Tag Archives: v for vendetta

Speaking from Privilege

I posted the other day on facebook and twitter that white privilege and thin privilege are the toughest scrappers in the game– they’ll throw any kind of punch they can think of to preserve their privilege.

I posted that because there have been a handful of responses in the blogospere to my blog post of the other day, The Weapon of Invisibility, that advocate for “taking a step back” and “approaching these issues with nuance” and “allowing for respectful appropriation.” In other words: Go easy on the privileged when we cross boundaries, because sometimes we do so accidentally, or with respect in our hearts. Not one had a word to say about the thin privilege portion– the point wasn’t even WORTH MENTIONING. Ah, the weapon of invisibility. But I digress.

Listen, I get that you’re frustrated and want activists to go easier on people who cross boundaries of cultural appropriation. I see it all the time. You’re terrified of fucking up– or that you have already massively fucked up in something you wrote, staged, or said. Relax– of course you fucked up. So did I. So has everyone. But that doesn’t mean you get to decide what respect looks like for marginalized people. You have to live with the fact that, if you have privilege and you wish to fight for social justice, you do not create the terms of that and must listen carefully to the people who have been marginalized. If the privileged are the gatekeepers, then nothing has changed.

And yes, I completely understand how scary it is. But you cannot sit from your place of privilege and decide which cultural appropriation has crossed the line and which is respectful because, quite frankly, that is not your decision to make. What does that look like? “Dear people of color, sorry you’re all so pissed, but I believe that production was respectful borrowing, so please calm down”? Privilege cannot decide the terms of this if the goal is social justice. All that accomplishes is preserving privilege.

We all have some types of privilege and we all have some areas wherein we lack privilege. In those areas wherein you have privilege your job is to listen and allow those without privilege to set the terms of the discussion– WHAT crosses boundaries and HOW.

In those areas wherein you lack privilege, you get to set the terms of the discussion. You get to decide when boundaries have been crossed. And when, as so often happens, someone with privilege you lack comes along and tells you that you aren’t approaching the issue with “nuance” or that you should give someone the benefit of the doubt because they were appropriating with “respect” (as if intent erased results, but fine), then you have every right to be outraged at the attempt to silence you, at the attempt of privilege to retain its privilege by seizing control of the terms of the discussion and turning it into a debate.

I understand that we’re all scared. I’m scared, too, both for the areas in which I have privilege– How many times will I get it wrong today?– and the areas in which I don’t– How many times will I be told that my outrage is unjustified today? How many times will my feelings of marginalization be met with “You people are too sensitive” or “I didn’t mean it that way, so relax,” or “It’s just a joke/play/school production/Hollywood film/etc”? Because EVERY SINGLE TIME I speak out, someone with privilege I lack is there within moments to say ALL of those things to me.

Just take a deep breath and listen. When people who lack privilege you have are speaking out about that lack of privilege, and how it looks every day, and how their culture is appropriated, LISTEN. BELIEVE THEM. And use your place of privilege to speak out as an ally.

When you lack privilege and want to speak out, know that there are allies who WILL listen to you, support you, and yes, screw it up, but still keep trying. Don’t let the people who tell you that your outrage isn’t justified silence you. I see you. I stand with you. And I know you stand with me, in my fear, in my outrage, in my strength, in my mistakes, in my triumphs. There are millions of us, and for the first time in history, we’re all saying NO.

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Fathering Daughters: You’re Doing It Wrong


I’m choosing to accompany this article with pictures of gorgeous women who don’t conform to the beauty myth. This is Malaysian model Loretta Lucia Kwek Leng Choo. Picture from thestar.com.

I’ve seen several articles about fathering daughters recently, all focused on combating the beauty myth, and they’re all about things dads should SAY to their daughters. This is bullshit. Or, more accurately: It’s less than half of the story.

