Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift.

This past week, nominations for the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) were announced and Nicki Minaj took to Twitter to point out of the systemic inequalities that exist in many spheres of the US, including the VMAs. She tweeted about how if she were a different kind of artist, her video Anaconda would have been nominated for a lot more awards (including video of the year). Minaj implied that if she had been white, more nominations would have happened for Anaconda.

After a bit of Nicki Minaj tweeting about racism within the music industry, Taylor Swift jumped in and tweeted about how she had done nothing but support Minaj over the years. Swift seemed to take Minaj’s tweets as a very personal call out, tweeting:

However, Nicki wasn’t passive aggressively calling out Taylor at all but was instead addressing the issue of racism within the music industry and how black women hardly ever get credit for the hard work they do that impacts culture. Ellie Woodward wrote an article over on Buzzfeed talking about Nicki Minaj’s faved tweets show the reason reason for the Taylor Swift “feud”, many of which address the cultural impact of the Anaconda video, how Taylor totally missed the point, and how the media started painting Nicki as an angry black woman and Taylor as the innocent white woman in the Twitter fight. 

(Janet Mock’s below tweet was so great at pointing out the racist implications of the imagery that was being used in reports of the fight and asked for the imagery to be reversed.)

Nosheem Iqbal wrote a great article about this issue over on The Guardian, highlighting the main points of what Minaj was tweeting and how the debate is much bigger than Swift’s ego. Among so many other things, Iqbal wrote that:

The broader point Minaj is making is clear: throughout music history, black women aren’t recognised in the popular music canon in the same way their white counterparts are. As Minaj tweeted: “If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year … I’m not always confident. Just tired. Black women influence pop culture so much but are rarely rewarded for it.”

And oneofthosefaces wrote another amazing thinkpiece about the feud, talking about how Taylor Swift is still not a feminist, and brought up so many other great points. At the beginning of the article, oneofthosefaces highlighted that Minaj wasn’t taking jabs at Swift (like so much of the media seems to report) but that Minaj was in fact talking about the racism within the music industry, saying that:

… let’s be clear about who Nicki was talking about when she was indirecting. The ‘Anaconda’ video, which Nicki felt was deserving of a Video Of The Year nomination, snatched the VEVO record from Miley’s ‘Wrecking Ball’ (which did earn a VOTY nom) and reclaimed black women’s bodies for black women… after Miley spent the whole of 2013 building an adult career on the back of strapping on a fake booty and twerking her way to stratospheric success. If you rundown Nicki’s tweets and retweets, she was drawing parallels, not suggesting any of this year’s nominees had taken her spot. Her argument was specifically about the difference in the way white bodies and black bodies are portrayed. It’s an argument she’s made before, when she compared “acceptable” white girls in bikinis to her “unacceptable” ‘Anaconda’ cover art.

The good news is that Taylor Swift did finally apologize to Nicki Minaj for making the entire situation about her, although I do think that’s an exceptionally low bar. Instead of reacting to Minaj’s tweets and making a conversation about systemic inequality about her, Swift should have asked herself many questions and should be reading up on intersectionality to become a better feminist.

#FreeBree – Bree Newsome and the incredible act of capture the flag.

image1This is yet another really late post and many probably have already heard what happened but I still wanted to write about Bree Newsome – the black woman who scaled a flag pole and removed the confederate flag that was still flying over the South Carolina capitol. She, along with her partner in crime who was on guard below the pole, were both arrested and were charged with “defacing monuments on state capitol grounds”. There has been a petition started to drop the charges that also has more information.

Newsome released a statement to Blue Nation Review, where she wrote about her work regarding racial justice and community organizing and overall, wrote an incredibly powerful statement. She wrote about standing in solidarity with all marginalized and oppressed and being heartbroken over the murders of the nine black Bible study members in Charleston and that #BlackLivesMatter. At one point, she wrote in particular that:

For far too long, white supremacy has dominated the politics of America resulting in the creation of racist laws and cultural practices designed to subjugate non-whites. And the emblem of the confederacy, the stars and bars, in all its manifestations, has long been the most recognizable banner of this political ideology. It’s the banner of racial intimidation and fear whose popularity experiences an uptick whenever black Americans appear to be making gains economically and politically in this country.

