Thursday, 26 February 2009

Johnathan Pearce almost gets it right, then gets it very wrong

Oh Johnathan, I want to like you, I almost succeed, and then you go and undo all of my progress. I was with you through most of this analysis of the varying reactions to the ridiculously smart Gail Trimble.

But then you had to go and say this as your closing assessment:
And then again, I will openly confess to having a weakness for brunettes with brains and a cultivated voice. I see the young lady has a few male admirers on the web. Good for her.
Good for her not that she is trouncing all challengers, not that she does not feel obligated to hide her pride at achievement as so many would want we uppity women to do (you mentioned this earlier but where was your follow-through?), but that a few men online - you included - find her hot. Because at the end of all the bothersome question-answering, is that not the ultimate success?

To RD, with no love, and a big, stinking pile of cow-itch

This post is dedicated to my former good friend RD, who has the unfettered audacity to take his narrow behind on over to Kensington Oval to witness the fourth Test between the West Indies and England, while I languish here in London, cricketless. Well not entirely cricketless, I get to watch it on my computer, with about a four-minute delay and spotty audio. I don't like it when I can barely hear the dulcet tones of Michael Holding's deadpan commentary: it makes for a very huffy mongoose. The only thing better than Holding (and Boycott - come back, Geoff!) on commentary is getting to watch the actual cricket in the actual sunshine. But I'm not mad. Do I look mad?

So today, the West Indies will be looking to continue its performance and momentum after thrashing England in the first Test at Sabina Park and managing a hard-fought draw in the third at the Antigua Recreation Ground (ARG). After that dark, moody, crypt of a pitch at the ARG, it's time for some real cricket at Kensington, where we know how to prepare a cricket ground. Yes, that was a dig at Antigua. I'm still not over it. The track at the Oval has lost a little of the old pace and probably favours the batsman a bit more than it used to, but Taylor and Edwards, if they remain consistent, should be able to get something out of the fine pace and bounce that are still the wicket at Kensington. (I don't know what's happening with Daren Powell. But I'm a little soft on him so I'm hoping he delivers.) And have I mentioned how heartened I am to see the commitment of the squad and selectors to keeping a real (left-arm) spinner in the person of Sulieman Benn? Could this mean that we're finally ready to dedicate to developing good specialist spin bowlers again instead of losing our nerve and dropping them after a couple Test matches? One dwells in hope.

So I'm anxious to watch some cricket. RD has already set out and has promised to bring me live updates from the Oval, but I don't believe him. So I aim to get in as much writing as I can right now, then get my cricket on.

And for my readers who have no earthly idea what I'm talking about because "what the hell is cricket?", I thought of helping you out with some links, then I realized I would have to link every other word. So I had to abandon that idea. But, you know, there's wikipedia.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Of cervical smears and smug simpletons

It's cervical smear time again. Yay! Just like Christmas except with less tinsel and very little carol-singing. The NHS surgeries here do not play when it comes to making sure all women in the target age range receive regular smear tests. So far, they've sent me two letters and two text messages. The letters were very polite, gentle reminders. The texts were succinct and more urgent. I don't know what the next step is, but I wouldn't be surprised if I opened the door to find two nurses out there with a net and a tranquilizer gun going "Don't make a muthafkr have to come in there."

As an activist for women's health, I have no excuse. Well, actually, I have two. But they're really lame ones:

1) I keep trying to time the appointment so it's not too close to menstruation. Then I breeze on past the ideal window and before you know it, I'm close to menstruation again.

2) As someone who has previously visited only private gynaecologists, I cannot bring myself around to the idea of having a nurse poking around in my lady garden. (Those who are going to run in here yelling at me about proper nomenclature for genitalia can just step off right now. I know I have a VAGINA. It's hard to miss.) Public health nurses are great. In my experience, they're often a sight more knowledgeable about the important things than many doctors are. But the nurse I usually encounter at my surgery is seriously militant. She strikes me as one of these people who has no time with fanciful notions like pain or fear. And the idea of her scraping around in my cervix is not a comforting one.

I know what I'll do, of course. I'll do what I always do with medical professionals who are too busy snapping gloves and scribbling notes to look their patients in the eye and listen. I'm going to slow down the mad rush of a pre-exam consult long enough to ask what tool they use (my last doctor in Barbados used a brush that felt like nothing at all; seriously nothing. I had to check to make sure she actually had something to send to the lab and hadn't just been down there flipping through an Economist or something), find out when I'm going to get the results back and how, and make sure I have someone to discuss them with if necessary. But I had been putting all this off because sometimes you get exhausted from having to fight with people, especially people who are about to take a spatula to your uterus.

I'm not the only one who's looking to get the regular smear test out of the way. Ever since the passion of Jade Goody began in the national and international media, the demand for cervical smears has increased by one fifth in the UK. Jade's experience has brought out lots of supporters, many wearing T-shirts to show their solidarity, and as I looked at their various messages, I suddenly got this flashback of an incident that I had clearly been repressing because of the sheer rage it inspired.

In Barbados for Crop Over one year, I saw a moron at a party wearing a shirt that said, "I Eat More Pussy Than Cervical Cancer". Yes, we get it, dolts over at T-shirt Hell: we're not with the cool kids. I'm not even going to do the "I have an irreverent sense of humour too but.." thing, because the people are just summarily stupid and that's all there is to be said. This particular moron on that night was standing by the bar looking all smug and clever, clearly waiting for people (read: women) to come over and congratulate him (read: suck his penis) over how talented he must be to wear an idiotic shirt designed by some other idiot who was not he. He even used this in his rebuttal, when I pointed out that anyone wearing his shirt might not want to drink that hard, and risk killing the one remaining brain cell he might have used to find his way home. He was trapped. Foxy as I was looking on that night, he couldn't use the handy, old "you're just an ugly old bag who needs a man" defence. So he resorted to the "I didn't make the shirt!" defence, which is so glaringly stupid I have to admit it threw me for a second or two.

I didn't bother too much longer with him, realizing from both his wardrobe choice and the vacant look in his eyes that this was a losing game. But I cannot deny that something caught in my throat when I saw the shirt, in this place so teeming with beautiful, Caribbean women who had probably almost all been affected by a woman's cancer like cervical cancer. I realize that Moron was probably only focusing his wee brain on the cunnilingus reference in the affirmation - as some kind of desperate declaration of his sexual prowess - and not on the gruesome image created when you take quite literally the first and second parts of that statement together. But the image is immediate, and I was momentarily confused that someone would be so openly and proudly witless and vulgar. Amongst all the ongoing marginalization of people with legitimate rights to existence and expression, how twisted that the most brainless are the least ashamed to manifest it.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Feminism: you're doing it wrong!

I'm pretty new to the blogging thing, though not new to the being a feminist thing. I've worked for years as an economist trying to convince governments that while economic policy is for all, as they so indignantly point out, economic behaviour and access are realized differently depending on gender, race, class and other factors; and that these differences have to be accounted for. It's an uphill climb in the Caribbean, where the first response is to roll out old statistics of university matriculation and how many women are heads of this and chief of the other. There is very little dialogue around issues that affect women like the increasing incidence of violence against women and the feminization of HIV/AIDS; and further, there is an enormous backlash against all things seen as remotely feminist. To put it simply, people just don't get it, and they don't want to.

