Archive | February, 2012

The Colbert Report couldn’t have done it better

21 Feb

The American Life League, the largest pro-life organization in the US, has released an anti-Planned Parenthood informational video. The message in a condom-dressed nutshell: Planned Parenthood’s goal is to make sex addicts out of kids. According to the league, the “perverts” at Planned Parenthood hide behind science (and the apparently bogus concept of “age-appropriateness”) in order to peddle pornography to kids.

While most of the “I can’t believe it’s not satire” video (http://blog.sfgate.com/sfmoms/2012/02/16/anti-planned-parenthood-video-isnt-a-joke/?tsp=1) is dedicated to the pornography conspiracy theory, the Life League manages to incorporate homophobia into its message:

Analyzing the PP website, the Life League’s spokesperson notes with dismay that on the “All about LGBTQ” page, Planned Parenthood teaches, “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and straight are sexual orientations. All these sexual orientations are perfectly normal.” He merely presents the highlighted offending text, offering no additional commentary, as if “perfectly normal” speaks volumes about PP’s campaign to pervert children.

But he’s not done with the LGBTQ community just yet, suggesting that “the page on homosexuality, titled ‘Coming Out,’ displays a teenage boy in an intimate pose with what appears to be an adult man.” Once again, our Life League “reporter” trusts that we’ll connect the moral dots without his having to spell everything out for us.

But I say, if we’re going to do a close reading of text, let’s read the whole text. Here’s the picture:

And here’s the caption: “Coming Out: Only you can decide if and when to come out, to whom, and how to do it”  (http://www.plannedparenthood.org/info-for-teens/lgbtq-33812.htm). So yes, this is an “intimate” situation: one that could save this kid’s life.

What really gets to me about this video isn’t actually the explicit accusations made against Planned Parenthood, as ludicrous and incendiary as they might be. It’s the use of homophobia as a sure-fire tool to rally their supporters. Even more than that, it’s the effortlessness of their call to arms: they don’t need to elaborate on the homophobic tidbits they offer. It’s enough just to suggest it’s OK to be LGBTQ. That, apparently, will get folks right up on the bandwagon to protest–what was it again? Homosexuality? Pornography? Family planning? Whatever, and all of it.

Too bad the concerned citizens at the Life League didn’t read further on Planned Parenthood’s website, where the federation explains:

Homophobia — fear and hatred of lesbian, gay and bisexual people — is very dangerous. In our society there is a lot of homophobia — fear and hatred of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ). It’s caused by ignorance, or other kinds of misinformation and lack of understanding about what LGBT[Q] people are really like.

Saturday quote

18 Feb

“Transformation literally means going beyond your form.”

—Wayne Dyer

How To Be Black

17 Feb

Maybe you’ve heard of Baratunde Thurston’s book How To be Black?

If you’re curious, here he is in a recent interview on NPR’s Fresh Air: http://www.npr.org/2012/02/04/146297191/fresh-air-weekend-baratunde-stew-leonard-cohen. I like his style (but I’m not sure if Thurston covers how to be black at Landmark Steakhouse–see yesterday’s post).

“Would you like a racist slur with that?”

16 Feb

Do you notice anything about this restaurant receipt?

Yup, on the lefthand side, right above the word “VISA.” That would be the restaurant’s table identification: “Mc Stinkynigger,” party of 1.

Here’s the full story: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/black-customer-received-n-word-receipts-settles-restaurant-202347883.html.

For me, the stunning drop of the other shoe is the article’s citation of two other recent incidents of fast food “[insert racial slur] and have a nice day!”

 

“Lady chinky eyes”?

In all three cases, the restaurants located the problem with “inappropriate” or “unthinking” individuals, swearing on their corporate goodness that there isn’t “even [the] suggestion of racism at our restaurant[s]” (http://laist.com/2011/12/12/chick-fil-a_on_racist_ching_chong_r.php).

In the case of Corona Del Mar’s Landmark Steakhouse, the “individual” involved (a bartender who issued at least one of three receipts bearing variations on a racial slur) seems to accept his individual responsibility. As MSNBC reports: 

In one voicemail, the bartender said: “Yo Mark. Hey it’s [NAME WITHHELD]. Give me a call when you get a chance man. Just wanted to apologize for that tab, dude. You know we were totally jokin’ around.”

In a follow-up text message, the bartender said: “I know I made a big mistake by crossing the line. I have a family & mortgage that depend on me.”

In another text message on Christmas Eve, he said: “merry christmas! hope to see you soon. we miss you! please forgive us for being stupid. its not the same without you there. luv u bud!”

Yeah, luv u, too.

The question I’m left with is: how many “individual” actions does it take before we see that there’s a group, including us, who bear some collective responsibility?

Working cross-culturally

15 Feb

NPR’s Talk of the Nation did an interesting article today on “Providing therapy across cultures”  (http://www.npr.org/2012/02/15/146936181/providing-therapy-across-different-cultures?ft=1&f=5), addressing the challenges of therapy between US counselors and immigrant clients who have different cultural frames of references, shaped by ethnicity, language, religion and migration. Check it out…

Our inner Karl Lagerfeld

14 Feb

The cast of characters…

Karl Lagerfeld: German-born fashion designer, associated with the likes of Chanel and Fendi (aka $$$$ clothing and accessories brands)

Adele: English singer and songwriter, who just won 6 Grammys this year, known for her heart-wrenching (and quite catchy) songs about “rubbish” relationships

What does one have to do with the other?

