Archive for the ‘Black women’ Category

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A Rapist’s View of the World (repost)

August 21, 2017

This is a really long rant about Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Why? Because I’m angry and I think it is really important that feminists don’t leave popular culture out of the equation. Especially considering that popular culture is increasingly being influenced by pornography.

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I have become increasingly interested in examining Joss Whedon’s work from a feminist perspective since I had a conversation with another lesbian feminist sister at the International Feminist Summit about whether Joss was a feminist. I am really quite shocked by how readily Joss is accepted as a feminist, and that his works are widely considered to be feminist. I decided to start re-watching Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and also to watch Firefly and the movie Serenity.

I have to say that now that I have subjected myself to the horror that is Firefly, I really am beyond worried about how much men hate us, given that this was written by a man who calls himself a feminist.

I find much of Joss Whedon’s work to be heavily influenced by pornography, and pornographic humour. While I would argue that there are some aspects of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer that are feminist and progressive, there is much that isn’t and I find it highly problematic that there are many very woman-hating messages contained within a show that purports itself as feminism. But Firefly takes misogyny to a new level of terrifying. I am really, really worried that women can call the man who made this show a feminist.

For myself, I’m not sure that I will recover from the shock of watching the malicious way in which Joss stripped his female characters of their integrity, the pleasure he seemed to take from showing potentially powerful women bashed, the way he gleefully demonized female power and selfhood and smashed women into little bits, male fists in women’s faces, male voices drowning out our words.

There is so much hatred towards women contained within the scripts and action of the series that I doubt very much that this post will even begin to cover it. I am going to try to focus on the episodes that were written by Joss Whedon but I will also refer to the series as a whole. As Joss Whedon was responsible for the concept development and was a producer, ultimately I hold him accountable for the depiction of women in the entire season. Only one episode was written by a woman. It was no better or worse in its depiction of women than the ones written by men.

The pilot episode, Serenity, was written and directed by Joss Whedon. The basic plot of the series is Malcolm Reynolds and his second in command Zoe, have made a new life for themselves after fighting a war against the Alliance, which they lost. They bought a Firefly, an old space ship, and Mal calls it Serenity, after the last battle they fought for the Independence. The pilot of the ship, Wash, is Zoe’s husband. Kaylee is the ship’s mechanic and Jayne, the final member of the crew, is the brainless brawn. This bunch of criminals go around stealing things and generally doing lots of violence.

They also take on board passengers. There is Inara, a Companion (Joss Whedon’s euphemism for women in prostitution). She rents one of the ship’s shuttles. Simon, a doctor and his sister River. And a Shepherd (which means preacher), a black male character.

The first scene opens in a war with Mal and Zoe. Zoe runs around calling Mal ‘sir’ and taking orders off him. I roll my eyes. Not a good start.

The next scene is set in the present. Mal, Jayne, and Zoe are floating about in space. They come into some danger. Mal gets all panicky.

Zoe says, “This ship’s been derelict for months. Why would they –”

Mal replies, (in Chinese) “Shut up.”

So in the very second scene of the very first episode, an episode written and directed by the great feminist Joss, a white man tells a black woman to ‘shut up’ for no apparent reason. And she does shut up. And she continues to call him sir. And takes his orders, even when they are dumb orders, for the rest of the series.

The next scene we meet Kaylee, the ship’s mechanic. <- Lookee, lookee, feminist empowerment. In this scene Mal and Jayne are stowing away the cargo they just stole. Kaylee is chatting to them, happily. Jayne asks Mal to get Kaylee to stop being so cheerful. Mal replies, “Sometimes you just wanna duct tape her mouth and dump her in the hold for a month.” Yes, that is an exact quote, “Sometimes you just wanna DUCT TAPE HER MOUTH and DUMP HER IN THE HOLD FOR A MONTH.” Kaylee responds by grinning and giving Mal a kiss on the cheek and saying, “I love my Captain.”

