gender

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

Kink Camp

The most notorious episodes of the Risk podcast are probably the ones where host, Kevin Allison, talks about kink camp.  

In number 229 “Kevin Goes to Kink Camp 1” and number 230 “Kevin Goes to Kink Camp 2” Kevin walks the listener through his first experience of kink camp and what it is like to be a gay man at a primarily heterosexual orgy.

In episode number 828 “Make Believe,” Kevin tells a story called “The Whiz Kid” about his return to kink camp where he participated in “water sports” or urine play.  

Paris Burning and/or Burnt

The documentary Paris is Burning is a particularly important record of LGTQ people of color in New York in the 1980s.  More specifically, the film is about the ballroom subculture, made up primarily of young, disenfranchised LGTQ POC gathering to “walk” and dance (where “voguing” comes from) in costume.  The film has had a lasting impact on current vernacular, such as “shade,” “kiki,” and “realness.”

There was controversy after the documentary around compensation and how the project was represented by Jennie Livingston.  The subjects of the documentary lived difficult lives in poverty and the film ended with the murder of Venus Xtravaganza.  The resulting question is for documentary film makers as it is for ethnographers – When your career is based in the lives of your subjects, what do you owe them?  How might you change their lives by making them famous while they still live in poverty?

The discord around the film reoccured around the 2015 Celebrate Brooklyn screening of Paris is Burning, which was to be accompanied by Jennie Livingston and DJ’ed by JD Samson, both of whom are white queer people.  No people of color or representatives from the continuing ballroom scene were invited.  Attention was quickly drawn to the silencing of people of color around their own stories and parallels to ongoing gentrification in Brooklyn.  A change.org petition declaring “#ParisIsBurnt” was started calling for canceling the event.  Ultimately Samson dropped out and ballroom participants who appeared in the documentary were invited to participate.

This year the documentary Kiki was released and has drawn parallels to Paris is Burning, though the director seems to have taken a more collaborative approach and learned from Livingston’s mistakes.  It looks at the contemporary ballroom subculture, the importance of DIY, and activism.

Female Hurricanes

Storms in the Gulf of Mexico and North Atlantic were given female gender type names until 1979.  Now there are annual lists alternating gender used each year.

In an article originally titled “Female-named hurricanes kill more than male hurricanes because people don’t respect them, study finds,” later changed to “Female-named hurricanes probably do NOT kill more people than male hurricanes,” a Washington Post journalist cited a 2014 study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that has since been critiqued and rebutted.

katrina-08-28-2005image from National Centers for Environmental Information

Contraception & Sex Education

Though adolescent fertility rates have declined in the United States as well as nearly all western countries, the US rate is notably higher than most other western countries.  These changes are not due to how early and how frequently teenagers have sex.  Instead studies show contraception use and sex education have a significantly greater impact.

Unlike some other countries, the United States currently requires women to have an exam and receive a prescription before going to a pharmacy to get birth control pills.  In addition, conservative politicians and companies have pushed to not require coverage of contraception, with some arguing it will entice sexual activity.  Amy Schumer has parodied this process here as well as the following clip.

As to sex education, it is inconsistently offered and when available parents are able to opt out.

Black Women’s Hair

Our Eurocentric society has a strong bias against black women’s natural hair.  For black women in particular, hair can be tied to a sense of self.  Whether or not to wear hair natural is heavily politicized.  Only recently did the US Army loosen hair restrictions to include braids and twists.  It is unclear as to whether or not an employer can legally discriminate against natural hair.  Currently, some companies cite vague terminology in dress codes such as ‘professional’ or ‘clean cut.’

thesocietypages  image from The Society Pages

White women are particularly terrible on the issue of black women’s hair.  Not only do white women judge black women’s hair as less professional and attractive, but we have simultaneously culturally appropriated black women’s hair styles, such as re labeling cornrows ‘boxing braids’.  Recently, white women have even been featured in advertisements for natural hair products historically marketed towards black women, resulting in an online backlash and apology from at least one company.

black hair whiteimage from The Independent

Ethnographer Dr. Yaba Blay speaks more about the issue in Color Complex: Untangling Black Women’s Hair discussing politics around black hair.