Thursday, May 31, 2007

Colonial Entitlement vs. Appreciation & Interest

This is the entire post I was going to put in at BA's excellent post but snipped down to the relevant bits.

You know, I really do want to think that this whole debate is about the absolutely relevant issue of how WOC (if not POC) cultures do indeed get transformed and mutated by the dominant White culture, and often at the expense of the original cultures. I really do want to stand with BfP and BA in total agreement that appropriating Black and Brown people's cultures without giving them the proper credit and working to maintain the originals is certainly wrong.

I really would...but it all seems to come right back to baiting middle class White women for their sexual liberalism, and dissing them as "appropriators" and "thieves" masturbating on the broken backs of women of color.

I disagree with this.

Saying "why is it ok when middle and upper class white women do it but not okay when poor women and women of color do it" is not baiting when that's the situation.

The question becomes whether that's the situation. The answer is that one loved by all liberals like me, "It depends."

But when you see people who are not of a cultural group using the clothing, activities, and suchlike of a cultural group, it should give you pause, in my opinion. I expect that when I go out in a Sari. I am perfectly open to being questioned on that and explaining about my Muslim Pakistani friend who introduced me to the best shops and told me how to wear it. I wear it in the summer because it's more comfortable and because having a built in sun-roof is a glorious thing. I am aware that by being pale and wearing clothing not a part of the historical culture of pale people that I open myself to censure and that the censure may be valid, and if it is valid I will change my behavior.

I consider expecting members of a culture I am interested in to NOT be defensive and somewhat hostile, given - you know - history, is an example of priviledge. I am a citizen of a nation founded on colonialism. I am privileged to have knowledge of many, many, many cultures that are not my own. There was a time I would have had the opinion that people should be "grateful" I'm interested in their culture, but I've realized it's the other way around. I'm blessed that so many people have told me their stories, shared their practices, and discussed their knowledge and feelings with me. I'm lucky that I can read other religions' holy books, study their history, admire their art, and then build off of it in my own creative expression. It's not "dissing" if someone labels me an appropriator or theif - from a certain perspective I could be seen as such; it's up to me to be sufficiently grateful and respectful that other people share their lives with me and to appologize and seek to make amends when I fail. It's not easy, it's frequently humbling, and I've failed spectacularly and memerably, but it's worth it.

In addition, one can be sexually liberated without taking cultural markers from other cultures. If the only reason one is interested in another culture is because one can "let your hair down," or "be more natural" or "be sexually liberated" by acting like them then, quite frankly, one is colonializing that culture. One is not interested in that culture from an authentic, curious, respectful stance but from a "what can I get out of that culture" stance, which is a colonial attitude and is, at it's most basic, racist; it is making culture a commodity for sale. If one has to leave one's own culture and racial identity in order to feel sexual, natural, or relaxed - something's wrong with one's culture. Projecting the bits of one's personality that one can't experience within one's culture doesn't free one in any major way, it just objectifies an entire other culture as "not us".

And that isn't healthy for either end. If women of color are the sensual, natural, sexual, erotic, warm examples of being female, that means my pasty ass can't be - and I don't buy that. If women of color are ONLY all of the previously stated, then they're denied their ability to be whole people outside of their sexual identity. It's a severing of the self at a profound level, a cutting off of a major part of being human, and as I said in a previous post, that's one thing I know I don't want.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


This list will be added to as time goes on.

Punctuation note: By and large, I place punctuation outside of the quote marks. This is the English style of grammar and is as valid as the US style of including punctuation not found in a quote within the quote marks. I choose the European style because I don't like altering quotes, even as far as punctuation.

Carrot Shot: Carrotshots Recipe*:

1 oz vodka
1 oz carrot juice
Guilt the person next to you into pouring it down your throat.

*(The management holds no responsibility for actually TRYING this and discovering it is disgusting.)

Also, slang for "carom shot", that is a complaint about something where the target isn't named but the context makes the target obvious. The particular nastiness of the carom shot is that once the target complains, one can say one wasn't talking about the target when one really was.

First Nations: Used instead of American Indian/Native American due to consensus of many tribes in Canada. This designation may be revised per decision of other, extra-Canadian tribal organization that voted to use American Indian as a bludgeoning weapon against the oppressors who misnamed them. Currently on mental review.

