV charge and also (and this is going to become a common theme here) had no trouble finding another team willing to do as the Maloofs did and pay him the big bucks. In the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Santonio Holmes offered no apologies for his multiple run-ins with the law which without any remorse included hitting his wife. Perhaps even more unbelievably, the Denver Broncos, in spite of player Sam Brandon’s 2005 arrest for DV, rewarded him with a contract extension in February. In other words, the message in sports is this: domestic violence is a completely forgiveable crime and your career or paycheck is never in jeopardy (at least for long) when you hit your wife, bash her head onto the hood of your car (Julio Lugo of the Boston Red Sox) or harass, intimidate and assault your “girlfriend” (Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants). You pull a Qyntel Woods and engage in some illegal dog-fighting? You’re not only thrown off the team but for a mildly talented player, you’re never seen in the NBA again. But for something like DV this isn’t the case because, if you go by the Woods example for one, abusing dogs is worse than abusing women.

But let’s not forget about Bonds. Barry Bonds is perhaps the most depressing example of how people, the sports world in particular, don’t really care about how a player acts off the field so long as his performance is record-breaking. The volcanic Bonds has been said to have made some extremely racist and sexist comments, physically assaulted his former girlfriend and also stalked and continued to intimidate said girlfriend. After all of this was reported vividly in a best-selling book, the most pressing issue with Bonds? It’s whether the man took steroids and human growth hormones. I’ve heard people argue until red in the face about whether this man deserves to be in the record books, about whether his head has changed shape over the years or if steroids increase your cerebral response time, but absolutely no discussion about the violence. Who cares if he’s lost all integrity as a human being? Did he juice or not, that’s apparantly the big issue here.

In many ways, how the NBA chooses to deal with Bonds’ and Artest’s on and off court actions speak volumes for how the professional sports culture does so as well; that is, it echoes the general worldwide notion of “it’s a private matter, let them deal with it” coupled with “what do you want me/the owners/the fans/the coach to do about it?” (remember, Artest was suspended for the rest of the season for the fight with the Piston’s fans while getting nothing close to that for hitting his wife).

I don’t buy for a second that there’s little to be done about abusive, sexist athletes other than “letting the law take care of it.” Whether you’re the one who signs his check, presents him with the defensive player of the year award, reads his name on a highlight reel or buys his teammate’s jersey at the local pro-shop, as cheesy as this sounds, everybody plays a part in calling out the Artests of, if not the entire world, the professional sports world:

What General Managers and Owners Can Do: Don’t sign or trade for players that you know have been charged with domestic violence. Refuse to deal with players who you know have this problem. The message you send to fans when you do something like this is to say “we’re his second chance. He’s not going to screw this up, believe me.” In reality, the message is “I could care less what he does. If he helps us win then that’s all I care about.” Worried about signing a free agent, a college recruit, a newcomer who may turn to be the next Dmitri Young? Put a clause in the damn contract saying that if he is ever charged with DV, his contract and his paycheck are gone for good. Agents and GMs routinely put into contracts that players are forbidden from doing things like riding motorcycles, participating in dangerous sports activities for fear of physical injury. If you’re that concerned about a player hurting himself and being unable to play for a certain period of time, it only makes sense that if only for the selfish reason of having your talent readily available, you don’t want him to go to, you know, go to jail. If you’ve already got an abusive man on your team then either fire him or demand that he take leave for an indefinite period of time (regardless of any “but we’re right in the middle of a playoff series!” cries) for intensive counseling.

What Coaches and Managers Can Do: Refuse to play players that are under investigation for, being charged with, in the midst of a court proceeding for DV. Who cares about playing time when they get paid anyways, you say? Well, players often have incentives in their contracts that reward good play with cash bonuses. If you are pulled from the lineup for three weeks, you’re not going to reach that 100 RBI mark that season and there goes a large chunk of your non-guaranteed contract. When you don’t do this, when you play a player despite what’s going on in the real world, you are saying to everyone “I don’t care if he hit his wife, we need a strong starter for our series with the Yankees.” If you’re getting flack from the owners, the players for standing up for your beliefs then quit while standing up for your beliefs.

