Transcript: Pop Life and Race Matters, Jay Smooth

February 13, 2010

Jay Smooth’s video “Pop Life and Race Matters” aka “Why I’m Not Making a Video About John Mayer”

TRANSCRIPT –

Jay Smooth: John Mayer. Damn you John Mayer! Why are you doing this to me?

I made a New Year’s Resolution for 2010 not to fixate on weird racial comments from celebrities. And up until now I was winning the battle; I was thirty days clean. Since the new year started, there’s been a whole bunch of juicy racial moments in the media: Harry Reid with the ‘Negro dialect’; Chris Matthew’s forgetting Obama was black; NBC serving fried chicken for Black History Month.

I was dying to go in on all those things, but I resisted the temptation. I was doing so well, until John Mayer came along to tempt me with this enchanted apple of racial soundbite lunacy. I mean, just look at it; it’s so perfect. His white privilege is a wonderland. There’s so much wrongness there you could just swim in it.

But I am still not gonna jump in. Because no matter how much I enjoy dissecting this kind of thing, and even though I do think there can be value in that conversation, I also feel like nowadays we spend so much time on these media soundbite race questions – we spend so much time dissecting people’s words and speculating about their emotions and attitudes on Black/White issues – that we forget about a lot of other important questions.

First of all, we forget that  every race issue is not a Black/White issue, and second of all we forget that a whole bunch of the biggest race questions – the ones that impact our lives the most and that we most need to change – are the ones that don’t manifest in the form of words or people’s emotions.

A lot of the most important race issues are institutional, systemic, structural issues. Questions like, “Why, in 2010, do black people still not have the same educational opportunities, the same access to health care, the same economic and employment opportunities? Why are black people so disproportionally affected by this recession? Why, in 2010, does it so often seem like on an institutional, systemic, structural level black people are still disproportionally affected by almost everything that’s bad?”

Those questions cannot be answered by analyzing the racial awkwardness of a YouTube video.

Answering those questions means figuring out how we can change public policy, and pressuring the government from inside and outside to make those changes. It requires building and maintaining our own organizations that can help to fill all those structural holes in our communities. It requires all kinds of complicated work that I’m not qualified to articulate because I study pop culture all day.

Addressing those issues requires a lifetime of study and struggle just to move them one inch in the right direction. And yet, most of us hardly ever spend time studying or struggling with those issues because we’re too busy trying to pinpoint the exact nature of John Mayer’s craziness. And I’m just as guilty of that as anybody else; I’m a music and art pop culture media person and I’m always going to be drawn to those kind of stories. And I think our constantly evolving yet eternally stagnant relationship with race needs to be studied from as many different angles as possible.

So I’m not saying we should always ignore those pop culture moments – I’m not saying we should go cold turkey – but I am hoping, in 2010, to spend a little bit less time obsessing over words and emotions and pop culture questions, and a little bit more time figuring out how to grapple with all those other big questions. And as my first step on that endeavor, I am now initiating Operation Ignore John Mayer. I don’t care how many times you tweet me – no. No. Just no.

Facebook misogyny update #2 – surprise!

January 4, 2010

I abandoned this blog and had no intentions of using it again, but someone came by and commented (hi, Samia!) and it reminded me of the Group Which Shall No Longer Be Named Because I’m Tired of Reading It. So, on a whim, I went to see if it was still around. Lo and behold, it wasn’t!

Of course, there are 14 more pages and a whole bunch more groups that are variations on the theme, so it’s not a rousing victory. But, it’s a start.

Facebook misogyny update

November 1, 2009

So, not only has Facebook not removed the “I Hate Stupid Bitches” page, but another one of my friends joined it. Seeing “[Friend] became a fan of I Hate Stupid Bitches” is a real punch in the gut. I’m thinking of starting an “I Hate ‘I Hate Stupid Bitches'” in return, or “Please remove ‘I Hate Stupid Bitches.'”

