The Personal is Political

This is a blog where I will be spouting out all of my personal political arguments, thoughts and beliefs. I encourage interaction and you're more than welcome to submit or ask questions. I identify as a feminist and most of my personal philosophies are built around social justice concepts. If you want to jump right to stuff I've written myself check the "the personal is politic" tag. Creative Commons License
The Personal is Political by Ragen Ashlie Roberts is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Recent Tweets @
There’s a paradox in thinking that you’re better than other girls, when your whole reason for feeling that way is because you think your gender is so inherently inferior that you want to dis-identify with being a girl altogether.

More Than Words: Tomboys R Us

THIS whenever some girl brags about being “one of the boys” or says something like “I’m not like other girls, I LOVE [stereotypically masculine thing].”

(via giraffodill)

(via becauseiamawoman)

fuckyeahsexeducation:

thingsthatmakeyouacey:

It…kind of is.

For now, I’m using the term PoC (people of color) as a shorthand, understanding that it refers to people in white-majority cultures and can’t describe white-minority cultures, for ease of writing, but also because I will largely discuss diaspora.

First, let’s discuss the issue of terminology and identity. “Asexual” is a difficult term for PoC to use. We are made hypersexual (e.g. stereotypes of Black women as very sexual) and asexual (e.g. Asian men being treated as alien, sexually dysfunctional; the Mammy trope). The term “asexual” is often actually used in these contexts. Even when it isn’t, to attach “asexual” to our identity means navigating a really complex, terrible issue where PoC bodies are regulated and controlled because of racist views of our “asexuality.” Sterilization programs that target minority women are realities in the US and other nations with racial minorities, while the simultaneous “aging up” of Black children and assumed asexuality means they are treated as sexually passive, and so often are targeted in sexual crimes. This sort of “de-sexing” has been a form to control PoC/especially Black women’s agency since slavery.

Siggy writes (1): 

"Stereotypically, Asian women are hypersexualized and Asian men are desexualized.  Each of these come with their own set of issues for asexuals.  Asian asexual women might be disbelieved because they conflict with the stereotype.  Asian asexual men might be assumed to conform to the stereotype completely, even if the stereotype is actually very different from asexuality in real life.  Also, sometimes people say Asian men are stereotypically asexual, which is bad because it’s using the word "asexual" as a pejorative."

With regards to the challenges Black women face, voltafiish writes (2):

"While asexuality has not had such a long history, the majority of its representation in the media has been overwhelmingly white. Asexuality is seen as a “white thing” too! For asexuality in black people (especially black women) from the outside looking in can be broken down into a few categories:

A) Asexuality functions as a white supremacist stereotype. This means asexual black person is not actually asexual, but simply a desexualized black person (like the mammy, for example) or they are simply suppressing their “true sexuality” in light of other racial stereotypes (like the jezebel). Of course, these are dependent on an inaccurate definition on what asexuality is but contrary to a lot of activism, a lot of people are still fixed on using this definition. Because people do not know what asexuality is, their first assumption is one that equates behaviour and attraction.

B) Asexuality cannot possibly BE a thing because black people MUST be sexual by “nature.” This is due to the myth and stereotyping and labeling of black people as hypersexual. If we operate on the definition on asexuality being about not having sex/being sexual and operate within the realms of white supremacy, black asexual people cannot exist. I remember looking up research concerning blackness and asexuality and came across someone make the very same statement: “Black people cannot be asexual because they are hypersexual.”

C) Asexuality (and any other sexuality for that fact) is not possible for black people because all black people are heterosexual. Cue compulsory heterosexuality.”

As you can see, not only does the concept raise issues for PoC self-identifying, but for those who identify as asexual but must, again, navigate larger issues.