Fluffy: Individual which claims a title or designation but demonstrates little to no knowledge about it or the history of it and actively resists learning more in case it undermines said person's worldview.

Internets/Intarweb/Intarwebnets/Intertubes: Geeky and amused terms for the internet. Usually used in phrases such as: "You win teh intarwebs." and "Im in ur intertubes overuzin ur memez."

Kyriarchy: A term coined by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and brought to my attention by Sudy in this wonderful post. "a neologism ... derived from the Greek words for 'lord' or 'master' (kyrios) and 'to rule or dominate' (archein) which seeks to redefine the analytic category of patriarchy in terms of multiplicative intersecting structures of domination...Kyriarchy is best theorized as a complex pyramidal system of intersecting multiplicative social structures of superordination and subordination, of ruling and oppression" (Glossary, Wisdom Ways, Orbis Books New York 2001).

Living while white: a way to reference that one has white privilege and all of the attendance bonuses and weaknesses, but are rejecting the racial identifier of white.

Pegan: Form of pagan vegan. Known predator is the pegivore. Also: indication that pagan wannabe doesn't know how to spell.

Racial Justice: My phrase for people who are seeking equal value being placed on all humans despite the racism inherent in most cultures.

Racism: Two definitions. The first, colloquial definition is any act of prejudice against another person based upon their perceived racial category; more commonly, this idea is gotten across using the phrase "racial prejudice".

The second, more useful definition is a system of discrimination which privileges people of a certain phenotype while disadvantaging others of a different phenotype. The privileged category is paler in skin, hair, and eyes. Also referred to as "institutional racism" or "systemic racism".

Romantic orientation: Used instead of sexual orientation, to emphasis that the attraction is not just physical but is also emotional and spiritual. This terminology is designed to reframe the issue of sexual attraction that emphasizes aspects other than simply physical sex, but still includes physical sex.

USian: Used instead of American because America is two continents, not one country.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Arguments I am Tired Of

All religious people just want reassurance of some kind of deity because they're scared and gullible.

Reverse racism is a serious problem.

Racist, sexist, ablist, and anti-trans rhetoric is free speech and anyone who uses it in a public forum should be lauded for speaking out against political correctness. They certainly shouldn't be critiqued, and firing them is super plus ungood.

It's not FOR you.

Everything was better X years ago. If we could only go back then, everyone would be happy.

Everything will be better X years from now if you do what I tell you to.

Someone used a word I don't like, so now I'm scared to post.

Education is elitist.

I'd try to understand you, but you use words I don't understand.

Talk differently; you make me feel stupid and I don't like that.

Abortion kills a life, but my dinner doesn't.

Humans aren't animals, so they should do X to demonstrate it.

Humans are animals, so they should to X to demonstrate it.

If we just gutted the law, everyone would be happier.

If we just had more laws, everyone would be happier.

Anything happening to do with the misnomer "free trade". Trade has RULES. It is not FREE. The entire point of trade is that STUFF ISN'T FREE. If STUFF was FREE we wouldn't have to TRADE THINGS FOR IT. ARG!!!!

If you can't be OBJECTIVE, don't speak.

It doesn't matter because horrible things are happening over there.

Become the kind of person I tell you that you should be. It's easy and then you'll be happy.

You're just jealous.

If only she hadn't done X, she wouldn't have been raped.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Childhood to Adulthood: The Liminal State and You!

In the recent debates about raising the consent age of porn to 21, I found some interesting quotes and assumptions. They are typified in the following statement at Alas! A Blog: "I notice you’re avoiding the suggestions I gave for why some 18-20 year olds may be less mature, i.e. what it is about college that creates that liminal state."

This statement assumes two things. The first is classist and racist - it assumes all people will go to college. I leave that one as an exercise for the reader, at least right now. What interests me is the second premise - that there is something inherent about college that creates a liminal state.

For people who haven't taken anthropology or psychology, a liminal state is an "in between" state where something is neither one thing or the other. Traditionally (I use the word fairly loosely; request clarification if you need it), liminal states were meant to be temporary as a person transitioned from one status in a community to another (or from one place to another; shamans (athro. meaning) undergo liminal states constantly as they move from world to world to world). US culture, as well as many other modern, Western cultures, have some examples of the brief, ritualistic liminal state; weddings are one; funerals another. However, the coming of age liminal state has been stretched and stretched and stretched until it encompasses years.

