cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (stfu)
So, until this point, the most offensive Star Trek episode I remember was probably that time that displacing an entire planet of NDN colonists turned out to just be the B-plot device for illuminating Wesley Crusher's manpain and allowing him to walk off with the Traveller into the space/time continuum.

And actually that one is probably still worse, to be fair, because at least Chakotay is an NDN character and was allowed to be the main character of this ep.

But so anyway, what happens in Voyager 2x02 "Initiations" is that Chakotay's shuttle is attacked by a 13-year-old Kazon alien who wants to kill him for infringing on their territory. (The Kazon are a tribal culture who wear lumpy foreheads and are painted red, and whose hair is in fuzzy afros with things sticking out of them.) The kid, who is played by the guy who played Nog, fails to kill Chakotay, who saves his life, and then they both get captured by the kid's tribe. The kid, because he failed to kill his designated coming-of-age prey, can now not become a man in his tribe.

The Kazon chief comes down and has a shouting match with Chakotay, who is trying to say that Voyager doesn't want to be these guys' enemy, and utters lines like:
"Everything you are is a threat to us... the Kazon fought long and hard for their independence from uniforms like yours"
"Your uniforms... your laws... your technology... you are not welcome here."

Then Chakotay, THE SINGLE NDN CHARACTER IN THE SHOW (who is actually played by a Mexican American guy) and also a former ANTI-FEDERATION Maquis freedom fighter, is made to stand for the enlightened colonial culture in a split-screen nose-to-nose faceoff... with the angry anti-colonialist violent savage played by a white man in LITERALLY RED redface.

Chakotay thinks 4 small children approximating the ages of the kids from the Sound of Music have been called to the bridge to witness his execution, but it was actually to witness HIM killing the child who failed to kill him. He refuses and escapes, offering the kid the opportunity to flee with him rather than be executed, but the Kazon shoot down their shuttle and they land on the moon and have to stay overnight before being rescued by Voyager. (Chakotay offers the kid the opportunity to kill him in order to gain his adulthood but the kid decides to shoot the chieftain instead and everyone goes away happy except the dead chieftain.)

So anyway, I was thinking that the standoff between the redfaced 'savage' chief and the civilized Federation Chakotay was done deliberately - still gross, but it would have been making an attempt at commentary. However, then I looked the episode up on Wikipedia, and it seems that wasn't the case at all.

Executive producer Michael Piller was displeased with the depiction of the Kazon in Biller's first draft of the episode; where they were supposed to be analogous to street gangs in Los Angeles, they were instead "coming across as warmed-over Klingons." In addition to J[e]ri Taylor's already extensive notes on the draft, Piller suggested Biller get in touch with actual gang members or a police officer who could better clue the writer into street gang culture for the episode. Instead, Biller picked up a copy of Monsta, a book by convicted murderer and former gang member "Monsta" Cody. The book's insight into gang life and culture was a guiding light for Biller's second draft, which he worked up with Piller, endeavoring to set the Kazon apart "from Romulans, Cardassians, and Klingons."[8] wikipedia

(This is probably the source of the symbolic coming-of-age kill, the shifting territories, and the emphasis placed on signs and insignia at the beginning of the episode.)

And then

Michael Piller commented, "Here we were, on the first day of prep and Ken started rewriting that script based on my feelings that we had to get to the guts of what drove the Kazon and they had to be different from Romulans and Cardassians and Klingons." Piller concluded, "It was a choice of settling, or doing what I considered excellent work. The bottom line is we had a better show, because Ken did research."


This episode's story itself was a problematic one for director Winrich Kolbe. He explained, "Storywise it was not the most interesting show I've ever done. It was a push. My problem with the Chakotay character was that I wanted to forget the Indian aspect and make him the Maquis that he was supposed to be. I knew Chakotay would have to eventually cooperate on the ship, but I hoped he would do it unwillingly most of the time. I talked to the writers about it, why we weren't playing that conflict. They went with the Indian thing, which was kind of intriguing, but in my opinion, never paid off because it was done too subtly." memory alpha


I still find it hard to believe that the transposition of the NDN character - especially when the director explicitly underlines that they were "[going] with the Indian thing" - with the Kazon's anti-colonialist speech was accidental. But maybe emphasizing the word "uniforms" repeatedly was supposed to suggest encounters with police (which wouldn't make sense because the uniformed people the Kazon encounter aren't police with authority over them...)? But apparently the producers and writer regard their attempts to make the Kazon into street gangs as successful, and the episode simply an opportunity to develop Chakotay's background and give him some action scenes.

I... well. I don't cry easily, but I did lie limply on the sofa moaning "whyyyy is Hollywood" for a while.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (the point)
In a striking development, one of our thematic leisure activities at this past social action workshop was a viewing of The Help. Because everybody fucking loves a honky, right?