It’s a reminder how, for centuries, the oppressive status quo has been undergirded by white supremacist violence with the tacit approval of too many political leaders.

There have also been many amazing art works done in honor of Bree and what she did. All of them are so well done and capture the amazing grace of Bree and her act.

Unfortunately Bree has been getting a lot of death threats and general negative comments because of her amazing act of civil disobedience. So her family has been asking for people to send in encouraging words and love for her to [email protected]. I’ve sent in an email with some love and encouragement but again: Bree – you are wonderful and amazing and thank you so much for your act of civil disobedience! The flag needs to go and you scaling that flag pole was tremendous.

#TransIsBeautiful and #GirlsLikeUs

Hashtags like #TransIsBeautiful and #GirlsLikeUs make me so happy because as a society, we’ve (unfortunately and as a whole) gotten really good at demeaning, being violent towards, and erasing the trans community. Seeing the love and support in those hashtags makes me so happy because I’m so excited to see a different narrative being put out there about trans individuals.

And the fact that Laverne Cox and Janet Mock both started those hashtags and are on the forefront of trans visibility also makes me so happy because within the LGBTQ+ community (and especially within society has a whole), we have this unbelievable ability to whitewash and erase so many other identities. (Although that doesn’t mean only one type of person can participate in either hashtag.)

The New York Times has an article about the fact that broadening the transgender tale has only just begun and interviewed several trans actors and actresses – something that I just love so much because we are so often left out of telling our own narratives. Laverne Cox also had this wonderful exchange with a young trans girl, telling her that transgender is beautiful. And the additional Twitter hashtag #RealLifeTransAdult shares powerful testimonies about being a trans adult and that it’ll never be too late to be you or to transition.

So this is to all the trans people out there, to all of those questioning, to all of those who are sure, to all of those who have to be closeted, to every single one of you: I love you I love you I love you. You are wonderful and worthy and valid. Your existence is necessary and your gender real.

One day I hope to be out and proud as trans. At this point, my trans identity is a sort of subtle thing in my life – something I have to stay quiet about as a way of survival. So to all those who are closeted in whatever way, just know that you aren’t alone and that one day you will most definitely be able to live your truth.

#Pride should be proclaiming that #BlackLivesMatter.

We are reaching the end of Pride month within the United States (and in some other countries as well), with this weekend being the last Pride weekend of 2015. Celebrations in New York City and Seattle have been going on all weekend long but it’s so important to remember in the midst of celebrating this past week’s SCOTUS marriage decision, that there is still a huge pile of stuff to fight for.

Additionally: There was a #BlackOutPride action that disrupted the Chicago Pride Parade today, calling for the end of the constant erasure within the queer community. A few weeks ago, a similar action was done at the Boston Pride Parade, in which activists stopped the parade for 11 minutes in protest.

I’ve been writing SO much about the issue of erasure and single issue focus over the past few weeks but the fact of the matter is that this is such an important thing for the LGBTQ+ community to be addressing. And to be honest, the reason I keep writing and keep addressing all of these things over and over again is because I don’t want to lose sight of what’s important or to forget the most marginalized.

Looking at incidents like Jennicet Gutiérrez getting booed and jeered by fellow queer people or marriage seemingly being the most mainstream queer issue is incredibly upsetting because rather than fight for all, it seems to be the case that the most privileged in the queer community (white, middle/upper class, cis, etc) are just fighting for themselves and the issues that pertain to them. (Of course this doesn’t mean that every single fairly privileged person is terrible and focuses on narrow issues. But that’s another point for another day.)

Pride was started by queer people of color and it’s roots come from a police riot that condemned the legislation and oppression of the entire queer community. Flash forward 45 years since the first march and 46 years since the Stonewall Inn Riots, it seems like Pride has moved away from it’s revolutionary roots and from focusing on intersectionality issues.

Of course, this is all based on my own experiences but I do think it’s important that we as a community step up to the challenges that still face many within our chosen family. We should be spending less time on respectability politics (because that will not save us) and more time on liberation for us all. We (this time we meaning white people) should be loudly proclaiming that #BlackLivesMatter because we have helped create and benefited from a society that devalues black life.