Most men have only a vague understanding of what it’s like to live as a woman under the constant, unrelenting onslaught of cruelty the beauty and fashion industries deliberately create– an onslaught supported wholeheartedly, and continually reinscribed, by our culture. No matter how much you try to “protect” her from Disney, or the media, or whatever you think sends her the wrong messages, she is getting those messages, all day, every day. That she MUST be unhappy about her body. It’s not lean enough, strong enough, hairless enough, light-skinned enough, shaped properly. That she MUST be unhappy about her face. It’s not pretty enough, “refined” enough, it’s not perfectly even-toned, blemish-free, “flawless.” Unhappiness sells products. Our culture is exceptionally supportive of the idea that women’s bodies are in constant need of some kind of product or procedure to attain acceptability.


Mollena Williams, photographed by Substantia Jones for adipositivity.com. Check out Mollena’s blog, The Perverted Negress, at mollena.com.

It’s inescapable, relentless. It’s so normative that people who speak out about it are slammed for overreacting, or said to be speaking from a position of sour grapes. It starts at birth. You cannot be in public or consume media for more than a few minutes without encountering it. I’ve barely described the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot to be said about the beauty myth, misogyny, and fathers and sons, or mothers and daughters, or mothers and sons, or parents and their gender non-conforming kids. The existence of those important issues, however, does not erase or even diminish the importance of this one. The father-daughter relationship is powerful.

Rei Bennett Photography - Kitty Creme 07

Clothing Designer Catriona Stewart, photographed by Rei Bennett. Catriona’s blog, Lingerie, Latex & Life, can be found at catrionastewart.blogspot.com, and Bennett’s site can be found at reibennett.co.uk.

So what is your daughter learning from YOU? She sees what you look at, how you look at it, and what you say, especially when you do not want her to. If you think she isn’t silently comparing herself to the pictures, people, and videos to which you react positively, you’re delusional. Before she experiences the male gaze from any other source, she’s experiencing it from you, and she’s learning ALL OF IT. I’m not saying don’t watch porn, or don’t look at women. I’m not here to Carrie Nation your cock. Just remember that everything you say, do, and consume while she is within earshot of you is making an impact on how she sees herself. (Determine how far away you can hear a whisper and add 20 feet if you want to calculate Child Earshot Value.)


Cassie Rosenbrock. Photo by Heather Elizabeth. Check out her work at heatherelizabethphotography.com.

I know you’re not critiquing your daughter’s looks because you’re not a huge jerk. But if you want to have any hope of combating the massive monolith of cultural messaging that tells her that her worth is related primarily to her looks, you have to be deliberate, and relentless. It’s not enough to just tell her she’s beautiful the way she is, or that intelligence or kindness are more important than beauty. She’s watching everything you do and say. If you’re contradicting your platitudes with your behavior every day, she knows which one to believe.

In other words, you have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. If you tell her that she’s beautiful just the way she is, but she sees you react positively ONLY to pictures of photoshopped skinny young white women, you might as well have never said a word. She sees you define “good” and she is already calculating her distance from it. If you think she’s too young, you’re delusional. Can she walk? She’s old enough to understand your behavior.


Model Amy Marie, photographed by Aug Glamour. See Amy’s portfolio at modelmayhem.com/627470.

The world is a big, messy, unfair place full of contradicting objectives, needs, goals, and desires, and that’s just in one person. Decide which of those you want to privilege in any given moment. The answer doesn’t always have to be the same. All I’m saying is: Don’t tell yourself you’re fighting for your daughter if you don’t understand that she’s watching you ALL the time, not just when you want her to.

From Ladybug Pin Up, a photography project in the Dominican Republic. Check out their work at ladybugpinup.com.

From Ladybug Pin Up, a photography studio in the Dominican Republic. Check out their work at ladybugpinup.com.

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“I’m Not Apologizing for Voicing My Opinion”: Entitlement Goes to a Middle School Play

So someone I know recently went to his kid’s middle school play. Awwwww, adorable, right?