I decided to watch it while given the opportunity for free, even though I well remembered the reviews when it came out, which I read a fair amount about. I thought it would help to have an informed opinion with specific examples available if I had the opportunity to explain what We Need a Honky was later on.

My phone ran out of batteries at the beginning of the movie though, so I ended up liveblogging my reactions on paper...

The Help )

As we were walking out after the movie our teacher asked me if I'd seen The Help before.

I said, "No, but I know about it. I read about it when it came out, because, well, there was a lot of... discussion... because it has a, well, a We Need a Honky... thing. That is, there are all these black people who have really serious problems, that they're also working at, but they can't solve their problems on their own until this sort of magical white character comes and helps them."

"Wellllll, yeah, but it was still a really touching movie!" said my teacher.

cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (Default)
Here is a news story I read this morning:

Teen With Asperger's Arrested: Were Callers Racial Profiling?

(Answer: YES.) It's not suspicious for a white person to sit outside the public library waiting for it to open. Young white men aren't generally assumed by default to "possibly" have a gun in any and all circumstances, including sitting under a tree.

The events which followed are just as obviously due to a clusterfuck of racist stereotyping and institutionalized racism. The young man is now being punished for the grave offense of being a black man who didn't know that it was his place to stand there and take as much verbal harassment as a cop cared to dish out without calling him on it or walking away, and to then submit to the subsequent assault (choking from behind and pepper spray) without fighting back.

For a black man to point out that he is the victim of police harassment is generally to invite the most severe punishment the cop and his colleagues and the local judge can dish out. In this case, eleven days of solitary confinement and interrogation followed by transfer to a mental hospital for the inexplicable circumstance of being "non-responsive and disturbed" after being attacked, abused, and hunted down with dogs.


And that brings me to the woman who used the recent Haitian earthquake as backdrop for her J2 story.

This story has been shocking to a lot of us in fandom, but it's still just one piece in a pattern of institutionalized racism. This author was raised in a culture so saturated in racist stereotypes, racist paternalistic colonialist narratives and narrative tropes that she couldn't recognize them while reproducing them with a nauseatingly breathtaking accuracy and profusion. The racism she's been surrounded by every day of her life led directly to this story: the lack of characters of color, the fact that they are never the main characters, the twisted and biased representations of them. And all those racist things the story is saying are the same things being said everywhere else in our culture (Transformers and Iron Man, just to name a few blockbusters my brothers-in-law have refused to admit were less than awesome when I criticized them on grounds of racism).

These racist stories have real, concrete consequences, because racism has real consequences for the people who are constantly harassed and assaulted and arrested for standing/ sitting under a tree/ driving/ trying to get on a plane while anything other than white. In the news story above, someone no doubt very much like the author of this story, someone who probably didn't know they were racist, saw a young black man sitting outside the public library under a tree in the morning, and instead of thinking he wanted to read a book, they thought that he was lurking dangerously or stalking the elementary school across the street or some shit and that he possibly had a gun, because isn't that what black men do?

Racism isn't just the cop who strangled the boy from behind when he was walking away from verbal threats after submitting willingly to a fruitless search for weapons. Racism is also all the things that taught that caller that young black men are automatically dangerous and probably have guns. And the racist movies and books we read that spread poisonous stereotypes can do just as much harm as that cop can, because without these racist ideas being reproduced all over tv and the books we read and the books we give our children, that anonymous caller might have acted differently.

The racist tropes reproduced in this story - that author's been seeing them all her life. But what if when she was a child, and she read or watched something like this, a bunch of people had stood up then and explained what was wrong with it? Maybe she wouldn't have written that story. That's why it's important and good that fandom reacts in this way - for the people in the anon meme who commented that they didn't see anything wrong with the story at first, but after reading the other comments they got it.

facetofcathy: How could they? How could anyone?

"First and primarily: in order for this story to exist, a person has to be able to sit down in front of the television, watch graphic depictions of horrific tragedy, destruction, pain and death, and react as if they are watching a drama unfold for their enjoyment. [...] There has to be a disconnect between the viewer and the scenes they view, a dulling or total dissolution of empathy for the people harmed in favour of the thrill of watching events unfold in real time. The viewer has to be self-centred. The most important element of the event for them is their emotional response to the images they see on the screen, not the event itself."

furiosity: idefk

"It appears as though some folks are a bit miffed that they can no longer say (or write fiction about) stuff in a growing number of fandom spaces without having to "worry about" offending women, LGBTQ people, people of colour, the differently abled, and members of minority cultures (to name a few).