We (again, meaning white people) should be supporting black people (and especially black women) in the fight for liberation. We need to use our privilege and our position within society to fight for liberation for all – for people of color, for the working class, for immigrants, for mothers and fathers and families who bury their loved ones too soon, for those with different abilities.

And all of this ties back to Pride because the queer community needs to stop throwing the more marginalized people under the bus as a way to assimilate into the larger mainstream society. We need to work for all, not just some. We need to remember that some of the most influential work has been done by trans women of color and we need to not forget and erase the work done by people of color in our own queer history.

Trans Day of Action (#tdoa)

I’m a day late to this unfortunately but yesterday was the trans day of action – a rallying march organized by the Audre Lorde Project in New York City. This year’s day was the 11th annual and the press release from the Audre Lorde Project says the march is to:

lift up the leadership and resilience of Trans and Gender Non Conforming New Yorkers and continue the fight for social, economic, racial and gender justice.

Fighting for the rights and intersectionality of identities for the trans community is incredibly important. The mainstream queer community has gotten incredibly good at erasing the trans part of LGBT (particularly if you add race and class into that mix). From Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson being erased from queer history to mainstream organizations like the Human Rights Campaign constantly throwing gender identity and the trans community under the bus regarding legistation, erasure has been an unfortunate part of our community.

So days and events like Trans Day of Action are so important because it’s time that we as a society and as a queer community start to center the most marginalized communities and let them tell their own narratives. It’s also important that as a queer community, we also work on internationalist issues like racism, classism, ableism, and others and fight against the systems that continue to oppress so many.

Your Faves are Problematic – Joss Whedon.

After watching Avengers: Age of Ultron and finally finishing up season two of Agents of Shield, I’ve been thinking a lot about the problematic man that is Joss Whedon. There is a small, tiny, really minuscule part of me that really does want to love him and his work but there is just so many problematic things that have come from him. So I thought I’d share some of the things that Joss Whedon has done to earn the position of problematic celebrity.

Rather than ramble on and on myself about the man, I’m just going to link to other things that have been critiquing him and his brand of feminism.

  • There’s an entire tumblr called ‘Joss Whedon is not a feminist’
  • Here’s a long list of shitty things he has done with more links, including:
    • Being ableist
    • Being transphobic
    • Racist
    • Whitewashed on more than one occasion in more than one major project
  • There is a tumblr dedicated to collecting receipts on celebrities and has an entire tag devoted to Joss
  • Another list of things he has done with even more links (some in this list have already been covered but wanted to include it anyway)
  • What Joss Whedon gets wrong about the word ‘feminist’

I honestly don’t expect people, celebrities in particular, to be perfect and flawless humans. Making mistakes and messing up is part of humanity and honestly, I don’t think that part of us is ever not going to be a thing. But one of the most awful things you can do regarding mistakes (in my opinion) is to not grow and learn from them. Repeatedly doing the same mistakes and shitty behavior over and over again starts to not be mistakes but reinforced behavior. After a certain point, it won’t be a mistake but instead will be a significant part of the person you are. Or at least, that’s my own opinion.

Learning from your mistakes (and the mistakes of others) and changing your behavior from what you’ve learned should be a key part of feminism – especially for white people. I think it’s important to be vocal about the ways in which people have fucked up and hold others (and yourself) accountable. Liking a problematic person doesn’t make you a bad person but justifying their terrible behavior does. Saccharinescorpine on tumblr wrote a really great post about liking problematic people and states that:

you’re allowed to like something while being loud, vocal, and angry about how much you hate the bad parts. be mean, be unpleasant, but never just be the person who gives a pass to all the bullshit that assholes can get away with in this world just because you don’t want to feel bad for liking a tv show or celebrity


Marriage will not stop the violence. Love will not give more jobs and healthcare to trans youth of color. Assimilation won’t get us any respect from the system…So, we can get married all we want but it isn’t going to help all of us. – Zain Ahmed from Ireland and the Institution of Marriage

tumblr_nqka29WAEh1upjw1jo1_1280There’s a part of me that is happy about the SCOTUS decision regarding marriage today but at the same time, I know that the decision won’t impact the most marginlized people, won’t fix the issues still at play, won’t stop violence or other forms of discrimination. We have a long fight to continue and many more struggles to face.

tumblr_nq9axvOnoU1st25zzo1_1280Throwing others under the bus while celebrating Pride and mainstream issues like marriage is definitely not what we should be doing. Booing and jeering an undocumented trans woman talking about violence in detention centers is not what we should be doing. Celebrating the cis, white, rich is not what we should be doing.