After years trying to straddle policy development, academia and people's real world experiences, to draw from all three and make them accessible in order to just make life better for women in lasting and sustainable ways, it felt like a breath of fresh air to happen upon a blogosphere where the feminist dialogue had a space. I expected that it would be dominated by white, middle-class, North American theorists, or at least they would be most visible. But even if that were the case, I thought, the nature of feminist analysis and inquiry is to help uncover other voices, and to consider gender together with other markers of identity. So it would be alright. And largely this has been true. But there are also gender activists of all types bouncing around the interwebs saying very smart things: fat ones, black ones, white ones, brown ones, lesbian, gay, bi, transgendered ones, poem-writing, 'fuck'-saying ones; obviously some of those are probably disproportionately represented - I haven't done any studies - and there is almost always room for further diversification, but there are certainly enough perspectives to keep grassroots-worker, paper-writer, previously-non-blogging feminists like me busy catching up for a few days.

And there is a lot of mutual support for the work of other women writers online. There is guest-blogging and cross-posting and hyperlinking and all kinds of ways to agree with what you already believe or have recently learnt, and to diversify your voice. And this is all very good. Some writers have their issues with it, and may have some valid points even if they express them in a way that is in places disgruntled and somewhat passive-aggressive. But so far, I in my little corner haven't been completely turned off or shut out by the feminist blogger glad-handing machine. I may feel less warm and fuzzy later, so check back.

However, what I am starting to notice is this kind of 'you're doing it wrong' approach to discourse. As is the way in the blogging community, everyone is writing on what someone wrote on what someone said on television about what someone sang or said or photographed. That's fine. That's what we do: we take the mainstream party line and pick it apart, saying what's wrong with it and how it is potentially or actually damaging to certain groups of people. But in this maelstrom, other feminists end up on the chopping block being attacked rather than engaged. I'm probably guilty of attack myself, as you might be able to point out by clicking on this blog's archive. Attacking is fun when the argument is so ridiculous and smacks so much of intolerance and supremacism that you feel no obligation to spare the feelings of the fool in question. I don't massage people, and I get a kick out of reading those who take a similar approach while advancing worthwhile arguments. But ultimately, it seems to me that the point is to tease out the issues while finding common ground, and while simultaneously sharing how my experience of a particular issue is different from yours, and what that means for how a solution is found. Sometimes as theorists, we get caught up in finding holes and proving people to be other than whatever label they have given themselves, and trying to find new ways to argue the same thing. We get tired of feeling like we have to teach people who should know better. But sometimes we do, we have to teach them. And sometimes, we just have to shut up and listen, because we think we know, but we don't.

As a Black, non-American, non-British woman engaging with US- and Europe-dominated media, I am aware of American and British ideas of what a feminist should look like, and moreover what a Black feminist should look like. It is determined by the women's rights histories of those nations, and I am to an extent part of that. But I have a different voice as well. I feel pretty at home commenting on American politics and culture as a black woman, but I'm not a black American woman, so I have to account for that. I also feel certain kinship with women of other ethnicities and religions around the world, but I am not they. So while I can advance ideas on their experiences from a perceived shared reality, I have to, at the same time, respect at least their authority as being of that community, even though I may instinctively disagree with their arguments.

I understand the need to protect what we feel we have fought so hard for, and yes, sometimes we can clearly state that something is anti-feminist or not a feminist ideal. But with the more nuanced discussions, it seems to me we can sometimes quit the yelling at people who often are on journeys just like we are, and just resolve to keep talking about it.

Monday, 23 February 2009

"He’s Just Not That Into You" or "Surprisingly, The Best We Could Do Even With All These Huge Names"

Even with the long list of must-see movies that are currently in the theatres, I, for some reason, suspended the nagging feeling that it would be glorified crap and decided to see He’s Just Not That Into You anyway. And you know what? It is glorified crap – in fact, not even that glorified. More like sad, little, whimpering crap. It isn’t awful. It is just painfully underwhelming.

There are all the expected stereotypes of female behaviour. Ginnifer Goodwin’s character Gigi is naïve, sweet and desperate to be loved by a man. She takes all comers and is so clueless about male behaviour, you have to wonder whether she had previously lived in a bubble on Krypton. Of course, along comes Alex, played by Justin Long, to roll his eyes at her while schooling her on the not-really-that cryptic-or-clever ways of the opposite sex. It takes the wisdom of a cad to teach her what apparently neither she nor any of her smart, educated girlfriends could manage to figure out. Of course, she ends up falling for the cad, or rather, decides she might as well let him come home with her after she has convinced herself that he has fallen for her. We notice that at no point does she stop to ask herself how she feels about any of these men. Them wanting her, or at least them not chasing her off with a stick, is a more than adequate condition for the start of a relationship.

Jennifer Connelly tries to do a little acting with the role she is given as the passive-aggressive neat freak whose frigidity forces her husband to have an affair with – who else – Scarlet Johansson, the fecund goddess to Connelly's dried up old bag. We start to think we might see a hint of performance in Connelly’s interpretation, but she could only do so much with the script and direction she was given. I was a little heartened to notice the only thing that keeps me watching Entourage: the presence of Kevin Connolly. But he turns out to be just E in tighter clothes, just as Jennifer Aniston is a sleepier Rachel, and Drew Barrymore is Neurotic Girl from almost every film she’s been in.

Ben Affleck seemed pleasantly mellow and self-assured in his role as husband of Aniston’s Beth, and was surprisingly the standout performance of the film, such as he could be under the circumstances. The laughs were scarce, coming primarily for me from the token, asexual, fat black ladies on a bench who, of course, dispense wisdom in that ‘listen to big mama’ way that Hollywood directors, poor things, have to resort to for half their black, woman characters, or else I think they’ll burst into flames. Apart from the black stereotypes (Tyrone, the black waiter in the big gold chain, gets into trouble with authority for wearing what looks like a Cross Colours shirt that should be all black by regulation), there are of course the gay stereotypes of gossipy, love-obsessed men who snap their fingers and roll their eyes; and when it comes to the black, gay character, well, you can’t expect them to know what to do with him. Although, oddly enough, thanks to the actor Wilson Cruz’s comedic timing, he provided the other handful of chuckles.

Acknowledging that yes, sometimes women do go a little crazy for love, lust and everything in between, the film is still lazy and unimaginative in its character choice and development, and in the story it chooses to tell. It feels as if this story and these people could have existed in the 80s or 90s. The film represents very little of what women have learnt and become by the end of the first decade of the 21st century. The message of the famous catchphrase, at least the message I deduce: “if a man likes you he’ll let you know and in the meantime stop giving a crap and do what you want” is one-sided at best. It focuses on men’s behaviour and what women should stop doing or not do in relation to it. It takes the advice from men throughout the film and allows them to make most of the rules. Women only start to make their own rules in the aftermath of men’s disappointing actions. But even if we concede that sometimes that is the way, even the supposedly liberating part of that message, the “do what you want” part, isn’t strong in the film. In the end, it’s just a predictable, little story with predictable, little characters. And not in that “snapshot of the life of a simple, but inspiring person” way. But more in that “what was this about again and wait when did I finish my popcorn oh zzzzzz” way. I would say that that may have been the intention, but somehow, I doubt it.

The prophet Jeremiah figures in Jamaica abortion debate

The debate continues over abortion law in Jamaica, after an Abortion Policy Review Advisory Group last year recommended that the law be changed to make abortion legal. Termination of pregnancy is now illegal under an 1864 Offences Against the Person Act, although common law permits the procedure in cases of significant fetal abnormality; where pregnancy would represent a threat to the welfare or health of the mother; and where pregnancy is an outcome of rape or incest.

Over the weekend, a local group, The Coalition of Lawyers for the Defence of the Unborn, called the suggested decriminilization measures 'revolting', and took particular exception to a recommendation in the proposed law prescribing sanctions against medical personnel who refused to terminate a pregnancy on the grounds of 'conscience'.