First of all, let me just say, and I mean this so very sincerely that I will even forgo a sparkly penis background to avoid completely trivialising the message of this very personal opinion of mine:


kanata: various links

"[profile] bridgetmckennit contacted the mods of SPN/J2 Big Bang suggesting that in the future they might want to make "Don't exploit tragedies and/or people of color's cultures for the background of a 'romantic' fic between two white guys" a rule, and they replied back saying "We're not going to across-the-board censor what people create."

I checked the rules post for the fest. Following is a list of ways the mods already "censor" what people can create:

1. Stories must have a minimum length of 20,000 words. There is no maximum length.
3. The central story element must focus on characters from Supernatural OR on Jared and/or Jensen.
3a. In Supernatural fics, at least one character must be a canon character (one seen on-screen). Any Supernatural pairing is allowed.
3b. In RPS, any pairing is allowed, as long as either Jared or Jensen is one of the central paired characters.
FOR EXAMPLE: Misha/Jared or Jensen/Genevieve is allowed, Misha/Genevieve is not.
ADDITIONAL: Yes, you can write a menage or "moresome" as long as Jared and/or Jensen is part of that grouping.
6. AU's are allowed. Crossovers are not.
8. Stories must be beta'd.

But they're not willing to ask people not to be racist.

Yes, I am totally judging them."
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (cute)
- I've noticed that Tumblr is really white. If I were talking about its userbase, that would be okay, because of course sociologically speaking social networking sites grow via extant social networks. To put it another way, it's quite possible that only the really-really-white social network is present there thus far. (The fact that it seems to be all young anglo and francophone and Spanish-speaking hipsters supports this.) Anyway, that's one thing, but the problem is that, in its full-time reproduction of pop culture imagery, the userbase tends to whitewash pop culture even further. To take an example, images of successful young actresses and fashion models are everywhere on Tumblr, yet black fashion models are severely underrepresented, even those who are far more famous and successful than many of the white (or mixed-race or latina but styled as white) models whose images proliferate. There's a blog called "fuckyeahvsmodels" which posts a wide variety of pictures of Victoria's Secret models, but almost none of Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell, two of VS's most famous models of all time (not to mention the younger black supermodels who have walked for them in recent seasons).

+ Has inspired me to search the internet for more images of said black models and actresses starting with the ones whose absence I immediately noticed (after the success of "Telephone", Tumblr's been inundated with a fresh stream of images of Lady Gaga, who's been on tour in Australia and caught in candids most days and in on-stage snapshots most nights; but while the image stills of Beyoncé from the video are being reproduced enthusiastically, it hasn't led to a huge wave of other pictures of Beyoncé, who is one of the most successful women in American entertainment today, and whom there are plenty of images of. This is fairly contrary to the way Tumblr typically works, where buzz about current movies and tv shows drastically affects the level of picspam about people). Anyway, the plus side is that I've discovered tons more gorgeous models and my "girls" image directory is bursting at the seams.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (sarcastic)
Even though I haven't WATCHED Glee or White Collar, I have read enough of people's intelligent and highly legitimate political criticisms on race and gender lines (you can find most of these posts via [community profile] metafandom, probably), and in light of them, seeing a marked proliferation of those bookmarks and recs popping up in different places makes me sad - not in the specific, but in the general, about fandom's trends and what they say about its tastes.

Do new fandom reccing trends really indicate what fandom's general watcher-response pattern was? You can't say that with 100% certainty, of course. But a clearly observable upswing in fannish enthusiasm for a source text at least means people are forgiving it, even if they are still critically observing its flaws, and choosing to write about it.

One could charitably assume a motive of textual healing.

In practice, though, my observations have been that the problematic aspects of the text are usually reflected in the body of fanon, even when a strong critical discourse is emerging in non-fiction posts on the topic (a prime example: Uhura meta after Reboot release, versus Uhura treatment in early Reboot fanon, which was so bad that it led to a second wave of critical discourse... this time aimed at the fanon).

My possibly over-cynical view is that in general, a blossoming of sudden fannish engagement does tend to amount, in the fanon meta-text that emerges, to a reinforcement if not an endorsement of the flaws in the canon.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (she's so refined)
On vacay my cousin Amanda took us to a favorite gift shop, the Kansas City Area ten thousand villages, a non-profit volunteer-staffed store selling fair trade objets d'art from third world countries. A lot of it was much like what you'd find at the Riverkids Shop (they even had the same recycled Vietnamese fishfood bags, of which I already own one), but the store's bigger - a wall of scarves and bags, two color-grouped walls of jewelry, and a big showroom full of everything from musical instruments and umbrellas of recycled aluminum cans to big carved wood and steel drum sculptures. I'd quite like to have one nearby.

The staff was of middle-aged church fete ladies in stiff halos of hair straight out of one of those space-helmet salons, dowdy matchy-match pantsuits and fair trade accessories, as if the Women's Group of an aging Unitarian Universalist congregation were meeting behind the counter (not unlikely, in fact). The whole time we were shopping, the gentle hum of their debate over sparkly third-world Christmas ornaments for display burbled along behind us.

