Tuesday, 17 April 2012
Yesterday another tremor occurred. Another ripple of racism, just one of the many ripples that hide under the guise of humanitarianism or in this case Art.
This is an excerpt from a Swedish news website today (below) and here an article from AlJazeera.
STOCKHOLM (FRIA TIDER). A macabre scene took place this Saturday when the Swedish minister of culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth attended a tax funded party for the most powerful cultural representatives in Stockholm. The self proclamed "anti-racist" Liljeroth, who is currently in the process of banning tax support for the only nationalist newspaper in Sweden, inaugurated the festival by cutting a cake that was supposed to depict a stereotyped African woman.
Photographs from the party at World Art Day has already been released on Facebook and is now spreading widely in social media. The shocking pictures shows how several established left-wing members of the Stockholm cultural elite celeberates together with the minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth by slicing and eating a cake depicting a stereotyped African woman.
According to sources the Minister of Culture was invited to initiate the party by doing a ”clitoridectomy” on the cake.’
The cake was part of a World Art Day celebration and meant to protest female circumcision, according to the Moderna Musset museum. The cake was created by artist Makode Aj Linde who also played the cake's head. I have collated some of the reactions from both women & men of African descent and European women below. Not often enough do women of African descent get their voices heard, today won’t be one of those times. Please feel free to comment on this piece, any insightful comments will be moved in to the body of the piece and credited. Thanks
Sincerae Smith wrote: "OK, the rant is going to start briefly. I'm not putting it up on here but Google or Bing if you like "Swedish Culture Minister Accused Of Racist Cake-Cutting" and see the video. It's very offensive and racist. Africans and others are shocked and one Tweeted that she's just traumatized. You know I am tired of the peasant and degraded level of thinking of too many people now. I am tired of the so-called "activists" of every stripe who claim they are helping people, the world, etc. and nothing gets better. I am tired of people who might brush me off as she's just another "angry black woman." Ah, walk in my shoes for about 5 hundred years. I am tired of people who pretend and play with other's lives. I am tired of those who say they stand for one thing when really what they stand for is appalling. I am tired of people trying to justify a wrong into a right. I am tired of people with their low class, lying, hypocritical, debased outlook, and no morality or decency. Plus they don't want to change. It's always in the end about looking out for number 1, being bigger than anyone else, using people, and pretending. The worse part is, "we're only trying to help." Well, I'm not tricked by your innocent looking eyes. There comes a point when Sesame Street and Mr. Roger's thinking needs to stop for all of the apologists out there too. I am sick and tired of if it all. If you are silent about wrong-doing, if you are friendly with the people who do things and will not repent of their wrong-doing you're passively supporting it. The age of prophets is over, but we need some because I see zero chance for humanity if this continues. I going to say God doesn't like ugly. Humans can't see your heart, but He can. Also I am tired of the people who are trying to do good end up being the ones who get demonized."
Saria Khalifa wrote: THIS IS EXTREMELY OFFENSIVE and seems quite pointless .. if it was meant to highlight female genital mutilation you would expect at least some facts, statistics, information or perhaps even a more truthful representation of the issue. instead it seems to be poking fun of an issue that is already so culturally charged that a lot pf professionals don’t want to broach the issue (even if that means they are failing on their child protection duties). Never mind the effect that this could have on women and girls who could already be traumatised by their past experiences of female genital mutilation… DISGUSTING!!! not only should the insensitive people cutting the cake be ashamed the artist should to. I am sure there are more sensitive and positive ways to put across a message.. surely artists can be more creative than to resort to shock tactics..
O.O wrote: This is simply horrific. People are laughing at the dismembered body of a black wo/man, I can't quite tell, 'comically' screaming in agony, taking pictures! And is it me or do they start with the genitals? WTF!!
Sam Asumadu wrote: Its horrific and have had to defend my anger to some swedish women on twitter. I felt sick this morning New African Women tweeted it, now there are articles written, anger levels going up, rightly. People are getting over the aftershock of Invisible Children using Africans pain for their own purposes, pocket and self promotion. Now this. Please note he will make money out of this.
