Posts tagged with "race" - Faerye Net 2010-01-07T11:27:57+00:00 Felicity Shoulders The Eyeliner Principle 2010-01-07T11:27:57+00:00 2010-01-07T11:34:16+00:00 <p>The Eyeliner Principle is simple. For decades, eyeliner on men has meant Evil in science fiction, adventure, and action movies and TV shows. (On women, eye makeup has little significance. I would say on women it means the character is awake, but we all know that Hollywomen sleep perfectly made up, and seeing them without eye makeup is about as common as seeing them in bras that don&#8217;t match their underwear.) <em>Pirates of the Caribbean</em> broke new ground using eyeliner for the merely morally ambivalent.</p> <p>Now, you could probably come up with several cultural explanations for this: eye makeup is associated with women, so men with eye makeup are coded as effeminate and therefore transgressive, flawed. Or perhaps it&#8217;s playing on white audience&#8217;s xenophobia &#8211; certainly some eyelinered villains, like Emperor Ming in Flash Gordon, play on tropes of the dangerous, exotic Other. Maybe it&#8217;s a mish-mash of the two. Whatever the origins, it&#8217;s a pretty good bet when you see a guy in eyeliner in a mainstream piece of media, you shouldn&#8217;t trust him.</p> <p>I bring this up because it isn&#8217;t just a handy way of tagging baddies like the fianc&eacute; in <em>Titanic</em>. It allows the omniscient viewing public to differentiate good male characters from their evil twins, clones, doppelgangers, possessed or de-souled counterparts. This incurs no plot damage, since the other characters always seem to be ignorant of the Eyeliner Principle (they seem to be slow to catch on about leather pants, too). This holds true everywhere from <em>Young Hercules</em> (Yes, I&#8217;ve watched that. Hercules isn&#8217;t the only one that was young once) to <em>Star Trek</em>. Which is really the reason I brought this up*. It&#8217;s important that you all know that Captain Kirk with eyeliner is evil. Seriously, if you ever see William Shatner wearing eyeliner, <em>run</em>&#8230;and thank me later.</p> <p>*More on Evil Kirk coming soon!</p> Identify yourself 2009-02-08T21:31:25+00:00 2009-02-08T21:43:43+00:00 <p>I&#8217;ve mentioned my discomfiture with the term &#8216;white&#8217; and its pseudo-scientific relative &#8216;Caucasian&#8217; <a href="" target="internal">on at least one occasion</a>. &#8216;White&#8217; is a false monolith of assimilated, &#8216;non-ethnic&#8217; culture. It&#8217;s also, in one sense, a useful diagnostic term: I&#8217;m white, because I have <a href="" target="links">white privilege</a>. I think it&#8217;s worth acknowledging that privilege, even though I would love to tear it down along with the nonsense, &#8216;unmarked&#8217; category.*</p> <p>I thought I&#8217;d accepted that definition: I have white privilege, I acknowledge it by admitting I&#8217;m white. But on a panel at <a href="" target="internal">Orycon</a>, I came up short. It was a panel on using non-European folklore in fiction, and the moderator asked each of the panelists to sketch her (and in one case, his) background, personal and artistic. I was last, and she turned to me and said, &#8220;And, Felicity, you identify as white, right?&#8221;</p> <p>I sat there, opened and closed my mouth. Eventually, some words managed to tumble out, probably to the effect that yes, I am white. I felt stunned for a few minutes, not to mention (still) quite embarrassed for turning incoherent in front of a room full of people. It seemed so silly. How was this any different from <a href="" target="internal">the aforementioned &#8216;ethnicity&#8217; checkbox</a>? Wasn&#8217;t this a ludicrous reaction on my part?</p> <p>I&#8217;ve managed to convince myself that it wasn&#8217;t. &#8216;Identify&#8217;. It&#8217;s a loaded term in these contexts. Perhaps the most well-known example these days, known even to those of us who haven&#8217;t (<em>yet!