Friday, April 23, 2010

Is Susan G. Komen Confused?

I love nonprofit organizations. I believe in their existence and purpose within our greater capitalist society. I whole-heartedly support nonprofits because they are above the bottom line. They do not exist to make profit, at the expense of others. They are created and fueled by passion and compassion for other humans, living creatures and the environment. So when nonprofits choose to team up with the (evil) for-profit sector, even to promote and support their cause, I am always worried. I do believe that nonprofit/for-profit partnerships can be positive. Often times they raise much needed funds for the nonprofit organization and also give the heartless corporate sector a little taste of philanthropy and humanity, which is severely needed. BUT, sometimes it just does not make sense. Case in point, The Susan G. Komen for a Cure Foundation has recently teamed up with KFC in a new promotional campaign called "Buckets for the Cure". Is the absurdity of this partnership obvious to anyone else?! One would think that the intelligent folks over at Komen would understand the connections between healthy eating, obesity, and breast cancer. But, apparently not. Now Americans can completely ignore the toxic bucket of chicken they are feeding their families, because they are supporting the cure. It is like trading guilt for that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you donate to charities.
The Komen foundation is not new to partnerships with large corporations that do not exactly support healthy, cancer-preventing lifestyles (Campbell's Soups, Coca-Cola, etc.) but KFC has to be the worse yet. I am all for the support of cancer research but cannot support this campaign (and do not plan on ever eating at KFC). The "Buckets for the Cure" is a contradiction in itself and is embarrassing for the Susan G. Komen for a Cure Foundation.

Check out a recent Weighty Matters blog posting for a more in depth analysis of the campaign and it's irony.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sex, Lies and Hip-Hop

I came across two fabulous posts today from the Racialicious blog on female sexuality and autonomy in hip-hop that got me thinking about my own history with hip-hop and feminism.

Ever since the ripe young age of about 11 years old I have loved hip-hop, yet the misogyny, female objectification and degrading racialization were always problematic for me. To negotiate my desire to consume hip-hop but my disapproval of the offensive lyrics I usually imagined myself as the (masculine) voice projecting my dominance onto a submissive man. To me, as I sang along with the lyrics, I imagined that the roles were reversed and instead of the male emcee exercising his masculine privilege over some random female, I was a dominant (masculinized) woman controlling and degrading a man. This imagined role reversal seem to placate my disapproval of hip-hop's treatment of women. In the first article, "Quoted: Menda Francois on Nicki Minaj and Feminist Contradictions in Hardcore Female Rap" the author writes that popular artist Nicki Minaj, "rel[ies] primarily on the male narrative and male voice to help shape the hardcore female rapper’s public image. Essentially, by engaging in dialogue with the male narrative, Minaj is aligning herself with male rappers and creating her identity as one of (pseudo)masculinity, an asset valuable to her role as a hardcore female rapper." In essence, I was practicing the same alignment by imagining myself as the dominant rapper in opposition to the expendable sex toy. In reality, I was upholding the same oppressive gender binary as the misogynist emcees were, not to mention reinforcing the expectation of heteronormativity and racial hierarchy (seeing as I am white and the emcees were most often not) that Western pop culture is built upon.
As my feminist consciousness continued to progress I found it more and more difficult to even listen to most mainstream hip-hop for even my imaginitive role reversal could not placate my distaste anymore. I felt betrayed by hip-hop for sometime becuase I knew that the hip-hop I loved did not have to be so hateful, violent and oppressive to be meaningful. Alas I made a leap away from mainstream and progressed toward underground and independent artists. I found a hip-hop that was true and fair and seemed to fit me better than anything I had ever felt before. It was still powerful and emotional and sometimes regressed toward the patriarchy but it did not use hypersexualized (black) women as it's stepping stones to success, i.e. money. Many underground artists even celebrated women (or were women)! And these women did not have to objectify themselves or perform obscentities to be real.
I am still in love with hip-hop, but I actively reject the mainstream garbage where male emcees degrade, sexualize and hurt women and where female emcees do the same to themselves. While hip-hop has a special and important place in my life, I know that commercially, it is just like any other institution, it is used as a commodity to make dollars, reiforce traditional gender roles, obscure the other, force women to be hypersexualized, eroticized, and disposable holes, who for some reason compete viciously in their own degredation and ultimately rob an entire society of meaningful and passionate art.

For further (and possibly better) reading, I recommend the two articles which can be found at the links below.