One lady in particular, however, kept breaking in with the others to ask them, "Is this ethnic?" "So do you think this one is ethnic?" "Is it ethnic, do you think?"

I'm not sure precisely what it was that gave me such a strong feeling of revulsion - some variant of Nice White Lady syndrome perhaps? - aside from the build-up of lip-biting that nearly resulted in my telling her, "EVERYTHING IS ETHNIC IN YOUR EXOTICISING, 'ETHNIC' SHOP, YOU PRETENTIOUS YUPPIE." Because, I mean, I'm glad the Nice White Ladies are volunteering there and would happily shop the fuck out of that store. But still. Can't they have a consciousness-raising or something?
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (we're all mad here)
I found this book by accident. Someone on my dreamwidth rlist had linked to the author's blog, where she gave a scathing review of the newish film District 9 on race lines. Okorafor-Mbachu is a Nigerian living in the US, and the race representation issues she detailed, and especially the portrayal of Nigerians in the film, so thoroughly disgusted me that I decided then and there not to see it. I should have disseminated the link, because I've since been bothered by a number of people talking excitedly about the film and several brushing aside my concerns when I brought them up ("She probably didn't really understand... that he was doing that on purpose and using the aliens as an allegory", someone told me. Yes, I'm sure this African professor of literature and published SF author was underqualified to understand an SF film set in Africa! To my issues with representation I was told by someone else that "there are white people in South Africa too". Oh! Nevermind! No biggie, then!) So, before you move on to my review of her book, READ THIS POST.

Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu: My response to District 419…I mean District 9. ;-)

Now, on to the happier issue. While reading this review at her blog, I saw the gorgeous cover art of her newest YA novel in the sidebar, and immediately clicked through to the description. I liked what I saw, and I need more sf by authors of color to read, so I ordered it. I ended up reading the book on the plane to America and finishing it while on vacation.

Here is the summary at the author's website, which is rather better than the one on the back of the book (shocker, right?):

In the northern Ooni Kingdom fear of the unknown runs deep, and children born dada are rumored to have special powers. Thirteen year old Zahrah Tsami feels like a normal kid - she grows her own flora computer; has mirrors sewn onto her cloths; and stays clear of the Forbidden Greeny Jungle.

But unlike other kids in the village of Kirki , Zahrah was born with the telling dadalocks. Only her best friend, Dari, isn't afraid of her - even when something unusual begins happening to her - something that definitely makes her different.

The two friends determine to investigate, edging closer and closer to danger. When Dari's life is endangered, Zahrah must face her worst fears all by herself, including the very thing that makes her different.

Read more... )

Original cover illustration by Amanda Hall, found at

In fact, I've just discovered the author has several other books out, and I'm definitely going to be buying them as well.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (snap)
As always, read [personal profile] naraht for the comprehensive linkage.

  • [personal profile] sami: Back to Patricia Wrede and the Thirteenth Child: You Haven't Read This Post! "And in any case, you can get all you need from the author's description of the premise and her motivation for it[...] further verification isn't really needed, because you can get it from Wrede's own statement."

  • [personal profile] spiralsheep: In which it's rarely a good idea to tell me to shut up about social justice "'Can We NOT Do Racefail Again, Please?' "We"? I'd be only too happy if there was no more racefail. In order to achieve that the racefailers need to stop failing so we can all stop having to deal with the consequences of their fail. Which is presumably what your post is going to be about, right? I mean, you wouldn't turn around and ask anti-racist activists to be silent about racism for your own personal convenience, would you? Oh, wait...."

  • [profile] gwailowrite: Ah, the racefail continues on "It's too hard to include Native peoples because then I'll actually have to deal with them. I don't like the stereotypes but it's just to damn haaaaaaaaard to do anything about those stereotypes. Ya know, I could write about them honestly, counter the stereotypes, and actually include Native people in my magical mystery tour of the early U.S., but that's so haaaaaaaaaard! [...] Oh, and while we're at it...why not get rid of that whole pesky slavery thing. It was like wrong and I like hate it and all, but, ya know, it would be haaaaaaaard to actually address it."

  • [personal profile] holyschist: Assorted thoughts on MammothFail '09 "[ profile] catmoran said this: 'There are only two reasons I can think of to eliminate an entire race of people from alternate history fiction: to explore the impact it has on everything else, or because the author is a racist ass.'"

cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (<.<)
[personal profile] isilya and I were using our mothers' limited ability to grasp racism as we understand the concept as a tool to try and grasp the thought processes going on in MammothFail (the witty new name I've been seeing for what I previously called Racefail:Colonialism).