What Fans Can Do: The obvious one here is to boo and heckle the hell out of a player if you’re at the game itself. I’m not a fan of heckling in a sports environment but when someone is abusing another person, well, call them out. However, this of course isn’t probably the most productive thing to do as a fan so the best thing would be to either boycott those games, buying merchandise from the team harboring the abuser while letting the organziation clearly know why you’re choosing not to renew your season tickets or why you’re not buying tickets to give away at your work-place raffle. The message couldn’t be clearer to these franchises: if you condone this behavior by letting this person represent your team, then you aren’t getting my dollars.

What the Commissioner Can Do: Adopt and strictly implement a Code of Conduct for your entire league. David Stern, the NBA commish recently made one that, while vague, focused on the social responsibility of the league to maintain it’s integrity within world communities (think of the “NBA Cares” commercials). One of it’s big selling points was that it boldly promised to work with companies who had this same vision and as such partnered with corporations like Adidas which from what I gather, is supposed to be at least a little bit better than someplace like Nike. Establish from the get-go, especially with incoming players, that if you violate this policy, your contract is immediately terminated and your career is put on indefinite hold. The NBA banned Chris Anderson for repeatedly failing his drug tests so why not do the same to players who repeatedly beat their wives/girlfriends?

What Commissioners, Players and Franchises Can Do Together: For the love of god, be a little more diverse in the kinds of “charity” you involve yourselves in. Building basketball courts for kids is great, buying new computers for kids is awesome, teaching kids how to dribble is fun but i’ll bet you those kids who have abusive men in their lives would much rather have a safe, violence-free home than meeting Vince Carter and learning the pick-and-roll. Any charity is good, don’t get me wrong, but organizations must not shy away from causes like DV, rape, sex-health education and abortion-rights. The Seattle Mariners, to name one particular organization, actually did this in their “I Will Not Hit” ad-campaign from several years back where a few of their players brought awareness to DV (To no surprise, The Seattle Mariners is an organization that anti-sexist activist Jackson Katz lists as an org that he worked with.). Furthermore, work together with some different organizations than the ones you always collaborate with: believe me The United Way, the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America aren’t exactly going to go bankrupt if you become more diverse with your charitable funding this year. Even if you’re hell bent on donating specifically to kids and reading (as the NBA is famous for) do it at the Y-DOUBLE-YOU-C-A and maybe not the YMCA this year. Actively seek out local non-profits and larger organizations that deal with DV and rape awareness/prevention/advocacy and the people will follow. Locally, the Seattle Sonics always dish out food at a certain Seattle Christian-based shelter and, surprise of the century, they have more volunteers there than they know what to do with because people hear about Ray Allen spending time there and word spreads. Do the same about other issues for a change.

What Sports-Journalists Can Do: Report the news. When someone like Artest gets sentenced for DV, let the community know. When someone gets arrested for DV, let the community know and then follow up and then follow up some more. Even if you can only fit in a tiny blurb, let people know that these things aren’t just isolated incidents that magically go away after first report. When you’re writing an article about a player who has repeatedly been arrested for DV, connect some dots and question how this person continues to have a job in this league. Bud Selig can’t fire you for what you write or say in your column or newscast so say it.

What Individual Players Can Do: Almost every professional athlete earning more than the league minimum has some sort of charity in their name that they do “on their own time” usually at where they grew up or in the city which they first started playing in the NBA. Again, don’t do what 99.9% of other professional athletes do and instead donate your money, time and name to something that is seen as a “taboo” topic or something that men don’t normally take action against. Take Mariska Hargitay of Law and Order: SVU fame, for example. How many athletes, celebrities or anybody famous can you name that specifically and openly supports survivors of sexual assault?

The NBA, NFL, MLB are each communities. Together, (along with the NHL, NASCAR, etc.) they are a sports community and it has to be the responsibility of these kinds of communities, along with those within family and friends, those of the state, the city, and the federal government to be vocal and call out domestic violence for the scourge that it is in society and it’s own players lives. What clearer way is there for people to band together and begin to speak out against domestic violence than through the sports teams they root for? If you want to be truly proud of your team, don’t you want to be proud that it doesn’t condone men’s violence against women?