GradientLair writes (3):

"If I tell anyone that I am 34 years old and I’ve been celibate for a little more than 8 years now, they look at my Black skin and female body and the judgment starts. Because I am a Black woman, I am automatically typed as heterosexual but “deviant” (as “normal” heterosexuality is reserved for Whites in a White supremacist society) and “hypersexual” (based on the long history of specifically anti-Black misogyny used to justify the rape, exploitation, lynching and dehumanization of Black women’s bodies and lives). Any sexuality that I ascribe to that is not heterosexual and hypersexual is deemed as me sidestepping the “norm.” However, this White supremacist lie is not the norm or even remotely explains the complexity of sexuality for any people, especially Black people because of our history."

I recommend if you are unfamiliar with some of the issues she discusses, to click through and then explore her embedded hyperlinks. Meanwhile, queerlibido/Alok Vaid-Menon discusses issues of intersection with respect to the South Asian male identity (4):

"As a queer South Asian I don’t feel comfortable ascribing the identity of ‘asexual’ to my body. Part of the ways in which brown men have been oppressed in the Western world is by de-emasculating them and de-sexualizing them (check out David Eng’s book Racial Castration). What then would it mean for me to identify as an ‘asexual?’ What would this agency look like in a climate of white supremacy? Can I ever authentically express ‘my’ (a)sexuality or am I always rehearsing colonial logics? The dilemma of this brown queer body is its inability to see itself through its own eyes. The mirror becomes a site it which we view what white people have always told us about ourselves. Regardless or not of the status of my libido, I’m not sure I will ever feel comfortable identifying as asexual because it seems like I am betraying my people. 

I am invested in South Asians and all other Asian Americans being able to reclaim, re-affirm, and be recognized for their sexual selves. I am invested in brown boys and brown gurlz being able to get what they desire. I am invested in the radical potential of brown (queer) love in a society where so many of us grow up hating our bodies and bending our knees for white men. I want to be part of this struggle. Sometimes I get angry at myself for not being able to eliminate the distance, not being able to join in solidarity. To fuck and be fucked, to publically claim and own my sexuality. I understand that there is something (as Celine Shimizu reminds us in her book Straightjacket Sexualities) radical about Asian American masculinities being displaced from patriarchal masculinities rooted in hyper-sexuality and hyper-masculinity and the reclamation of ‘effeminate’ and ‘asexual’ representations of our bodies as a political refusal of the very logics which have rendered those bodies numb.

So when I read this piece about how folks involved with the asexuality community feel as if they are post-race I’m pretty well, flabbergasted. Asexuality has always been a carefully crafted strategy to subjugate Asian masculinities. Asexuality has everything to do with race. Which goes to say that what if the very act of articulating a public asexual identity is rooted in white privilege? Essential understandings of being ‘born’ ‘asexual’ and loving my ‘asexual’ self will never make sense to me. In a world that continually erases Asian (male assigned) sexualities I was coerced into asexuality. It is something I have and will continue to struggle with. My asexuality is a site of racial trauma. I want that sadness, that loss, that anxiety to be a part of asexuality politics. I don’t want to be proud or affirmed – I want to have a serious conversation about how all of our desires are mediated by racism and how violent that is. My pleasures – or lack thereof – are not transcendental and celebratory, they are contradictory, confused, and hurt.”

He cites an interview on AsexualAgenda (5), excerpted here:

"Often, white asexuals and those who do not identify themselves use these threads to make statements that, 1) AVEN is a safe, diverse environment, 2) AVEN is a race neutral place and asexuals are color-blind, or 3) race is anarchronistic, un-important or itself “racist.” All three of these tendencies work to minimize the significance of race, to obscure “white” as a race by claiming neutrality, and to dismiss user interests or lived/digital experiences."

So now we arrive at issues within the community and how it treats PoC and the diversity of the ability for aces to identify as such. A good place to start is the “crux” of the community - AVEN - where we can see, in often popular threads, blatant racism.

A thread discussing World Pride 2013 and whether PoC aces should have a separate space:

image

AVEN forum search for keyword “racism” (6):

image

image

image

The AVEN thread “AVEN has traumatized me” (TW for sexual assault/rape/victim blaming) also brings up how often AVEN members come across racism in the forums and are unable to report it (7). The AVEN thread “Asexual People of Color” has many a post on the grievances aces of color face with their identities and on AVEN (8).

