Slavery and the Student Debt Movement

30 05 2012

Let me preface this post by sayin that I am an active member of organizations that work to forgive student debt and increase college accessibility for everyone. I shouldn’t have to do this, but given the shitshow that crops up every time anyone tries to bring this up, I feel that I must.

Fellow White student debt activists, it is time to stop appropriating the images of slavery to make your point. It is long past the time, in fact. This should have never been the go to move for us in the first place, but as history demonstrates, Whiteness has no problem stealing from the cultures and histories of oppressed nationalities when it is convenient.

The imagery and rhetoric of this movement has centered around the image of the slave. Students in tens of thousands of dollars in debt are “slaves” to the federal government, to Sallie Mae, to whichever private institution holds their debt. The debt becomes the ball and chain of the person holding it. Pick your problematic slavery imagery and the student debt movement has probably appropriated it in one way or another. It is distasteful at the very least and incredibly offensive and problematic for White students in particular to be using this imagery and rhetoric considering our place in the system of racial privilege and oppression. While none of these White students were slaveholders themselves, White people continue to benefit from the enslavement of Africans centuries ago, and even the most basic comprehension of White privilege should be able to see that we are still very clearly benfitting from slavery, while the descendents of those enslaved Africans are very clearly not.

White privilege, just as any other privilege, clouds one’s ability to fully recognise when they are doing something harmful to an oppressed group. And just like with any other privilege, people do not always react positively to a call out of White privilege. The reactions of anger, dismissal or excuse making I’ve gotten was to be expected (and really, claiming that the imagery is supposed to represent indentured servitude instead of slavery is a terrible cover and embarrassing as an excuse.) If the student debt movement wants to be taken seriously, however, it’s White members need to get over being confronted about their privilege, and they need to do it quickly.

I believe strongly in this movement. I believe we can make a difference, and that a college education can truly be financially accessible for all who seek it. Alienating an entire segment of the population (a segment which is more vulnerable when it comes to student debt) is not how to build a strong movement and certainly not the way to make a difference.

The Inspirational Cripple

25 05 2012

There are a number of characteristics, accomplishments or committments that can make a person an inspiration to others. Legitimate activists (the non self aggrandizing kind) can be inspirational to others. The same can be said for almost any profession that doesn’t have it’s roots in something evil. Finding inspiration in a person for their dedication or work is not a problem. What is a problem, however, is inspirationalizing (I’m making it a word) a person who faces an oppression for simply existing with their oppression(s). 

The inspirationalizing of oppressed people is not limited to any one marginalization, but what I’m becoming fed up with is being the Inspirational Cripple(tm). Having a visible disability means that I am fair game for able bodied people to comment on my abilities, activities, movement, and overall existence. Being the Inspirational Cripple, I am expected to graciously accept the false praise given by able bodied people, and if I don’t, I risk losing assistance when and if I need it. 

This often becomes more mentally taxing than attempting to navigate a world that is not accepting of bodies like mine. The fear of disability (which is at the core of inspirationalizing people with disabilities) is pushed on me no matter what I do. Walking to the library? Inspiring! Avoiding a puddle? Worthy of a Lifetime movie! Leaving the house? SO MUCH COURAGE OMGZ. And on, and on and on. 

I am reminded of my marginalization constantly just in the ways I attempt to navigate and perform daily tasks. When I hear that my performing these daily tasks is inspiring to an able bodied person, I am further reinded of my status as Other. I am reminded of how little is expected of me as a result of able bodied people’s failure to understand disability and illness, I am constantly filled with doubt that I *really* belong in college, or if I *really* earned that grade, or if I am awarded something based on merit and skills or based on pity and fear of disability. This stress of being inspirationalized is more than I can deal with some days. 

Forcing fear of disability and general ableism onto a person with disabilities by making them your Inspirational Cripple does not make a person with disabilities feel any beter about their struggle, their experiences or how they are forced to navigate the world. It is stressful, it is harmful and primarily, it is othering. The only function of the Inspirational Cripple is to further other and marginalize people with disabilities. 

