Thursday, May 31, 2012

Incomplete Thoughts + Reflections

When I first came to the USA, I hated Black Americans. I didn't realize I hated them, but I did. Mostly because I didn't know what the fuck was going on, and they seemed to. But everytime I was in a place, as time passed and I got older, to ask what was going on? I got told I needed to accept I was black.

And I didn't. I couldn't.

The way it was phrased didn't come across to me as anything different than what White Americans had told me the moment I showed up; lose the accent, lose the references, stop being so strange, watch our shows, talk our talk, give up who you are.

I wouldn't.

I wasn't Black - I was Caribbean. I was Trini. I was Bajan one generation removed and naturalized.

And Black Americans kept telling me - No. You're Black.

And I kept saying, though not in these exact words. Fuck you. I will not give up who I am. I will not give up what I am.

I've mentioned before in other places, how much it cost me, how much it still hurts to have given up so much to accept being Black. Because you see, I had to. I was clueless for too damn long and it was hurting me. I couldn't see the fists punching me, couldn't understand why, it all seemed nonsensical, because I couldn't see the pattern. And I couldn't see the pattern, because the pattern started, with me being Black.

My father told me a while back, that coming to the USA meant that when he awaked in the morning, he's no longer a man. He's a Black man. And he had to come to accept that. Embrace it. Live with it. Deal with it.

There's a lot of layers; just the tip involving model minority issues, colorism, immigration issues some Black Americans don't think they need to pay attention to because it doesn't affect them and more, bound up in my family's confusion in dealing with being Black and relating to people who identified as Black.

There's a lot of cultural issues. Again something my father has mentioned and I too discovered on my own. Coming from a culture where the one who keeps their temper and is the most reasonable is King, to a culture where the one who's most aggressive, is seemingly most powerful, is King; Our politeness looks like weakness. Someone else's aggression looks like a lack of self-control.

I think there's a lot of confusion too. Maybe not as an adult. I don't know. I'm speaking from my memories as a child. From being told about Black American Culture, and Pan-Africanness and not at all getting it. Because I was lucky enough to grow up in an atmosphere where I took certain foods, clothing, music & rhythms, ways of talking and relating for granted.

Then came a time, a couple of years ago, maybe a decade or so ago? When I started listening. Don't know how or why it happened. Maybe it was that a Black Female Voice, a strong voice, sounded familiar. Or maybe it was because those voices were talking about something that wasn't about difference; but something I could identify with; something I had begun to experience and consciously recognize.

They were talking about being black and female and looked down upon. About expectations, and being touched without permission, and the random hair fondling - sweet heaven's mercy the random hair and skin fondling. But they were also talking about the atrocities of slavery and how that echoed through the generations.

I'd just begun to make sense of my own uncomfortable feelings about having my personal boundaries transgressed, not just by family members/dysfunctional dynamics surrounded extended family etc... I also knew the history they mentioned.

I knew about it. I'd grown up learning that history. It was my history. But it was also theirs. And it was no longer abstract, because they weren't talking about it, the way I'd heard it in USian schools - at a remove. They were talking about it, the way I'd heard it growing up; real and painful and gritty and blood ties.

So, I started listening. And listening. And listening.

And it made me feel a little better, not just to realize I'd given up (or felt like it) who I was to accept the label black for a reason even if I hadn't been able to articulate it. But that I didn't have to give up anything at all. That there was a term - multi-racial. That there were people aware of what it meant to be multi-racial and the child of multi-racial parents, and to live in a state of culture fusion.

That there were people who while stressing that here and now, in this place and culture I found myself living in, I needed to understand I was Black - these people weren't phrasing it to me as something I had to choose and something I had to give up. And I was old enough by then to understand it for myself and not just take an adults word that that is what they wanted.

But I was listening. And these voices talked and dealt with pain and anger. And hearing it, it helped me identify mine. Because I listened. Because I respected them because previously I had been listening. And I wondered 'Why are they so angry? Why are they so hurt?' And then I realized, I was hurt and angry too. I just hadn't put a name to it, confronted it, lived in it. It'd been pushed to the back of my mind. But here these women were, doing more than surviving, doing more than living behind a scab, numb and unknowing.