And more recently, the Jamaica Gleaner reported on a pro-life pastor who compared a provision in the draft bill to Adolf Hitler's plan to exterminate Germans with physical or mental disabilities, a comparison which might perhaps be valid if said Germans had been living inside various women at the time. The pastor of course went on to quote the Christian bible in an attempt to show that "God's plan for human lives started from conception."
According to the clergyman, God said to Jeremiah: "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee ... and ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." He said this indicated that God had a specific plan for the prophet's life even before he was born. He argued that no doctor, psychologist or theologian could determine God's plan for a human life. In that regard, he said abortion should remain unlawful, except in the most extreme cases such as proven threat to the life of the mother.
Although, I'm not sure how we would know that God's plan for that foetus isn't way more important than whatever the mother was doing at the time. I mean, according to the pastor's argument, what if that child would have cured cancer, whereas the mother was pretty much just hanging out shelling peas and watching Gilmore Girls? Does God's supposed plan for this foetus just go away because it's a threat to the mother's life? And if the two lives are equally valuable to God, how is it we automatically choose the mother's? Or is God going to tap us on the shoulder and say, "Um yeah. So I'm going to go ahead and keep the cancer-curer kid. I know you have your laws and stuff that you used me to make but...ooh. Awkward."
Reverend Thames said in the case of rape or child abuse, there should not be an automatic abortion, but attempts should be made to preserve the life of the child and counsel the mother to consider adoption. "If the mother insists on an abortion, this should not be treated as a criminal offence, but as the subject of further counselling," he added.
And if I throw a really heavy shoe at someone who's trying to 'counsel' me into his own agenda after I've been through an extremely traumatic experience? What will that be treated as?

Certain things are clearly still escaping the way we govern in the Caribbean: like the fact that your religion cannot dictate my reproductive choices, and that even setting aside the origin of the State's laws, it is still not allowed to plant its flag in my uterus. Ultimately, a woman must be allowed to determine what happens to her own body, for reasons that have to do with human rights, health and well-being, and personal freedoms.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Thank you for being a crazy trollop

There is a fine line between having a good time and being a wanton slut. I know. My toe has been on that line.
-Blanche Devereaux

The hour grows late and the mongoose grows weary, but I had to stop in and acknowledge the birthday of my hero, mentor and the awesomest of the Golden Girls, Blanche Devereaux. I mean: Rue McClanahan. Blanche is 75 today! I mean Rue. (Sorry but what kind of a name is Rue? Is that like "you will rue the day you darkened my doorstep, Harold Whittingfield!", in which case it is actually fittingly dramatic; or 'rue' as in French for 'street', in which case it is frankly just odd.) She was actually born Eddi Rue McClanahan, but we'll just call her Blanche. Blanche is a breast cancer survivor, animal lover and Democrat, and is hereby named an honorary mongoose. (I'm sure that in subsequent interviews, she'll be asked where she was when she heard this news.)

Happy birthday, Blanche. Let’s rent an adult video, drink mimosas and French kiss the pillows.

Friday, 20 February 2009

No, I do not want to see The Picture, but thanks for asking

If it didn't stick in my craw so much, it might actually be funny: while we blast TMZ (as well we should) for publishing post-attack photos of Rihanna, we at the same time seem to have no compunction at all about forwarding that pic or stories bearing it among our circles of friends. I question the motivation of those forwarding it. Are you that keen to do your part in spreading the news? If so, let me help you out a bit and hit you with some knowledge: those people you're emailing it to have the interwebs also, so they're going to see it if they want to. And while you put poxes on the houses of TMZ staff, it's exactly people like you that they're targeting; people they know are going to pick up that story and run helter-skelter with it.

Pictures like that are not only disrespectful to Robyn's ordeal (I tend to call her Robyn a lot because we seem to forget that behind the recording sensation is 20-year-old Robyn Fenty, a young woman recovering from a very bad thing), they are also triggering for millions of women who have been through similar experiences. So please direct your adventures in web journalism elsewhere. The mongoose is not interested.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

She won't go, go, etc.

I don't smoke cigarettes cause it could stop I breath
I man don't sniff coke cause it would make I choke
All I smoke is the real ku-sheng-pen
Ku-sheng-pen make I count from one to ten
Pass the ku-sheng-pen
Pass it over
- Frankie Paul

It seems that Amy Winehouse, who has been on vacation in St. Lucia forever, is staying on vacation forever. The Sun (Sun? What? Who said that?) is reporting that she and her father are searching for a house there, and those close to her think it's a brilliant idea:
“Amy loves it over there and being away from it all has helped her hugely in her fight against drugs.
“She has been drinking and smoking cannabis but is still a million times better
than she was in Camden.

Amy is doing it in true Caribbean style, just as Frankie Paul would have wanted. That quote above gives me pause and a bit of a giggle, but if she can in fact turn her poison into medicine, I'm all for it. Especially if it brings us another Back to Black.

Let's we trap us some menfolk, Maude!

I’m sitting here trying to determine whether this MSN UK article “10 things a girl shouldn’t do on a first date” is for serious, or just a really subtle, potentially brilliant joke. As I read on, I am horrified to realize that it’s most likely the former, and worse, written by two women.

The article, which follows the typical, Cosmo-mag-type, formula of “how you can fix your broken self so some man might want you” (screw independence and self-acceptance), starts to annoy from the outset with the title. I know we’re all supposed to sustain men’s illusion that behind closed doors, women pretty much just have naked pillow fights and braid each other’s hair. But you’re not talking about girls in this article, since I don’t believe many 12-year-olds have their own flats where they can host first dates. You’re talking about women. You can let go of the perpetual youth image that we seem to feel so obligated to propagate for men’s benefit, and go ahead and call yourself a woman. It’s ok.

The piece starts with some warnings off overly mushy behaviour, like serving champagne and eating by candlelight, in the former instance because it might scream ‘I like to party!’ While there are some loon-indicative behaviours that anyone, man or woman, should avoid on a first date, I start to itch when confronted with this notion that women should behave ourselves to trap a man, when in the meantime, the man in question is across the table doing and being whatever he pleases. I have a friend who loves champagne. She has it with steak at fancy dinners, or with popcorn in front of the TV, and if she wants to introduce a potential partner to her champagne appreciation, or share a bottle that she particularly likes, then why the hell not? Is he going to run off over a little champagne? Well then we didn’t want him anyway.

The article also mentions that we shouldn’t drink too much, but that we should make sure and drink something. And if you don’t drink or don’t want to on that night for some reason, well, choke it back anyway. Who cares about personal choice? You’ve got you a man to wrangle!

The crazy then comes out in full effect when the writers suggest that we should refuse to let the man do the washing up if he offers:
One key objective in cooking for a date is to make you look like a capable, efficient hostess who hasn’t slaved too keenly over a hot stove all day. It must look as though you have whipped up a delicious spread without skipping a beat, AND without making a massive pile of dirty pots and pans. You are not auditioning as his housekeeper! Incidentally, clear up mess and conceal the work you’ve put into the meal BEFORE he arrives.
The “you are not auditioning as his housekeeper” seems a bit misplaced there, since apparently I am auditioning to be his lean, mean, cooking, cleaning, perfect, 1950s housewife machine. That is, by their own admission, "one key objective". Even though you aren’t coming to the table with flour in your hair and wearing a grease-soaked apron, any idiot who has just sat down to a fine, three-course meal knows that it took some doing, so if he wants to help out by washing up, I’m damn sure going to let him.

The kicker, though, is the admonition to brush up on your current affairs edumacation:
WHAT?! You expect me to recite ten members of Barack Obama’s team? Well no. But you are hardly going to be whispering sweet nothings all evening, so you’re going to have to hold a conversation with your Dish, and it will help to know something about what’s been going on in the world. You don’t have to be fluent in the Sub Prime Mortgage Lending Crisis but scan the headlines. Check out the news on MSN. Most men want a woman they can talk to. In our experience, men absorb current events as if by osmosis.
So let me see if I have this right: if I weren’t trying to get a man, I could continue in my obvious ignorance (since women’s small, pink brains can’t grasp big, manly topics like politics or the economy, and have no interest in them anyway). But since men are by default clever and intellectually curious, and women are by default stoopid stoopid stoopid, I should run out for an FT and try to learn something fancy.