[personal profile] isilya: If they don't admit that well intentioned people do racist things, then the people are just well intentioned full stop!
[personal profile] cimorene: Right, and racism that seems to come from well-intentioned people is either an oxymoron, or a cruel and strange artefact of particular unfortunate circumstances - such as the entirety of natural history and logic, the existence of N.A. natives, and the discrediting of the hunted-to-extinction theory, in the case of Wrede. (Those were beyond her control, and just happen to systematically make it more likely that many people's feelings will be hurt on racial lines as a result of her book; that's a sad fact, but not her fault!).
[personal profile] isilya: You should blog that.

These are the logical contortions you must go through to grapple with the situation if you reject the "racism as an institution" concept.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (eyebrow)
A very special pair of shoes for Patricia Wrede, because however offensive this portrayal is, hey - it's still less offensive than your book!

(These are "Cowboys & Indians" by Draven.)

ETA: "If you wanted to make them correct, you could erase the design on the right shoe and rename them 'Cowboys & that's it'." - [personal profile] naukhel. OH SNAP.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (sad)
[personal profile] isilya points out this statement made by Patricia Wrede about The 13th Child:

The *plan* is for it to be a "settling the frontier" book, only without Indians (because I really hate both the older Indians-as-savages viewpoint that was common in that sort of book, *and* the modern Indians-as-gentle-ecologists viewpoint that seems to be so popular lately, and this seems the best way of eliminating the problem, plus it'll let me play with all sorts of cool megafauna). I'm not looking for wildly divergent history, because if it goes too far afield I won't get the right feel.

I'm assuming that you get the several things that are wrong with this statement; I'm not dissecting them here.

I talked to my mom yesterday, and while she made pretty much all the same defenses that LMB trotted out in her 1st comment (ie nothing about jumping to conclusions vs. evidence and definitely nothing about "talk is cheap", arguing on the net, or charity; definitely not "that's not wildly divergent"), she did grasp that the absence of natives was a less-than-ideal condition, although she wasn't willing to see the connection to institutionalised racism. My mom is a second-wave white feminist from the same generation as Wrede and Bujold, and in fact, has lots in common with them besides just them being two of her favorite writers, I reflected afterward. Demographically, I shouldn't be surprised that their views would be similar - and I wasn't really all that shocked by the things my mom said in the conversation because I've known her and had political conversations with her all my life.

A few insights from this conversation:

  1. If I'm not surprised that my own mother, whom I have a long history of reasons to respect as an anti-racist and advocate for social justice, holds these views, why should I be surprised that LMB would hold them, when I don't even know her personally?

  2. I'm not going to cut off all contact with my mother, obviously, but I'm not going to let that by, just like I don't let it by when someone uses "gay" as an insult. I'm simply going to challenge any racism I see coming from her.

  3. Why what my mother and LMB were doing in defending Wrede simply because they're prejudiced in her favor is bad: If it's more important to you to be able to pretend that (your friend, an artist whose work you love) could never be an asshole than to acknowlege that a creative work is racist and causing pain to people of color... then yes, that is bad. It's denying the voices and experiences of people of color, saying "Your pain and the facts and ethics of this situation are less important to me than the survival of my clearly counter-factual black-and-white worldview in which people whom I like can do no wrong, even unintentionally". It's siding with racism as an institution. It's saying "You can't win, because the rest of the majority are always going to side with the oppressors because those are their friends."
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (murder hurts more)
[personal profile] naraht has been collecting links for a new round of RaceFail which I have seen called RaceFail:Colonialism, or something like that. I haven't seen any one-sentence summations of the sequence of events going around, but basically Patricia C. Wrede, beloved YA fantasy author, has a new YA alternate history out:

This is an alternate version of our world which is full of magic, and where America (“Columbia”) was discovered [by Europeans] empty of people but full of dangerous animals, many of them magical.

...and some people pointed out ways in which this was problematic, causing some other people (including Wrede's friend, well-known FSF writer Lois McMaster Bujold) to react with the Tone Argument, the Talk is Cheap argument, the Censorship argument, etc.

Patricia C. Wrede has always been a Euro-centric writer, which is common and even expected in the field of high fantasy. You might recognize her name, if you're unversed in SFF, from my user profile, where the beginning of Dealing With Dragons stands me in lieu of a biography blurb. My favorite novel from age 6, DWD is part of children's fantasy The Enchanted Forest Chronicles and stars Princess Cimorene, who was certainly the most important role model for me as a child (not counting people I knew personally - obviously my dad and mom were my actual most important role models).