</em>) read <a href="" target="powells"><em>Dreams from my Father</em></a>, is President Obama&#8217;s identification as African-American. The media&#8217;s obsessed debate over his racial identity showed that people think this kind of thing is mutable, but most agree that it&#8217;s fundamentally Obama&#8217;s right to mediate his own racial affiliation. Naming has power, and self-naming is particularly heady. From race to political inclination to gender and sexual politics, people self-describe and self-categorize: feminist or <a href="" target="links">womanist</a>, gay or <a href="" target="links">same gender loving</a>, disabled person or person with disabilities: these distinctions are meaningful, often crucially so, to those making them. You cannot stop others labeling you, or understanding you according to their own rubrics, but you can choose your terms. You can define yourself.</p> <p>For me, this question of ethnic identity is not so simple as &#8216;do you have white privilege?&#8217; To say that it is is to wipe away the traditions from which my ancestors rose. It&#8217;s affirming and embracing the false homogeneity of white mainstream culture. It&#8217;s not as simple as my <span class="caps">DNA</span>. I have drops of blood from places only recently discovered by my grandmother&#8217;s genealogical excavations, and gouts of it from cultures deliberately put aside and denied by my forebears. Those contributions to who I am may be too far back, or too far away, or too small, to claim. My identity is something I am still making, something I am naming based on an interplay of factors.</p> <p>But if I could go back and whisper in my own ear at that panel, I would say: &#8220;I identify as Welsh-English-Irish-French.&#8221; Yes, it&#8217;s long, and complex, and messy. But it&#8217;s true. I have studied those cultures, histories, even languages, and they are part of who I am. I am not unmarked. I mark myself.</p> <p>*I&#8217;m pretty interested in this concept of &#8216;markedness&#8217;, as it applies to people and types of writing. It&#8217;s what I was trying to get at with my post <a href="" target="internal">&#8220;Maleness is the human default.&#8221;</a></p> Random note: doll diversity 2008-12-22T20:32:09+00:00 2008-12-22T20:36:09+00:00 <p>In my interwebby travels, I found myself at a list of <a href="" target="links">black dolls</a> available from a web store, linked to by a <a href="" target="links">blogger suggesting dolls for Zahara Jolie-Pitt</a>. Yes, I was reading a blog about the care of African-American hair. No, I can&#8217;t remember why. It&#8217;s the internet, it&#8217;s like that.</p> <p>Anywho, looking at the ranges of dolls reminded me of something from my childhood: my favorite dolls were Asian (and Pacific Islander). My favorite Barbie for many years was a Hawaiian doll named <a href="" target="links">Miko</a>, who was succeeded upon her eventual decapitation (Mom always told me not to take them outside &#8212; dropping Barbies on the sidewalk is fatal) by an Asian-American <a href="" target="links">doll named Kira</a>. I was already deeply ambiguous about Barbies as a child, thanks to my feminist upbringing, but I did like them and created epic storylines where they warred around the room in various outfits (the blondes were usually the villains.)</p> <p>I had forgotten why Miko and Kira were my favorites until I was looking at the above-linked list of black dolls. Several of the dolls are parts of lines that include <a href="" target="links">a blonde doll, an &#8220;Asian&#8221; doll, and a &#8220;Black&#8221; doll.</a> Some, like the one I linked above, include a redhead. Some lines have <a href="" target="links">a whole mess of white dolls</a> (in this case, with crazy hair colors) with one &#8220;Asian&#8221; and one &#8220;Black&#8221;. Another side note: apparently you can&#8217;t have Asian or Black dolls with purple hair when all the white dolls have pink, lavender, et cetera &#8212; the Asian doll has just streaks of pink, while the Black doll has black hair and what really look like hair-curlers. I hope many theses have been written on this stuff, because <em>damn</em>.</p> <p>My point is that toy companies now apparently try to satisfy diversity, when they do at all, by rounding out their lines with one Black doll and one Asian doll. This was even less widespread when I was a little brunette (and my hair was almost black as a child) &#8212; mostly there was just one white doll, usually blonde, and if there was another option she was black. I grabbed any doll with light skin and dark hair I could &#8212; and often they were Asian dolls (I saw ads for brunette Barbie friend Teresa but never found her in the store.) Heck, I even grabbed redhead Midges, to have a relief from the sea of blonditude.