O.O wrote: 'defend' your anger?! How is it that at 2012 we have to EXPLAIN why this makes us angry? How, How, How? How funny would it have been if it was the body of a white person they were carving up, I'm supposing it would be just as funny. I've looked at it again, and now I think it is a pregnant black woman?! Irrespective of race this is disgusting. The fact though that it is a black person is not accidental, this sort of thing never is. 'Provocative art' meant to make us think what? Complete racism pathetically trying to mask itself as something justifiable in the name of art. So so ANGRY!
Steph Phillips wrote: This is awful. There are millions of far better ways to highlight the issue of female genital mutilation. I really don't know where to start.
Newt guy wrote:
to me this boils down to a lack of respect for those affected by the issue the cake was representing by those who were in position to make the decision to let this happen. If it were a cake of a girl who gets trafficked from Eastern Europe into prostitution, someone would've asked themselves why would that be a cake that I or my guests are supposed to eat? The question then is why wasn't that asked on this occasion? I think that is what is angering people is that this is another example of European/Western disrespect for things non-European or in this case African. It's easy to look at it as just a clever prank that someone fell for. However, if you make a hypothetical comparison of other potential circumstances where a European feminine issue were to exposed or treated in such a manner, there would be outrage. For me, this isn't about hate, but about understanding the underlying cause. The underlying cause is disrespect. I don't see how anyone can try and dance around that.
Monoio Kaizer wrote on the artist's facebook fan page: Well I thought I could find words to explain how dangerous this "so called" artist is to us africans. Just wondering if I could find a jew that would think this is "smart" idea to ridicule his kind the way this guy here did. Wondered also if in that case the minister would have laughed about it. Whites usually are unable to respect us or our sufferings, givent that they're actually both causing and benefiting from such sufferings, but when it's a "black" guy who acts this stupid and dares call it "provocation", well I can't find any word to express how utterly idiotic and lame this is. I think you're a coward. I wonder how you think your pitiful show helped any woman in this world. Also you should have wondered how they'd feel seing that idiocy of yours you call "art" (are you SERIOUS???). Who should you be provoking? is it victims of the prejudice you feed on? Or is it the imperialists for whom you're being a good house-nig**r? sorry, not a house nig**er, a restroom- nig**r because this is something even a house nig**er would feel ashamed of.
Michelle Heugh-Joseph wrote on the artist's facebook fan page: Why do my comments keep disappearing? Cowardly I'd say. As spoken earlier ... as a black artist, there are several people that believe your mannerisms and artistic ability does not speak for black people. The cake was disgusting and for a male black man to depict such ridiuclousness is beyond me! Please feel free to comment!
Victoria Holt wrote on the artist's facebook fan page This is not art, this is the trivialization of an immense issue into a shock value performance piece. It's downright trashy. I hope you're proud. At the end of the day, all we are seeing is a black body being mutilated. You are making no further comment on the issue, thus you are perpetuating it.
The following are tweets collated, some were directed to @MrBasabose who was great today in replying to and retweeting peoples reactions.
@AyjayH I don't personally advocate this form of protest. Perhaps ppl have run out of ways to fight the practice?
@honestlyAbroad Fight the practice? In a gallery in Sweden? This is nothing but provocative pity porn. Promoting dehumanisation of women
@MrBasabose Then the NEW way to fight FGM is Swedish dehumanizing the "Black Woman" to HELP her?????? SMH
@AfricanViolet_2 I just saw the video. Disgusting & racist. These ppl have run out of ways to protest. Protests are now down to degradation.
@piwaa I am still traumatised by the Swedish Minister of culture's exhibition!! How distasteful!! And in this day and age!! Siess!!
@lebomashile this 'artwork' is morbid & a gross expression of black woman's worth in this world: we're cake fit to be consumed. ☹
@Anto_Prophy MrBasabose Sjoe, I can't. This is utterly disgusting!
@hoestlyabroad Should I be regretful that I made my points cos he's (the artist) is black? He unveiled his artwork for an audience of Swedish people to laugh and point at. I have no wish to further debate it am afraid as I'm actually really very angry. Thanks @AyjayH I found the artist: Makode aj linde. And most Swedes are upset by the art too.