What the fuck is this feminist man trying to say about women here? A black woman calling a white man ‘sir’. A white male captain who abuses and silences his female crew, with no consequences. The women are HAPPY to be abused. They enjoy it. What does this say about women, Joss? What does this say about you? Do you tell your wife to shut up? Do you threaten to duct tape her mouth? Lock her in the bedroom? Is this funny to you, Joss? Because it sure as fuck ain’t funny to me.

Our first introduction to Inara the ‘Companion’, Joss Whedon’s euphemism for prostituted women, is when she is being raped/fucked/used by a prostitutor. I find it really interesting to read the scripted directions for this particular scene:

We are close on INARA’s face. She is being made love to by an eager, inexperienced but quite pleasingly shaped young man. She is beneath him, drawing him to his climax with languorous intensity. His face buried in her neck.

He tightens, relaxes, becomes still. She runs her hand through is hair and he pulls from her neck, looks at her with sweaty insecurity. She smiles, a worldly, almost motherly sweetness in her expression. He rests his head on her breast, still breathing hard. 

So, Joss Whedon refers to rapist/fuckers who buy women as sex, as ‘eager, inexperienced but pleasingly shaped’ who ‘make love’ to women in prostitution. Obviously, ‘love’ to men like Joss Whedon, requires female powerlessness, force and coercion. Women in prostitution enjoy the experience of being bought for sex. They feel ‘motherly’ towards the men who have just treated them as property and bought them as sex.

In Joss Whedon’s future world prostituted women are powerful and respectable. They go to an Academy, to train in the arts of being a ‘Companion’. They belong to a Guild which regulates prostitution, forces women to endure yearly health tests and comes up with rules to make prostitution sound empowering for women. For example, one Guild rule is that the ‘Companion’ chooses her rapist, not the other way around.

But there is one really big question that does not get answered. The women who ‘choose’ to be ‘Companions’ are shown as being intelligent, accomplished, educated, well-respected and presumably from good families. If a woman had all of these qualities and opportunities then why the fuck would she ‘choose’ to be a man’s fuck toy? Would being a fuck toy for hundreds of men give a woman like Inara personal fulfillment? Job satisfaction? A sense of purpose? Fulfill her dreams? Ambitions?

Money doesn’t seem to be the motivation behind Inara’s ‘choice’ to be a ‘Companion’, presumably she just ‘enjoys’ swanning around in ridiculous outfits. And being used as a fuck toy by men is seemingly a small price to pay for the pleasure.

At any rate, Inara’s apparent ‘power’ is merely a figment of Joss Whedon’s very sick imagination. In a later episode, Inara is shown to have set down three very specific rules in relation to her arrangement to hiring one of Mal’s shuttles as her base of operations. 1) No crew member, including the Captain would be allowed entrance to the shuttle without Inara’s express invitation. 2) Inara refuses to service the Captain nor anyone under his employ. And 3) the Captain cannot refer to Inara as a whore.
Mal agrees to all of these rules but he breaks every single one of them. Blatantly and deliberately. The third thing that Mal says in the first interaction between Inara and Mal is, “She’s a whore…” Does Inara stop him from calling her a whore? Nope. She just goes on smiling and being gracious. So he calls her a whore again. Lovely man this Mal is, dontcha think?

And in regards to her first rule, Mal takes every opportunity he can to break it. In the first episode Mal barges into Inara’s shuttle. The interchange goes like this:

Inara: What are you doing on my shuttle?

Mal: It’s my shuttle. You rent it.

Inara: Then when I’m behind on the rent, you can enter unasked.

Scenes like this continue to occur for the rest of the series. Mal never apologises for breaking the terms of his agreement with Inara. And although Inara gets a little annoyed, she does not get really angry at the Captain for consistently undermining her power and invading her space. She tells the Captain to get out but he rarely complies. The point is that a man should never invade a woman’s personal space to begin with. Especially when he has been told expressly that he is not invited. But Mal delights in pointing out Inara’s powerlessness, it makes him feel all manly.