This is not a movement, it’s a marketing scheme.
This is not equality, it’s erasure.

Our bodies should matter even if we’re not in style this season.
Talk is cheap; show us your receipts.

When there are 200 beds for homeless queer youth in New York City
and your friends are signing leases for new mansions.

When all of the major national gay rights organization in the US invest billions in private prisons and drone warfare.

When marriage and not murder is the number one queer issue.

DarkMatter (a queer South Asian spoken word duo) from It Gets Bourgie Project

I love when the world makes things explicit: today when cisgender gays and lesbians and their allies will be celebrating…

Posted by Darkmatter on Friday, 26 June 2015

“Gay marriage isn’t gonna end oppression of queer people. Trans people are still underserved, trans women are still…

Posted by Guerrilla Feminism on Friday, 26 June 2015

Jennicet Gutiérrez – the undocumented trans women who challenged the President.

abp1zielkgprjsbjo3rbztbmhvjenzk4o4c0hnncca1zqowj8kpnozf1tp7zsbjvYesterday, President Obama was interrupted during his speech for a White House event for LGBTQ+ Pride Month by a trans undocumented woman named Jennicet Gutiérrez. Gutiérrez interrupted the president’s speech to challenge the increase in deportations under President’s term and was unfortunately escorted out by Secret Service. She later made a statement saying:

“I am outraged at the lack of leadership that Obama demonstrated… He had no concern for the way that LGBTQ detainees are suffering. As a transwoman, the misgendering and the physical and sexual abuse — these are serious crimes that we face in detention centers. How can that be ignored?”

Gutiérrez later spoke with Democracy Now about the event and why she challenged the president about deportations and the abuse faced by LGBTQ+ detainees in deportation centers. And the crowd at the event was the unfortunate definition of the mainstream gay movement and of Gay, Inc, who responded by booing and jeering Gutiérrez as she was escorted out by Secret Service.

I just want to say a big old fuck you to all that booed and jeered Gutiérrez as she left and to the fact that she was escorted out in the first place! Deportations and detention centers SHOULD be a priority within the LGBTQ+ movement – remembering intersectionality and fighting for all our brothers, sisters, and siblings in the struggle is vital. We should be centering the voices of trans women of color and other marginalized voices because the LGBTQ+ community is far from the homogeneous thing currently represented by white cis gay men. Instead of spending a ridiculous amount of money and time on fights like marriage equality (which is usually far from equal), we should be focusing on issues like youth homelessness, deportations and immigration, living wages, proper and accessible health care.

Ultimately, we need to support all trans women of color and not drown them out if they don’t fit into the Gay, Inc agenda of marriage equality and whiteness. All of the love and respect to Gutiérrez for her actions standing up to President Obama yesterday and for all of her hard work and activism surrounding LGBTQ+ and immigrant rights.

Understanding Race, Racism, and White Supremacy as a White Person.

This is yet another post to not only my fellow white people but to myself as well. As white people, we need to not only acknowledge the history and context of white supremacy and racism within the US that puts us into a position of power but also start to actively destroy the current system and status quo. Acknowledging racism and tearing down the system of white supremacy as white people will be uncomfortable at times but it is completely necessary. Dr. Robin DiAngelo wrote about why it’s so hard to talk to white people about race, highlighting in the beginning that:

Social scientists understand racism as a multidimensional and highly adaptive system — a system that ensures an unequal distribution of resources between racial groups. Because whites built and dominate all significant institutions, (often at the expense of and on the uncompensated labor of other groups), their interests are embedded in the foundation of U.S. society. While individual whites may be against racism, they still benefit from the distribution of resources controlled by their group.