Then, as no such rulebook would be complete without a statement on women’s eating, the article concludes with an instruction that starts out looking like “eat what you want” but halfway through turns into “yeah, not so much”. We must serve ourselves a ‘normal portion’ and it must include carbs. Fill your plate even if you know you can’t finish it, because then you can pretend that you really intended to finish it but since this is your first meal ever, you have no idea what your appetite is like. If you can finish it, though, do. But (!), don’t eat too much dessert because then you’ll look like a piggy-wiggy, and you don't want to scare your victim off with images of you five years later and 200 pounds heavier.

So basically: want a man? Be a neurotic housewife. Ah, such inspiring advice for women everywhere.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Hey there, stupid

Stop using the homeless to try and appear clever. It is not working.

You know, I was starting to think we were now overusing terms like "language of privilege" and other expressions meant to shame the wealthier classes into acting less silly. But some people just need to pack up their 'edginess' and move the hell along. Nothing happening here but a writer with too much time on his hands and not much of anything in his brain.

Adventures in horripilation with Marc and the mongoose

I often wear this funky, fauxhawk hairstyle which my sister says makes me look like the mum from Dinosaurs. I of course ignore her hateification on my stellar hairstyling capabilities, and keep rocking my did (from 'do - from hairdo; we have a complicated language, the three sisters). So in her honour, I think the next time I go home, I'm going to step off the plane wearing one of these styles from Marc Jacobs. The man clearly had me in mind during NY Fashion Week:

Ok this first one will never fly. Get it? Chortle.

These two might work out well because this is how I look straight out of bed in the morning with no hairspray. True story.

I am extremely partial to this because I rock similar sunglasses. Mine are smaller, but after seeing the ensemble look, I might go for the upgrade.

But no! I have found my holy grail:

Alert the aviation towers, sis. The mongoose has a new 'do.

Thanks to Jezebel for the inspiration.

Gay Rastas jump off cliffs

I’Akobi Maloney was a 23-year-old, Barbadian university graduate who was found dead on June 18, 2008 after an encounter with police. Law enforcement officers said they were responding to a call of a drug landing in the north of the island when they “observed and interviewed” the young man. During this time, he apparently "suddenly ran and jumped off a cliff.” Well the Maloney family was having none of it, and with the support of their community, managed to have an inquest opened into his death.

Media coverage of the Coroner’s Court proceedings has been a bit questionable, and has included publication of a private journal entry that Maloney was supposed to have written. But perhaps the most ridiculous part of the inquest surfaced recently in this Nation newspaper article, and focuses on the testimony of a gay man who claimed to be in a relationship with someone who may or may not have also been in a relationship with the deceased. You probably need to read that again very slowly. And while you’re at it, take a look at this:
Shon Boyce, who admitted to being a homosexual from his childhood days said he was introduced to Jason Collymore, a former witness at the inquest, in 2003.

He was introduced to Collymore, he said, and they subsequently got involved in a same-sex relationship where he was the outside man, since Collymore, who works at the Cement Plant, told him that he had a Rastaman and he, Boyce, should never come to the house when the man was there.

He said Collymore lived at White Hall Main Road in an apartment, and he did not know the Rastaman's name as it was never told to him, but he used to pass a man on the stairway going down smiling as he would be going up. Boyce said he only recognised that the man was Maloney when he saw the advertisement in the paper and decided to come forward and give testimony after reading Collymore's evidence in the newspaper that he was not gay.
I love how they mention that Mr. Boyce “admitted to being a homosexual”, as if this were on par with, say, admitting to being the Unabomber. And notice the use of what, in Barbados, is scandalous language like "outside man" and "had a Rastaman". Now this is not a direct quote, so presumably this particular testimony by the witness could have been conveyed in a less prejudicial way. The inquest goes on to discuss in detail the supposed intimate relationship of these three men, and throughout, I am trying to figure out what in the name of all that is holy any of this has to do with whether there was foul play involved. Or is it that, in their experience, gay men often jump to their deaths?

Then “Constable Wendell Walkes…went into some personal history, on the questioning of Coroner Faith Marshall-Harris, about his own Rasta brother's suicide.” I get the trend here: Rastafari people are clearly prone to suicide, so if you’re gay and Rasta, well, surely that’s enough to drive anybody off a cliff.

I don’t know what happened on that cliff in Cove Bay last year, but I’m not sure what the inquest is trying to establish by focusing on Maloney’s religion and raising conjectures about his sexuality. Perhaps they’re implying that in a homophobic society like Barbados, a secretly gay man might feel tortured enough to end his life. But all they and the media who give them voice are succeeding in doing, which might also be their goal, is encouraging those who see gay people as unimportant and dispensable to carry on in such thinking.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Stop-the-madness Monday

Today is definitely a peanutbuttereggdirt day, made worse by the myriad fools out there trying their utmost to see who can win the "piss off a mongoose today" competition:
  • Jezebel reports on this Rihanna deserved it T-shirt that was on sale at CafePress, but was eventually removed from its site. I would post the actual picture, but I can't stand to look at it any longer that I have to. There's also an I Beat It Like Chris Brown T-shirt for sale. At this rate, my "boycott all morons" policy is going to save me vats of money.

  • Then there's Rapeplay, a PC game that allows players to gang rape virtual women and then force them to have an abortion. Amazon has banned the game after complaints from users, "deeming it to be inappropriate."
    Rapelay, which was released in 2006, encourages players to force the virtual woman they rape to have an abortion. If they are allowed to give birth, the woman throws the player's character under a train, according to reviews of the game. It also has a feature allowing several players to team up against individual women.
    I have now officially ceased to be shocked by the wanton stupidity (and violent misogyny) of 21st century "civilization".

  • And finally, not as jaw-dropping but almost as confounding, is the suggestion of international consultant Trevor Hamilton that the Jamaica government cut public sector employment by 30 percent as a way of reducing government expenditure and stimulating the economy. This one-third of over 100 000 workers are then meant to:
    ..automatically be eligible to bid for [the] divested government services (he recommends too that 300 state-run entities be divested), possibly through the establishment of Employee Share Ownership Plans, as well as enjoy eligibility to government-secured low-cost business loans.
    Apparently, these displaced workers are now supposed to have the get-up-and-go to start their own businesses. Hamilton also assures that under his plan, "there will be increased opportunities for local investors to invest their excess liquidity." It seems the Jamaican economy is not suffering from this pesky little global recession that is afflicting lesser mortals. I hesitate to completely condemn the plan without seeing it in its entirety, but these parts of it at least seem ill-conceived. Who are the employees to be made redundant? What will be their barriers to re-entry? Why is everyone talking nonsense today? It's really quite exhausting.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

I can't handle the truth

I wish I were a bigger woman, but ever since Tom Cruise outed himself as a wackadoodle, it affects my enjoyment of his older films. I don't consider Cruise's furrowed-brow approach to every emotion brilliant acting, but sometimes that wild-eyed grimace is just what a movie needs. And he is the face of a few classics that I like to dig up now and again, like A Few Good Men and Top Gun. But Mission Impossible III was on TV this weekend, and every time I saw his face, I just wanted to keep yelling "Glib! GLIB!" at the television.