Biologically, humans develop incredibly slowly as compared to other mammals (and, indeed, other animals). Humans are born undeveloped so we're small enough to not kill our mother on the way out, and it's two years - or so - before we can even walk. If you look at our closest cousins, you can see the amount of time needed for aging from dependant to independant shrinking as you leave the hominid family and skitter off to other mammalian branches. It's a striking picture of eventual biological result in terms of mobility, language, and tool using skills trumping the temporary need for extra work on the part of adults.

As would be indicated by the slow development of humans physically, the brain has been analysed and found to have a similar slow rate of growth. Around puberty, the frontal lobe - the part of the cortex associated with planning, logic, reason, and abstract thought - begins it's huge spurt of growth and it doesn't cap off until around age 21-23, when we currently assume human brains stop developing (there is some significant evidence that humans who continue to learn continue to have brain development throughout their life and that late age learning can re-start this process, but the research is in its infancy).

These biological realities, puberty in particular, has informed the cultural development of humans. Almost all traditional cultures have the coming-of-age around puberty. Even in US culture, some subcultures continue to have Rituals associated with that age - the Jewish bar mitzvah is a good example of such with the bat mitzvah as an interesting commentary on gender equality in the Jewish community. However, without the social significance placed on such a ritual across the board, it is largely inert in terms of power. The 13 year old before hand has the same reality as the 13 year old after, except ofr some slight shifts in his or her religious community. The ritual has no teeth; the liminal state between child and adult doesn't work.

The US liminal state between child and adult is currently five years long, arguably eight. Rights and responsibilities are introduce gradually, and usually with no relation to each other. For the purpose of discussion, I'm going to use the word "teenager" for someone in the liminal state between child and adult; culturally, one is considered a teenager when one is thirteen or so, and this teenager label continues until one is about eighteen, with a couple hang-on rights for a later age. The timing of rights and responsibilities for teenagers varies surprisingly widely across European culture and its colonial offspring, and i personally think there are too many confounds to use any of these as data for when rights and responsibilities "should" be introduced due to the significant cultural differences even within European culture and its colonial offspring. Here I will be considering US rights and responsibilities timing alone, but I'd welcome comments from other European cultures or colonial offspring given specifics on which you're talking about.

In the US, the rights go roughly like this: right to marry w/parental approval (and have sex with spouse) (12 and up), right to have sex with another teenager (13 and up), right to drive on public roads (15 1/2 and up), right to work with parental approval (16 and up), right to marry (16 and up), rightt o leave school (16 and up), right to have sex (18 and up), right to sign a contract (18 and up), right to enlist in the military (18 and up), right to work (18 and up), right to drink (21 and up), right to rent a car (25 and up w/credit card).

Most of these rights have been put in place recently. Up until the 1900s or so, for example, children could work. In fact, the industrial revolution rested, in large part, on the shoulders of the 5 to 13 set from poor families who had little fingers, would accept a pittance to help their family, and would never think of suing if they lost a few fingers or toes. The life expectancy for chimney sweeps was 15; in other words, they were expected to be DEAD before we would now allow them to legally work.

The laws restricting child employment were put in place to protect these children; somewhat ironically, they made children a burden instead or a help, financially speaking. Outside of family businesses, like farms or restaurants where children can work for the family but not be paid and thus not violate the law, children and teenagers became all but unemployable unless it was under the table (and I've not heard much about under the table being big from the point these laws were put in place on; it makes me wonder if the burden, for once, was placed on the businesses and not the employees - perhaps due to the fact that throwing a child in jail for working never goes over well; if only the same standard were held for immigrants and illegal immigrants).

What this means is that older children couldn't be pulled out of school and put to work to support the family or provide childcare for younger children. Also, with the ascendance of the nuclear family, childcare from the previous generation was/is in steep decline, leaving the entire burden for supporting all children on the parents alone, and a single parent if one of the two decides to leave. What this indicates is an extension of the dependancy of children into teenagehood in order to protect them while simultaniously increasing the burden on the parents to provide for their increasingly dependant children/teenagers.