The thing about being angry though? About acknowledging hurt and wrongs? It's a point wherein you don't forget anymore. You don't ignore. You notice things. You notice a lot of things, and you start to interpret what you see, without that buffer in the way to divert things to a 'safer place'.

In hindsight, it makes sense that as I grew stronger and recovered from an abusive childhood, I'd incorporate what I was learning into my every-day life. I'd begin to recognize there were abusers I'd been giving a pass to. People and institutions hurting me, that I hadn't wanted to admit were doing what they were doing.

I don't know if the voices that guided me were going through similar with professional help, or if they, perhaps like both our foremothers had to figure it out for themselves, bit by painful bit and imprint the picture on their minds so they wouldn't forget.


Aside: There's a point here I'm not sure how to make succinctly let, about learning in fits and starts about Black American Culture, Being Black In Northern America. That it is a culture, with a history and dynamics of it's own. That it's not all at all about loss and lack and the past. It's a living, growing culture, constantly under attack and being co-opted. But my understanding about that, came about as I began to understand better the concept of cultural imperialism and dominance, and what older relatives had been fighting against. That fighting imperialism and loss of something they'd held on to through the generations, became associated with pushing against ALL USians. All North Americans.

When Black American Culture gets co-opted and pushed as 'just plain ole modern Americana', if you don't know the history? You, or at least I, didn't see a difference. Someone promoting their culture in a certain way, seemed like someone promoting their culture over mine or, unfortunately, not having any culture to lose and try to hold onto in the first place.

It's been hitting me hard, that even now, there's this 'tower of babel' affect going on, actively being promoted, that keeps or at least can keep, various African Descended Peoples from talking to and with one another. It goes on in intra PoC ethnicities as well, because the medium, the messenger is tainted - it's oftentimes being controlled by other than any of us.

Dub & Rap I both started hearing, noticing at around the same time in the 80's. I'm not someone to know which came first, or discuss the difference in rhythms, beat and cadence. I do know that the moment dub became associated with 'American Rap' - it didn't matter to the adults in my immediate surroundings that it was homegrown. It became associated with things - with violent things. And these days I find myself wondering a lot at approach and perception - because if what was being discussed in rap, had been sung in Calypso - I don't think many in my personal extended family would so much have blinked; respect your mothers and the women in your life? Embrace creativity? Remember the past? Hold your head up high? Fight the powers that bind you? Money's important but shouldn't be too important? Sometimes you just want to shake it loose and dance? Y'know, Old School Original Rap?

But that association, with a power that was changing a culture, that consistently seemed to say 'you're good and quaint for a vacation, but really, why are you so backwards'?

Now I understand it as same shit, only slightly different 'flavour' as 'But Black Americans ain't ever done nothing, created nothing, had nothing...etc...' Or as I like to call it ' Ragtime, Jazz & Honky Tonk just sprang out out of thin ass air, cause America is just like that - bullshit'.

TL;DR? I personally took the time to listen, and found a community filled with people I could talk to, with and about certain things. But it's the listening that's the hardest part. In my case it was unfortunately having enough experience to identify with what I'd heard, but until I could recognize the experiences were the same or similar? I just had to trust someone else's lived experience. I had to trust there was a reason for the anger and be in a place to recognize that anger is a damn healthy reaction in the first place. And a healthy reaction doesn't hurt anyone who acknowledges it for what it is.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Assumed Consent To Objectification

Thoughts come at me from all over. In this case, watching a video about the Mass Effect 3 ending a few weeks ago, I heard someone break down the meaning of informed choice / informed decision, for why the endings are horrible; namely that without knowing the full consequences of your actions, without being able to interrogate for more information, any choice you make is no real choice because you cannot internally follow a line of logic to a reasonable conclusion. They brought up the Socratic process, reasoning, logic and several other things.

For me, something I had always taken for granted, as understood, was laid out into words and via an analogy and it became the difference between instinct and logic; the difference between arriving at the answer at the math problem without being able to show the work, and having three sheets of proofs.

- ||||||||||| -

[Mass Effect 3 Ending: Tasteful, Understated Nerdrage (SPOILERS) - 4:11 - 4:40]...