As we can see, there is an issue with racism, talking over PoC, and treating racism as a nonexistent issue, or else race itself as a nonfactor in asexuality and sexuality in general. But these issues are not limited to AVEN, which many identify as a generally problematic space and have thus abandoned for spaces like Tumblr. Here, and in similar spaces, the racism has been more subtle, and it is where I see the sweeping issue of racism in our representation, dialogues, and activism.

The faces of the asexual movement - and by “asexual movement,” I use a term and definition as employed by David Jay and his followers - have been exceedingly white. A simple example:

image

How popular was this image? Has it changed at all? Siggy writes again, two years ago (10):

"And yet, the publicly visible asexuals are disproportionately white.  An asexual who was Asian asked me the other day if there were any non-white asexuals I knew of, and was clearly disappointed when I could only think of a few.  This is both indicative of, and a contributor to greater asexual invisibility within API and other non-white groups.

And here I am, contributing to the problem even further.  I decided it was less worthwhile to present asexuality to an API audience than to a “general” (but probably predominantly White) audience.  I was further tipping the already imbalanced scales.  If all asexual activists did the same, it would become a major problem a decade down the road.”

Because, really, let’s look at who goes on talk shows, interviews with newspapers and magazines, and gets photographed. Who do we see associated with articles on asexuality, like HuffPost’s series?:

image

Some must wonder now if it’s that whiteness and white culture allows for greater visibility when it comes to queer identities. But is this true? What about the history of queer Black artists (musicians, visual artists, dancers, writers) and their precedence of very public activism? Because I say that the lack of brown and black faces in the public, representing us, cannot be completely chalked up to cultural differences. When I look at canonically asexual characters (or…attempted asexual characters), I see white faces - in fiction, where writers look at our community and try to create fictional characters, or else ace writers create these fictional characters. Sirens, House, Huge, Ignition Zero, Girls with Slingshots, Quicksilver all have canonically (or attempted) asexual characters that are white, and even articles/essays that seek to analyze the media where we find these characters will not bring up the race question a single time (11). These data can only reflect the community and the visible, un-erased members of the community - because not all of these authors are outsiders.

I also want to talk about how aces of color are cordoned off when it comes to dialogue. This is an especially subtle aspect of the community that I have noticed for a few years - where writers who discuss the intersection of race and asexuality are largely written off by the community as irrelevant to net community politics. For example, GradientLair’s posts almost never make the rounds of the tags or forums, except for black aces, as if white aces and non-Black aces of color have nothing to learn from an asexual Black woman’s important perspective on sexual politics.

There are two effects I observe from this habit. First, aces of color feel pushed out because their voices are not heard, or else they face racism as evidenced above in AVEN. Second, what is established is whiteness as the norm - PoC voices are, even if not actively, made an “other,” or a “niche,” and if these posts do make the rounds, they are not discussed, but tagged lazily with “intersectionality” or “boost” to be passed along for followers of color. PoC are made to feel like we are a separate cause and the nuances of our identities have no effect on the asexual community, where “asexual community” is thus equated with “white asexual voices.”

An example of this harm is the recent backlash against sex positivity rhetoric among the ace community. There is no harm in such dialogue, but what I find especially interesting is how aces, including prominent asexual activists who often represent the community publicly, have taken credit for spear-heading the critique of the sex-positive movement. As I’ve cited above, Black women in the West have traditionally been targeted sexually because of their race and as an effect of slavery - Womanism, therefore, has traditionally involved critical analysis of compulsory heteronormativity for decades. I recently began to compile a list of sources by mostly Womanists because of this strange trend among white aces (12). This type of irresponsibility and co-opting is exceptionally harmful to Black women and Black aces, who already face massive erasure, and furthermore it is distressing that leaders in the community propagate these attitudes in a largely white community.