Sometimes I really don't want to know the truth about actors. Then - as in the case of Sean Connery (I knew there was a reason Roger Moore was my favourite Bond) - I might be forced to hate them forever.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Have some pride, lady

Paris Hilton came to London to find a British best friend (BBF!), and to televise the whole narcissistic mess for a new reality show. Whoever won the first season eventually ran off when she realized that having to dress fug while remaining five paces behind Paris with her head bowed was not the quickest path to celebrity. So now Paris is gearing up for a second season to find a fresh, new slave.

I'd never watched the show until today. I shouldn't have to explain that. So I don't know which season was on TV this morning, but I witnessed the following: apparently it was the elimination segment. There was Paris, ensconced on a throne holding a bejewelled sceptre, while the wide-eyed hopefuls sat enthralled, looking as if they wanted to eat her shiny, pink soul. Amidst this scene, this exchange takes place:
Paris: "I want you to be my pet."
BBF contestant: "Wow! Thank you!"
I think I was wrong. This thing has great comedic potential.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Look alive, Antigua!

We've only been playing cricket in the Caribbean for a gazillion years. You'd think we would have figured out by now how to maintain the outfield of cricket grounds and prepare run-ups. Yet, the second test against England in Antigua had to be abandoned after only ten balls because of safety concerns related to the fitness of the ground.

I feel like I ask this question every other month, but what in lime-green tarnation is the West Indies Cricket Board busying itself with? This is Test cricket, people, not Blue House versus Red House at Luther Thorne Memorial. The situation is too embarrassing for words, although Sir Vivian Richards - for whom the unfit stadium is named - had a few:
"It's like an arrow through the heart," said an exasperated Richards.
I feel you, Sir Viv. I feel you.

Big, pink, cellophane weekend! Not really

Today is a headachey day for the mongoose. I rarely get headaches, so it takes me a while to recognize the source of my crankiness ("What is this odd sensation above my ears?"), and longer still to remember that they make drugs for this particular affliction. If you stick with me long enough, you'll realize that while I tend not to get headaches, colds and other run-of-the-mill maladies, my body seems to attract the rarest and most exotic of traumas, one of which once prompted a doctor to take down one of his dusty, yellowed textbooks and declare "I haven't seen this kind of thing since my days on the Demerara!" Yes, that would be the river in Guyana.

So here on a Friday with my headache, I thought about whether I could afford to slack off today and make up for it tomorrow. Then I remembered that tomorrow is the dreaded Valentine's Day, and I'd better get my business out of the way now, lest tomorrow I get assaulted on the street by oversized, pink bears, or strangled by errant, shiny, red balloons.

Before I get into the Valentine's Day musings, though, I want to point you to a brilliant comment made on yesterday's Darwin open post. It's thorough, thought-provoking, and really quite a sight better than anything I could have written on the topic. One is tempted to think the writer took a wrong turn on his way to Scientific American, but I happen to know otherwise, so thanks to Markaman for the response.

And since there is no appropriate segue from Darwin to pink balloons, I'll just get on with it.

Valentine's Day tends to inspire gleeful anticipation of romantic outings and gifts; bitter hatred and rebellion; or gentle apathy, which I think is where I fall. With the economy in recession, the V-Day haters have ample backing for their failure to participate. But before the financial crisis, I always thought that the various remonstrations with the 'holiday' were somewhat lame, and mostly made by people who just didn't want to make the effort, and were claiming anti-commercialism as their platform.

I see nothing wrong with giving someone a red mug filled with chocolates if that will make him happy. I happen to find all the plastic redness and pinkness horribly tacky in general, but if you know your partner has her eyes on some poor, white bear being suffocated by pink cellophane, unless you have some strong conviction that forbids you from indulging her, get her the damn bear. I've accepted a few bears in my time. A couple were hideous and not at all me, but they were also not from anyone who was ultimately that important. So it was no big deal. The people who mattered were a little more creative.

The most cherished gift I ever received for any V-Day, birthday or Guy Fawkes Day was a poem collage. It was an original Valentine's Day poem with hand-cut pictures of some of the references, and before you go shaking your head and smirking, it was not at all cheesy. This guy was incapable of cheese. I was in the DR, my partner was across the seas, I didn't expect it, and it was perfect. He happens to turn a mean phrase, but not everyone is so inclined. So instead of banging your chest and declaring that you don't do V-day and no one can change you or put you in a box(!!!), why not think of something cheap (it's not a bad word) yet meaningful that your partner might enjoy? If you're both V-day grinches like some couples I know, then it's moot. But it might turn out to be fun.

Many say "Why choose one day to show someone love? I show love every day!" Well first, that's just silly. And second, you're a liar. Lots of us tend to get caught up in day to day drudgery that prioritizes real life over real romance. And if you don't, then what's one extra, dedicated day of smooshiness, or just plain appreciation if you're not the smooshy type? When we were at school, my friend Claire always used V-day to send her girlfriends little "you're great" tokens. I thought that was lovely. It doesn't have to be February 14th. But it could be. You're not a drone if you buy a Hallmark card.

Still others hate the idea that it's considered a woman's holiday, prompting the annoying "Steak and a blowjob" day as a response. I'm not going to get into why that concept is inane and not at all clever, but I'll just say the same thing I say to the people who mumble that if there's a women's movement, why should they still open doors for women: really? Is that what you consider a worthy objection? Avoiding a digression into the fact that equality does not mean sameness, in the first place, if you're so against doing something special for your woman partner, you might have bigger problems than not being able to afford balloons; and second, it need not be a woman's holiday. Exchange tacky, red, plastic crap if you like, or prepare a picnic together, or give each other massages. Quit fighting a fight that doesn't exist.

And finally, some will say that as a feminist, I should reject Valentine's Day and its inherent message that all women want are chocolates and pink. Clearly, that is absurd, but some women do want chocolates and pink sometimes, or some approximation of these. And that's alright. I do reject the pink labelling as it is used by Eileen Boris here. I see no reason why jobs dominated by women should be termed 'pink jobs', and I consider that a more damaging image than women liking pink for Valentine's Day, which some do and many don't. So you see, I pick the battles that I find important.

Despite my apparent advocacy for Valentine's Day, I most likely won't do anything pink and fuzzy tomorrow. Not because I object, but because it's not a priority for me this weekend. Nevertheless, I won't turn down a poem or a bottle of wine or an eco-friendly bear. That would just be rude.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

On Darwin and racism: comment response

For a guy who's 200 years old, Charles Darwin sure is keeping me busy today.

So I received a comment from a reader who was too bashful to post in the open post. She complains that she "see[s] [my] blog as a great representation of black feminism" and therefore "doesn't know how to feel" about the fact that I endorse Darwin and his theories of evolution.

I've read the quotes suggesting that Darwin was a racist who saw black people and the aboriginal tribes of Australia as inferior to white people. And I have seen the arguments that Darwin's theories in fact led to slavery and are the foundation of Nazi eugenics, which - if we consider certain timelines, especially in the case of the former - are weak ones.

I can only say the following: Darwin could very well have thought, at the time that he was developing his theories, that the races he encountered represented different stages of evolution of the homo sapien. Given the popular thinking of the time, it would not be surprising. I do know that he was considered an abolitionist, and I also know that frankly, he is impossible for me to ignore. His findings are still being discussed today as more evidence is being gathered, and as someone with a slightly more than passing interest in this evidence, I cannot render him irrelevant as I might other less significant (to me at least) historical figures; I can't boycott his music or stop drinking his champagne. I tend to think he was more misguided than hateful, but I'm sure the same has been said about much more frightful characters.

Remember too that not all people who believe that species evolved believe in all the tenets of Darwinist theory. In fact, there are some with which we must disagree, namely, of course, his prediction that those he called 'weaker races' would not prosper and would become extinct.

In short, I don't know if Darwin was a racist. He may very well have been. But if I want to discuss evolution, I have to acknowledge him and the work he produced.