During the event, he posted a picture of a beautiful Black woman– surely another parent or relative (because who else goes to school plays?)– in a fit-and-flare leopard print dress with short sleeves, a modest neckline, and a hem that hits just above the knee. She was also wearing boots and a vintage-inspired updo. It was a secretly taken picture. She is smiling. She looks beautiful.


Imagine a leopard-print version of this, worn by a smiling, gorgeous Black woman with fierce boots and an adorable updo.

His comment on the picture was that her outfit is not appropriate for a “jr high play (sic),” but more appropriate for a club “or, better yet, a street corner.” He secretly took a picture of another parent at a school event, posted it online, and called her a whore. The wind was just . . . knocked out of me.

Several people called him out. The first few posts were all curious, on the order of “What? That outfit looks fine to me,” or “Why?” Mine was a little more detailed. I agreed with the other commenters that there was nothing wrong with the outfit, and that I’ve taught in similar outfits, although animal prints are not my personal style. I told him that it’s never appropriate behavior to post a secretly taken picture of a woman–a fellow parent at a school event!– that includes her face and calls her a whore, no matter what your opinion is of her outfit.

He reacted angrily. He said that my comments were “subtext crap” and refused to admit that his behavior was inappropriate in any way. He told me I needed to stop being “every females champion (sic).” He told me “If you don’t like it, that’s not my problem.” He told me, “I’m not apologizing for voicing my opinion.” He told me “I’m not going to sit here and have you ridicule me for voicing my opinion.” (Of course I wasn’t actually ridiculing him in any way, merely stating the things I’ve posted above.) He told me, “I thought you were a better friend than that.”

I received a couple of messages from people who had seen the discussion, thanking me for standing up to him. One called me her “hero for the day.” It was touching.

But the incident still nags at me, and I need to speak out. I need to speak out because this one man’s behavior reflects a pervasive cultural pattern of behavior that plagues women and people of color every single damn day in this country. Enough is enough.

This necklace is sold by the etsy shop MetalTaboo. They have a lot of great stuff, so check them out!

1. She was not dressed inappropriately. When facebookland responded with that, his response was “You weren’t there. I was,” as if being in the physical presence of her magical Black sluttiness would make her dress lower cut? Shorter? What, exactly, was he objecting to about her outfit? A brilliant friend of mine jokingly speculated a subgroup of people who get their information about sex workers from 80s cop shows and believe leopard print = prostitute. The outfit was actually quite modest. Was it her figure? She was what used to be referred to as “va-va-va-voom.” She was a busty, curvy goddess– a full-figured hourglass head-turner. Was it her weight? Her curviness? Would he have objected to her outfit had she been a skinny white girl? It’s unclear, precisely, what he was objecting to, and he refused to clarify. The truth is, he created a rule in his own mind and punished her publicly for breaking it. He targeted her for reasons of his own. He targeted her because he could.

2. He secretly took a picture that included her face. If the picture had been from the neck down, or from behind, it would at least have had some tiny, tiny speck of respect for her as a human being. But he included her face. And of course she wasn’t a complete stranger at a mall he’ll never see again. She’s a fellow parent at the school, or a relative close enough to come to a middle school play on a Thursday night after work. The chances of running into this human being again are high. The chances of having, or at one point acquiring, mutual friends is high. This woman was reasonably identifiable within his social network reach. What does he think this woman, her partner, HER CHILD would think? Would he have done this if the woman was white? Would he have done this if the woman was walking with a man? He feels well within his right to publicly point out a woman and name her a whore. Would he be OK with another man doing this to his wife or daughters? Of course not. But this woman, in his opinion, deserves it. She is not worth basic human consideration to him.

3. “I’m not apologizing for voicing my opinion.” We’ve already covered that he targeted her simply because he could, and that he felt entitled to put her face on the internet and label her a whore. Now we get to the inevitable part where he defends this behavior as his right.

