activism

Rise Like a Pheonix

In 2014 the Eurovision Song Contest was won by Conchita Wurst from Austria.  Conchita Wurst is the drag persona of Tom Neuwirth.  “Conchita” is Spanish slang for vulva / vagina and “Wurst” is German slang for penis.

The Eurovision Contest is known for its eccentricity and gay representations are not new, but Wurst’s performance was particularly unique.  Though wearing long, curled hair, full makeup, and a beautiful gown all culturally signifying female, she also had a full beard, a secondary sex characteristic associated with males.

The song “Rise Like a Phoenix” holds additional meaning when sung by Wurst.  The lyrics “Peering from the mirror  No, that isn’t me  Stranger getting nearer  Who can this person be  You wouldn’t know me at all today” and “Once I’m transformed  Once I’m reborn I rise up to the sky  You threw me down but I’m gonna fly  And rise like a phoenix” can all be read as referencing gender ambiguity or transformation.  Neuwirth has stated “Conchita Wurst” is his drag persona and he does not identify as transgender, though, like many drag queens, uses ‘she’ pronouns when in character.  Wurst’s genderqueer performance was attacked by the Russian Orthodox church as an “abomination” and Vladimir Putin as “aggressive” because non traditional gender identity was “put…up for show”.

In her acceptance speech, Wurst stated “This night is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom.  You know who you are.  We are unity and we are unstoppable.”

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Stop and Frisk

A visually beautiful summary of Broken Windows policing with art by Molly Crabapple.

Jessica Williams points out the classism and racism innate to Stop and Frisk policies.

And the story and video from The Nation eluded to in the Broken Windows video.

Commercial Activism

A Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner recently made it into the news:

The ad was widely met with derision.

This is not a new phenomena.  Imagery and ideas of rebellion have been used to sell products for decades.  Sites such as Jezebel, Sociological Images, and this blog have previously looked at this issue.  Following are some additional examples:

Assata, White Nationalists, and Twitter

Last week there has been a twitter argument centered around Assata Shakur, a black feminist who was convicted of the murder of a state trooper, escaped prison, and now has political asylum in Cuba.  The Women’s March tweeted a happy birthday message to Assata on July 16th.

assata

Jake Tapper, generally liked by the moderate left, responded to the tweet.

jake

Assata Shakur is a bit of a flash point for the “alt-right.”  This tweet was seen as legitimizing arguments of white supremacists.  The Women’s March responded with a series of 20 tweets explaining who Assata is and why they support her.  COINTELPRO, or the counter intelligence program of the FBI, became a talking point and some other journalists entered the discussion.

Shaun King

The Politically Reactive podcast with W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu was in an interesting situation.  On July 13th they aired an interview with Linda Sarsour, the most well known of the Women’s March organizers, and the following week were scheduled to air an interview with Jake Tapper.  The podcasters reached out to both after the twitter argument but did not hear back.  They thought it would be inappropriate to simply air the second interview and instead made an episode “Hold Up, Wait a Minute: Twitter Feuds & Threat Models” featuring Prof. Jessie Daniels of Hunter College and CUNY College and cyber security expert Nicholas Weaver.

pol reactive.jpeg

Summerhill (Hipster Racism & Gentrification)

Summerhill, a bar / sandwich shop in Crown Heights Brooklyn, has been making waves for the last few days.  The restaurant has been open for roughly one month, but recently sent out a press release stating the bar was “Instagramable” because of a “bullet hole-ridden wall” and serving forty ounce rosé in paper bags.

bullet image from Summerhill Instagram

First, it is important to point out that Crown Heights has been undergoing gentrification for the last 15 years.  According to the Census Bureau, from 2000 to 2012 the white population of the neighborhood increased from 3.5% to 12.4% while the black/African American population decreased from 83.6% to 76.8% (based on NTA “North Crown Heights).  In the last five years the trend has continued.

The owner of Summerhill is a white woman named Becca Brennan, which means she is literally a ‘Becky,’ from Toronto.  She has only lived in the neighborhood for two years and identifies as a “reformed corporate tax attorney.”  In an interview with Gothamist she stated “As someone who lives on Nostrand, I was getting tired of walking to Franklin,” Brennan said. “It’s three blocks, but it’s three long blocks. You just deserve something close, and a hang out, especially if you live on New York [Avenue] or Schenectady or something like that.”  Comments like these have lead to signs being placed around Crown Heights quoting the Brennan.

eater ny summerhillimage from Eater NY

The bar’s bullet holes and “rumored backroom illegal gun shop” authenticity has come into question and the use of violence in communities of color as a marketing tool has been roundly condemned.  Serving forty ounce rosé in paper bags is an obvious use of a stereotype of black people.  The juxtaposition of the forty in a bag and rosé is a great example of hipster racism, where supposedly it is not racist because it is supposed to be ironic or funny.

rose.jpg      image from Summerhill Instagram

Brennan’s early response to the backlash was pretty terrible.  As a Facebook comment she made “a joke about her tan in response to being called white in the Eater article.”  In a later interview with Gothamist she also backed out of her plan for serving rosé, stating “I also want to clarify about our bottles of rosé,” Brennan added. “We serve them in ice buckets and we have them on our menu because rosé is delicious, and it’s a great deal for what amounts to more than a standard bottle of wine. We have no intention of serving them in any other way.”

Whatever the argument, a white woman is attempting to capitalize off of aestheticizing the violence and poverty people of color have experienced in Crown Heights. Neighborhood residents are planning a protest and yelp has been inundated with negative reviews.