LolDarwin of the day: Open post

I was just sent this Guardian story, along with the admonition:
You should write about this. It is so full of idiotic ideas, one hardly knows where to begin.
This might be the truest thing ever spoken. According to the story:
The Ulster Museum in Belfast faces a legal challenge unless it stages a creationist exhibition as a counter to its forthcoming series on Charles Darwin, a Democratic Unionist member of the Northern Ireland assembly warned today.

The chairman of the education committee at the Northern Ireland Assembly said: "I am not against the museum or anywhere else promoting Darwin's theory, but I think it would be in the public's interest to give them an alternative theory as well."
I don't want to turn this into a creationism vs. evolution battle, so I will highlight a very simple fact: we're talking about a museum. The UK Museums Association defines museums as "institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artifacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society." Charles Darwin was an important scientist who made a significant contribution to theories on the natural history of the world. He collected specimens and submitted copious written records that led us to a much greater understanding than we would have had without his efforts. Whatever you believe about the man or his theories, they both belong in a museum.

If there is a similar figure behind creationism, if there is similarly thorough and tangible evidence to support robust theory, then by all means, have a creationism exhibition. I suspect, however, that it might be a little sparse.

You know what I wish? I wish people could be discerning enough to separate their own religious passions from the governance and education of the public. But I'm not going to rage against the machine. I'm instead making this an open post so you can tell me what you think. Have at it.

Happy Darwin Day, homo sapiens!

Today is the 200th anniversary of the birthday of Charles Darwin, the British scientist who laid the foundations of the theory of evolution, and sat on them for twenty years waiting for man to become less stupid so he could share. Thank the stars he abandoned that plan. He was somewhat forced to announce his findings when that pesky butterfly catcher Alfred Wallace claimed similar findings, and the two made a joint announcement of their discovery in 1858. The following year, Darwin published his famous 'On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection'.

Today, hundreds of events around the world mark the celebration of Darwin Day. The Guardian lists a few, and you can also visit the dedicated site for everything Darwin Day. The Darwin Correspondence Project is also a very cool one to click around and search his letters, including the one from Wallace that led to their nerd-off in 1858. (Interestingly, neither man was present when his theories were read.) You can also find The Complete Works of Charles Darwin online, including his Zoology of the Beagle, which when I first encountered the title made me think "Oh Charles Darwin liked dogs!" You have permission to chuckle. I was young; what can I say? No, in fact it refers to the H.M.S Beagle, named after the dog, but it was a ship on whose second, five-year voyage Darwin did much of his investigation of geology and marine life.

So at some point today, I'm going to find a way to celebrate Darwin and evolution. I think I'll visit one of the exhibits, or, if I can't get to any, there's a man who most evenings walks his beagle past my house. Maybe I'll run out and pet him. Not the man, the beagle.

Happy Darwin Day.

Darwin is pictured above, along with an image of some of his writings from an 1837 notebook. Click on it!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Oh em gee! It's just eff bee, ppl!

I’ve been out traversing the streets of London, and that always makes me tired. Although you know you’re not really in a hurry, you can’t help but think you’re out of whatever loop all these other racing people seem to be in, and you get panicked and start marching right alongside them wondering: “Holy crap, am I late for something? Wait…where am I going? Did I leave the stove on? Do I have a meeting? Am I in labour?!” Even though you know none of those things could possibly be true, and you are in fact just going to meet your friend for coffee and to see if Selfridges has the new MAC palette. But you might as well march anyway, lest you get trampled by a pack of children wearing those odious wheely shoes that could only have been invented by someone who has never once met a child.

So, sitting here in my huddled mass, I thought of what I could talk to you about that would not require an inordinate amount of thought or energy. Such effort for my readers, I know. I was going to rant about the wheely shoes, but I need considerably more energy for that. Instead, I decided to stick with the Facebook theme, since yesterday’s entry went over so well with the subject. (He sent me a thesis, I tell you. I didn’t read it, but I could see there were lots of big, angry words and conjecture about what man-related tragedies in my personal life have made me such a bitter hag.)

Today’s is a little more general: it’s about the "25 things" meme that has been circulating for the past (what seems like) 40 years. And about which everyone seems to have an opinion. The NY Times wrote a kind of “detached observation about you silly people” piece that was funny in places if a bit unduly sarcastic. The Time piece was rather more biting, calling the trend “just so stupid” (author’s emphasis), because most people aren’t funny or insightful, and because she, the author, doesn’t care. The funny thing is that some of the examples she uses to exemplify her point are in fact funny and interesting, my favourites being:
“A horse once fell over while I was riding it.” and
“Sometimes I think pee smells like Cheerios.”
While she, in contrast, just comes across as surly and humourless. Most of my friends are hilarious and/or insightful, and a couple of them might take themselves too seriously, perhaps, but that’s fine too. I’m thrilled to read all their 25 things. Most of them make me laugh in one or two places; a few of them make me think; some of them make me yawn; but all of them teach me something about my friends, and make me feel fortunate to have these people in my life. It's a little silly and self-involved, but we're talking about a site that is dedicated to showcasing me me me. Let people have their harmless fun because trust me, eliminating "25 things" is not going to stamp out narcissism in the four corners of the earth. If you’re too cool to write one, then don’t write one; or don’t read them. In fact, you’re probably just too cool for Facebook altogether so you should just delete your account and find that cure for cancer that you’ve been working on.

So, as an act of rebellion against the jaded and the too cool for school, and in the spirit of laziness which inspired this post, I’m going to post my 25 things as I posted them on Facebook. I make fun of the chain letter style introduction at the beginning of mine, but that’s all in good fun. It isn’t in my nature to be as mushy as the original introduction is, so I changed mine. But here are my 25 that I posted a few days ago. Go ahead and judge me. (Incidentally, several of mine follow the NY Times article formula, and this wasn’t on purpose. I guess I’m predictable. There are worse things to be.):
Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged, or as many people as you want because really, no one is counting. You should tag the person who tagged you, but if you do, you won't win the lottery, and if you don't, you won't get leprosy. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you, or I happened to see your name in the drop-down list and remembered that I like you.

1) I get a strong sense of satisfaction from finishing off a product so I can open another, or better yet, try a new one. This applies to everything from body wash to bleach.
2) I hate to sleep. It's a waste of time.
3) Hands are my favourite part of a man's body, and the part I tend to notice most on everyone.
4) I tend to end up liking the wives and girlfriends of my guy friends better than the guys. The same cannot be said of the husbands and boyfriends of my girlfriends.
5) At 5'2", I am taller than both my parents.
6) I once got a job as a cashier just because I enjoy pressing buttons.
7) I don't remember what meat tastes like.
8) I remember everything and everyone (except for what meat tastes like). If I don't remember you, you've either had a face transplant or were wearing a cloaking device when we met.
9) I love shopping and will shop for anything: clothes, food, nails, lumber, colostomy bags...
10) Richard Branson once helped me with my bags at the airport.
11) I always drink red wine. White wine tastes like burp.
12) I have an uncle who makes guitars.
13) I once spent half a night in a dumpster after having been caught on the streets during election riots.
14) I used to have a crush on Johnny Ma Boy.
15) My favourite smells are horses and rain on a hot road.
16) I want to steal Dr. Turk from Scrubs and keep him in my pocket.
17) My 3 most prized possessions were all given to me by the same person at different times.
18) I hate to be touched by strangers.
19) I was once part of an exorcism.
20) I used to have a pet goat named Mars.
21) Bats mortify and disgust me.
22) I don't buy absent-mindedness or forgetfulness as a constant excuse, or get people who say "Remind me ‘cause I’ll forget." You're an adult. Buy a pen and get it together.
23) I hate footbridges that run over highways. I'm convinced someone is going to bounce me and send me plunging to my death. Slow down, people! That is traffic down there!
24) My father can't distinguish my voice from my sisters' voices on the phone. And sometimes in person.
25) After all these years, I still often manage to be struck dumb by the beauty of my sisters, the kindness of my Stein, and my own capacity to heal.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Misogynistic judgements: $0.10/dozen; Madonna-whore complexes: $0.10/dozen; annoying, nonsensical Mastercard-type slogans that try too hard: worthless