</p> <p>So I have to wonder what little Latina girls are getting at the toy store. I&#8217;ve heard that retail spending by Latinas (teens and up, but still) is the fastest growing in America. So why the hell wouldn&#8217;t you make a doll with dark hair? It seems that there&#8217;s some realization that Bratz&#8217;s diversity as well as their much-vaunted &#8220;style&#8221; made them popular &#8212; Barbie&#8217;s <a href="" target="links">attempt to hit back at Bratz</a> had black, Asian-American and brown-haired white dolls, and was adding a Hispanic doll. But it&#8217;s still puzzling to me that the blond hegemony is so firmly in place overall. Dark hair is a dominant trait &#8212; there&#8217;s a lot of us. If rarity were the rationale, all dolls would be redheads. Since that&#8217;s not the case, what&#8217;s with the lack of brunettes?</p> <p>I made this a rambling, casual note on purpose because this is one of those topics that yawns before you, demanding endless research, and it isn&#8217;t really my field. But seriously, why so few brunettes? And is this Asian/brunette partial equivalency well-established, because now Barbie seems to sell more Teresas and no Kiras?</p> I never liked this nose anyway, hand me the bone shears! 2008-06-05T08:02:57+00:00 2008-07-24T22:11:51+00:00 <p>Someone called into <a href=""><span class="caps">KQED</span></a> yesterday morning and took one of the political analysts to task for her use of &#8216;Mrs.&#8217; to describe Senator Clinton rather than &#8216;Senator&#8217;. The analyst said she makes a point of using either rather than the overfamiliar &#8220;Hillary&#8221;. Okay, the caller has a little point there&#8230;but then she went on to say that because of the sexism exhibited by the Obama campaign, she would be voting for McCain now that Clinton is out.</p> <p>Oh dear. I mean, I think I have a pretty high awareness of sexist language, and I have heard very little from the Obama campaign. The Obama &#8220;camp&#8221;? Which includes internet trolls, sign wavers, and all sorts of hangers-on? Sure. But Obama and his campaign? The only thing I ever heard was an allegation that he shouldn&#8217;t have used the word &#8216;periodic&#8217; in a sentence about Clinton&#8217;s aggressive foreign policy, and I found it pretty thin. Whereas the Clinton campaign and their &#8220;hard-working&#8221; and anti-affirmative action dogwhistles disgusted me. I have been appalled by the misogyny of anchors, of dumb idjits on the internet, of people at rallies. But I haven&#8217;t been appalled by Obama or his people.</p> <p>But that&#8217;s a bit beside the point. This is politics, right? If this primary season had gone as expected, swimmingly in Clinton&#8217;s direction, I would have held my nose and voted for her. Because McCain is a flip-flopping hotheaded sellout. Because he hugged Bush after the vicious 2000 primary and he hasn&#8217;t stopped holding him since&#8230;and because I don&#8217;t want someone who has flopped to the anti-choice side picking the Supreme Court. How pro-woman <em>are</em> you, Forum caller? So pro-woman you&#8217;ll vote in a guy who calls his wife the <a href="" target="links">c-word</a> just to show your disgust with the misogyny of a few Obama <em>voters</em> on the internet?</p> The 'Other' box 2007-11-24T17:33:01+00:00 2009-12-15T23:25:02+00:00 <p>I&#8217;m applying for a fellowship, so once again I face my old friend the &#8216;ethnic origin&#8217; question. And, more than ever, I am stymied.</p> <p>&#8220;What the heck?&#8221; you might say. &#8220;You&#8217;re white, Felicity.&#8221; The problem is, I don&#8217;t believe in &#8216;white&#8217;, or its oh-so-inaccurate euphemism &#8216;Caucasian&#8217;. Yes, most of my ancestors came here on boats from Europe, and only a few of them travelled a land bridge from Asia. But that&#8217;s not what &#8216;white&#8217; means. &#8216;White&#8217; is the absence of ethnicity.