When called out by multiple people, he said he’s entitled to express his “opinion.” He clearly feels that the scope of his “opinion” includes public shaming (but only for others, as we’ll get to in a moment). He does not see the difference between having an opinion and expressing that opinion publicly. He has no fucks to give about that public expression’s consequences for OTHERS. Despite our dissent, he couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that the picture he posted belied his opinion, and instead insisted that the OPINION redefined THE PICTURE– that his opinion was more REAL than the EVIDENCE. (“You were not there. I was.” “It must just be the picture. You had to be there. It was inappropriate.”) He believes he has every right to state his opinion (no matter how hurtful to others), that his opinion should be accepted as fact without question despite evidence to the contrary, and that there is no possible way the public expression of this opinion could be wrong in any way. “Voicing my opinion” is, for him, a magic formula of entitlement.

4. He believes his actions should have no consequences, and is shocked and appalled when they do. It comes as no surprise that someone who targets a woman almost at random, feels entitled to put her face on the internet and label her a whore, and defends this behavior as his right should also believe that this behavior should be completely without consequence– for HIM. One wonders what school admin would think if they discover a parent is secretly taking pictures of other parents at school events and posting them to the internet with nasty comments. One wonders what this woman’s attorney would think.

I know what I think: That all too often men think they are perfectly entitled to claim authority over women’s bodies and determine when and how we are displaying ourselves “inappropriately”; that all too often white people think they are perfectly entitled to claim authority over Black bodies and determine when and how they are displaying themselves “inappropriately.” This struggle over “appropriate display” has tentacles into every aspect of our culture, including my own world of theatre. WHO is appropriate for WHAT role– WHO determines what body is acceptable to inhabit Lady Anne or Biff Loman– and HOW those determinations are applied– are processes that many in this community are constantly fighting to open wider. Representation– and who controls the definition of “appropriate”– MATTERS.

This facebook debacle is one example out of millions, happening every day. THIS MATTERS. Am I “every females champion”? FUCK YES I AM.

One of the many Black Madonnas of medieval Europe. This one is from the 12th century and is in Barcelona.

One of the females I champion. One of the many gorgeous Black Madonnas of medieval Europe. This one is from the 12th century and is in Barcelona.

I was much less . . . fiery in the actual discussion, posting about four or five comments, most in response to his assertion of entitlement and (inevitable) accusations that I was attacking him. Of course, I never once attacked him. Instead I told him he did not have the right to attack HER. My comments were all respectful (no name-calling, no personal belittling), stating that he was not entitled to post secretly-taken pictures of other parents and call them whores, that her outfit was actually quite modest, that I have several outfits very much like it.

His reaction was unfocused rage. He accused me several times of “ridiculing” him, and twice told me, “Don’t you know when to quit?”


And THAT, I think, reveals the heart of the matter. He felt entitled to the right to ridicule a Black woman for displaying herself publicly in a manner he found unacceptable. He did not, however, believe that *I* was entitled to the right to disagree, and that my public disagreement with him was “ridicule.” Of course I wasn’t actually ridiculing him in any way. I know how, believe me. He was automatically interpreting a woman’s dissent as ridicule. I was challenging his authority. He felt entitled to claim authority over a woman’s body without consequences, and did everything he could, including deleting my comments, to silence my dissent.

His twice-repeated “Don’t you know when to quit?” came while he was still directing comments at me– comments I was expected to take silently.

5. “This is MY facebook timeline . . . I’ll remove content from my timeline I don’t wish to have there.” Apart from the obvious (there are still ToS, harassment laws, and fucking basic human decency), he’s right that it’s his timeline and he can control its contents. He has every right to remove content from his own timeline that’s critical of his actions.

When I told him I agreed that he had every right to delete my comments, and that I would, since I had quite a bit to say about this issue, blog about it instead (assuring him I would not reveal his identity), using my own venue for my own thoughts, he accused me of “throwing him under the bus.”

He believes, correctly, that he has every right to delete comments that are critical of his actions or unflattering to him from his own timeline. But he also believes he’s entitled to post whatever unflattering content he likes about other people, and– this is the real kicker– that no one else is entitled to post anything critical or unflattering about him in ANY venue.