So Ron Artest is going to now enter classes on domestic violence, classes on the effects of DV to kids, do some community service and, whenever the court (or the counselor) says he doesn’t have to partake in those support groups anymore, call it a day. A few years ago I would’ve said that while he should get jail-time, this is the most we can do and sending him to DV support groups/counseling is what he needs. After reading Why Does He Do That?, I’m not so sure. Actually, i’m pretty confident that he’s not going to change or get better in any long-term way because, after reading from someone whose job it is to work with guys like Artest in DV support groups, the men there…most of them don’t get better. In fact, according to Bancroft, many get worse and the wives and girlfriends are told very specifically from the beginning to anticipate this potential increase in violent behavior. What I didn’t know about these types of programs is that while they from the outside look to be aiming to help folks like Artest, the main focus is in helping the abused women in the relationship. Whether that’s connecting them with confidential shelter resources or simply sharing vital information about the abuser that could save a woman’s life, the aid is in immediately minimizing the damage and assisting the woman in whatever stage of the relationship she may be at with the abuser. Whether that’s “making plans to divorce and relocate” or not, the point is that unless jailed, someone like Artest will likely continue his abusive ways with his wife, if not another woman.

After working at a place where we upheld supposed confidentiality Codes of Conduct and with a blind-eye harbored male rapists, DV abusers, drug-addicts, thieves and child-support dodgers, I don’t know what else to suggest than massive, parole-free jail-years. The folks I encountered on the job, minus the alcoholics (though many had combinations of “demons”), weren’t going to get any better in a “transitional program” so they coast on by by receiving slight penalties here and there and depending on “second chances” much like Artest. That is and will never be enough because minimizing abuse, while it certainly is necessary given that many abused women still live with their abusers, doesn’t stop the abuse and if you can’t help someone who is a danger to society, if you have the throw his ass in jail for a long, long time.

Cerise Magazine Submissions Reminder

Cerise, the new magazine by and for gaming women, is still accepting submissions for our first issue. The deadline is April 15, 2007. What we’re looking for:

  • Reviews of games, systems and gaming supplements
  • In-depth critiques, essays and opinion pieces about gaming
  • Interviews with industry professionals
  • Modules and mini-adventures for tabletop games
  • Interior illustrations – women playing games, female RPG characters, etc. No fanart, please.
  • Short, one-page-or-smaller comics dealing in some (preferably humorous) way with gender and gaming

    A bit about Cerise’s philosophy:

    Although gender is the foremost focus of Cerise, we are dedicated to creating an inclusive space for individuals of all identities traditionally underrepresented in the mainstream, and for our allies who support our movement to increase our presence and representation in the game industry. We are a feminist publication and oppose all forms of oppression and the ways in which that oppression manifests itself in game communities in ways that hurt women, transgender individuals, queer-identified people, people of color, people with disabilities, and other marginalized individuals. We hope that our inclusive philosophy will propagate to help the game industry and culture at large become an environment welcoming to people of all identities.

    Visit our submissions guidelines and mission statement for more details. The theme for our first issue is Getting Women ‘Out There’ In Game Journalism.

  • Submissions by no means have to conform to the theme of each issue. Please consider submitting–this is a wonderful opportunity to get your name out there and be part of an exciting new project.

    (Cross-posted from New Game Plus.)

    APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls

    Stories like this BBC News article brought to my attention by one of our readers, Sexualisation ‘harms’ young girls, have been making the rounds in the feminist blogsphere. I am probably not going to do a breakdown of it, as it just reinforces what I say every time I address objectification in any of its forms.

    I will, however, link everyone to the page on the APA that has the actual report, among other useful links.

    I urge all of you to go there and read it first hand. After all, one of the suggestions of the report is to teach our children about media literacy, and what better way to embrace the message than to engage in some critical reading ourselves?

    Is gender inclusive game design important?

    Q: Is gender inclusive game design important?
    A: Yes.

    For anyone familiar with my blog, you’ll know already that I take the above answer as a given in most of my posts. But today I got an e-mail from my sister. She’s taking an Online Games Seminar for her law degree (you know, if they had more classes like that I might be persuaded to go to law school after all…) and gave me a link to one of her required readings: Playing with Fire: When Advergaming Backfires.

    Her request? That I write a short blurb on whether or not I think it’s okay to have avatars of only one sex in a game without a darn good reason. The short answer to that is, of course, is that I think it not only ruins gameplay (for women and men who like and respect women), but it also reinforces the “no girls allowed” message that we find in so many places in society.

    Since I can never just be short and leave it at that, my long answer is behind the cut. Continue reading

    A deeper look into femininity [The Gaming Beauty Myth, Interlude]

    I’m labeling this as an “interlude” because the constructs of femininity I’m about to address don’t all directly intersect with the beauty myth, but the way that they interact with femininity as a whole is a topic that I feel needs to be addressed. I’ve been sitting on this one ever since Shannon over at Egotistical Whining wrote a commentary on the second part of this series.