In regards to her servicing the crew, she begins to service the Captain and the male passengers of the ship from day one. The following is an excerpt from the script of Serenity. Book is a black male character. He is a Preacher and disapproves of Inara’s ‘profession’.

BOOK Is this what life is, out here?

INARA Sometimes.

BOOK I’ve been out of the abbey two days, I’ve beaten a Lawman senseless, I’ve fallen in with criminals… I watched the captain shoot a man I swore to protect. And I’m not even sure if I think he was wrong.

INARA Shepherd…

He is shaking a bit, tearing up.

BOOK I believe I just… (a pained smile) I think I’m on the wrong ship.

INARA Maybe. Or maybe you’re exactly where you ought to be.

He lowers his head. She puts her hand on it, a kind of benediction. We hold on them a second. 

It is clear from the outset that a large part of Inara’s service involves addressing issues of male inadequacy and fulfilling many other emotional needs of her clients. The ability to do this IS a resource and it is therefore a service that Inara must perform. BUT Inara services all of the male passengers and the Captain in this way. She also services Kaylee but the relationship between them is a little more reciprocal. In any case, Mal makes it pretty obvious that he expects his emotional needs to be serviced by Inara and she willingly obliges. Mal also allows the male passengers to demand her emotional services and does not tell them to stop, despite the terms of his agreement with Inara. Inara is not paid by any of these men for her time, energy and emotional support.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Joss uses his own wife in this way. Expects her to clean up his emotional messes. Expects her to be there, eternally supportive, eternally subservient and grateful to him in all his manly glory. I hope the money is worth it, Kai Cole. But somehow I doubt that it is. No amount of money can buy back wasted emotional resources.

Aside from women being fuck toys, property and punching bags for the men, the women have very little importance in the series. I counted the amount of times women talk in the episode Serenity compared to the amount of times men talk. The result was unsurprising. Men: 458 Women: 175. So throughout the first episode men talk more than two and a half times as much as women do. And women talk mainly in questions whereas men talk in statements. Basically, this means that men direct the action and are active participants whereas women are merely observers and facilitators.

Given the fact that women are largely absent from the action and the dialogue of the majority of scenes it is unsurprising that the action onscreen is highly homoerotic. Men jostle with each other for power. Pushing each others buttons, and getting into scuffles. This intense homoeroticism is present from the outset as Mal asserts his rights as alpha male on the ship.

Completely unnecessary and unprovoked violence is a spontaneous result of this hypermasculinised male character. In Serenity, Mal enjoys using a character called Simon as his personal punching bag. In one scene he walks up to him and smashes him in the face, without any provocation or logical reason. In another scene Simon asks Mal a question and Mal smashes him the face again. No reason, no explanation, just violence. Violence is a part of the landscape throughout the whole series and Mal is often the instigator. He is constantly rubbing himself up against other men, and punishing wayward women, proving and solidifying his manliness through bashing the shit out of anyone and everyone.

Zoe, the token black woman, acts as a legitimiser. Her role is to support Mal’s manly obsession with himself by encouraging him, calling him ‘sir’, and even starting the fights for him. Zoe is treated as a piece of meat by both her husband (Wash, another white male) and the Captain. Wash and Mal fight each other for Zoe’s attention and admiration, both relying on her submission to them to get them hard and manly. In fact there is a whole episode, War Stories, devoted to Wash and Mal’s ‘rivalry’. By the word rivalry, I mean violent, homoerotic male/male courtship conducted over the body of a woman.

Zoe is not shown to have a personality of her own. She has no outside interests, no ideas or beliefs, no conversation with anyone other than Wash or Mal. She has no female friends, in fact she tends to dislike women. For example, she is the first one to insult Saffron in the episode Our Mrs. Reynolds, calling her ‘trouble’.