Of course it never occurred to him that he was throwing this beautiful Black woman “under the bus.” In his mind, she DESERVES IT by daring to appear in public in an outfit of which he disapproves. He feels that he deserves sympathy, empathy, and compassion, but she does not deserve the like.

This is the very soul of entitlement. He believes he intrinsically deserves, and should automatically receive, a level of consideration and compassion he is unwilling to extend to others.

This is an attitude I see far too often about women, Black people, people in poverty, LGBT people, people who exist outside of any of the basic markers of privilege in this country. We are not entitled to the same treatment because people like this refuse to see us as fully human, as real, as entitled to compassionate treatment as THEY are. They feel entitled to mete out punishment and shame to us as they see fit, and howl with rage when met with dissent. They do everything within their power to silence or discredit dissent.

DO NOT LET THEM SILENCE YOU. Enough is enough.


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No, I Will Not Smile

Art by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. More of her awesome work at: http://www.tlynnfaz.com

Art by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. More of her awesome work at: http://www.tlynnfaz.com

So lots and lots of people who are cooler than I am have written about street harassment. Whenever I post about street harassment on facebook, I get dogpiled with comments– always from men– defending the behavior, or saying things like (and I quote):

“You should take it as a compliment!”

“That doesn’t happen in [city name].”

“That never happens in [type of place, such as subway, mall, universities].”

“I’ve never seen that happen.”

“Only men of certain ethnicities do that.”

“How else are we supposed to meet women? Give us a break!”

…….and the like. I have been told by men, in no uncertain terms, just how wrong I am every single time I’ve ever spoken up about this issue. Every. Single. Time. I see you, men who are limbering up your fingers to tell me I’m just a dumb girl, or a feminazi, or that I just don’t understand, or that I’ve made the entire issue up because duh women do that all the time. Hold up. Read the rest of the article, click on the hyperlinks and read those, and if you still feel like telling me what an asshat I am, I promise you I will read your comment with a serious look on my face THROUGH THE WHOLE THING.

This is what my serious face looks like . . . IN MY IMAGINATION. And please stop telling me I'm Simon, not Zoe. I ALREADY KNOW.

This is what my serious face looks like . . . IN MY IMAGINATION. And please stop telling me I’m Simon, not Zoe. I ALREADY KNOW.

The small area of the Street Harassment Monster I want to tackle right now is the, “Smile, baby! Why don’t you smile? You’d look so much prettier with a smile on your face.”

If you are approaching a stranger with any variation of the above, you are behaving like the human embodiment of painful rectal itch. Here’s why.

Accosting strangers on the street is uncool. In addition to being fucking annoying, it makes women feel unsafe. We have no way of knowing what you’re going to do. I was pushed, HARD, to the ground, at an ATM because I refused to acknowledge a strange guy who was demanding that I smile at him. If our responses to your demands for attention are not to your liking, many of you immediately escalate the encounter to verbal or even physical abuse. We have no way of knowing whether you’re just going to walk away or whether you’re going to follow us down the street yelling, “Fuck you, you stuck-up bitch. Who do you think you are, fat bitch? Don’t you ignore me, bitch,” grab us by the arm, pin us up against a wall, or surround us with jeering companions who threaten to rape us. WE DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WILL DO. It’s scary. Stop it.

Is it unfair that you, who believe you are a Nice Guy, have to curtail your behavior because other men are behaving like worthless chumpbuckets? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s MUCH more unfair that you’re forcing a woman into an interaction that she knows has a very real chance of ending in verbal or physical abuse.

You have no idea why she’s not smiling. Did she just get the news of a death in her family? Lose her job? Is she having painful menstrual cramps? Did she just kill a strange man who harassed her on the street and is worried about doing it again now that she’s tasted blood? Demanding that a woman construct a cheerful look on her face simply because you demand it is to ignore the fact that she is a person with a life, just like you are. You know NOTHING about that life, and therefore, you know NOTHING about her emotional state. Back off. Actually, back off and read this.