@honestlyAbroad to @ahamrud he decided to unveil it @ an art gallery with a Swedish audience (who laughed & pointed)why not in Congo? or was that not the intended audience of this provocative pity porn? I know who he is, it does NOT excuse the dehumanisation of African women as art. (Re for a white audience) That really doesn't make it right, let him, you and all defending this meet me in Congo on my next trip when we go let's explain to the women we meet that the art is 4 their benefit. They should b happy
@honestlyAbroad to @ahamrud for the sake of his profile, his credentials as this will not stop one atrocity. You realise rather than help Invisible Children's efforts has succeeded in killing more in riots. This in my eyes is no different. May cause the same effect and that would be a shame. The wounds of Invisible Kids have not healed
When I have told many older women in their 40s and older that I am not finding out the baby's gender, they are generally congratulatory. Indeed, a few of my pregnant friends are also choosing the surprise option. However, many also seem totally bemused that I am prepared to forgo buying everything in either pink or blue before it arrives. How will you be able to properly prepare for it?!
For me, the early discovery of a baby's gender and the commercialization of the whole pregnancy process are, in some ways, linked. Most people on discovering their baby's gender, like it or not, use this as an opportunity to begin storing up their nursery (if they are fortunate enough to have one) with gender "appropriate" toys and clothing. I in no way want to suggest that the sexist gender stereotyping products we have today are only a new phenomena; this is clearly not true. I do, however, believe it is much more pervasive than when I was growing up in the 1980s and '90s.
Pregnancy is now a multi-billion pound industry. It increasingly pressurises women, at a time that they are arguably at their most vulnerable, to become the ultimate consumers. There are a wealth of reading materials, diets, clothes, classes, apps, you name it, that a pregnant woman can spend her time and, crucially, her money on. This is before we even begin to talk about nappy types, prams, cots, baby monitors... and the list goes on. The Baby Centre app for expectant mothers constantly reminds me that I should 'pamper' myself by taking time to have a pedicure or facial or to visit the hairdressers.
The underlying message here is that even at this time, you can still look your 'best'. More importantly, in order to do so, regular worship at the altar of these bastions of the beauty industry is a necessity. This is not to say that I think quality time for yourself is something that can be scoffed at. My concern is that it is often framed within a capitalist consumerist context. "Well-being", as pregnant women, is something we purchase at the beauty salon or from "sexy", "trendy" maternity wear outlets.
It's therefore unsurprising that when, as a feminist, I state that many of my new born's clothes will be second-hand, this is greeted with incredulity: how can I not want the best for it? My feminist principles force me to recognise that, by virtue of being a western consumer, I play an important role in a global market place. A market place that allows sweatshops to exist. Places which, as we know, primarily employ cheap female labour and in some cases child labour, where people are forced to work under inhumane conditions. I do not get it right all the time, but I do try, and this effort in itself is frowned upon as a marker of how I am unwilling to give the "best that money can buy" to my child. I am invariably met with a glib dismissal of my way of thinking, the "do gooder" in me is talked of as something that will necessarily be compromised when the baby arrives.
This increasing emphasis on the material as a means to cope with the difficulties and emotional roller coaster that is pregnancy only serves to further undermine women. If you don't feel and look great, then really who else do you have to blame when there is a wealth of consumer options available to you?
Tuesday, 10 April 2012
By Adunni Adams
Lexy Topping’s article in yesterday’s Guardian declared the advance of the feminist movement towards a world in which people are not ashamed of identifying themselves as feminists. According to the article, this advance has resulted largely from the activism of young people fighting back against the sexual objectification of women, leading to a growing coalition of ‘feminists who do not fit easily into stereotypical moulds’. Furthermore, UK Feminista is cited as the source of information about ‘dozens of new feminist organisations springing up around the UK’.
I assumed the inclusion of the phrase ‘feminists who do not fit easily into stereotypical moulds’ would lead to some mention of those organisations which do not fit into the white, middle-class heterosexual stronghold which has come to typify the feminist movement. As I continued reading, I assumed the scope of the article would include the Black, Working-Class, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender feminist organisations, most of which are not new, and most of which have so far managed to escape the attention of commentators on feminism.
