Archive | October, 2012

Make Brad Pitt poorer

31 Oct

Just a little.

Brad Pitt is this close to parting with $100,000. He intends to donate that amount to the Human Rights Campaign, “the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans” ( But we have to donate that much first.

This is a call to donate what you can for double the impact if you believe in HRC’s work for sex, gender and sexuality equity. You may already be giving to assist recovery on the East Coast, so consider what works for you and your vision for social justice.

To donate, please go to:


A Halloween DIY workshop

31 Oct

This is another (and long overdue) do-it-yourself workshop, so read when you have a moment to notice, reflect and practice.

Imagine it’s Halloween, and everyone is dressed up: maybe you’re at work, a party, school or some neighborhood gathering. You turn around, and there’s an adult dressed as a border patrol guard.

1. What’s your gut response? (Remember, this isn’t your polished public response. This is just your raw reaction.)

2. And notice: who did you see in your mind? A man or woman? White, Latino/a, Asian, black…? Where does that image come from (your personal experience, stereotypes…)?

3. What concern, if any, do you have about this costume?

4. What is and isn’t surprising about this choice of costume? (Consider context and social norms.)

5. What could this choice be about? Imagine the spectrum of possibilities–and name at least 3.

6. What difference would it make to you if the person wearing this costume were Latino, instead of white? A woman, instead of a man? A child, instead of an adult?

7. So what, if anything, do you have to say to this person or to someone else (perhaps you’re at this Halloween gathering with someone whose reaction concerns you) about dressing like a border patrol guard for the holiday? Practice it aloud. With a partner, if you can find one (and then take turns).

Whatever you think about this situation, take advantage of this DIY workshop to add to your 10,000 hrs of practice speaking up about identity and diversity.

And happy Halloween.

“Thatz Not Okay”

30 Oct

I love the website Gawker, where I occasionally read Caity Weaver’s “Thatz Not Okay” (, a column about–you guessed it–what is and isn’t OK.

Here’s a brief excerpt that appeared recently:

Q: I’m worried my 8-year-old daughter’s trick-or-treat costumes might be considered offensive. This year she wants to be a Native American for Halloween. Last year she was a girl from India (she wore a sari) and the year before that she was a girl from Japan (she wore a kimono). Is that okay?

A: Thatz not okay.

… The debate about whether these types of costumes are appropriate always leads to a great deal of consternation around Halloween. Some people adopt the cause as a crusade, justifying blackface, tinfoil-grille costumes with excuses that run the gamut from “I’m celebrating my love of African American music” to “Halloween is a holiday about upside down make-believe and I can dress however I want because there are NO RULES and I DO WHAT I WANT.”

… a good rule of thumb is if one of your first thoughts when planning a costume is, “Is there a way I can do this so that it won’t be offensive?” the answer is almost certainly “No.” And you shouldn’t do it.

… It’s great that your daughter is interested in other cultures. Why not encourage her to explore this interest by talking to her about why some people whose families are Native American might be upset when someone whose family is not dresses up in a generic Native American costume?

And if the issue is that she just wants to wear feathers in her hair, have her go as a bird princess.

While my advice tends towards, “It’s not about asking for permission. You can do anything. Just be willing to take responsibility for your impact,” I appreciate Weaver’s insight, humor and helpfulness.

And for more on costumes that stereotype, check out this year’s “We’re a culture, not a costume” campaign:

**Thanks to my colleague RG for the “not a costume” link.

I do (think homeless is funny?) A DIY yourself workshop

29 Oct

If you follow pop culture, as I do, you know that Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel got married recently in Italy.

When I read that, I admit that one my first thoughts was about cost (having gone through a wedding myself, which we were fortunate to be able to do locally in my partner’s parents’ home–but while that saved us some money, it was still not cheap for folks who had to fly in). Of course, I don’t imagine my budgetary concerns are much like a celebrity couple’s.

Still. When I read about the well wishes from homeless folks in LA that were taped as a wedding reception gag by a friend of the couple, I was unnerved. According to online journal Gawker:

After the guests at Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel’s wedding were whisked to southern Italy via private jet last week, they were greeted by a video produced by Timberlake’s longtime pal, L.A. real estate agent Justin Huchel. The video had a gag: Huchel hit the streets of Los Angeles and asked a bunch of homeless people, street musicians, and transexuals to wish the multimillionaire newlyweds well. Funny, funny stuff.

