CFP: #BlackFeminisms Blog Carnival

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 8.52.15 AM

From "From Sea to Shining Sea" by Jamaican/Caribbean/American poet 
June Jordan

 

Calling all jouvayists, writers, bloggers, vloggers, artists, photographers, poets, scholars, thinkers, creatives, activists!

CODE RED for gender justice is hosting a Black Feminisms Blog Carnival throughout July and we need you to bring your fyah!

The themes are:

  1. Breaking Borders and Boundaries: Co-Building Global Black Feminisms
  2. Strange Fruit: Terrains of New Colonialisms: New Age Capitalism: State Violence, Policing & Militarisation
  3. Healing Justice: Black Feminist Apothecary – Recipes & Rituals for Sustainability
  4. Thinking Ahead: Black Feminist Futures “Black to the Future”

Here’s how to participate:

1) Create original content based on the theme (s) or share something you’ve created before which you think fits. (Blog posts, videos, poetry, photography etc welcome)

2) Share your post with us on facebook, twitter, via email [redforgender at gmail dot com] or even in the comments below.

3) Be sure to leave a link to this post on your post letting users know about the carnival.

4) We’ll share the submissions as they come in and collate them on our blog

5) Use the hashtag #blackfeminisms

Don’t yet have a blog but a carnival neva miss you yet?  We welcome guest posts and will post them here once they respect our submissions guidelines. Email us at reforgender [at] gmail [dot] com.

Still confused about what a blog carnival is? Check out our #dearCaribbean blog carnival

black-feminisms-forum-megaphone-text-5266septThe Black Feminisms Forum (BFF) takes place 5 – 6 September 2016, ahead of the #AWID Forum in Bahia, Brazil.

The BFF will connect Black and Afrodescendant feminists from many regions of the world to celebrate the contribution of Black feminisms to knowledge, practice and struggles for self-determination and justice, while building solidarity and collective power.

CODE RED for gender justice is a Black Feminisms Forum content partner.  This blog carnival allows feminists attending the BFF & feminists in solidarity with us to give voice to what Cuban-born, Jamaican/Caribbean intellectual Sylvia Wynter calls “the revolutionary demand for happiness” via black cultural production.

Learn more about the BFF blogging themes here.

 

 

 

Black Feminisms Reading Party

black-feminisms-forum-megaphone-text-5266septAt CODE RED for gender justice! we are so proud to have been selected as a communications partner for the upcoming Black Feminisms Forum in Bahia, Brazil!

Look out for some serious black feminist magic over the next few months in the lead up to the September convening.

In the meantime come crash our Black Feminisms reading party! Here are three things you should read right now by black Caribbean women:

Prayer Book For Vanishing is a work of sheer artistic brilliance  by Jamaican poet Safiya Sinclair. Below is an excerpt:

Lord,
they are tourists gawking through
the cages of my poverty,

who take pity in this squalor
then return to far moons.
My black face

a blemish in their photographs.
Each morning the same horse-fly,
milk I must throw out.

The albino sun my enemy.
Whole days spent under cellophane,
under parasol, days wrapped

tight in scalding creams, skin a purge
of litanies. Baking soda. Peroxide. Blue cake-soap.
Witch-doctor fixes for vanishing.

***

Brooklyn-born and raised, Naomi Jackson, broke our hearts open with this moving, personal piece entitled, “On loving broken women and Brittney Griner“:

It begins, as everything does, with my mother. Schizophrenic and eventually unable to care for her children, my mother vacillated wildly between affection, praise, bouts of intense creativity and joy and seemingly infinite rounds of melancholy, listlessness and abuse. Living with a mother whose mental illness made her behavior erratic and her presence unreliable made me an expert at reading other women, at shaping my needs, desires, and self to fit their moods.

As I move into grown womanhood, I’m shedding this tendency toward accommodation and emotional acrobatics that put other people’s (lovers, friends, colleagues) needs before my own. I get it wrong sometimes, as humans do, but we make the road by walking.

***

And a CODE RED oldie but a goodie about making home and living life radically on your own terms:

In the historical denial of black womanhood there is of course the denial of black humanity but there is also a freedom from a hetero/sexist scripting of womanhood to be claimed.  The denial of femininity offers not just the opportunity to intentionally create femme identities of our own making but to reject what Toni Cade Bambara has called the “madness of masculinity and femininity”. That which was denied you can create a space of freedom not just a space of yearning.

Barbados newspaper describes rape as “male medicine”

pudding and souse

One of Barbados’ most widely read national newspapers recently reported the rape of either a gender non-conforming lesbian woman or transgender man in its gossip column.

