Thursday, August 27, 2009

When the World Debates Your Gender

What a firestorm Miss Semenya has caused. Ever since, she siezed the gold medal for the 800m women's at the IAAF Champs, she's been at the centre of this totally ridiculous controversy concerning her gender.

It's funny to me. When I saw her running, it did not even occur to me that her gender is somewhat unclear. I saw a young woman running exceptionally well and clobbering her competitors. As it turned out, the French and Russian runners that she beat were upset about the astounding way she won the race and went on a mission to create some speculation.

She's been treated to a hero's welcome here - OR Tambo Airport was populated with hundreds of newfound fans congratulating her first-time performance at the tournament.
But it's the questions that baffle me. She's muscular yes, she's strong and athletic in physique like most other athletes yet there still remains a big question mark as to what side of the population she should be classified under and it's kind of tragic.

I know she's a woman. You can see it on her face. She may not conform to the popular standard of beauty that society seems to dictate. Her hair is not long, her body is not soft, her breasts are not full and she does not wear her hair long. That's exactly why she's been given so much scrutiny. I really don't think they would have bothered had she been more feminine in the way she appears.

I've even heard some say that she must change her ways and learn female etiquette. Once again, it comes down to the gender-binary and the pressure it puts on androgynes to fit the norm. I wrote a post about gender-role transcendence before and this is certainly something to consider here. We're a long way away from a world where gender is hardly an issue in the way people are judged.

On the other hand, I would agree with those that accuse those that alleged against her of racism. Would they have bothered to bring this up if she had not placed first and simply won silver or bronze or nothing at all? No, they would not have given a damn and that goes to show that whites still have a problem with people of colour dominating sport. Venus and Serena have had to face up to the same challenges and evne worse for them playing in a sport which is white-dominated.

Claims of racism were made against "white media" and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) by politicians and Athletics South Africa (ASA) president Leonard Chuene these past two days, but Sam said Semenya formed part of their strategy for London and would remain so unless an investigation into Semenya's gender by the IAAF proved otherwise.

The bloggers at racialicious made some pertinent comments about the whole charade and I could certainly agree with most of what is being said by the media defending Semenya's privacy. This case should have been handled in a confidential manner but it's leaked. Can you imagine having the whole world debate on whether or not you really are what you claim to be? I certainly can't.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Long Silence

J Randy Taraborrelli's 620 page biography on the late Michael has kept me busy for a while. Was a fanatic of course, it was necessary to undertake this venture and glad I did. A bevy of new information earned and my oh my how entertaining. He was a character. Don't need to say that but this book is privy to knowledge even some hardcore fans may not have known. So, officially over it but the full musical collection must still be owned so not entirely achieved closure.

Between dodging annoying people without assuming the battlefield stance and laughing at simpletons parading the TV screen on "reality" shows. I've managed to gain momentum in fueling ideas for a literary project. This is all very personal and never write full posts this way but funny as it may seem. I don't have much else to say. How apathetic of me. Well. That's a wrap for now. Keep it locked.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Compassion for the Plight of the "other"

Is perhaps one of the most incredible triumphs of human character to note. We don't realise it but recognising the humanity in those that are not like us is a challenge. Especially in a world that is so bent on forming divisions instead of breaking them through empathy and understanding.

These thoughts emanate from an article in the Saturday Star Canvas by Janet Smith. This month we celebrate women's lib or what we have of it. Though much needs to be done to obtain full equality, great strides have already been made. In comparison to women that lived half a century ago, we have many more opportunities to grow and progress as humans and not simply women. Ideas surrounding gender roles are much less rigid. Women can more or less do anything they want to. For that, it is a privilege to be a woman in the 21st century.

But it is a woman's location that makes all the difference. Muslim states in Africa and Asia still practice brutal genital mutilations. A clear act of pure unadultered misogyny which is accompanied by a myriad of other heinous acts.
I began this post with some talk about empathy. A recent movie which has struck plenty of controversy mainly owed to a scene in which a woman mutilates herself 'Antichrist' has left me wondering. The European public is so up in arms about this scene which is part of a movie and thus not real but less troubled by the reality of the many thousands of mutilations that take place. It serves to speak of how empathy breaks down almost immediately at the ethnic barrier. The West is somewhat indifferent to the suffering of those is less developed regions of the world because of this business of seeing only the "other" and not a fellow human being similar in a number of ways.
Otherization is something we have probably all been guilty of. Recognising that common humanity that binds us is one way forward toward a post-racial and post-sexist society and world.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

History Making: Empowerment and Inspiration to Women and Hispanics

I'm wary of those that always try to suppress matter of race as if they mean little. Keeping silent about racial prejudice and other forms of segregation will not help these injustices disappear nor will it heal the wounds and break the divisions caused by systemic bigotry. One who avoids discussions of this nature is quite possibly fearful somewhat of confronting their own prejudiced ideas pertaining to the "other" and therefore chooses to ignore the issue altogether. It is somewhat an attempt to mask the dirt lying beneath the carpet surface instead of sweeping it away and disposing it off. This is what a person who avoids conversation about race is to me.

That being said. It is highly essential that Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation into the US Supreme Court be regarded as a historical moment based on her race and gender. Though she reached her position not based on these factors alone. It is still a triumph in this respect because as much as some out there like to pretend to not give a damn about race. It is impossible to ignore it and its implications on many acts of inequity and oppression throughout the world. So why try to?

Disturbing Doesn't Even Begin to Describe

The short story I just recently discovered. Written by the author of the book from which the motion picture 'Fight Club' was adapted, Chuck Palahnuik. It is a gruesome three-act account of household accidents which take place under similar motivations. I'm being euphemistic of course. You'll have to read it yourself. It's not for the faint-hearted, no pun intended considering that approximately 70 people to date have fainted during public readings of the story. I grimaced without moving while going through it. It was that horrendous.