The 8:30 video featured street interviews with ten people, many of them obviously homeless, premised on the idea that they were friends of Timberlake and Biel’s who, for whatever reason, couldn’t quite swing the trip to the Borgo Egnazia resort in Puglia for the nuptials, which were reported to cost $6.5 million. “Greetings from Your Hollywood Friends Who Just Couldn’t Make It,” reads the opening title card, “Featuring Sid, Chuck, Robert, and More!” Sid, Chuck, Robert, and others appear to be penniless and living on the street. Some of them are obviously intoxicated, mentally ill, or both, and at least one of them is entirely incapable of speaking


Wow, what a hoot, as we spend more money than some people make in a year (or years) on a weeklong party.

Now, picture this. You’re at the wedding. Jess and Justin are good friends of yours (or you’re a social climber grateful to be there and trying your hardest to work this opportunity). Or if that’s too far-fetched, imagine it’s the wedding of family or friends.

Cue video.

Cue laughter all around you. Maybe someone at your table is slapping their knee and almost crying, it’s so funny. Or the guy who made the video is sitting right next to you.

What do you do?

Considering the context; your relationships to various people in the room, including, but not limited to the couple getting married); and your own socioeconomic identity, culture and baggage… What do you have to say?

And here, before you practice saying it aloud, consider whom you will address, and when. If not right now during the video, then when and where?

Please give this a go. Because equity and inclusion aren’t just about the times when it’s convenient or easy to stand up. It’s about what we do when there’s an opportunity and a responsibility.

Saturday quote

27 Oct

“Privilege is the greatest enemy of right.”

–writer and Baroness Marie Von Ebner-Eschenbach

Good for Marissa

26 Oct

You know the optimistic (or in denial, depending on your perspective) tendency to assume that the exception is the rule?

As in, if Obama is president, then racism is a thing of the past. If Ellen DeGeneres has a successful talk show and career, then homophobia is over. And if Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer can have a baby on the job, then workplace discrimination against pregnant women is kaput (

It would be nice. And it is progress. Yet.

It’s telling that we can still count these individuals (on one hand) who supposedly represent the post-ism era. Note the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)’s victorious people-counting:

At the launch of the 2012-2013 television season, GLAAD estimates that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) scripted characters represent 4.4% of all scripted series regular characters on the five broadcast networks: ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, and NBC. This is an increase from last year, with 31 series regular characters identified as LGBT.  Additionally GLAAD counted 19 recurring characters on primetime broadcast scripted series.

The number of scripted LGBT series regulars found on mainstream cable is up to 35 in the upcoming season.  GLAAD counted 26 additional recurring characters on cable (

If you’re interested, 35 is 4.4% of almost 800. And if you try flipping that count to inventory all the heterosexual characters on TV, you’d get overwhelmed by the sheer volume.

This isn’t to downplay the progress we’re making against traditions and norms of exclusion and inequity (although, if we counted the number of those LGBT characters that really play to stereotypes, perhaps our yield wouldn’t be as much to brag about).

And it’s not to disparage counting. One of the issues with diversity and inclusion work is assessment. Numbers alone don’t do the job: numbers won’t tell us about people’s experiences and perceptions, and all the “soft” but real factors that tell us what change we’re really experiencing. But qualitative metrics along are just as flawed: stories and feelings are too easily ascribed to the individual to serve as a shared basis for measuring progress. In any serious diversity endeavor, we need both numbers and stories to hold ourselves accountable for realizing equity and inclusion.

And how many is enough? How many is the critical tipping point when we’re no longer counting individuals, but experiencing a consistent, systemic shift in equity and inclusion?

My guess is: too many to count. That’s a worthwhile goal to shoot for.

Racism: a performance by Donald Trump

25 Oct

For today’s performance of racism (actually posted by Trump yesterday), please watch:!

This isn’t just dogged partisanship. It’s racism in action.

In refusing to let go of the non-question about Obama’s birthplace and right to be President of the United States, Trump is playing his own race card as a white man who claims to speak for “Americans” (read: other white people). In demanding a host of Obama’s personal documents, ostensibly so that this president will be “like other presidents” in the eyes of “Americans,” Trump is barely veiling his premise: you don’t look like “us.” You don’t possess the most important qualification to lead us: white skin. So we have every right to ask from you what we would never think to ask of a white president, and to mistrust any response from you. Because you are not white like us.

On this note, I will say that Coulter’s use of the r-word (see yesterday’s post) to describe the president had racist connotations for me, in addition to explicit able-ism. Because anything you say as a white woman about an only partly white man is racist? No. Because her choice of words reinforces a racist stereotype about intelligence. And whether you actively or passively support racial prejudice–that is to say, whether you say it yourself, laugh along or just say nothing when someone else says it–you are perpetuating racism.