Zoe, of course, is meant to be our empowered, ass-kicking sidechick. Like all sidechicks she is objectified from the get go. Her husband, Wash, talking about how he likes to watch her bathe. Let me just say now that I have never personally known of a healthy relationship between a white man and a woman of colour. I have known a black woman whose white husband would strangle and bash her while her young children watched. My white grandfather liked black women because they were ‘exotic’, and he did not, could not treat women, especially women of colour, like human beings. I grew up watching my great aunts, my aunty and my mother all treated like shit by their white husbands, the men they loved. So you will forgive me for believing that the character, Wash, is a rapist and an abuser, particularly considering that he treats Zoe like an object and possession.

Joss Whedon does not share my view, of course, and he paints the relationship between Zoe and Wash as a perfectly happy, healthy union. If anyone is interested in portrayals of relationships between white men and black women written from black women’s point of view, I would suggest watching RadianceRabbit-Proof Fence and Serenades, skip Joss Whedon’s shit.

Also if you are interested in the reality of women in prostitution/prostituted women rather than the candy floss version that Joss Whedon has produced, I highly recommend Rebecca’s story Lie Dead. Skip Joss Whedon’s women-hating bile.

I can assure you that this is just the beginning of my rant on Firefly. There is so much more disturbing stuff later in the series. In particular, an episode called Our Mrs. Reynolds, another episode written by Joss, which completely demonises women as well as pornifying male violence against us.

More ranting about Firefly here

…and here.

Objects in Space: Black Masculinity through the paradigm of whitemale lust

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White Supremacy, Feminism and Off Our Backs

October 14, 2009

It has been an eye-opening experience to watch the events unfold when one Black feminist blogger and writer speaks up about racism in the predominantly white radical feminist community. Jennifer writes passionately, eloquently and with great insight on her blog Celie’s Revenge about issues that affect ALL women. Her blog is inspiring and incredibly brave. She is one woman who truly represents the ideals of sisterhood and liberation.

And yet, when she dares to open her mouth to stand opposed to the racism inherent within the treatment she received at the hands of white feminists… all hell breaks loose. What has shocked me about this whole event is the fact that it has exposed that racism is not present within a small pocket of feminists in the Off Our Backs collective… It has spread like wildfire, with more and more white feminists lining up to tell Jennifer that she is a crazy, angry, racist against white people and, worst of all, a bitch!!! All this just because she insisted that she should be treated as human as a white woman.

This is totally unacceptable. No woman who thinks that this is an appropriate way to treat another woman should think that she has the right to call herself a feminist. What has struck me most about this is the fact that the white ‘feminists’ have responded to Jennifer’s truth-telling is exactly the same as the way that men react to women who tell them the truth. With defensiveness, anger, justification, intimidation, name-calling etc, etc. Really, really shocking.

All illusions that women are better at working through issues like racism better than men have been very definitely shattered for me as I watch white ‘feminists’ trying to tear strips off Jennifer. Trying to paint her as mad and delusional. A few clues women. Black women have the right to be angry about racism. Black women have the right to be angry at white women who demonstrate racism, either politically or personally. Black women need to be supported in their truth-telling. Even when that truth hurts us. Even when that truth is directed at us. We have no credibility as feminists if we don’t.

Please take the time to read Jennifer’s story and support the incredibly important work that she is doing for ALL women. There is no sisterhood, no feminism, no herstory without Black women, there is no point in a struggle which excludes the voices and the truths of women of colour. The white women from the Off Our Backs collective have some serious explaining to do.

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Pirate Jenny- Nina Simone

April 12, 2009

nsimone

Few women speak/sing/give their rage voice as angrily and with as much power as Nina did. Her courageous voice inspires me when I am so angry that I despair.

pirate jenny nina simone mp3 | lyrics
free music downloads | videos | pictures
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Invasion Day

January 26, 2009

invasion-day2

It is Invasion Day to me peoples. I don’t celebrate it. But finally an Australian of the year who is actually Australian. Onya Mick Dodson.