This is why literature is such an exhilirating force. The power that can be evoked through an ordered compilation of words coupled with the images strewn together by one's imagination. This is where the power is. I may not have fainted reading 'Guts' but I was intrigued, stunned and repulsed all at once. Want to know what I'm on about. Google it but be warned. It'll make you react in a strong way.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Saying I'm Vain Wouldn't Be Fair

I'm not vain. My face is a canvas and my scalp is my terrain. I approach matter of my image as an artist or landscaper will treat their work. With careful precision and knowledge of one's own self in order to fully express all that is within in the physical realm.

Tomorrow is Saturday and I'm seeking the assistance of a hair stylist to vamp up my look. I'm going short and asymmetrical. Cropped on one side and fairly long the other. I've been inspired by those eccentric youngsters and their avant-garde hair designs that defy convention.

I want to go off the hair extensions for a long time. Short hair is chic and easy to manage. Figured I'll give it a go. Reading Luuvie's post about Solange's short hairdo at the incroyable Black Snob's website encouraged me. Society has a preference for women with long hair. So?

"I'll Be At the Studio"

She hasn't been in the news alot but her twitter updates have shown that she's in the studio working on future projects.
Namely, the first artist on her record label NEET Rye Rye. The single 'Bang Bang' is hot. Very nice dance beat with the kind of heavy percussion that you could step to. Great work. Haven't been able to view the video so why on Earth would I torture myself by posting it.

Silent Lady

She hasn't been in the news alot but her twitter updates have shown that she's in the studio working on future projects.
Namely, the first artist on her record label NEET Rye Rye. The single 'Bang Bang' is hot. Very nice dance beat with the kind of heavy percussion that you could step to. Great work. Haven't been able to view the video so why on Earth would I torture myself by posting it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

insight from bell hooks: patriarchal family values

Yesterday I came across a man in his 30's with brunette hair and tanned skin who on hearing me greet him while we shook hands asked "Where I got my accent from?" Strange little comment. I replied in a whimsical and joking manner - "From outer space." What kind of a question is that really. Is there a place that people can go 'specially for the purpose of picking up accents. Does he think that I forced myself into speaking this way through careful deliberation instead of it just having progressed naturally throughout my life. Now, I find it hard to classify my accent because although I've lived in South Africa for most of my life, I've dwelled in other places too so it is very eclectic. It's not really one thing at all. It's an amalgamation of so many different elements. So, I like to think of myself as a citizen of the world. An Earthling. I am eloquent because I read obsessively. Perhaps this is the surprising factor - the fact that I am well-spoken. Which indicates to me that a person of my ethnic background is not expecting to have a wholesome command of the English language in this country and I suppose in another Westenrized countries. How patronining. I find it prejudiced. It's certainly not the first time I've noticed a surprised expression on a person's face on hearing the first sentence come out of my mouth or even an explicit compliment based on my high level of eloquence and how well I articulate.
Why such low expectations. It's so ridiculous how paternalistic some people can be. Of course, it doesn't bother me but observations must be made for the sake of a better understanding of the world around me. It's not about narcissism - it's about dispelling ignorance in my own mind by understanding and perhaps even trying to find a common ground.
bell hooks made this point in her thesis, Feminism: A Transformational Politic

To understand domination, we must understand that our capacity as women and men to be either dominated or dominating is a point of connection, of commonality.

In this commonality, she argues, we can begin to reach a common understanding - experience empathy - which may help to terminate our divisions and prejudices for one another. Within a family unit, there are aspects of domination and submission, superiority and inferiority. The traditional nuclear family most certainly serves as a microcosm for society which is based on patriarchal belief systems and heirarchical structures.

Reading the following was a cathartic moment. Empathy! Something I've always pondered in secret and never been able to vocalise until now. In most traditional family units, it is impressed upon children that they are the lesser beings, that they must take orders in an almost militaristic fashion. Now, I certaily understand discipline and teaching right from wrong but in families - black ones especially - guidance is delivered in such a way that dehmuanizes and degrades, silences and discredits the voice of the child as if to say that it is worthless. Is it no wonder that when the child involves finally leaves the nest, they experience trouble standing up against authority even when they know very well that their rights are being violated by it. Such upbringing beats one into submission and does not foster the opportunity for raising a person up into a fully-autonomous and self-expressive human being who will not under any circumstance tolerate injustice against their own person.

Growing up in a black, working-class, father dominated household, I
experienced coercive adult male authority as more immediately threatening,
as more likely to cause immediate pain than racist oppression or class
exploitation. It was equally clear that experiencing exploitation and
oppression in the home made one feel all the more powerless when
encountering dominating forces outside the home. This is true for many
people. If we are unable to resist and end domination in relations where
there is care, it seems totally unimaginable that we can resist and end it
in other institutionalized relations of power. If we cannot convince the
mothers and/or fathers who care not to humiliate and degrade us, how can we
imagine convincing or resisting an employer, a lover, a stranger who
systematically humiliates and degrades?

There is a lucid correlation between a person's ability to take control within their nuclear family unit and their corresponding ability to do so outside of this unit. The moment a person's voice is free and most importantly, respected, within the family, they are given the unconscious knowledge that the same will occur at the workplace, amongst friends, toward a lover etc etc

In a broader sense, considering this correlation, the violation of the traditional nuclear family has its implications on why there remains such open right-wing opposition to families headed by same-sex parents. The notion of two fathers or two mothers is not traditional and is most essentially a violation of the patriarchal notion of the man being the head of the houshold. Could this be why same-sex marriage is still so controversial? Is it more an upset of patrirachal values that hold society "together" and keep male hegemony intact than it is a violation of morals and the like?