Ableism and Punk on the Eve of Fest Weekend

27 10 2011

All the cool punx~*~ know, this weekend is Fest 10 and I’m finally getting to pop my Fest cherry. I’ve been looking forward to this since I got my pass over the summer and I have barely been able to think about anything else the past couple of weeks (As the Germans would say, ich bin stoked). But behind all the giddiness is a nagging reminder that I’m going to be at a punk festival with visible and invisible disabilities.

This is not the first show I’m going to ever, but I stopped going to shows a few years ago (the last show I was at was Gaslight Anthem/Murder by Death/The Loved Ones/Broadway Calls in Philly in 09, and nothing since) and while distance played a factor, sure. But primarily, I was fed up with (and at times, frightened by) the amount of ableism in the punk scene. I’m not the first person to write about the various isms in the community (30 seconds on google will point you to people who have written on it more extensively and eloquently than I have) and the response they get is almost always the same: a few messages of support, followed by everyone else trying to prove how not (whatever ism) they are, how “it’s just punk, man” or it escalates to threats of violence. It’s at the point where it’s completely expected.

Since the community is comprised of mostly cis white able bodied men, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am sick of it. I don’t want to avoid going to shows because hardcore bros and pop-punk Nice Guys(tm) tend to be ableist as fuck. I don’t want to worry about accessibility issues, or wonder what response I’ll get when I wallk into a venue with an assistive device. I know posting this puts a target on my back, and I’m sure I’ll get at least one “YOU’RE JUST TRYING TO START SHIT!” but fuck that noise. I want to see bands I love, discover some new ones, and have good times with lovely people this weekend. Am I allowed to do it all while being disabled?

“But We’re Not All Bad!” Is the Wrong Answer

25 05 2011

This might be my most favourite derailing tactic (and by favourite, I mean most facepalm-y) of all time. The old “we aren’t all like that!” trope, guaranteed to derail a discussion in 140 characters or less. If you are privileged enough to have never experienced this (if you haven’t already done it yourself) I’ll give you an example. Adjust the situation for the oppressed/oppressor relationship of your choosing:

Trans woman: Wow, I really wish cis LGB people would quit directly playing a direct hand in my erasure, denial of services/basic humanity and the often fatal harm of me and women like me. That would be great if all that would stop.

And on, and on, and on, and on, and on it goes. More derails follow, the discussion goes to shit and the oppressor often ends up getting consoled instead of the marginalized person being attacked (also known as white women’s tears) and the attempt for a meaningful discussion or call-out is abandoned at that time. All of this because of a six word sentence that has no validity in any of these discussions whatsoever.

Far too many discussions that need to happen do not, because there is always at least one privileged champ who comes in and fucks everything up with this tactic. It is not the way that one in a position of privilege should be reacting when a marginalized person speaks their truths. When a person of colour is talking about their frustrations with harmful things white people tend to do, the correct response isn’t “I don’t do that!/We aren’t all that bad!” The reaction of a person who is truly socially conscious should be to listen and learn. Only after listening and learning (not demanding someone be your Mystical Minority Teacher(TNM)) can you begin to maybe do something about this problem. Not throw a temper tantrum about how all white people aren’t in the Klan, but ask yourself “What can I do to reject my privilege, help end the systemic and oppressive problem the group I belong to has a history of doing, and how can I work to uplift marginalized people?”

The one in the role of the oppressor has no business to “prove” that their group is “not all bad” to a marginalized person. The fact of the matter is, these problems that are spoken of are systemic within the entire communities of privilege. It is not something that occurs only in fringe/extremist/super duper hateful circles within those communities of privilege, it is everywhere within the community. The goal should not be to to prove to any marginalized person that you aren’t all bad (attempting to deny the lived experiences of any marginalized person is fucked up in and of itself.) The goal needs to be to end the systemic oppression of marginalized people that requires these discussions happen in the first place.