Lagerfeld, also guest editor at the global free newspaper Metro, was opining on various topics on 2/6/12, including Adele. Of the singer, Lagerfeld had this to say: “The thing at the moment is Adele. She is a little too fat but she has a divine face and a beautiful voice”  (http://www.metro.us/newyork/life/article/1089980–karl-lagerfeld-on-lana-del-rey-the-greek-crisis-and-m-i-a-s-middle-finger).

That’s right. He called her fat. If this is news to you, take a moment to notice your reaction. And if you’d heard this before, try to remember your initial thought or feeling about Adele being “a little too fat.”

Outrage seems to be the general consensus: (just for starters, check out Anderson Cooper’s take: http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/category/the-ridiculist/ and The New Yorker‘s: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/lauren-collins/2012/02/karl-v-adele.html).

And that’s what I’d like to explore today: the outrage. Women and men are attacking Lagerfeld (Cooper called him a “chronic foot in mouth sufferer”) and his weight history, with Lauren Collins of The New Yorker noting that Lagerfeld used to be 90-plus pounds heavier than he is now. She continues, “Lagerfeld’s favorite hobby, since becoming skinny, seems to be making fun of  other people’s weight.”

Sounds like a case of internalized sizeism to me. (Note: while a quick bing search of “internalized sizeism” turns up no hits, I’m running with it.) I propose that internalized sizeism  is the adoption of attitudes that devalue and even outright hate the idea of “fatness” and anyone who embodies it. As a person who works in a size 0 industry, Lagerfeld has internalized a sizeist attitude that makes him critical of anyone who is or could be considered “fat”–including himself. One could even argue that to Lagerfeld, anyone unlikable is therefore “fat,” as the two qualities are synonymous in his mind. (Case in point: in response to a magazine’s announcement that it would be using “ordinary, realistic” women instead of models in its photos, Lagerfeld dismissed the “absurd” idea, proposing that “[the critics who don’t like the models] “are fat mummies sitting with their bags of crisps in front of the television, saying that thin models are ugly” http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/oct/12/lagerfeld-size-zero-thin-models). In Lagerfeld logic, the “mummies” are ridiculous, and therefore must be fat.

The thing about internalized sizeism, like internalized racism or sexism, is that it can thrive in silence. One need not shout one’s fat-phobia into a media megaphone to hold sizeist attitudes near and dear to one’s heart. Which brings me to the public outrage over Lagerfeld’s putting his foot in his mouth (which is itself an interesting charge: is the problem that he felt the need to judge a singer by her size, or that he was dumb enough to say it aloud?)

As I read the vehement protests over Lagerfeld’s most recent act of sizeism, I’ve had to wonder how many of us protestors are not just speaking out against Lagerfeld’s remark, but against our fears of our own, internalized sizeism: Are we afraid of our inner Lagerfelds? And in condemning him, are we trying to absolve ourselves from any sizeist thoughts that we may know better than to utter but that we know still lurk in the periphery of how we perceive ourselves and others?

I know it’s something, at least for me, to think about.

Ironic side note: in his Metro interview, Lagerfeld also noted (on the subject of alleged racist remarks by a British football player), “[People] say a thing and then they forget what they said. It’s very difficult today, as you open your mouth and everything is printed somewhere. You cannot even make private jokes anymore.”

 

It seemed like such a good idea at the time

13 Feb

I’m sure it did, Pete.

Republican Pete Hoekstra is running for Senate in Michigan. He ran this ad on Superbowl Sunday to make his point about incumbent Debbie Stabenow’s fiscal irresponsibility: http://youtu.be/kxw4uZAezaI.

… and I guess to make his own point about xenophobia? (Btw, if you missed Friday’s post, it makes for an interesting prologue to today’s.)

When criticized for the ad’s anti-Asian and anti-Asian-American portrayal, Hoekstra claimed the only “insensitivity” was regarding “the spending philosophy of Stabenow and Democratic President Barack Obama” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/06/pete-hoekstra-ad-china-michigan_n_1256912.html?ref=mostpopular).

Really.

Clearly Hoekstra isn’t alone, with some media wondering, “Is Pete Hoekstra’s ad racist?”  (http://www.politico.com/arena/perm/Ryan_Rudominer_7E97845E-79BB-48B6-809C-9E3242E7BC1D.html)

Hmm, is it?

 

And while Hoekstra has some in-party supporters–fellow Republican Glenn Clark called it a “great ad”–I’m pleased to report that a national party consultant chooses instead to describe the ad as “really, really dumb.” I’m also heartened that this hasn’t been identified as “an Asian issue” for Asians and Asian-Americans to address alone.

Among a group of Detroit pastors who have called for the ad to be pulled, Reverend Charles Williams of King Solomon Baptist Church has spoken up, stating, “The Asian woman speaking in this video would be no different than him having a black person speaking in slave dialect.” Williams, whom I believe identifies as African-American, goes on to criticize Hoekstra for knowingly “using the whole politics of fear, and the whole politics of division.”

Even so, Hoekstra has refused to pull the ad. Local, economically linked anti-Asian violence (remember Vincent Chin’s murder in the 80’s?) notwithstanding, his campaign goes on.

Let’s hope the only person his decision hurts is him.