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Human Rights Film Festival

November 8, 2008

The Human Rights Film Festival is touring Australia with many great films and documentaries about women. Unfortunately, as is often the case, most of the ones I’d really like to see are only being shown in Melbourne. These are the ones I’m going to see.

Behind Forgotten Eyes

Reel Change (short films about Climate Change) which includes Sisters on the Planet:

Ursula is a traditional owner of one of the Carteret Islands, off the coast of Papua New Guinea. Against a ticking clock, Ursula is working to relocate thousands of Islanders forced to uproot their lives due to rising sea levels which will leave their island home submerged and uninhabitable in just a matter of years.

Sisters on the Planet hones in on the tragic effects of climate change and those most startlingly affected.

and An Uncertain Future:

An Uncertain Future tells the story of the 2000-strong community living in the Cartaret Islands who will soon become the world’s first climate change refugees.

Made by a group of young Cartaret Islanders who had never before touched a camera, computer or MP3 player, this film poetically captures the views and reflections of the people as they prepare to relocate to the mainland due to rises in sea level which will make their Pacific island home disappear in a matter of years.

Screen Dreaming: Indigenous Shorts Session, which includes Backseat:

Inspired by Pauline Whyman’s own experience, Back Seat tells the story of a young Aboriginal girl Janine who goes with her foster parents to meet her biological family for the first time. From the back seat of her foster parent’s car, Janine watches as her blood family come into view and then recede into the distance.

Nana:

Nana’s granddaughter thinks Nana’s pretty special. She loves her Nana because she helps the old people, she’s a good painter and other people love her too. Nana’s got everyone under control.

Intervention:

Following the 2007 release of the Little Children Are Sacred report – which exposed a worrying prevalence of child abuse in indigenous communities – the Howard government responded by bringing in emergency legislation known as ‘The Intervention’. This new policy generated public outcry and upturned the lives of the Northern Territory’s indigenous population.

Based on 40 interviews from a cross section of the aboriginal community living in and around Alice Springs, Intervention discusses town camps, quarantine laws, ration cards, alcoholism and the shame and disempowerment that has ensued as a consequence of governmental intrusion.

Lamberti, who has lived in Alice Springs since 2005, creates an intimate forum, straight from the community’s mouth. The end result is a rich dialogue of stories and viewpoints rarely found in mainstream media. The people whose lives have been affected since the implementation of the policy in 2007, were never given the chance to have their say. This is their voice.

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Fucking Hell

November 1, 2008

The following passages are lyrics to songs that some of the eight and nine year old girls that I work with bring in to listen and dance to. We have a CD player that the girls can grab whenever they want to listen to music. I’ve been dancing with them to these songs all year, not paying any attention to the lyrics. But yesterday I caught the word ‘pornography’ in one of the songs and I was like what the fuck!!? So I came home and did a search of a couple of these songs. This is what I found (***WARNING: could be triggering for survivors of prostitution and/or pornography***):

Low

[Verse 1:]
I ain’t never seen nuthin that’ll make me go,
This crazy all night spendin my dough
Had a million dollar vibe and a bottle to go
Dem birthday cakes, they stole the show
So sexual, she was flexible
Professional, drinkin X and ooo
Hold up wait a minute, do I see what I think I
Whoa
Did I think I seen shorty get low
Ain’t the same when it’s up that close
Make it rain, I’m makin it snow
Work the pole, I got the bank roll
Imma say that I prefer them no clothes
I’m into that, I love women exposed
She threw it back at me, I gave her more
Cash ain’t a problem, I know where it goes

She had them

[Chorus:]
Apple Bottom Jeans [Jeans]
Boots with the fur [With the fur]
The whole club was lookin at her
She hit the flo [She hit the flo]
Next thing you know
Shawty got low low low low low low low low

Them baggy sweat pants
And the Reeboks with the straps [With the straps]
She turned around and gave that big booty a smack
[Ayy]
She hit the flo [She hit the flo]
Next thing you know
Shawty got low low low low low low low low

