That’s Problematic

I tend to move in left wing circles of friends. This is great because it means we very rarely need to tell one another to stop using homophobic language or to treat the female participants of the conversation as full individuals, it also means we tend agree on most issues. So, how is this a problem? Well, in order to become more knowledgeable about the issues we discuss (gender, sexuality, race, economics, government, politics, etc) having a cross flow of ideas is invaluable.

Think about cross ventilation in your home or apartment in the summer. Imagine how the room becomes unbearable with a lone fan sitting in the window blowing hot air into the hot room. What can initially seem as a joy in and of itself (at least you have a fan, or  a space for liberal discussion) that joy does not last.

I’ve noticed that when I’m in these groups, one of us will comment on how something is problematic. Disney’s Pocahontas, for example. I might say that I love that film, but I am well aware it is problematic. Another of my friends will agree with me and we move on. In short, we’ve identified a problem,  but failed to unpack what’s actually wrong. All it would take for us to have a discussion and not just throw around vague opinions we both agree on, is for my friend to ask me, “how do you see Pocahontas as problematic?”

Because maybe I’m thinking about the affront to Native American culture when the white men leave in peace at the end, denying hundreds of years of continued abuse, brutality and racism. Maybe my friend is thinking about the sexualization and exoticization of Pocahontas as a character. Maybe another friend jumps in and talks about two-spirit ideas of gender in Native American culture.

Pocahontas

 

Suddenly “problematic” has branched off into many veins and sparked a conversation where a cross flow of ideas can take place.

Unpack your ideas and don’t be afraid to be challenged or to challenge others. Ask questions to better understand another’s views. There is no need to sit with that same one fan blowing hot air. Open up another window, turn on the AC and let the ideas circulate. The conversation will be far more fascinating and your opinions far more developed.

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Mountain Dew and other forms of Racism and Misogyny

I know it’s been on the news and around the internet a lot, but in case you haven’t heard, Mountain Dew had to pull an online commercial on account of it being racist and misogynistic. Below is a link to the commercial and news commentary about the ad.

I take multiple issues with the ad and also the news briefing afterwards.

The ad is both racist and misogynistic, but they work  hand in hand and cannot be spoken about separately. Everything about this commercial is grounded in stereotypes. All the criminals are black men because obviously, only black men commit crimes. It’s the same logic that all criminal black men are gangsters and abuse women. It’s the same logic that on one hand says we’ve moved into a post-racial world because of Obama and in the same breath compares black men to animals.

In a more subtle fashion, I’m interested that those newscasters failed to mention that while the women’s assailant could only be black, she herself was white. The notion of black men attacking white women has kept our modern age secretly grounded in Jim Crow because we refuse to become racially aware and progressive. The message of this commercial was not “buy Mountain Dew” but “black men are criminals and animals; white women are fragile and overly emotional; the white male law officer is in charge.”

The racism is not more or less important than the misogyny. They feed off of each other.  While the racism pits the good guys in white against the criminals in black, the misogyny pits men against women, and the battered woman is harassed on all sides. Yes, the goat is trying to intimidate her, but so is the white man behind her. She is placed in the role of absolute weakness: physically because of her injuries and emotionally because of her harassment and eventual breakdown.

By this analysis, the ad says it’s okay for men of both races to intimidate women, but when the black man does it he is demonized in a police line up, when the white man does it he has authority behind him. Racial and patriarchal hierarchies are kept in tact and are perpetuated by the ad.

There are not two different fights raging for equality. There is no racial equality camp and gender/sexual equality camp. If we are for equality, we are fighting for everyone to have the same human rights. It helps no one to separate racism and misogyny into two categories because they support each other and they divide us. We need to unite under a banner of human dignity for all because this separation is helping no one but those who wish to uphold the racial and patriarchal standard.