If you Google "Cimorene fanfiction", all of the top page of results - minus one - have to do with me, not with Wrede. I've been Cimorene online for about 9 years now, so... I feel I should speak, although I have nothing to say yet that hasn't been said already, often by passionate and incredibly long-suffering fans of color who are less likely than I to accidentally wound someone through their own unconscious racism. As I read all of [personal profile] naraht's links, though, I post the ones that speak to me the most, with descriptive notes, to Twitter. Here are my links and notes:

cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (Default)
Not that it's not usually also offensive - but how sad is it that US tv treatment of Vudun/Santaría is typically less offensive than its treatment of the Roma?

Too bad, too, because the special 200th ep of CSI had an awesome guest director and absolutely gorgeous camerawork. At least it was mostly limited to offensive exoticisation in the "scary primitive people doing tribal dances" scene, as opposed to suggesting that they, for example, kill white parents and steal their babies (thx, Criminal Minds, for giving everyone else something to live down to).
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (sign)
While Avatar: The Last Airbender is busy filming on Greenland with white actors in actual native villages, Danish designer Peter Jensen's last collection using the traditional dress of Greenland for decoration sparks protest in the streets in Greenland.

The reporter for UK paper The Independent, like the designer, doesn't get what the problem is. The article's opening line is "Peter Jensen is probably the last designer on earth one would expect to trigger protests. It would be like campaigning against fluffy kittens or baby rabbits... Stop the bunnies, they are too cute!", and she moves on to quote the designer being "shocked" that his "loving tribute" could piss people off right after the extremely simple explanation:

Jensen thinks the protesters may be particularly sensitive because he is Danish, and Greenland was a colony of Denmark until 1979[...].


British women fashion bloggers are consumed with sympathy for the poor designer's victimisation by the 30-person POC hordes. Catwalk Queen thinks "Jensen's show was nothing like [genuinely offensive fashion appropriation of native dress]" because it "came across as a warm-hearted celebration of Greenlandic culture". And Style Bubble's headline is "Protect Peter!"; she goes on to invoke the whole Bingo card against those brown Greenlander women who, according to her unsubstantiated claim, are sending him death threats. Besides, Jensen totally went on vacation to Greenland to "research" the collection, and he looked cute doing it (which she bafflingly says straight-up is the most important concern for her)! She "for one [is] glad Jensen has returned to what he does best; unabashedly cute and immersed into a theme that is personal to him" because his aunt was an exchange student in Greenland in the 70s.

Wait. Seriously?

He thinks that Greenland's national dress is cute, and his aunt went there as an exchange student in the 70s when the country was still a colony owned by her homeland, so it's supposed to be okay for him to make an eroticised high fashion version of it to sell to white people outside Greenland, and that's supposed to earn him a Boy Scout badge? And all white right-thinking people are supposed to shake our heads at the POCs who failed to show the appropriate gratitude for being "lovingly" appropriated by him?

I particularly like the intimation that it's only cultural appropriation if a tribute wasn't intended: it's not stealing unless you don't like it, apparently. In what circumstance would these concerned slim blonde ladies consider a high fashion version UN-loving? Considering fashion is supposed to sell, it can't come with a "THIS IS UGLY" label. Maybe if the item being appropriated was being made fun of - like if it was made into a parody of itself? Like for example, if a traditional snowboot was resculpted into a stiletto-heeled hooker boot?

Traditional Dress photo from Greenland.comPeter Jensen's hookerboots from the

cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (Default)
These are the tabs that I've kept open in the past few days.

First, [ profile] tablesaw's O HAI RACEFAILZ: Notes on reading an internet conflict, about the nature of the conflict, what's happened so far, what's important about it. Also this thread in the comments, where various commenters answer the charge that it's all wank because no "lasting good" has come from it.

[ profile] 2ce's Maybe I'll be a Southron of Harad Someday, also about why this is important:

People of color are being systematically made to feel unwelcome and unsafe in science fiction and fantasy, whether it be as authors, as editors, or as fans. This is a major problem! It is a major problem for me and you. [...]

That’s right: This is the I ♥ RaceFail post. Some of my friends who’re aware of RaceFail ’09 have told me they’re avoiding reading about it, and I think that’s a mistake.

[ profile] stewardess's Reckless Eyeballing in the 21st Century, about the broader context of racism in modern US society.

One of the handiest things about white privilege is that you can act like a complete jackhole and not even think about why, instead derailing by putting the blame on mean people of color, or on recent unpleasant events which made you cranky. To consign the derailment to the trash heap it belongs in, it's necessary to examine why white people clutch their authority so desperately. [...]

That's because Black people are still violently suppressed in the U.S. Sometimes this is called "the war on drugs," or, as Bill Clinton phrased it, "the end of welfare as we know it." The U.S. doesn't have armed slave overseers who kill with impunity any more unless you count the police. Instead, we put Black men behind bars and execute them. [...]
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (>.<)
I e-mailed my Mom, who is a giant Robin McKinley fan, about this (shorter Robin McKinley: Obama isn't black because I say he isn't black enough and anyway, only a woman president would be truly exciting).