The educational system, as well, is primed toward keeping children dependant. Vocational Tech is the only tract which even begins to prepare a teenager for adulthood via giving him or her a means of self-support, and it carries the stigma of both intellectual inferiority and low class prospects. No matter that a skilled mechanic or plumber can make quite a lot of money; I would argue that it is the capability for work alone which causes the stigma to be attached; humans tend to value what is most costly in terms of time/money to maintain; a largely empty education aimed at getting more education is such a social indicator, and currently the liminal period of junior high and high school is aimed at being a baby-sitting center while leaving the teenager with no adult prospects, currently not even the ability to REASON, on the other end of the ritual.

College extends the liminal state further; unless the teenager/adult is going it alone (which I, for one, didn't), college is paid for largely by the parents and it is well nigh impossible to get colleges to not take into account the money the parents have without making oneself independant of them legally and formally at 18, instead of the informal adult-but-can-still-be-claimed-as-dependant that I was under until I was 22. The desire to extend the age of consent for being in pornography until 21 does fall solidly within the informal liminal state of the US, then. However doing so, like the limits on drinking, brings into sharp relief some of the values of our country.

An eleven year old can't consent to anything and is not even considered a teenager, but he can be tried as an adult in a court of law if he does something bad enough (English ruling). Teenagers are increasingly being tried as adults. In 1997, the Juvenile Crime Control Act was passed to make it easier to prosecute teenagers as adults. This moved the minimum age possible to prosecute teens down to 14 from 15 in the USA. In other words, before a teenager has the right to do just about anything besides have sex with another teen or marry with parental approval, said teenager will be held accountable, as an adult, for crimes deemed "heinous", usually involving murder or attempted murder. In addition, the timing of the right to legally drink after the right to legally go to war is an interesting one. Adding in the right to consent to be in porn just highlights that death is considered less of a problem than sex or alcohol.

The liminal state imposed on humans by European culture and it's colonial offspring is unrealistic, illogical, and reactionary. Instead of introducing rights, rational thinking, and awareness of consequences, it insulates children and teenagers until they do something "bad enough" to have that protection removed, or if they're poor or have the wrong skin color and do something kind of sort of bad.

Personally, if Garance Franke-Ruta really wants to shut down Girls Gone Wild (and I agree, it's idiotic) one would think that a legal requirement of paying each person who appears on a tape for public sale receives a percentage of the earnings, say 1%, will do wonders for shutting the whole thing down. If 100 people are recorded, suddenly the company is making no money at all. For some reason, that puts a HUGE smile on my face. You'd have to make it specific to video tape sales, so as not to hamstring news programs and daytime talk shows, but the idea is workable and it places the restrictions where they BELONG, on the person doing the exploitation, not on the exploited. (This is my rational for why companies employing illegal immigrants should be targetted while the illegal immigrants shouldn't be as well, btw, and why prostitution should be regulated so that the prostitutes are the most protected while their customers/employers are under heavier restrictions to see to their employee's welfare).

By the way, that's why I don't agree with the comparison between abortion rights and the right to be video taped for a t-shirt; abortion rights is removing legislative power from the bodies of women; I'm not a huge fan of adding more legislative power to the bodies of women, no matter how high minded the goal. In both cases, the removal of legislation allows for individual independance while the adding removes it. Target the exploiters, not the exploitees; history has shown that well-meaning laws are easily turned into increased restriction of the rights of the exploited (yes, I will try to back this up if you ask, but I really don't want to).

I also think the US education system and laws surrounding teenagers need a major overhaul, but I don't see that happening any time soon.

To come back to the initial quote, though: "I notice you’re avoiding the suggestions I gave for why some 18-20 year olds may be less mature, i.e. what it is about college that creates that liminal state." IMO, there is nothing inherently liminal about the college state alone. The entire teenage years are within a liminal state, with the cap off at either leaving school formally, HS graduation, college graduation, or graduate school graduation. Within that liminal state, individual teenagers may mature earlier or later (from what I've seen, the poorer you are the earlier you mature), but in terms of the critical social expectations which shape the post-liminal adulthood state all teenagers are equally expected to be children/teenagers and thus are not treated as adults and thus have no motivation to behave like adults.

Extending the liminal stage doesn't make it more final in any sort of way, it just makes it longer.

As a side note, spiritually undertaken liminal states are very different and often quite, quite brief. European culture and it's colonial offspring also have the longest liminal state I have ever read about anywhere; this does not endear it to any anthropologists I've read who have studied it.