I wrote recently about some starting points for myself and other white people, in which I included the PBS production Race – The Power of Illusion. The reason I’ve referenced this twice now over a short span of time is because of the impact the production had on my own understanding of race and racism. PBS has a plethora of online resources to read but everything I’ve found about the actual video seems to indicate that you’d have to order the video straight from PBS in order to see it all. If you ever do get the chance to watch the film, I definitely recommend it.

And it’s important to keep in mind that the way in which we as white people experience the world is completely different than people of color. Maisha Z. Johnson wrote up a list of examples that prove that white privilege protects white people from the police, highlighting the fact that racial profiling and implicit biases impact how police interact with people of color and many other factors.

Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote a letter from Black America about the relationship that many black Americans have with police. Jezebel Delilah X also wrote about four reasons why the US police forces is an extension of slavery and white supremacy. And The Guardian points out that black Americans are significantly more likely to be unarmed when killed by the police than white Americans and people of color are proportionally more likely to be killed by police overall.

RaceCharts11There’s also this belief for many white people that the US is a post racial society after the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964. (Like, for example, the success of some means racism is over.) But Braden Goyette and Alissa Scheller came up with 15 charts and stats that prove that we are far from a post racial society. (One in which is to the left.) Crystal Fleming wrote a piece talking about white supremacy and the killing of Walter Scott, particularly highlighting:

Black precedent reveals that a black president is not enough to halt the onslaught of anti-black violence that has always been routine in our nation. What we continue to need is sustained multiracial activism and political engagement to bring about a more just and compassionate society — the kind of grassroots work being done by organizers and activists pushing for police reform in Ferguson, New York, Cleveland and across the country.

Also reverse racism (racism to white people) is not a thing. Dain Dillingham wrote an article with 5 questions for anyone who thinks they are a victim of ‘reverse racism’. Racism, simply put, is a systemic power + prejudice, something that only white people have within the US.

Lastly, there are a few more articles I wanted to include – most having to do with what we can do as white people. Jamie Utt wrote last November about how Ferguson calls on white people to regain our humanity. Utt also wrote another article about a month ago about how as white people, a big way to end racism is to invest in other white people. This, of course, sounds like the wrong way to go but Utt wrote that:

…the more that I think about it, I realize that White people who wish to work in racial justice solidarity and who strive for allyship need to realize our fundamental responsibility to do more than simply “call out” other White people.

We must take up the long, difficult, often emotionally-exhausting work of calling them in to change.

SpectraSpeaks wrote something similar long before Utt did though – calling for white allies to stop unfriending other white people over Ferguson. Spectra wrote that as an afrofeminist Nigerian advocate, she was not able to do the same things that we as white people are. She particularly calls on white people to step up more, saying:

I need you to step up in a major way, and leverage the connections you DO have to address ignorance with conversation and interrogate white privilege with compassion. Because I will not do this. I cannot do this.

My rage as a black person witnessing yet another moment in the endless cycle of racism in the US prevents me from engaging in “level headed” conversations with people who see this terribly unjust Ferguson ruling as just another news story to banter about at the water cooler.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (Caution – Spoilers)

Avengers-age-of-ultron-fanmade-poster-570x857I just walked out of the theater after seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron for the first time and there is a part of me that’s mildly disappointed it took me nearly two months to see it. I’ve just seen it so my opinions of the movie will probably change the more I see it and the more I read about the movie. But I did want to write some of my initial thoughts about the movie so if you haven’t seen it yet and don’t want to be spoiled, consider this your spoiler warning to find something else to read.

First – there is so much that I really love about this movie. The relationships between the Avengers seem real, genuine, honest (mostly). And it’s so apparent that Joss Whedon wrote this movie – his quick wit and banter is all over the screen, with the characters being sarcastic and hilarious with each other. The entire team, at times, had this sense of unbelievable teamwork that seemed completely natural when they worked together.

Also the scene at the beginning where they all bond over attempting to pick up Thor’s hammer? Definitely one of my favorite parts – there we get to see the friendships, the humanity shared between all of the characters.

And hot damn those fight scenes. I mean the opening scene itself had me on the edge of my seat with how artistic and well done it was. Every fight scene, to me, had so much going on that it was a bit overwhelming but at the same time, I was completely memorized with what was happening.