</p> <p>I&#8217;m by no means the first to think this, and if you look into the history of Jews, Italian and Irish in America, you&#8217;ll see what I mean. All of those people are now expected to check &#8216;Caucasian&#8217; on the form. Time was, they were featured in minstrel shows and (with the exception of Irish, perhaps) strung up for looking too long at &#8216;white&#8217; women. Why are they white now? Because white doesn&#8217;t mean anything except what you&#8217;re not. Not ethnic, not unacceptable, unassimilated, or dangerous.</P> <p>The truth is, I&#8217;m &#8220;white&#8221;. I have <a href="">white privilege</a>. But I don&#8217;t want to keep using these words. I&#8217;m an English major, I&#8217;m a writer, and I want words to have meanings. Meanings that don&#8217;t seat us deeper in our assumptions and cultural blindness. I don&#8217;t want to take to myself a word that says &#8220;acceptable&#8221;, &#8220;not dangerous&#8221;, &ldquo;not <a href="">Other</a>&rdquo;. There is no box for where I come from, no pie chart where I can map out how much of me is recently arrived, how much has been here since the 18th century, how much predates Columbus. There is no write-in big enough for all the countries and identities that are mixed up in my veins.</p> <p>So what do I do? Do I lash out against the system in my tiny way, check the &#8220;Other&#8221; box to register the pathos of the system? What does that accomplish, and aren&#8217;t these statistics, however arbitrary the categories, the tools with which we work towards change and equity? Why should I vandalize them because they&#8217;re working within the system? My pen hovers over &#8220;Caucasion&#8221; and &#8220;Other&#8221;, comes down at last on the coward&#8217;s choice: &#8220;Decline to state.&#8221;</p> The Beauty Myth Kills 2007-10-04T21:17:16+00:00 2008-05-30T13:44:06+00:00 <p>I heard <a href="" target="links">this segment</a> on &#8220;Fresh Air&#8221; today. It&#8217;s about how cancer-fighting efforts tend to focus on detection and treatment rather than figuring out what environmental factors cause cancer. I&#8217;ve heard whispers about this before, especially about breast cancer and the way money pours into big companies that make cancer-fighting drugs and also make things like pesticides and fertilizers. But the first thing this doctor discusses on the show is a terribly specific, horrifying thing.</P> <p>Apparently, in the US, black women under 40 get breast cancer massively more often than white women under 40, despite the fact that if you line up known risk factors and demographic data, young black women should get breast cancer <em>less</em>. Dr. Davis hypothesizes that one environmental factor is beauty products. Many black women in America go into chemical-filled beauty salons often, from a young age, and undergo regular harsh treatments for &#8216;relaxing&#8217;, &#8216;straightening&#8217;, et c. According to Dr. Davis, the US government doesn&#8217;t strictly oversee the contents of toiletries well&#8230;and of course, as she indicates time and again, we don&#8217;t <em>know</em> what chemicals to ban, even if we were overseeing things carefully.</p> <p>I&#8217;ve read about the pressure &mdash; some of it economic, not &#8220;merely&#8221; social and aesthetic &mdash; on African-American women about their hair. (If you&#8217;re curious, <a href="" target="links">this post</a> is a good intro, and links to many more in-depth blog posts.) This pressure is not &#8216;mere&#8217; in any way, and extends far beyond hair. (If you click on one link in this blog post, please click on this one: <a href="" target="links"><em>A Girl Like Me</em></a>, a 7-minute film by Kiri Davis. It is amazing &mdash; there&#8217;s a part that makes me cry, but also some intelligent young women being devastatingly articulate.) But if Dr. Davis is right and the effect of &#8216;beauty&#8217; products is sufficient to skew cancer statistics in this way&#8230;then America&#8217;s beauty culture is killing more people than we thought. More than just people with eating disorders or teens with suicidal self-hatred. The world tells huge numbers of women their natural hair is so hideous it has to be transmogrified, tortured, tamed &mdash; and it sells them poison to do it with? How ugly can you get?</p>