A strong dose of Facebook misogyny to start my day

October 29, 2009

Recently, Facebook changed the feed layouts viewable on the home page. Now, actions such joining groups or making friends are all visible on the live feed. This morning, when I logged it and viewed my live feed, I was appalled at one of my friend’s group announcements:

[Friend] has joined the group I Hate Stupid Bitches

Pardon me while my jaw drops

Out of a sense of morbid curiosity, I went to the page and was greeted with this:

I Hate Stupid Bitches fan page

"This page is for whoever hates stupid bitches who start shit for no reason or act like little cunts."

And, if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s always the “Discussions” section:

"Men dat act like dey da bytch" "regarding bitches" "DRAMA CAUSING STUPID BITCHES" "dumb sluts" ... you get the idea

Again, pardon me while my jaw drops

I didn’t have the fortitude to click through and read any of these threads. I’d seen plenty, though, and reported the page.

Dear Feministing: Your feminism is not mine

October 7, 2009

Real equality between men and women, and an end to sexism, would transform the political, social, and economic landscapes. It challenges ideas about sex and gender that many people regard as fundamental, “scientific” truths. And, a real woman’s movement, involving every different sort of woman regardless of age, race, ability, class, sexuality and sexual orientation, gender performance and appearance, religion, etc. would also pose a grave challenge to the other oppressive structures of our society. This, to me, is what feminism is really all about.

I wrote that this week for a paper in women’s studies, and I stand by it fully. Therefore, I am co-signing this letter from meloukhia:

Dear Feministing,

I’ve been reading you guys for a while now. I haven’t always liked everything you do or say, but I think that you bring some important issues to my attention and sometimes some good conversations happen on your website.

But, you know, in recent months I’ve become increasingly disturbed by the exclusionary language and attitudes I see on your site, most particularly in reference to people with disabilities and people in lower social classes. You have a pretty poor track record on even covering disability issues, and the casual ableism which I see in your comment threads and sometimes in your very posts  is extremely grating. It is especially irritating to see dismissive responses from site administrators when this issue is brought up.

Today’s post on chivalry was the last straw. Courtney used the line “If having my car door opened makes me feel like lover man thinks I’m an invalid, not so feminist.” This is offensive.

I’d like to point you to a piece I wrote recently, “Why Inclusionary Language Matters,” because I think you need to read it. Using ableist language is not just offensive, it’s antifeminist. And I would really appreciate it if y’all would stop doing it and stop tolerating it in your comment threads. I would also love to see y’all including more posts talking about topics related to disability and disability issues.

Please address this. Feminism includes people with disabilities. Disability is a feminist issue. Please make Feministing more inclusionary.

Thank You,

s.e. smith/meloukhia (meloukhia at gmail dot com)

Dear Feministing,

I’ve been reading you guys for a while now. I haven’t always liked everything you do or say, but I think that you bring some important issues to my attention and sometimes some good conversations happen on your website.

But, you know, in recent months I’ve become increasingly disturbed by the exclusionary language and attitudes I see on your site, most particularly in reference to people with disabilities and people in lower social classes. You have a pretty poor track record on even covering disability issues, and the casual ableism which I see in your comment threads and sometimes in your very posts  is extremely grating. It is especially irritating to see dismissive responses from site administrators when this issue is brought up.

Today’s post on chivalry was the last straw. Courtney used the line “If having my car door opened makes me feel like lover man thinks I’m an invalid, not so feminist.” This is offensive.

I’d like to point you to a piece I wrote recently, “Why Inclusionary Language Matters,” because I think you need to read it. Using ableist language is not just offensive, it’s antifeminist. And I would really appreciate it if y’all would stop doing it and stop tolerating it in your comment threads. I would also love to see y’all including more posts talking about topics related to disability and disability issues.

Please address this. Feminism includes people with disabilities. Disability is a feminist issue. Please make Feministing more inclusionary.

Thank You,

s.e. smith/meloukhia (meloukhia at gmail dot com)


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