Menda Francios on Nicki Minaj
Cult of the Freaknasty by Regina Barnett

Friday, January 22, 2010

Blog for Choice Day 2010

I am happy to celebrate the 37th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade today and participate in NARAL Pro-Choice's 5th Annual Blog for Choice Day. The blog topic is "What does TRUST WOMEN mean to you?"
For me the term TRUST WOMEN goes far beyond the abortion issue or reproductive rights. It is almost a perfect tag line for the feminist view of almost any issue I can think of. Of course the phrase immediately makes me think of abortion and a woman's right to choose whether or not she bears a child. The (still astonishing) fact that abortion is basically legal in the US assures that a woman can exercise her autonomy and be the primary decision-maker in a choice that will forever impact her life. I do think that societal shifts and some policy changes need to take place before ALL American women feel as though they actually do have a choice. Whether they are hindered by cultural, religious, socio-economical or familial constraints, every woman should feel empowered to be the ultimate decider of her future. I understand all of the different and personal obligations that women feel (or are forced to consider) that may sway their abortion decisions and I think all of those are valid but ultimately a woman should be able to weigh all those factors privately and be trusted by her loved ones that she made the choice that was right for her. I do think that many of those constraints exist because we are taught to NOT trust women, but to consider us less than capable of making our own decisions, or somehow in need of assistance (and this comes from women and men.)
Abortion and reproductive rights aside, the term TRUST WOMEN is valid in many other issues and decisions. If society in general trusted women and felt them equally as capable as men, and if women were taught to trust themselves, gender roles (and gender oppression) would be forced to shift as well.
I am ardently Pro-Choice because I trust that women are the most capable beings to make decisions for themselves (just as men are the most capable beings to make decisions for themselves as well). If we want help, we are also capable of asking for it but until then please TRUST WOMEN.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Today for my Facebook status I used a quote that I find simple but helpful in positing feminism amongst greater cultural opinion and understanding of gender relations. The quote is, "Just because you are pro-Woman, doesn't mean you are anti-Man" (and no I don't know where I heard this originally so I cannot give credit where credit is due, I apologize). The quote is profound because it retorts a popular misconception of feminism in that to be feminist one must be anti-man or a "man-hater" (not to mention, much to my own dismay for my love of the word, but "man-hater" is usually synonymous with "bitch"). My personal definition of feminism is far from a theoretical rejection of men and in fact is both pro-woman and pro-man, or as I like to refer to myself as being pro-human. I define feminism as the simple fact that all humans are created equal and should be treated as such. I know that much too much of the world has a skewed definition of feminism (if they have a definition at all) and it is a personal mission of mine (via this blog) to attempt to redefine the term for all.
That being said, a friend responded to my status update with this question: But can you be pro-man without being anti-woman? As soon as I read that I quickly responded with yes, it is called being pro-human. But then I took a minute to give the question more thought. And the more I think about it the more I am unsure of my answer.
It is easy to be pro-man and anti-woman, in fact, that is our cultural norm. I think that is why when one claims to be a feminist or pro-woman, it is assumed that they must be anti-man, or the opposite of the norm. I claim that it is possible to be pro-woman and pro-man (as a woman) because it takes an extra step of consciousness to become pro-woman, since we are assuming that by cultural norm we are all trained to be pro-man. It takes another step to become pro-woman and anti-man. It is much further removed from the cultural norm. So the question is can one (namely a male) be pro-man and pro-woman? In theory yes, but in function within the larger context of this society is it possible? It seems the problem lies in figuring out what being pro-man really means. In my understanding of gender relations in Western culture, being pro-man seems to be defined as being anti-woman (especially for men). One cannot be proud to be a male without exerting that pride, and the power attached, over women.
As hard as I try I don't think I know of a pro-man/pro-woman male. I know several pro-woman/anti-man males (and females) and several pro-woman/pro-men females but no pro-human men. I would love to think that there are many pro-human males out there and they are just somehow not on my radar but I just don't know if I can trick myself into believing that. In trying to work through this issue by writing this blog post I find myself even more lost. I hope that someone pro/anti/women/men have some opinions or experiences to share.

Can all the pro-humans please stand up?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

It's Feminist leadership but sshhhh don't tell!

In my current graduate school pursuits I am focusing on leadership and management for specifically the social sector. The more I learn about "new" models of leadership and progressive changes in management, the more I realize that these innovations actually took place many decades ago with the exploration and development of feminist theory. With our current economic turmoil and the ever increasing demands of social change and social service, management theory is finally grasping onto concepts like "multicultural/generational cooperation" and "shared leadership". Correct me if I am wrong but feminists have been practicing this type of inclusion and flattened structures of power for centuries. Consciousness raising groups, collectives, communal living, shared/rotating leadership positions, cultivation of minority and inexperienced talents, etc are literally the functional past of feminism and the women's movement.
Don't get me wrong, I think the main stream actualization of these concepts and practices is fabulous. The social sector, the market and the government should all adopt feminist management techniques since they demand organizations, and their shareholders, be more inclusive, innovative and, dare I say, humane. What bothers me is the complete absence of mention, credit or reference to anything or anyone feminist. Why is it much too emasculating for managerial big wigs to "admit" to taking pointers (and seeing astounding results) from feminists? Are feminist theorists not well-educated and experienced thinkers too who deserve credit for their intellectual property? Or is that just another aspect of their own lives that feminists do not deserve control over? I have yet to read one piece of management/leadership literature (and yes I have read quite a lot at this point) that gives any reference to feminist theory. That is of course with exception of a few resources I have searched out myself to fill the feminist management theory void provided by my very notable business school education (The Structure of Women's Nonprofit Organizations by Rebecca L. Bordt is a good starting point).

I sure hope that my fellow feminists do not let our ideas and histories to be commandeered as it seems they currently are...