[Verse 2:]
Hey
Shawty what I gotta do to get you home
My jeans full of gwap
And they ready for Shones
Cadillacs Maybachs for the sexy grown
Patrone on the rocks that’ll make you moan

One stack (come on)
Two stacks (come on)
Three stacks (come on, now that’s three grand)

What you think I’m playin baby girl
I’m the man, I’ll bend the rubber bands

That’s what I told her, her legs on my shoulder
I knew it was ova, that Henny and Cola
Got me like a Soldier
She ready for Rover, I couldn’t control her
So lucky oo me, I was just like a clover
Shorty was hot like a toaster
Sorry but I had to fold her,
Like a pornography poster
She showed her

Chorus

[Verse 3:]
Whoa
Shawty
Yea she was worth the money
Lil mama took my cash,
And I ain’t want it back,
The way she bit that rag,
Got her them paper stacks,
Tattoo Above her crack,
I had to handle that,

I was on it, sexy woman, let me shownin
They be want it two in the mornin
I’m zonin in them rosay bottles foamin
She wouldn’t stop, made it drop
Shorty did that pop and lock,
Had to break her off that gwap
Gah it was fly just like my glock

Chorus

Soulja Boy

Chorus:
Soulja Boy Off In This Hoe
Watch Me Crank It
Watch Me Roll
Watch Me Crank Dat Soulja Boy
Then Super Man Dat Hoe
Now Watch Me Do
(Crank Dat Soulja Boy)

Soulja Boy Off In This Hoe
Watch Me Crank It
Watch Me Roll
Watch Me Crank Dat Soulja Boy
Then Super Man Dat Hoe
Now Watch Me Do
(Crank Dat Soulja Boy)

Verse 1:
Soulja Boy Off In This Hoe
Watch Me Lean And Watch Me Rock
Super Man Dat Hoe
Then Watch Me Crank Dat Robocop
Super Fresh, Now Watch Me Jock
Jocking On Them Haterz Man
When I Do Dat Soulja Boy
I Lean To The Left And Crank Dat Thang
(Now You)
I’m Jocking On Yo Bitch Ass
And If We Get The Fightin
Then I’m Cocking On Your Bitch
You Catch Me At Yo Local Party
Yes I Crank It Everyday
Haterz Get Mad Cuz
“I Got Me Some Bathin Apes”

Chorus

Verse 2:
I’m Bouncin On My Toe
Watch Me Super Soak Dat Hoe
I’ma Pass It To Arab
Then He Gon Pass It To The Low (Low)
Haterz Wanna Be Me
Soulja Boy, I’m The Man
They Be Lookin At My Neck
Sayin Its The Rubberband Man (Man)
Watch Me Do It (Watch Me Do It)
Dance (Dance)
Let Get To It (Let Get To It)
Nope, You Can’t Do It Like Me
Hoe, So Don’t Do It Like Me
Folk, I See You Tryna Do It Like Me
Man That Shit Was Ugly

Chorus

Hook:
Im to freah off in this hoe
Watch me crank it
Watch me roll
Watch me crank that roosavelt
And super soak that Hoe
And super soak that hoe
and super soak that hoe
and super soak that hoe
and super soak that hoe
Im to fresh up in this bitch
Watch me shuffle
Watch me jig
Watch me crank my shoulder work
Super man
Do it

So all year girls as young as 5 have been dancing along to this shit. I can’t really describe how sickened I am by this. I can’t believe that the parents of the girls who bring this stuff in to listen to haven’t cottoned on to these lyrics. Do they know what these songs are saying? Do they care?

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The Price We Pay

October 25, 2008

Another piece from a womyn of colour at Michfest. This one is close to my heart. She talks about resisting the shitty dom/sub, butch/femme destructive heteropatriarchal dichotomy in lesbian relationships… as well as other things. Thank goddess for sane womyn like this.