They described the rape as “male medicine,” a clear allusion to “corrective rape” whereby lesbian and gender non-conforming persons who were assigned female at birth are targeted for sexual assault.  Female bodies are pathologized as inherently violable and gender and sexual transgressions are often punished with sexual assault.

The report of the rape within the gossip column trivialises the violence and recasts it as entertainment to be consumed.  This invitation to collective ridicule works through dehumanization of the victim.  Homo- and lesbophobia and transphobia converge to mark some of us as responsible for the very acts of violence against us.

The outrage against the Nation was swift and multidirectional.  They have removed the article from their website and issued an apology.

Unfortunately, the way they chose to write about rape is not at all uncommon for Caribbean media.  My colleague and I conducted research on reports of gender-based violence on a pan-Caribbean sample of online newspapers. We examined reports of violence against transgender and non-transgender women, intersex persons, sexual violence against girls as well as reports of domestic and intimate partner violence.  Among the things we found were:

  • trivializing of violence against transgender women and intersex persons through dehumanizing, objectifying voyeuristic reporting which focused on their bodies and dress and de-emphasized the violence against them
  • reporting of sexual violence against girls as though the rape were an act of shared responsibility
  • normalising sexual violence against girls
  • use of sensationalist headlines which present gender-based violence as a kind of entertainment to be consumed

I think it is important to note that the Nation is not alone here.  The mere fact that they chose to report the rape in this way means they assume an equally bigoted, lesbo and transphobic audience willing to delight and find humour in one of the most egregious acts of violence.

Carnival is woman. What if women refused to show up for carnival?

I have written previously about being a 16-year-old girl at a school fair when a grown-ass man burnt me with his cigarette because I refused to dance with him.

I my teens I watched the colour drain from a friend’s face as we walked along Spring Garden in the thick Kadooment Day crowd. A man had sexually assaulted her as he casually walked by.

In my early twenties I was stung on the buttocks multiple time by a popular-for-the-season calypsonian in full view of security who only told him to “cool out” after I pleaded with them to do something.

Security at fetes is meant to keep men safe.  Security guards will break up fights between men.  I’m yet to see them intervene when women are being obviously harassed or assaulted.

There is a video of a fat, black Caribbean woman being sexually assaulted and stripped by a group of men whom she unsuccessfully fights off and attempts to run away from.  No one intervened.  Someone(s) recorded the video and it was viewed 1.4 million times when I saw it. Hypersexualized in Caribbean popular culture, male performers often engage with fat black women in ways that border on ridicule.  In the video, that ridicule escalated to physical and sexual violence. I felt such powerless rage and sadness at the utter contempt for that woman displayed by the men who assaulted her and the crowd which looked on.

The carnivals, dubs, fetes that we consider key spaces for the production of Caribbean popular culture and emblematic of Caribbean identity are grossly hostile and violent to women.  These are value producing, income generating activities from which men disproportionately benefit and where women are collectively unsafe.  Women risk harassment, coerced interactions, physical and sexual assault and even death in order to participate in Caribbean culture.  And now in our social media-saturated times our bodies, stripped bare but still fighting back can be viewed over and over again. Most viewers utterly and completely unable to fathom that what they are viewing is a sexual violation that no woman should have to experience.  Male sexual entitlement and the objectification and (hetero)sexualization of women is so commonplace that assaults on us are understood culture.

Carnival is woman.  What if women refused to show up for carnival?

 

EDITED TO ADD Carla Moore’s vlog about the assault below:

 

Do Caribbean courts discriminate against fathers?

The European Union Delegation to the Caribbean recently announced that it has awarded 55,000 euro to Trinidad and Tobago’s Single Fathers Association to further its work on gender equality.

Loop T&T reported that a representative from the EU stated:

“Some eighty percent of child custody cases in Trinidad (and Tobago) are judged in favour of the woman. So the reality is that many willing fathers are deprived of the opportunity, pushed aside and not allowed to play a meaning full rolled in the lives of their children.”

I was taken aback by this rhetoric from the EU representative. First it seemed profoundly ignorant of the fact that the majority of women with custody of and primary care for children were not awarded such by any court. It also seemed to suggest that either women themselves or the state deprived men of a relationship with their children. Lastly, there was no mention of a research report from which this figure was drawn.

Hazel Thompson-Ahye, who conducted research on gender bias in courts in T&T, found that fathers were awarded custody in 50% of cases where custody was contested. However, fathers were unlikely to contest custody.