    In life, and especially in male-dominated areas, femininity gets a bad rap. It’s seen as frivolous, as emotional, as irrational, as naive… the list goes on an on. It’s not, however, seen as desirable to possess because it’s somehow lesser than masculine traits.

    I’ve tried to dispel that false dichotomy in my series thus far, but it’s hard to see the bigger picture when the topic at hand is the beauty myth, a cultural paradigm that relies on ruthlessly exploiting the negative aspects of femininity in order to maintain the connection between women and sex. So I’m going to try here again to illustrate why, exactly, despite its flaws it’s not in our best interest to throw femininity into the same trash bin as the beauty myth itself. Continue reading

    Baby, it's Cold Outside

    [Crossposted to My Vox blog.]

    Via Majikthise, Brad Hicks has a good analysis of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

    There’s not much more I can say about the analysis, but the responses in comments are quite interesting, particularly in how the song is defended. It’s illustrative of the ways in which the status quo with respect to rape and consent gets defended.

    Aesthetic Defense

    And analysis destroys another great song.

    Here the argument is that we shouldn’t engage in feminist analysis of popular culture, lest we lessen our enjoyment of or ability to participate in said culture. If we look to closely at our culture, the argument goes, all we’ll see is patriarchy. (In this way, it’s similar to the “we can’t complain about coercion or people wouldn’t get laid” argument).

    Free Speech

    Thus we must ban any song that may seem to have those sorts of connotations!


    Occasionally the argument is not that the analysis will “spoil” the work for the critic, but that the critic has an agenda to “spoil” the song for everybody else through censorship. The effect of this argument is to silence criticism because nobody wants to sound like a censor. A related argument is that the critic is against sexuality in general rather than the problematic depiction being critiqued.


    People shouldn’t be too uptight about music.

    Also known as the “you have no sense of humor” or “it’s just a song” argument. Tekanji posted about this in “Debunking the Myth of Frivolity”, and it’s a better rebuttal than any I could give here.

    Good Intentions

    Both Frank Loesser and his wife have archived interviews regarding this song, its composition, and premiere at a party they gave for friends. Sorry, I don’t have URLs for them. Neither allude to anything that would lend credence to these darker interpretations of the lyrics.

    This is a different kind of argument; it relies on the authority of the author (or someone closer to the author than the critic is) to say what a work is really about. That the author of the lyrics may have thought them playfully sexy and didn’t intend to describe a date rape doesn’t make them problematic; indeed, it’s a quite similar argument to the one that an actual rapist may make – that the understanding was that the encounter was fully consensual. While an artist’s interpretation of his own work can make for interesting conversation material, it doesn’t invalidate other interpretations, and it certainly doesn’t disqualify the work from being used as a springboard to talk about the culture in general.

    Armchair Psychoanalysis

    I think you have misinterpreted the lyrics according to your own ideas of right and wrong (obviously) and this has defined the result more than the song itself.

    This is basically a way of deflecting the criticism back onto the critic, and ties into the argument from popularity: “Nobody else has a problem with it, why do you?” The effect is to get critics to stop talking about the work and focus more on themselves.

    Rape Apologism

    leaving verbal inflection aside she does a fair amount of dithering but assuming she has her own wheels and car keys the failure to get up and go combined with making *excuses* sounds a LOT like “convince me. I want to have my cake (being a good girl) and eat it too (not live like a nun)”.

    In fact the whole point is that she is in the position to definitively say “no,” to leave, to forcefully reject her pursuer, but she specifically never does. In the end her response is always well “maybe.” I ought to say no. Well maybe one more drink. After all, it is cold outside.

    “She really wanted it.” “She could have said no, or left.” I think these folks need to read Biting Beaver’s posts on coercive rape and playing hard to get, in order to see how problematic these statements really are.

    It Was a Different Time

    In a nutshell, she really wants to, but she can’t square that with societal mores.

    Some good comments here, but also a lot of temporal imperialism.

    It’s very easy to judge people in the past as naive, or stupid, or ignorant, or otherwise somehow shameful because they perceived things or conducted themselves differently from us. They weren’t, they simply lived in a different milieu.

    I think these sorts of arguments are fundamentally misguided. “Temporal imperialism” is not the same thing as colonialism. The former is simply reinterpreting the data; the latter involves significant power differentials and the potential for exploitation. Both involve privileged perspectives, but the privilege of hindsight is by definition not exploitative; the past may not be able to answer for itself, but neither can it be altered.