In sum:

  • the community ignores or dismisses race as a factor in sexuality
  • blatant racism occurs in the community
  • aces of color do not get any visibility in the media
  • the issues aces of color face at the intersection of many identities are deemed irrelevant to the “broader” community, and so the community is equated with whiteness, and co-opting of QWoC dialogue occurs on a large scale

I want to wrap this response up here, because I think this information is sufficient enough to convince those willing to learn that racism is very much rampant in the asexual community, and that aces of color find it difficult to find a space in it as it exists currently. This post is not for those who refuse to teach themselves. You are the problem, not just those who merely don’t know what’s happening around them because of their privilege. I urge those of you in this latter group to recognize your privilege, end this Othering of PoC, challenge the presumed “normality” of the whiteness in our spaces, and magnify the voices of people of color around you. It is not tokenizing to stop erasing, and it’s not an attack on you to notice, let alone speak up.

Remember: being an ally is not about posting a political alignment on Facebook or any social equivalent. It means knowing that you will not be attacked for speaking up about a certain issue (ergo, you have privilege), and employing that power to protect and defend those of us who are vulnerable. Because we are vulnerable. I have personally received hate/abuse for even mentioning race in this space and offline spaces, and have been building up the courage for four years to discuss these issues on such a public blog, so please understand that I am not exaggerating. 

70% of anti-LGBTQ murder victims are PoC (13). 87% of hate murder victims in 2011 were QPoC (14). TPoC statistics reveal even more - and make sure to go through this whole study (15):

image

image

image

This isn’t fun and games, or petty complaints on a website. This is survival. 

Sources:

  1. http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/2011/05/forecasting-issues-of-race.html
  2. http://ace-muslim.tumblr.com/post/66431409049/im-supposed-to-be-working-on-an-art-history-paper-rn
  3. This is a great essay on being Black and asexual that I personally learned a lot from: http://thingsthatmakeyouacey.tumblr.com/post/66431633676/im-supposed-to-be-working-on-an-art-history-paper-rn
  4. http://www.gradientlair.com/post/61224262021/heterosexuality-compulsory-uniform-black-women
  5. http://queerlibido.tumblr.com/post/74181237292/whats-r-ace-got-to-do-with-it-white-privilegehttp://www.thestate.ae/whats-race-got-to-do-with-it-white-privilege-asexuality/
  6. http://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/interview-with-ianna-hawkins-owen/
  7. http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?app=core&module=search&do=search&andor_type=&sid=01af01fc2a34562772e26f8092174d5c&search_app_filters[forums][sortKey]=date&search_app_filters[forums][sortKey]=date&search_term=racism&search_app=forums&st=0
  8. http://www.asexuality.org/en/topic/95406-aven-has-traumatized-me/
  9. http://www.asexuality.org/en/topic/78085-asexual-people-of-color/
  10. http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/2012/04/dilemma-on-asexuality-and-race.html
  11. http://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/confirmed-asexual-characters-in-fiction/
  12. My masterpost of sex-critical writings by WoC/Black women, many of which discuss the issue of being simultaneously made hypersexual and “asexual”: http://thingsthatmakeyouacey.tumblr.com/post/82269213656/if-you-dont-believe-me
  13. http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/07/70_percent_of_anti-lgbt_murder_victims_are_people_of_color.html
  14. http://www.queerty.com/study-lgbt-murder-rate-at-all-time-high-but-hate-violence-on-wane-20120531/
  15. http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/reports/reports/ntds_full.pdf

Of course after reading this my first thought was, “whelp need to find some spaces dedicated to asexual people of color.” Here are a couple things I found:
http://asexualpocsunite.tumblr.com/
http://sophiaphilemon.tumblr.com/acetumblr

rhazade-waterbender:

captain-irrayditation:

I’m seriously done with people saying “THIS is what a trigger looks like” when someone has a panic attack.

You’re disgusting.

Not ONLY are you completely erasing and delegitimizing EVERY SINGLE OTHER REACTION, you’re putting people who DO have panic attacks on some weird, twisted pedestal of Legitimate Triggers And Reactions.

Anxiety is not the only condition that has triggers. People are triggered into having suicidal ideation, intrusive thoughts, SEIZURES, meltdowns, intense discomfort with their bodies, paranoia, and probably a SHIT TON OF OTHER THINGS I’M FORGETTING.