My mom has always been my role-model in terms of political and social consciousness. She used to be president of the large New Orleans chapter of the National Organisation for Women; my parents took me on numerous marches including the the march on Washington for the Equal Rights Amendment and various Take Back the Night marches when I was little. But she responded to my email with

well, i am not ready to boycott her for thinking Obama is not black enough-- he Is NOT a liberal, except by the definitions of Reactionary republicans. I love her writing and am ready to give her the benefit of the doubt. It would be nice if my favorite authors had the sense to shut up, though

This hurt me in the foundations of my all-important Parental Pedestal (ask me about my over-identification with my parents and dependency issues some other time), and that's why I poured out this essay on What Was Wrong With McKinley.

This isn't about Obama's politics: it's about the right of people to define their own ethnicity or racial identification, and especially the fact that members of the racial majority don't have the right to define whether someone is oppressed enough.

An expression of white privilege is an exercise of racism even if it is done without racist intent or consciousness. )
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (jewish)
So I was dabbling in the Garak/Bashir section of Trekiverse, the old-school archive of ASCEM (the Star Trek erotica mailing list whose ancestor was actually on usenet. Star Trek is always old school)!

And I have read, in the past few days, at least five stories where Garak and Bashir celebrate Christmas.

Really, the shocking thing to me isn't that these stories exist, but that they exist unquestioned: the fact that until today, it never occured to me that it was strange.

Here is Dr. Bashir:

He is played by Siddig el Fadil, of whom here are some more pictures:

Siddig el Fadil Siddig el Fadil in Syriana

You probably see what I'm getting at here, but in case you don't, it's BASHIR AIN'T WHITE. It seems painfully obvious, but there you have it. In the other screencaps just above this text, we see him as Prince Feisal (of Lawrence of Arabia fame) and in Syriana. He was also in Kingdom of Heaven. You probably see a pattern here.

To digress from the actor to the character for a moment, the name is Bashir - it's not exactly "Smith" or "Robinson". Why, then, the assumption that he is Christian? That, in a Star Trek future which has given no canonical display of modern Earth Christianity, a brown character with a Middle Eastern name and a British accent played by a Muslim would try to introduce his alien lover to Christmas?

This reminds me of [ profile] miriam_heddy's recent post about Jewishness on Numbers, The Lone Jew in Fandom.

Numbers is a show where the two main characters are brothers named Eppes, and where both characters and their father are played by Jewish men; but (presumably prior to the canonical exploration of Don's Jewish faith) it's also possessed of a fandom who are surprisingly hostile to the idea of the characters' Jewishness. Miriam even posted a quote by one of the creators, Nick Fallaci, espousing the tv producer equivalent of colour-blindness, with some bizarre digressions:

Yes, the Eppes look Jewish. And they probably are a Jewish family. But that's just not an element of the show. The show is about an FBI agent, his younger brother the math genius ... and their father. Making assumptions about people being Jewish based on their physical appearance can be risky. First of all, Judiaism is a religion, not a nationality or ethnicity. There are Jews all over the world of many different ethnicities and nationalities. Just because someone "looks" Jewish doesn't always mean they are Jewish. And the opposite is true as well.

Because Christian is the default, with secular [Christian] the overwhelming majority in his world, Nick Fallaci - like the fans who won't accept that a probable Jewish character is Jewish without "canon evidence" - are so attached to it that they appear threatened by the alternative. Fallaci, at least, in the longer quote you can see in Miriam's post, adopts a didactic and condescending tone that clearly communicates that his feathers are ruffled by the mere question.

To put it another way, the default secular Christianity of all people is so entrenched as the norm in these people's minds that they will actively fight back against the conclusion that a character portrayed by a Jew is a Jew. This is not even colour-blind casting, on second thought - it seems more extreme than that, as if it's gone through colour-blindness and popped out the other side, into Super-Bleach-O-World where Jews are Christian until proven Jewish and brown-skinned Asians are white until proven Asian (reminds me of Robin McKinley's bizarre conclusion that President Obama isn't black because she doesn't consider him black enough, so she calls him a "heavily-tanned half-Caucasian"). In the face of this kind of conviction, what could possibly constitute adequate proof?
cimorene: (gr arg)
Here's the last time real life smacked me in the face with cultural appropriation and I had to think about it.