    In addition, the criticism of the song isn’t actually all that focused on the time the song was written, because it’s not one that establishes itself as belonging to its time period. These attitudes aren’t altogether gone, and that’s why it’s still important to point out that what’s described in the song is either a prelude to rape or indistinguishable therefrom.

    A Not-So-Bad GF List

    I don’t have time to get into it full on, but this list by Bill Ward called 15 simple rules for getting your girlfriend to play D&D actually isn’t as bad as it sounds. Partially because some of it seems like common sense for including a person new to your party, but also because it actually has a reason for being a list targeted towards women and not just first-time gamers.


    All too often, male players tend to think that any female player at the table is a joke, or worse, as someone to drive off. Here’s a clue: if you want your SO to play, then treat her with respect, and don’t allow the other players to treat her poorly. It doesn’t matter if the DM does give you a special crystal. BTW, in a game at GenCon back in 1999, my wife, a veteran Battletech player who preferred lighter mechs, was picked on as the only girl playing in a tournament game. While three guys were picking on her (“She obviously can’t play if she chose a light mech!”) tried to remove “the girl” from the “man’s game”, she quietly fumed… and when the time came, she self destructed her mech, taking them with her (she might have beaten any of them in a 1-on-1 battle; she’s good, AND lucky). They were, to use her phrase, “Losers in every sense of the word.” After reading this, she wanted it known that she ejected safely and saved her pilot. The other players, not so much….

    Wow, dismantaling stereotypes rather than reinforcing them? Confronting sexism head on instead of playing off of it and pretending that you created satire? Could this be the fabled perfect list?

    Well, I’m not ready to take that step quite yet. The capitalizing off of a “girlfriend” image when it’s a combination of advice for including new players and some specific points geared towards not driving off potential new specifically female players gets a “so-so” from me. I’m willing to give it a pass because Ward actually addresses sexism and doesn’t rely on stereotypes of women to make his point (even when the point would have made it very easy to do so). On the occassion that a stereotype does pop up there is at very least an acknowledgement of it as such, although there is one occassoin where he uses his wife’s agreement to backup his use of a stereotype (“heaven help me for the stereotype, but this is Rebecca’s thoughts, too”).

    But! I digress. Overall the article strikes me as well written. In the end, I’m not sure if I’m giving it too much of a pass because of the kind of drek I see regularly (some links of which are waiting for me to look at in my inbox, submitted by a sadistic reader) or if it actually did pretty much get things right. Either way, I’d recommend this as a pattern for people who can’t be pursuaded out of writing a Girlfriend List (or some equivalent).

    No, Virginia, Fangirl/boy are not gender neutral!

    Sorry for the slew of short posts, but I’m trying to juggle a thousand things at once. Even so, Ragnell has this amazing post looking at the gender differences between “fangirl” and “fanboy” called Fan-What? Given my recent post on a Wii gift guide that used the term “fanboy,” I think it’s pretty relevant. And interesting!

    Here’s an excerpt:

    This reminded me of a conversation Kalinara and I had yesterday that has me musing on the term “fangirl” today. It’s a linguistic issue, mainly. In theory, Fanboy and Fangirl are simply gendered terms to differentiate a male fan and a female fan. In practical use, they have not only a different gender but an entirely different meaning.


    Fanboy is a “Blue” term, as in “Blue is for Boys.” Whereas, Fangirl is a “Pink” term, as in “Pink is for Girls.” There is nothing inherently wrong with blue or pink. Both are fine colors, moods, acceptable lifestyles. But these colors represent traditional gender roles. The pink term of Fangirl embraces traditionally feminine traits like emotional/romantic thinking, pastel colors, cutesy things, and an audible high-pitched squeal associated with hearing about an opportunity to meet David Cassidy. The blue term of Fanboy embraces traditionally masculine traits like logical/statistical thinking, primary colors, blood and gore, and manly grunting/deep voiced “oh yeah”s.

    Now go read the rest!

    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.