The recent ‘three little pigs’ advertising campaign (promoting open journalism as a means of representing different perspectives) puts The Guardian at odds with the ‘one size fits all’ style of reporting typified by Ms. Topping’s article. The announcement that something (or anything) is happening at the grassroots level of the feminist movement – not to mention the fact that the movement has caught the attention of the mainstream media – could, and should, have reflected the true strength of the movement in its depth, dynamism and diversity at all levels.
The contact details of a representative of the Women's Networking Hub were sent to Ms. Topping, but no contact was made, even after a follow-up e-mail was sent to her. No contact was made with Blackfeminists UK, an organization with over 1100 followers on Twitter and over 150 followers on Facebook, nor with Blackfeminists Manchester. Grassroots organisations such as these are a vital part in the advance of contemporary feminism – broad, multi-faceted and inclusive – and it is remarkable that The Guardian would overlook these, and many other important groups.
Given the emphasis in the article on ‘lads mags’, it is unfortunate that Ms. Topping does not take account of the way in which the sexual objectification of women has varying connotations linked to race. A prime example of this is the apology made by Cadbury to Naomi Campbell last year, which was also covered in The Guardian. Perhaps if Ms. Topping had made contact with any one of the above mentioned groups, she would have gained insight into the impact of this and many other issues which exist at the intersection of race and gender.
Ironically, the article ends with a reflection on the economic cuts. The brunt of the cuts is not only being faced by women but specifically black women, yet articles such as these ensure that we remain invisible. I feel that my response should be heard because the feminist movement, by definition, should not privilege the needs and contributions of one group over another, which is precisely the effect this article has had, regardless of any well-meaning intentions.
Monday, 9 April 2012
Racist The Hunger Games Tweets Highlights Why Fiction Writers Need to Stop Making their Characters Ethnicity Ambiguous and Address the Issue of Race
I found the meeting discussion fascinating since I had never really thought about it before let alone noticed that I like many others in the group envision fictional characters as white (where their ethnicity is not specified). Since the discussion I have been trying to recall fiction books that I've read where the characters ethnicity is actually stated and not just me making the assumption, as well as any ethnic characters which may have appeared in these books. Needless to say I found the task hard and have only been able to come up with one book (Harry Potter).
Now it would seem this ambiguity fiction writers use to imply their characters ethnicity instead of out rightly stating it has caused quite a stir with the press picking up on the string of racist comments made by fans of The Hunger Games who are finding it hard to digest not just the amount of black actors casted as characters assumed to be white but also whether black actors can authentically portray characters written to have integrity. Thus is the case with the character Rue being played by 13 year old black actress Amandla Stenberg, having seen the film (though I have not read the books) Stenberg's character is innocent, kind and very endearing with her death being very emotional and heartbreaking to watch, though from comments made on the social network site by making Rue black this somehow discredits her characters ability to sweet and innocent, with comments including:
"EWW, rue is black? I'm not watching."
“Why does Rue have to be black? Not gonna lie, kinda ruined the movie.”
“(Ok) call me a racist but when I found out Rue was black, her death wasn’t as sad.”
“Why did the producer make all the good characters black?”
Extremely shocking and disturbingly racist comments though it does highlight that film audiences (as well as Hollywood) still hold racist perceptions of the black presence in film, with those that hold these views being more comfortable seeing Octavia Spencer play a 'feisty' maid to white employers over Stenberg playing a well mannered, kind spirited, sweet and innocent young girl.
While I can only assume from the comments made that The Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins didn't specify the ethnicity of her characters, otherwise I'm sure the film's bosses would not have casted the character Rue to be black; it does bring to light how our default ethnic setting seems to be set on white. This white by default line of thinking is the privileges of white supremacy, it's what makes us generally assume that someone with a 'western' name or an ambiguous fictional character in a book are white since not specified otherwise; it’s also what has made us blasé to images of a Britain whitewashed as done on the ITV programme Midsomer Murders or the film Notting Hill.
The harsh reactions towards the casting of The Hunger Games has made me question whether literature needs to be censored more, I'm not saying we should apply over the top political correctness to publishing though why is it that we allow books to perpetuate this racist notion of whitewashing its characters (by default) yet we don't stand for it in films and TV without speaking out? It’s also important to point out that The Hunger Games is aimed at the teenage market, therefore by allowing such books to propagate this racist notion to our youth then as adults they’ll grow inclined to this way of thinking.
Food for thought.