"Back in the day in Ancient Greece, Socrates would sometimes wake up in the morning, put on his best philosophising robe, go down to his academy, stroke his beard thoughtfully and then ask one of his students a question that began with; Suppose _______. He would outline a hypothetical situation and challenge his students to use their creativity and reason to determine the proper thing to do. This is called a Socratic Exercise."

Mass Effect 3 Ending: Tasteful, Understated Nerdrage (SPOILERS) - 11:50 - 12:20 ]...

"Details used to matter in Mass Effect. But in the ending they're ignored. How can I make this choice, if I don't know what the possible consequences of it are. Where's the agency in making a choice if I don't understand what it is that I'm doing. That's not a choice at all, it's just something that superficially resembles one.

This is not a socratic exercise anymore, because I can't approach it with logic and reason. I can only approach it with flimsy conjecture or by trying to second guess the intentions of the writer."

- ||||||||||| -

I grew up calling Socractic Exercises - 'Mom's Homework', 'Grandpa's Story Time', & 'Daddy's Being Difficult'. I've been doing them, since I was about three. Reasoning on this level is instinctive to me and it had never quite occurred to me that others couldn't follow said reasoning and didn't utilize it for everything.

Thus why the video made an impact for me, in terms of the phrase 'Informed Consent'. Informed Consent is about making an aware choice, making a rationed decision. And I've heard about it for decades specifically in regards to sexuality, and a woman's autonomy. And it seemed a cultural thing that it had to be reminded about, in those cases in particular.

If judgement is impaired then you can't make good choices, that seemed obvious to me; especially considering the fact that judgement being impaired by sleepiness, can result in not turning on the bathroom light for a middle of the night pee, and falling into the toilet bowl if there are certain people in the house. You're not making the best decisions - able to partake in the best decision making process when you're half asleep.

Sleepiness, sleep deprivation impairs judgement; logical. Chemicals in the system also impairs judgement. And thus hormones in the system also impairs judgement and emotional states are often associated with surges of hormones and thus emotional states are also a place of possibly impaired judgement.


Except, not so simple. Not so simple at all and I kept running nose first into how not simple it was and being horribly confused by the lack of thinking.

And I just saw it again. Not just a lack of respect for what Informed Consent and an Informed Decision means, but a kind of Assumed Consent, that's been scaring me for ages now.

What prompted me to write this post - the final straw; a tumblr response by Blogitty-Blog-Blog" regarding a post where there's an image of a young boy, claiming when he was 14, he got his young girlfriend pregnant and 'she killed my son'.

Blogitty writes:

“Why must the fetus pay the price of the parents mistakes?”...It’s not just the males fault, but also the female. She lost her right to her body when she let him inside her, so anything she says about how it is her body is utter b.s...I am completely against what they did as it was stupid in every sense of the word. This is why we have an age of consent... But that’s yet again another human being who has had the right to life stolen from them because some uptight women feel that their body is more precious than that of a baby. Nice move there. It shows real respect for other people, great empathy skills."

Aside from the fact that I find Blogitty showing absolutely no empathy of their own right now, even as they call out what they claim to be the sociopathy of people who believe women have a right to determine what happens to their own bodies - there are other things as, or possibly more and relatedly disturbing.

"She lost her right to her body when she let him inside her, so anything she says about how it is her body is utter b.s..."

"...because some uptight women feel that their body is more precious than that of a baby."

I've been having some thoughts for a while now, about sexuality portrayals in main stream media (particularly USian), with some focus on porn. And it's all swirling together around the concepts of informed decision making, personal autonomy and how so much porn, erotica, sexual portrayals in varied media, is saturated in a Culture of Assumed Consent To Objectifaction which, if it isn't the same thing AS Rape Culture is pretty damn close to it.

There seems to be this definition of sexual activity as kyriarchal status choice that doesn't get the spotlight in places where not only can I see it and involve myself in it, but where young women (and young men) can become involved as well. When I do see it, it's usually flying over the heads of huge swathes of the population; namely the white population, as WoC on Tumblr discuss it as it (assumed consent to objectification + assumed consent to sexual objectification)relates to repercussions to Women of Colour, due to centuries of institutional white prejudicial racist baggage on their bodies and in particular the repercussions to WoC in traditional subservient service jobs.