SHAMING AND HARASSING PEOPLE FOR HOW THEY RESPOND TO BEING TRIGGERED IS NEVER OKAY. STOP THE FUCK DOING IT. RIGHT NOW.

…oh, hell.  I’ve probably reblogged a few of those posts, under the impression that they were aimed at people who try to dodge accountability (if not outright mock the concept) by claiming that being called on their bullshit triggers them.

At the very sametime that America refused to give the Negro any land, through an act of Congress our government was giving away millions of acres of land in the West & Midwest. Which meant that it was willing to undergird its White Peasants from Europe with an Economic floor but not only did they give the land. They built land grant Colleges with government money to teach them how to farm. Not only that, they provided county agents to further their expertise in farming. Not only that, they provided low interest rates in order that they can mechanize their farms. Not only that, today many of these people are receiving millions of dollars in federal subsidies not to farm and they are the very people telling the Black man he ought to lift himself up by his own bootstraps.Now this is what were faced with and this is the reality. Now when we come to Washington this is the champaign. We are coming to get our check.
Martin Luther King, Jr. (via 4eyedblackgirl)

(via boygeorgemichaelbluth)

youngmarxist:

So if we have to show women what the baby looks like in their womb and tell them how the process works before allowing them to get an abortion, does that mean we should teach our soldiers about the culture of the lands we’re invading, and explain to them that the people we want them to kill have families and feel pain, just like Americans?

(via goodnightmoon-goodnightspoon)

sheep-boy:

"guess we cant have different opinions on tumblr"

nah son. an opinion is like “orange juice is nasty” or “fall out boy is overrated”

"your gender identity is ridiculous and you dont deserve to have it respected" is straight up bullshit and you should be called out on it

(via facebooksexism)

thehidingcat:

stupidmiiverseposts:

There has only been five female characters comfirmed playable compared to fifteen male characters.

I’m amazed at those exact numbers because 33% is the point where men will start thinking there’s a majority of women in a group.

(via facebooksexism)

fuckallies:

On average, you have a 1 in 18,989 chance of being murdered

A trans person has a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered

The average life span of a cis person is about 75-90 

The average life expectancy of a trans person is 23-30 years old

75% of people killed in anti LGBT hate crimes are poc

Think about this the next time you go crying over “cisphobia” and “reverse racism”

(via evelark)

shamelesslyunladylike:

korrathefirebender:

thegrumpiesttortoise:

WOMEN: don’t be successful - you might hurt a man’s feelings. #sexism #wtf #heteronormativetoo #whataloadofbollocks

After reading this, this is all I am going to try to do. To succeed.

And they say male privilege doesn’t exist? How about instead of telling women to stop trying to be successful and you know achieve their dreams (GOD FORBID WOMEN TRY TO BE SUCCESSFUL AND ACHIEVE THEIR DREAMS) how about teaching men and boys that women are human beings and they should stop throwing a tantrum about women succeeding.

The kind of man who will be intimidated by my success is exactly the kind of man I don’t want.

Men are such fragile little things, the slightest breeze hurts their fee-fees.

(via face--the--strange)

Saying things like “we’ve gone from white hoods to business suits” is one way to seem to speak to contemporary racism’s less vocal, yet still insidious nature. But it does a disservice to the public understanding of racism, and in the process undercuts the mission of drawing attention to contemporary racism’s severity.

It wasn’t the KKK that wrote the slave codes. It wasn’t the armed vigilantes who conceived of convict leasing, postemancipation. It wasn’t hooded men who purposefully left black people out of New Deal legislation. Redlining wasn’t conceived at a Klan meeting in rural Georgia. It wasn’t “the real racists” who bulldozed black communities in order to build America’s highway system. The Grand Wizard didn’t run COINTELPRO in order to dismantle the Black Panthers. The men who raped black women hired to clean their homes and care for their children didn’t hide their faces.