A Skinny Girl’s Rant

7 12 2010

Trigger Warning for Eating Disorders, body image & self-hatred

This is a guest post from S.P.

“You’re so skinny. I’m jealous.”
Don’t be. I never wanted to be this skinny. And by skinny, I mean gaunt. Emaciated. Malnourished. Look closely – do you see my ribcage? My collarbone? Do you think I want to wake up every morning and see that? Because I really, really do not. But I need to.

I have been an anorexic for five years and counting. Before you label me as a shallow bimbo brainwashed by the mainstream media, hear me out. I do not give a fuck about what I actually look like. I don’t stand in the mirror sobbing, desperately clutching a photograph of a Victoria’s secret model, wishing that I looked like that. Well, maybe breast-wise, but not the rest. I’m standing there sobbing because over a span of five years, I have slowly bound myself to a set of rules to control my own life, rules that are slowly killing me.

And when I say killing, I say it in all seriousness – I am purposely living in a constant haze of malnourishment, depriving my body of what it needs to survive. My body will shut down incredibly prematurely – medical problems of that sort have already begun. I know I am hurting myself, and yet I continue.

Why? I could spend hours upon hours answering that question, telling you my entire story, boring you to tears, and you would still not understand. That is because until you have become so tethered to control of food as a means of reward and punishment, as a means of feeling in control of your life, as a means of feeling a sense of accomplishment, you will never be able to understand this mindset. I have taught myself to fear food to the point where I will physically begin shaking with fear when presented with a large amount of food at once. I recognize how wrong this is, and yet my heart still pounds as the cold sweat rises on my skin.

So, please, stop telling me you understand. Stop thinking you know what will help me, and listen to what I actually need your help with. Stop yelling at me, telling me I am not eating enough. I know I am not. I am so painfully aware of that. I don’t need you to tell me that. I need you to encourage me, even for small things, because every time I think I make an accomplishment and you shoot me down, I feel no incentive to try harder. I need you to stop talking about fat like it is a bad thing. I need you to tell me that I do not look like the fat slob that I feel like whenever I eat. I need voices to override the screaming monster that I have created in my mind – to tell me the obvious things that I can’t hear or see because I have become so distorted by this eating disorder.

I say this now because I have been slipping at my nutritionist appointments. My weight is falling back again, and I need to encourage myself to keep trying to eat more and break down the “old rules” as much as I need other people to encourage me. You will never be able to understand how hard this is for me to do if you have never had an eating disorder. Every meal is a battle, a constant re-assessment of everything I have eaten, what I may eat later, what I look like as a result. These things are always in the back of my mind, every hour of every day. You have no idea what kind of near torture it is.

I am determined to overcome this. It will take time, and it will be the absolute most difficult thing I have ever had to do in my life. I will do it, but I will not be able to do it alone. I need your help.

Don’t be jealous. Just be there for me.

Rampant Transmisogyny and Transphobia at Pace University

27 11 2010

Disclaimer: I am a former member o the Stonewall Coalition and a former student of Pace University’s NYC campus.

When I logged into Facebook yesterday I saw I had an invite for something called “Drag Night.” I groaned and clicked on it to see what it was about.

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What do we have here? A primarily cis gay club hosting a drag event meant to “commemorate the Trans Day of Rememberance.” Because if there’s one thing that honours and respects the dead, it’s making a mockery of their lives, cultural appropriation and perpetuating stereotypes.

This is heinous, at best. It continues the stereotype that trans women and men (but let’s be honest, mostly women) are just gay men and lesbians in drag. Not only does this not honour anyone, it is directly harmful to trans women and men.

Cis people here have an obligation to stand up against this hateful fuckery and relentlessly call out the organisers of this event for who they are. The response coming back is as expected.