    I still do, sometimes. I have to catch myself at those times when I try to compare myself to the racialized beauty ideals I see – on TV and magazines and all those expected places, but also in less obvious ways. For example, even if a makeup counter doesn’t have a (white) female model pictured somewhere prominent, you pick up pretty quickly what their model woman is when the “flesh tones” are all pinkish-beige, and the lipsticks are all about plumping up your lips (which assumes that your lips aren’t already full). Or what about fantasy novels that overwhelmingly feature European medieval settings, or draw from Western folklore, thus effectively whitewashing their characters even if the author doesn’t intend to exclude people of color? (That’s changing lately, but it’s still hard to find non-European derived fantasy novels that don’t Other dark-skinned people as savage or evil, or rely on “wise old samurai” Asian stereotypes. I would actually really appreciate recs, if anyone has them.)

    Not long ago, I read a response to Pam Noles’ essay on the whitening of Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea books, in which the (white male) writer said that consciously adding racial diversity to fantastic fiction was unnecessary, and implied that it was the fault of people of color who simply couldn’t imagine themselves in the place of the protagonists.

    There’s a lot to be said about the assumptions and privilege behind that kind of attitude, but let’s bring it back to my original topic: body image. It’s easy enough for someone to tell women (and girls) of color to just imagine themselves in place of the women whom society gives the title of the ideal, to find our own beauty amidst the cultural images. But it’s hard to ignore the bombardment of images in our culture – which is not only visual media-centered, but also disproportionately relies on female bodies as the visual object. Furthermore, the subtler messages still push us toward a white-centric ideal: pale skin (or a golden tan, which cuts out black women), long and smooth hair (not kinky), wide eyes (not slanty or with Asian-style eyelids), high-pitched voices. Even the women of color who are lauded for their beauty often fit these criteria – think of how we tend to focus on light-skinned black women more than dark-skinned, such as the biracial Halle Berry. I don’t have to think “I wish I was white”; instead I just find myself wishing that I was like white women.

    This is how I got the message about what’s pretty, even when I was in elementary school and uneducated about race issues. It’s only as I’ve grown up that I’ve realized what kind of racist biases underlie these ideals, but it’s been easy for me to learn about them, because they aren’t new concepts – just new names for ideas I was already familiar with.

    I’m yellow-skinned and squinty-eyed. I don’t fit. But I do win back a few points, due to the fetishization of Asian women. We’re “exotic.” We’ve got that mystical “Oriental” beauty. We’re passive and pliant and all “me love you long time,” right? And if you haven’t heard the myth of Asian women’s vaginas being smaller, sideways, or otherwise especially fuckable – well, lucky you.

    Oh, and let’s not forget – we’re especially hungry for white men, because yellow guys are effeminate/small-dicked/old-fashioned and sexist (yeah, they’re the sexist ones …). We’re the exotic Other, open for sexual plundering by vanilla guys looking for something exciting. I know the attitudes; I’ve been the target. I also know that I can be used to feed them because I’m with a white man. There isn’t a single thing in the world I would trade my relationship for, but god if I don’t wish I could tear it free from all the racist bullshit baggage.

    I’m talking about this now, not because I have a solution, but because … well, because I want to talk about it. It’s something that we all know – POC or white – even if we don’t think about it consciously or know the name for it.

    The power of identifying it, however, is that it’s easier to reject it – I can see how false these ideals are.

    Also, I’m talking about this because I know I’m not the only one who doesn’t fit. None of us do. If it isn’t because we’re the wrong color, it’s because we’re those “freaky” trans who break from gender traditions and aren’t feminine enough, or manly enough. Or because we like girls – but, dammit, not in that pseudo-bisexual way that’s all about getting a guy’s dick up and not about actually having relationships with women (and, of course, having sex with him in the end, and only being with women if he’s there to watch). Or because we don’t have the able body that society likes to pretend is the only kind that exists, conveniently forgetting that almost a fifth of us don’t have “normal” ability. Or we are white, female, and feminine – but too “fat” to fit a size 2, or don’t have surgically enhancednaturally gravity-defying cleavage, or aren’t six-feet and 110 pounds.

    I just want to talk about this. We don’t talk about this nearly enough – we all see and know and absorb these impossible beauty standards, and we hear some lip service from the media about how yes, they are impossible, but we don’t get actual attempts to fix it so we’ll stop being dissatisfied with how we look. So we end up detached from our own bodies, looking at ourselves from a critical distance and hating how they’re shaped and being dissatisfied with what color they are and wishing we could change them instead of just. You know. Living in them.

    So, if you’d care to, talk to me about how you don’t fit. What kind of messed up things society tells you about being female (or not) and having a body, because for some reason those things aren’t good enough on their own, even though they should be. Feel free to share whatever you want. I’d like to listen.