I woke up this morning eager to shift the Chris and Robyn (Rihanna) stories down the page because, quite frankly, they threw me into something of a funk yesterday; a funk that was aggravated by the hateful comments of clueless, mean-spirited people in the far corners of the interwebs. But yay(!) for me, I managed to wake up to fresh condemnations of women when I logged into Facebook and saw the following status update from a Facebook friend, NH:
"100 FB pictures wearing next to nothing - $200; 200 FB pictures at every fete in Bim - $400; No FB pictures (or mention) of your kids - Priceless!!"
Robyn was the whipping post of choice yesterday (“she must have pushed him”; “those Caribbean women are mouthy”), and today – in the spirit of egalitarianism – today’s victim is a regular woman who goes to so many parties, it damages NH’s delicate, Facebook voyeurism sensibilities. At least enough for him to employ poor, nonsensical usage of the exhausted Mastercard slogan. (Is $2 the going rate for FB pictures?)

So here we are, almost at the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, and women’s good time is still being regulated by men. If you’re a mother, you can maybe have Friday night bingo once a month. Here, take this $10 and enjoy. If you’re a wife and mother, you can have a quarter for the candy machine at the supermarket as your entertainment, but only provided you take the children with you, and your husband has run out of things for you to fetch. But how dare you go to an actual party, on an actual weekend, and have an actual alcoholic beverage? What fresh hell is this?

Also implicit in this status is the notion that if a woman has a family, it must be the principal manifestation of who she is. She must wear her children’s faces on T-shirts and preface every sentence with “Well my husband thinks…” A mother is one part of who this woman is, and one aspect of what she does. She doesn’t, after childbirth, become a giant uterus with a pair of lactating boobs attached. And it is certainly her prerogative to show off her weekend entertainment rather than her children, if she so desires.

I pointed the following out to NH in response to his status:
Perhaps she has made a decision not to put her children on FB to suffer the judgement that she herself is obviously subject to.
This started a bit of a dispute, so now I’m going to try to summarize and counter his various arguments that followed, among which was a “*long sigh*”, because clearly I am a little, misguided lady and he is just the big, enlightened man to teach me The Truth.

It’s not a judgment, it’s merely a commentary.
Well, yes, and if I choose to ‘comment’ that someone is a bad mother, then which of the two is that?

A woman who doesn't take care of her family is nothing less than an animal (and even wild animals are totally committed to their offspring).

I pointed out that some animals eat or banish their offspring. But observe the lack of judgement that was mentioned earlier. I asked him what then is a man who doesn’t take care of his family, because presumably these women are out dancing with someone. This was where the long sigh came in, because I am too dim-witted to understand that:

Balance is a universal principAL
(I giggled. I’m sorry. I’m petty, and I accept this) - everything in moderation. If one focuses so much time on hedonism, other aspects of your life will lack the attention needed.
This is true, NH. But the only other aspect on which you commented was her role as a mother. You didn’t say “My! This woman sure parties a lot. I wonder if she manages any teams at work because surely corporate performance will suffer!”

Then there was the due amount of back-pedalling and equivocation:
Men do it too. No one gender is to blame. But please understand that we live in a sexist, double-standard and male-dominated environment. [Please understand, because even though you have lived all your life as a black woman, it might have escaped you.] It's so much harder for women to obtain equal opportunity, and acts like this set their cause back decades.
So women should accept their position as second-class citizens and play by the rules: “You know that we sexists will judge you, so why do you persist in making these poor choices?” More back-pedalling led him to deduce that:

The ratio of absentee fathers to absentee mothers is negatively bias[ed] towards men.
And I didn’t even have to lift a finger on that one. But then the old Madonna-whore affliction surfaces in the last word:

For eons the African woman has been worshipped, revered and idolized as ethereal mother, iconoclast, queen, goddess, scholar, diplomat, scientist, icon, prophet and freedom fighting warrior exalted with and sometimes above her father, husband and brothers. [Insert more wonderful attributes of the African woman. We really are something.] Doesn't the type of behaviour exhibited on Facebook degrade and denigrate her legacy?
Oh is THAT what’s degrading her? Because the last time I went to a party, no one was coming up to me bowing and laying slaughtered goats at my feet. They were all pretty much just trying to rub their members against me and see what combination of lame come-ons and green verbs could get me to go home with them. Or does the veneration start back at their place?

If you want our women to be revered and idolized, why don’t you try starting where you are? I notice you weren’t too disgusted to look at all 300 (was that cumulative? I couldn’t tell) of this woman’s Facebook pictures before you made your condemnation public. So something other than social observation was driving you to click ‘Next’. Surely by picture number 181 you could have surmised that this woman was a harlot and a useless mother. I’m not even going to get into the “maybe she’s with the children all week and takes a break for parties” argument. Because it is irrelevant. We want women to be porn star today, earth mother tomorrow, virgin and whore all at once. It’s getting a little old. I suppose a mother in a fete harshes your vibe and causes your two worlds to collide. Well, that’s your pathology to deal with, not hers.

The photo is by Hansjurgen Bauer. You can view and critique his gallery here.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Waiting for news

So, notwithstanding the Nation's poor choice of source and story, it seems all Barbados and the entertainment industry are abuzz this morning with the news of Rihanna and Chris Brown's withdrawal from the Grammys following allegations that she was the victim of an attack for which he was arrested and charged. While we await further news, I'm left to reconcile my initial anger that this familiar tale of physical abuse might be the biggest story of our little sister's already outstanding career, and of the most high-profile, young, black couple in R&B.

Barbados already seems to be gathering a posse to fly to LA and kick the ass of the offender. We're also hoping the truth is not as bad as it seems. Above it all, we hope Rihanna is now doing better than earlier reported, and is getting the necessary support to deal with it all.

Get a real story, or at least wait for one

Holy Moses on a bicycle.

Is the Nation Newspaper now sourcing the kings of trash, stalkerazzi online tabloid for news about our beautiful, little sister superstar Rihanna? The thing doesn't even read like a real news story. TMZ is hardly the AP or Reuters. Pick up a telephone, find a source, and while you're at it, find a clue. I weep for journalism in Barbados. Weep, I tell you.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

‘Mom in Chief’ Michelle Obama already too smart for the critics

Much as we suspected would happen, Michelle Obama is already raising eyebrows over her attention to policy issues as she tours Washington familiarizing herself with the political landscape. As this NY Times article suggests, it seems that people don't quite know what to make of anything beyond cutesie appearances with her daughters Sasha and Malia. And as the First Lady turns from hosting and smiling to pitching her husband's economic stimulus package and other policies, some are expressing disappointment that she is not sticking to the traditional and predictable 'wives, mothers and families' agenda of previous first ladies.

I echo the sentiments of Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, who countered the naysayers thus:
"It seems like a combination of responsibilities that fit very naturally with who she is," said Ms. Greenberger, who attended the signing of the pay-equity law at the White House. "You don’t have a sense that being a mom and being human and being able to understand everybody’s daily struggles has to come at the expense of her intelligence, her expertise and her understanding of the issues."