I see conversations on the intersection, but not broader conversations about the origins, power and control of this Assumed Consent Culture and how to attack and dismantle it; possibly because too many white individuals are busy trying to justify their personal emotions on a thing - and thus miss the point of how and why it and all intersections should be feminist issues but currently aren't.

'She lost her right to her body when she let him inside her, so anything she says about how it is her body is utter b.s...' - Combine that thinking with purity balls. Combine that thinking with abstinence only sexual awareness programs. Combine that, with porn that has increasingly shifted to a near sociopathic level of objectification; where recievers of the phallus are automatons with holes to be brutalized, disrecpected and subjected to all manners of uncleanness and pain.

Here I admit I haven't seen much male on male / gay porn, to note if the language of the scenes; the subtext is the the same as what I've observed just being alive right now, and dealing with heterosexual based porn (in advertising to actual erotica). But I'm going to keep trying to keep my language inclusive.

This stuff scares me. The unchecked, non-perceptive, privilege assumed domination going on regarding sexuality, scares me. That the first time someone has penetrative (any form of it) sex, if there's not a ring/marriage license, some form of possessive framework in play then that body no longer has any autonomy... and if that person is not white, they never had it and will never have it.

Further, if that person has sexual aspects outside the mainstream then they're ASSUMED to have consented as well, to sociopathic objectification.

Thus consequently, individuals who are not white, who have sexual aspects outside the mainstream, in such an environment, not only aren't counted as people, but are often assumed to have consented to everything and anything with anyone and attempts to affirm that they maintain personal autonomy is often met with violence, brutality and rage.

But let me back up. A culture of Assumption of Consent / Assumed Consent (a little rape culture, a larger layer of kyriarchy...) - what is it that it is assumed an individual is consenting to? What stereotypes are playing into that? What isn't being thought about, because it's been the brick layer foundation of interaction for so long and people are loathe to change it?

'She lost her right to her body when she let him inside her, so anything she says about how it is her body is utter b.s...'

So the girlfriend of a 14yr old boy, thought she was giving informed consent to him, and only him. Whether or not she was capable of giving said consent in the first place - let's put that on pause for now. It is apparently assumed that she KNEW, and understood, fully, that she lived in a society that deemed her first penetrative sexual experience as a fully aware declension into non-citizen, non-human status? That she CHOSE this new status?

And even the fact that she got pregnant, thus to my mind proving she had not at all been prepared for the consequences of having piv sex, and thus wasn't truly able to make an informed decision - she's still held to have lost ALL RIGHTS to her own body?

Ignorance of the law does not excuse crossing it?

Uhm, doesn't that attempt to criminalize sex? Oh wait. Forcing pregnant women to have children they don't want has been seen as 'fit and proper punishment' for the longest time already, hasn't it. And cross dressing and homosexuality actually has been criminalized in the past and is still on the books in some places, or was as recently as ten to twenty years ago.

Thing is? If people had actually consented to dehumanization, objectification, violence, brutality and pain? Then yes, they could be considered deviant. And then it would make sense, perhaps, to have debates and dialogues about if there was anyway that could ever be experienced in any kind of safe space / why would anyone want to experience, etc...etc... I'm not versed in BDSM culture except the barest of basics; I apologise if my phrasing is offensive. Email and let me know.

But just living your life? Just being non-white? Just being someone who has received penetrative sex outside of sanctioned marriage or a long term relationship or whatever that arbitrary goalpost is? That's not choosing deviance. Nor is it somehow accepting the truth of some blatant obvious signpost of natural/inherited wtf ever deviance. That's NOT an informed decision to CHOOSE a lesser status than human*.

Hmm, maybe next time I'll get around to posting what disturbs me about the kyriarchal dominance games in an assumption one has chosen to be a dehumanized, sexualized object and how I relate it to the term 'kyriarchal status'.

* BDSMers aren't choosing to be thought of, seen as, or actually be sub human or less than human either. May need to work on that phrasing.


OT PS: As much as there's a thriving community of conversations on Tumblr that interests me and I have looked into missing e quite recently; I'm upset at notes that images etc, can be removed by Tumblr staff - lack of autonomy of one's tumblr space. That, plus their lack of following through non racistly on abuses towards Bloggers of Colour - has me disinclined to join the medium.