The ones in the hoods did commit violent acts of racist terrorism that shouldn’t be overlooked, but they weren’t alone. Everyday citizens participated in and attended lynchings as if they were state fairs, bringing their children and leaving with souvenirs. These spectacles, if not outright endorsed, were silently sanctioned by elected officials and respected members of the community.

It’s easy to focus on the most vicious and dramatic forms of racist violence faced by past generations as the site of “real” racism. If we do, we can also point out the perpetrators of that violence and rightly condemn them for their actions. But we can’t lose sight of the fact that those individuals alone didn’t write America’s racial codes. It’s much harder to talk about how that violence was only reinforcing the system of political, economic and cultural racism that made America possible. That history indicts far more people, both past and present.

s0rrym0m:

I CANNOT BREATHE

(via girl-germs)

A black male could not offer his hand (to shake hands) with a white male because it implied being socially equal. Obviously, a black male could not offer his hand or any other part of his body to a white woman, because he risked being accused of rape.

Blacks and whites were not supposed to eat together. If they did eat together, whites were to be served first, and some sort of partition was to be placed between them.

Under no circumstance was a black male to offer to light the cigarette of a white female — that gesture implied intimacy.

Blacks were not allowed to show public affection toward one another in public, especially kissing, because it offended whites.

Jim Crow etiquette prescribed that blacks were introduced to whites, never whites to blacks. For example: “Mr. Peters (the white person), this is Charlie (the black person), that I spoke to you about.”

Whites did not use courtesy titles of respect when referring to blacks, for example, Mr., Mrs., Miss., Sir, or Ma’am. Instead, blacks were called by their first names. Blacks had to use courtesy titles when referring to whites, and were not allowed to call them by their first names.

If a black person rode in a car driven by a white person, the black person sat in the back seat, or the back of a truck.

White motorists had the right-of-way at all intersections.

Jim Crow Etiquette Just a little more history for the folks who think slavery was the end of racism in America. (via karnythia)

My suburban white friends were so confused that my parents introduced themselves as Mr. and Mrs. and that I always addressed adults that way. They just don’t know.  And I don’t know how popular of a trend this was, but some Black folks gave their children honorifics as first names so white people would have no choice but to call them ‘Mister’ or ‘Sir’.  Like, I know tangentially of a woman who’s first name is Doctor.

(via blackraincloud)

Blacks were not allowed to show public affection toward one another in public, especially kissing, because it offended whites.”

Can we look at this one right here real close?

POC in intimate relationships showing each other affection *was considered offensive*. I am kinda wondering, given the absence of intra poc relationships in mass media, if it still is considered as such.

(via deluxvivens)

PRECISELY WHAT CAUGHT MY EYE. DA FUCK?????????????????

(via searchingforknowledge)

Well looking at this post, yes

http://ai-yo.tumblr.com/post/25570734067/deluxvivens-karnythia-deluxvivens-snip

(via ai-yo)

(via so-treu)

I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.

Toni Morrison (via jaegerjaques)

I’ve already blogged this before but it basically sums up my entire philosophy much better than I ever could so here we are.

(via pizza-poops)

(via pizza-poops)

lightspeedsound:

smashsurvey:

Now think of how many of those female characters and protagonists are oversexed, created for the male gaze, or put in an inactive damsel role for the plot of the game. Representation matters. A Study last year proved that exposure to tv shows increased the self esteem of young white boys and markedly decreased the confidence and self esteem of girls across the board (and we haven’t even started on the representation of characters of color and the effect it has on children’s self perception). 

Video games are a different media, and even more concerning if representation metrics are changing how our kids think of themselves. Especially knowing that 67% of American Households have video game consoles and 91% of Children play video games regularly,how do you think the portrayal (and lack of portrayals) of women and girls in these games is affecting little girls – or influencing how little boys view their importance and/or influence over them? 

Comics. Movies. Lit. Pop Culture. The Smash Survey is an upcoming podcast project that will critically explore the representation of race, gender, and queer identity in media and pop culture in a fun and engaging format. 

I wonder how many of the nonhuman characters are presented as female vs. the amount of WOC…