You are not entitled to cheerful interactions with women on demand. Why do you think it’s OK to make random demands of women on the street? You are not our toddlers. Do not demand juice boxes, smiles, or attention from women you do not know. This is what toddlers do. This is why mothers are exhausted: constant demands for attention. Before you demand that the woman you see walking towards you (or are following, ew) force a smile on her face, remember that you are the third man who has demanded her attention in the last 20 minutes. She just wants to walk down the damn street. If she wanted a toddler, she’d have one. If she has a toddler and you harass her with “Smile for me! Don’t forget to smile!” she is now, thanks to Olympia Snowe and her outgoing gift to American women everywhere, The American Patriot Mothers for American Patriotic Heritage Act,  legally entitled to give you a roundhouse kick to the temple.

No, your attention is not flattering. I’m just going to leave this here in case you’re wondering what women think of your commentary and/or demands.


If you think this behavior is OK, remember that there are quite literally millions of men all over the world who agree with you, and many of them will start harassing your daughter once she hits middle school. They harass your wife. They harass your little sister.

All we’re asking is that you remember that women are people. All we’re asking is that you treat women on the street with the same respect you’d treat your daughter, your mother, or a heavily armed level 20 dwarf fighter.

Did I just hear you demand that I smile? I will smile over your bloody corpse, human.

Did I just hear you demand that I smile? I will smile over your bloody corpse, human.

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The Parents from the Preschool Across the Street from My House Are the Worst People in the Whole Entire World

That may be a slight exaggeration. BUT ONLY SLIGHT.

For some reason, the people whose children attend the preschool across the street from my house think it is perfectly acceptable to block my driveway during pick-up and drop-off. At first, we were irked but took it relatively in stride. However, after being blocked either in or out of my driveway dozens and dozens and dozens of times, I’ve reached my wit’s end, then passed my wit’s end, then reached BLINDING RAGE.


One thing you might not know about me is that I’ve had four surgeries on my hips and pelvis, and I have a degenerative condition in my back. Walking can be extremely painful for me. I can’t just park around the corner, as I can’t walk up the hill, even on a good day, without the pain of a thousand flaming suns.  I need access to my driveway. But of course, for the parents of this children’s center, my ability to get into my house is insignificant compared to the CRUCIAL IMPORTANCE of them saving the 17 seconds it takes to drive one house down and around the corner, where there is always ample parking.

We’ve tried discussing it with the school director (repeatedly). We’ve tried talking nicely to parents. We’ve tried talking sternly to parents. We’ve tried yelling angrily at parents. We’ve tried calling the police to ticket the offending vehicles. We’ve contemplated taking sledgehammers to cars and/or laying down caltrops. (I still have not ruled these last two out.)

When confronted, they hand me one of two reactions:

EXCUSES. “It’s the very first time I’ve ever done this!” (Evidently 400 kids go to that one preschool.) “I was only there for a second!” (I’ve been sitting here for ten minutes waiting for you to get your ass out of the school, into your vehicle, and out of my life.)

BELLIGERENCE. “Fuck you, lady!” “Who do you think you are? I can park where I want!” or my absolute favorite, delivered to me by a man whose size and height dwarfs my own, “GET OUT OF THE CAR AND SAY THAT AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS.” It takes a special kind of horrible man to physically threaten a mom in front of her own house while blocking her driveway, but it takes epic balls to do so while you’re driving a car with personalized plates, doesn’t it, Mr. Calhoun?


I’ve finally taken to blocking my own damn driveway, which prevents them from blocking me IN, but I do have to leave the house occasionally, and if I return during drop off or pick up hours, it’s almost a certainty my driveway will be blocked by one of these fine, fine citizens.

So this is my latest solution:

Every time I leave the house, I put up one of these signs. So far, it’s working! I’m SO glad, too, because I’m not entirely sure caltrops are legal.