The internal documentation of a major Swedish clothing chain talks about their new advertising campaign for spring/summer called "Marrakech." The documentation explains that the campaign consists of a little video loop of their blonde and blue-eyed Swedish spokesmodel walking through the streets of Marrakech (one of the most famous cities in the North African Kingdom of Morocco) - surrounded by local colour - wandering up into and through the ruins of a Moroccan castle - dressed in ethnic garments. (Now, these are items from the Swedish megachain's line, so I need hardly say that while they are probably "ethnic", the chances are vanishingly small that they are either of Moroccan style or manufacture). That's right: we've taken this super-blond Viking chick who represents SWEDEN (even though Sweden and the rest of the Nordic countries have significant immigrant populations from Africa and the Middle East, not to mention that they then sell their shit all up and down Eastern Europe where nobody is remotely Swedish) - and then we have dressed this chick in vague "ethnic" garments that seem exotic to us although we don't actually know where there from, because all of you non-Northern-Europeans are really the same, right? And then we have flown her in a plane to actual Africa to appeal to your desire to vacation somewhere warm, to take advantage of the natural romance of the exotic - but don't worry, we have cleared all the icky or scary foreign and African things about Morocco away, like for example, actual residents of Marrakech!

Yay, right? Well, strangely enough, I was bitching about this to Brother Windows the other day and he seemed to totally get it, but just now when Wax said that she didn't want to see anything called Slumdog Millionaire because hello, SLUM DOG? and her Indian-American best friend, he said "What?" and "So, what, are you mad because it was made by white people?" and when she tried to explain that hate speech is never okay and it's too late to go in "reclaiming it" (which, protip, you can't do unless you are OF THE GROUP IN QUESTION) after you've introduced yourself with "HATE SPEECH MILLIONAIRE"... yeah, when she said that, remarkably concisely, he said... "Yawn." Oh, and also that you can't judge whether it was okay for them to use hate speech or not until you watch the movie, to see if they use it respectfully enough or something, I assume. I don't know. I don't get it.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (ferrero rocher)
[ profile] miriam_heddy has made a post about silence and listening called Linking to Listen: Some thoughts on listening while white.

How do we know when people are shutting up? Well, we can tell by their silence.

But how do we know that they're listening? Ah, well that second part is trickier.
In person, we can tell someone is listening by their expression and body language, even when they don't say a word.

Online, listening is invisible unless we speak and say, "Thank you" or "I heard that" or "This!"

So we have hit upon a conundrum.

This articulated a lot of the thoughts I've been having as I've seen more and more public and protected posts in the last few days about silence vs speaking out, from several angles. Some posts about this that I am not free to link to publically have really stirred me emotionally; there will always be silence, and silence is not inherently bad, but it's increasingly clear that speaking out in defense of silence can easily get ugly, even unintentionally.

I've seen [ profile] stoneself quoted a few places now saying

it isn't that silence equals consent. that's a really stupid stance.
silence has an effect.
the inertia of things is in one direction.
silence maintains the course of inertia.

[ profile] stoneself has here articulated clearly the intent of "silence equals consent" as a slogan. It means that those who are silent appear to be one with the group of all others who are silent - and there is no way to measure who out of that group isn't happy with where we are. Only people who speak out can be identified and heard and counted. An institution, such as racism, is always the status quo; the point of "silence equals consent" to my mind is simply that, to remind us that the status quo is the default, and that trying to change an institution is a big undertaking, and that problematising the institution is an important step that requires many voices. (Thus "Three people spoke out for the way things are, and three people spoke out against them" can easily appear to be "Only three people spoke out against the s.q.", particularly if the reporter is s.q.-positive.)

(Edited slightly to rewrite last paragraph in an attempt to clarify my point.)
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (determined)
Here's a crazy thought I had today: original Star Trek was one of the best racially representative shows in science fiction tv. It certainly did better than TNG (the only black member one of 2 black regulars on the cast was a savage alien - extra points if you've reimagined aliens who originally allegorically represented the USSR as ultra-violent, hulking black guys with a tribal bent; the other's a blind sidekick, essentially, the way he's usually written as Data's bff, whose sole romantic encounter is with one of the vanishingly-few black women they meet! And Whoopi's Guinan is a magical, sexless, ALIEN negro who tells fortunes, provides motherly advice as well as sassy straight-talking, and wears a robey-muumuu thing that I'm pretty sure is also offensive) and DS9 (one Indian, one black guy who is essentially the governor of a huge-ass COLONY and a diplomat, but is somehow militarily ranked below Picard and Kirk; a bunch of aliens, but none of them dark-skinned; of the two newly-introduced races we have Bajorans who are white, and Cardassians who are PAINTED GREY but always played by white people!)

I believe Voyager had a black Vulcan and a North American native (as well as maybe an Asian cast member? Am I remembering that right?). BSG has some racial diversity from what I've seen (I've not watched it myself), but the Stargate franchise has always been pretty abysmal (Teal'c: he's black, alien, AND a magical negro! And let's not start on Ronon and Teyla's treatment in canon).

So I mean, essentially, race has not made progress in mainstream tv sf since 1964.


cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (Default)


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