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Tune in at 8:00 for an eating disorder

It seems like every other week, some TV celebrity decides to unmask the dangerous world of dieting by herself embarking on a gruelling journey towards the perfect figure. This week, it was a rerun of Louise Redknapp’s “The Truth About Size Zero” feature shot almost two years ago. The TV presenter, who was voted FHM’s Sexiest Woman of the Decade, and is usually a UK size eight (US size four), severely restricts her calories and undergoes punishing workouts for a month in order to fit into a US size zero dress. She also visits celebrity friends who have suffered eating disorders, along with some young women at the Rhodes Farm Clinic for eating disorders in North London, and they all share with her their struggle to develop a healthy relationship with their bodies and with food.

The formula is pretty much the same as all the others: Louise eats a couple blades of grass and an egg a day, exercises herself into a state of constant lethargy and nausea, her weight drops dangerously low, she is warned by doctors to stop but continues anyway, and at the end, she fits into the size zero dress and then goes out with her friends to get sloshed.

Throughout, she complains about how hungry she is, is consumed with guilt that she is constantly snapping at her husband and young son, and keeps reminding us that she feels awful and that the whole thing sucks. But what is the ultimate lesson? She never stops, even when she starts to have bouts of vomiting, she loses the weight, and she fits into the dress. And even though we’re told she’s dangerously thin and given the whole “please don’t try this at home” spiel, frankly, she looks great and not at all emaciated. So, what we have just been provided with is a living model of how to successfully starve oneself into a size zero dress in 30 days. Presumably, this was not the aim of the piece.

I say ‘presumably’ because I’m not quite sure of the intentions of the whole trend. I don’t want to malign poor Louise and question her own motives: perhaps she really is concerned about all the young, confused, starving women out there. And she’s certainly not the only one to undertake such an ‘experiment’. We’ve had Alesha Dixon with her “look, no airbrushing!” special, Natalie Cassidy trying every diet under the sun for our viewing pleasure, and it seems like Dawn Porter is always somewhere or other eating or doing something bizarre to lose weight. But I have to wonder whether these shows and their presenters aren’t doing the same thing they’re accusing the rest of the media and the fashion world of doing: capitalizing on our obsession with weight and our bodies in order to capture an audience.

First of all, where is the real sense of experimentation? We know that if you greatly restrict calories far beneath your basal metabolic rate (what your body would need to function if you were to keep perfectly still all day), you will lose weight rapidly. Louise’s programme did mention that you lose large amounts of muscle as a part of this, which is undesirable, but the aesthetic result – her body – doesn’t show this to be a bad thing. So what we expect to happen does happen: she loses weight and feels somewhat sick. But she carries on, and at the end, she’s 15 pounds lighter. And – and there’s no way to say this delicately – they don’t die, these presenters. They don’t even almost die or even have to take a sick day. There are no tufts of hair on the bathroom floor or gum disease or heart failure. If they were to carry on this way for a little longer, some of these things would likely start to manifest. But the fact is, they don’t.

So all we get to do is watch these people lose weight, which I think some of them secretly want to do anyway, (experiment and public service my arse), and then those among us who have spent the last six weeks wondering how we’re going to shift that holiday weight – or worse, those twelve and thirteen year olds out there who are smack dab on the verge of eating disorders – now have added and proven ammunition.

Frankly, I call bullshit, and I’m over it. I call bullshit on the truth-seeking, public education intent of these shows, and I challenge the TV networks, here in the UK and elsewhere, to make the real sacrifice, strip away the glamour and the voyeurism factor, and make a genuine effort to help solve this problem.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Partial to Marshall

I'm watching the first test between the West Indies and England. Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan are not so much charging as they are chipping towards a century each, and Sarwan has just marked 5000 test runs. With all the discussion going into this test about the fitness of the England bowlers, I got to thinking about the West Indies bowling legacy, and a question I was recently asked: "Who is your pick for the best West Indian bowler of all time?"

Now, the phrase " of all time" is a tricky one. And I'm not sure it's a fair question to ask, unless you're talking to a cricket historian. For example, when the great "Whispering Death" Michael Holding played what was described as "the greatest over in Test history", which he bowled in 1981 in Barbados to English batsman Geoff Boycott, I was 2 years old. When I did see a recording of it, I marvelled like everyone else at the pace of the over, and that final ball that saw Boycott clean bowled. But I wouldn't call that my time, and my time is all I can really speak of. I would put Holding on top based on the evidence I've seen of his greatness. And when it comes to my time, I loved to watch Curtly Ambrose, but I am overwhelmingly partial to Malcolm Marshall, who, though he was around at the same time as Holding, played his last one-day and test around five years later.

I think what impressed me about Marshall were his pace and accuracy at 5'9". We're used to fast bowlers well over 6 ft. But Marshall used to tear down the pitch in such a tight little ball, you almost didn't see when he released.

I know the sports posts bring the lurkers out of the woodwork, so if you have a pick for best West Indies bowler, do share.

64 years of Nesta Robert Marley

I have a BMW, but only because BMW stands for Bob Marley and The Wailers, and not because I need an expensive car. - Nesta Robert Marley
Bob would have been 64 years old today. The man's genius is undeniable. But for some reason, on this birthday, I'm reminded of his wife Rita Marley, who endured his numerous affairs that produced several children; and who, even while admitting that she had been raped by Bob during their marriage, remains dedicated to preserving his musical legacy. As the music world stands in remembrance of Bob today, I'm giving a thought to the woman and family behind the man and his music.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

I don't believe you've met my vagina

I’m loving this Salon article about how women writers are leading women towards greater openness about what happens to our bodies during less than delicate processes. It mentions Moe Tkacik’s famous account of when she left a tampon in for 10 days, along with this experience about which Miranda Purves wrote in Elle magazine:
Upon reading in "What to Expect When You're Expecting" (the ultimate compendium of maternal paranoia) that women who had given birth vaginally might find that sex will change thanks to the stretching (and tearing) of their vaginas, Purves realized that "No one, not a single one of my friends who had already given birth, not my mother, not a doctor, not another book, no one had told me that there would be a permanent 'slight increase in roominess.'" And so, perhaps as a public service, or perhaps just to get it off her chest, Purves described in Elle how she made the final push through the so-called ring of fire. "I ripped like old sheets, and the (my) baby's head burst free," she wrote, going on to describe the unsatisfactory healing of her granulated vaginal skin, her lack of sensation when her husband attempted to stick a finger inside as foreplay, and how, when she finally braved a look at herself in the shower, "what had once been smooth and pale pink was a weird tortured purple. It conjured jellyfish, dead and torn."
I don’t yet sense this newfound openness among Caribbean women. The lengths to which we’re taught to go to avoid discovery of the feminine products in our purses rival the training of the cyanide-carrying spies in films and novels. And perhaps it’s part of our martyr status, but it seems real women don’t complain about childbirth. A woman once boasted to me that when she had had her son, “the doctor didn’t have to cut [me] or anything.” Congratulations? I’m thrilled you didn’t have to deal with the discomfort of an episiotomy, but I wouldn’t categorize it as an achievement. Still, this kind of dynamic encourages shame and silence among women who don’t simply bounce back from childbirth, or who deal with the everyday nasties of being a woman.

I have friends who will screw their noses up and squeal “Ewwww! TMI!” if you mention the word ‘clot’. You can relax, lady. I just said the word, I didn’t gift wrap one and leave it under your Christmas tree. If women can’t talk amongst ourselves about the things that happen with our bodies, how can we expect our partners to understand and support us when said things take painful and uncomfortable turns?

I’m not advocating going number two with the door open while we give the household ball-by-ball coverage. And I for one don’t have warm, fuzzy memories – or any memories at all – of my first period. But being a woman isn’t always all lavender and manicured labia. Sometimes gross stuff happens. And being able to talk about it keeps us healthy and sane.
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