We do not know why fathers are unlikely to contest custody.  Perhaps they feel that the children are better off with their mothers, perhaps they think that to contest custody would be vindictive, perhaps they recognise that sole custody and primary care for children entail very hard work, perhaps they assume, incorrectly,  that they would lose in court. Perhaps they subscribe to gender norms that see mothering as a natural, everyday 24/7 non-negotiable activity and fathering as an activity that is negotiable, awarded special status and which doesn’t require 24/7 engagement.

Recently, a Barbadian father who is facing charges after leaving his two-year-old and four-year-old children at home alone while he went to the shop to buy bread and rum was quoted as saying:

 “I now realise how hard women does got it.” 

A very honest admission of both the gendered nature of caring work and the difficulty of it.

Thompson-Ahye goes on to state:

What I found a bit curious during my research was that in every case where the father was granted custody, the judge had made mention of a mother figure in the father’s life — his own mother, his second wife, sister or nanny — as though the father needed some female to assist him in his parenting role.

Women do a disproportionate share of unpaid care work.  This responsibility for care has adverse economic consequences for women. Women also do a lot of gendered kin-keeping work that facilitates men’s fathering. And should they choose not to, this cannot be viewed as an act of discrimination against men.

I hope that despite this very shaky start the Single Fathers Association of Trinidad and Tobago will do some genuine work towards greater gender justice within families, more equitable distribution of caring labour and a greater valuing of that labour.

Run out the mayor and root out misogyny

We live with such casual and everyday misogyny that public officials have to be especially crass to get called out.

Trinidadians are demanding the removal of the Mayor of Port of Spain Raymond Tim Kee after he effectively blamed  pannist and Japanese national, Asami Nagakiya, for her own murder:

Before Carnival, I did make a comment about vulgarity and lewdness in conduct.

I spoke of some of the things that I see women do, assisted by men of course. But women have a responsibility to ensure they are not abused. I call it ‘abuse’. My argument was that you could enjoy Carnival without going through that routine. […] When I saw that news this morning, I know that tourists will come here and may not be aware of all the risks of doing certain things or behaving in a certain manner.

Was there any evidence of resistance? Was it alcohol-controlled and therefore (were) involuntary actions engaged in? I could well imagine (when she is identified) what will be said by the country from which she came, about one of their people coming here to participate in our Carnival and end up dead. It is not an accident from any vehicle…no truck bounced anybody. It is a matter that she was jumping up in a costume.

So, let your imagination flow.

My comment is that this is rather embarrassing for us in the City and it’s embarrassing for Carnival. I feel that many more advisories should go out to the public, especially for people (tourists) coming here who don’t really understand a lot of the culture.

The above comments were attributed to the Mayor by Trinidad and Tobago Newsday who also described Nagakiya as a “light-skinned woman — possibly an Asian tourist”. It is unclear if this racialised description is editorial or reflects the comments of Tim Kee himself.

Meanwhile in Barbados, the National HIV/AIDS Commission is hosting a Men’s Health event and since such events don’t exactly sell themselves, the promise of “body painted ladies” is offered up as attraction.

The sexism in that advertisement, the mayor’s disproved and dehumanising assumption that respectability protects women from men’s violence against us and the misogyny reflected in the fatal violence against Asami are ALL connected.

For the record,  women have a right to be.  We have a right to be in our bodies however we please.  We have a right to be in public.  We have a right to be in the streets on carnival Tuesday, bikinied, blinged out and pelting waist. We have a right to do that without fear or threat of violence. Men do not have rights to our bodies. Men do not have rights to our bodies, dressed or undressed, in private or public, light-skinned or dark, tourist or local. Men do not have rights to women’s bodies.  Men’s violence is men’s violence and women are not responsible for it. Men’s desires, men’s health, men’s sexual prerogative are not some greater good for which women are to be sacrificed.

Run out the mayor and root out misogyny. Our lives depend on it.

manaware

Edited to add: The POS Mayor has issued an apology:

He agrees that his comments could have been considered out of line, but despite the anger being expressed from many quarters including feminist groups and activists, he has also received calls of support from several women agreeing with him on the lack of modesty displayed by some women and girls on the streets during the Carnival Celebrations.

 

Diary of a mothering worker. January 12, 2016.

grrlscene

Post 221.

The failure rate in my most effective first year course was the highest in ten years. There’s something going on in our education system, before students get to UWI, which has led them to check out of an investment in their own learning. I don’t think this deterioration is slowing down.

In 2006, students were assigned four readings per week, and mostly completed them in time for class. By this year, we were down to two readings per week, and even then, by mid-semester, the majority had stopped reading both or even one in entirety.

The course explicitly includes multiple learning opportunities, levels and styles. It asks students to do their own internet research and to present what they have learned about concepts and definitions to their peers to compare what I teach with their own findings. Assignments also require students to read newspapers or scan on-line media…

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