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Cis is an insult, we’re not appropriating anythintg, this is different. The same old silencing bullshit that every Cis GLB group has thrown around for decades. This is not an original argument, but it’s still harmful. And despite repeated call-outs, the attempt to silence all dissenting voices continues.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Continuously, when trans voices confront their hate and call it for what it is, they return with more hateful fuckery.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

This is still going on as planned. If you are a student at Pace’s NYC campus, go to the event Monday and let it be known that this kind of appropriation and disrespect will not be tolerated. Go to a meeting an speak out against the cissupremacy of the Stonewall Coalition. If you have a facebook account you can participate in the call-out, as this is marked as a public event.

If you are cis you obligated to stand up against this shit. Don’t let this happen silently.

Don’t Wish Me A Happy Thanksgiving

25 11 2010

Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S. A holiday that is presented as one to spend with family and friends, reflecting on how thankful we all are for the things we have. This idea is crammed down the throat of every American from the point of Kindergarten. As we grow older, we learn more about the real history of this holiday, and even after being presented with the facts, we continue to celebrate it “for what it is now.”

The flagrant denial of the history of this nation and this holiday is an attack on every Indigenous person.

This does not need to be a long and drawn out post with detailed explanation because quite frankly, everyone knows this. If you have lived in this country your entire life and are over the age of 14 you cannot claim to not know at least part of the real history of this holiday.

What you do with this information is ultimately up to you. I am choosing to not ignore history today, how about you?

Simpsons Sunday-Happy Halloween!

31 10 2010

This Treehouse of Horror is one of the best, but this is the only clip I could find. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Keep Ableism Alive

30 10 2010

Everyone has been anticipating Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear. Discussions of false equivalences between left and right extremes have been a major talking point, but something that few outside the PWD community have talked about is the disgusting ableism surrounding this event.

Labeling conservatives as “crazy” or “insane” is an old liberal favourite. This was the entire basis of Jon Stewart’s part of the rally–that people who he disagrees with, or people who are passionate are mentally ill and we need to get rid of those silly crazy people.

This is an old tactic that is used in almost every arena to try and discredit someone they disagree with. An idea or person is labeled as crazy and they are almost automatically dismissed. When used this way, it is ableist and harms people with mental disabilities. “Crazy” and “Insane” are words used to describe people with mental disabilities. When someone uses these words in a negative context, to describe a person or idea they disagree with, to put someone down, or to try and make some political point, it is ableist and it harms people with mental disabilities.

Whether or not Stewart and Colbert intended to harm anyone isn’t the point here. Intent doesn’t matter when exercising an -ism, it hurts all the same.

Voting and Privilege

26 10 2010

Voting is largely inaccessible. Trans women and men, people with disabilities, people of colour, people living in poverty and people living in rural areas often are unable to vote because of the myriad barriers blocking access. This is a reason why there is so often low turnout among these groups (among other factors). This post, however, is not directed at people who are blocked from voting.

This post is for everyone who can vote.

If you have the privilege of access to voting, it is absolutely imperative that you vote consciously next Tuesday. It is important to research the positions that your candidates hold. Study voting records, speeches, debates, endorsements, whatever you can get your hands on and educate yourself before voting. It’s also necessary to recognise what great privilege you have with your access to voting. This is something that cannot be taken lightly and must be carefully thought about before exercising.

And what do you need to do after you’ve recognised your privilege of voting access? You can either use your privilege to uplift the people you oppress or you can ignore it and continue to harm (directly or indirectly) the most vulnerable people in our country. You can choose to vote for the candidates that are endorsed by marginalized people, candidates that truly seek to uplift oppressed people and make this country a better place for all of us. Or, you can choose to vote in your best interests. For tax cuts that will harm the poorest in our nation, hateful candidates who seek to exterminate trans women and men, candidates who are pro-corporations, candidates that, if elected, will “send a message to the Obama administration,” candidates who want to continue to harm the most vulnarable.

Or you can choose to sit at home on election day, throw your privilege around in the faces of those of us who don’t have voting access and tell us that voting doesn’t matter anyway, man.

I’m going to vote consciously next Tuesday. Will you?