Plus, I did find it really great that there was so much of a focus on getting civilians to safety at the end of the movie (rather than the whole “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”). But it was interesting to see how concern for civillians seemed less evident in Wakanda and Seoul than in the final scene set in Sokovia. (More than anything, that’s just an observation…)

Learning more context and humanity of a few of the characters also made the movie really enjoyable. Being able to meet Barton’s family was a HUGE surprise (omg) and I really love the relationship that Black Widow has with Barton and his family. For me, it was so amazing to have that platonic relationship between the two and see how close Romanoff is with Barton and his family. That was so refreshing to see if anything else.

Okay so those are some of the big things I love about the movie so let’s dig into the things I didn’t particularly like. The Hulk/Black Widow love story for example. I just couldn’t really get behind that subplot for some reason – more than anything there just didn’t seem to be any chemistry between the characters. Like no chemistry whatsoever, making the feelings and subplot mildly difficult to really get behind. Keith Chow brought up the same thing about this relationship subplot over at The Nerds of Color, saying that:

Never mind that there was no real build up to this ‘ship in the previous movie — or any subsequent MCU film — but all of it just seemed awkward and oddly placed. Not to mention that Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johannsen lacked a lot of chemistry together. I felt more between Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell in that brief dream sequence than any point in the Hulk/Widow romance. Hell, Banner had more chemistry with Tony, but we’ll leave that to the internet.

And of course the issue that yet again, we have been given a movie that is sorely lacking diversity. So many white men have again and again been on the forefront of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (c’mon: two Thor movies, three Iron Man movies, and two Captain America movies – all of which have a white man as the leading character and all of them are just the beginning of Marvel’s lineup).

And this movie was no different really. There’s some diversity in the secondary characters that barely have any screen time to the main characters and I do have some hope based on the very last scene regarding the new team of Avengers (where they are all not white men) (please let that be a good story).

Marama Whyte wrote about the lack of women in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron” over on hypable and there are plenty of things from her analysis that I agree with. There is a severe lack of women in the movie – with many existing to add humanity and context to the men of the movie (Barton’s wife and family for example). Whyte brings up many good points about the lack of screen time that many of the female characters get in the movie and also addresses the problematic portrayal of Black Widow.

When the movie first came out, there was a feminist backlash against Whedon over the portrayal of Romanoff. For so many (myself included), Romanoff is a wonderful and beloved character so seeing her story within this movie seemed weird? Throughout so much of the movie, her involvement seems to be centered around Bruce Banner rather than Romanoff standing independently. (Also let’s stop pretending Whedon is a feminist but that’s something else for a completely different day.)

There have been a lot of critiques about one particular line that Romanoff says about half way through the movie – she refers to herself as a monster, which many have taken to be because she cannot bare children after her completion of the assassin training she went through in Russia. I knew of this critique before going into the movie so I kept an eye out for that moment to understand it better.

But with the context of that scene and more about her past, I didn’t necessarily see Romanoff’s comment about being a monster in reference to her infertility. I saw it more as a reference to her training to be an assassin, trained and molded to kill at will. I understood that line to mean that she was trained, experimented on, so much of herself was built and controlled by others in the beginning. One tweet (of many related ones) from Willow Maclay sums up some of my thoughts on the issue:

For me, I understood that comment to mean that Romanoff sees herself as a monster because of what she had been trained to be and her past filled with murder and violence than her inability to not have children. I can see how the comment can be construed to be in reference to Romanoff not having children but watching it for myself made me really side with the fact that the comment was to her past and training than anything else.

Libby Hill wrote an article for Salon about what this Avengers movie did get right about Black Widow and wrote about how devastating and heartbreaking sterility can be. And my own interpretation of this scene and this comment is really coming right after seeing the film for the first time and based on the fact that as far as I know, I do have the ability to choice whether or not I want to biologically have a family. My opinions of it might change the more I watch the movie and the more I read from others.

Looking over all of my thoughts, I realize now I have more opinions about the movie than I originally anticipated… There is so much that I really love about this movie but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. There are flaws within it and I think that’s so important to keep in mind when consuming media. My thoughts and opinions might change about the movie the more I watch it (lord knows that has happened with other movies and television shows in the past). But for right now, I’d say Avengers: Age of Ultron was pretty decent.