Prior to me attending a screening of Alleen Maar Nette Mensen, which translates as Only Decent People, I had already been introduced to both the blatant and subtle white supremacist arrogance of the Dutch. However, nothing I had experienced via cinema or popular culture in my adult life, not even the worst of ignorant Black movies or 2Chainz videos could have adequately prepared me for the hour and half of pain I had to endure during the press screening of Only Decent People, a film based off of Robert Vuijsje’s best-selling book that actually went into dozens of editions of print prior to being made into a commercial film.
There are so many problematic issues with the production of Only Decent People, that it’s hard to condense them into a few statements. However, for the sake of clarity and contextualization, I will do my best to accurately describe the movie. To start, every single negative characterization of the Black woman as a hyper-sexualized being, loathed by all, even herself, was perpetuated. Scene after scene, all of the Black female characters were, for lack of a better word, beasts. They were all dehumanized creatures with the same exaggerated obese body type (with the exception of one who looked anorexic and was about to have a train run on her).
From Shuffering and Shimiling: Race, Degradation and Apathy in the Netherlands by Shantrelle P. Lewis
I should feel more outraged about this, but I’m still trying to get over the first stage of recovery from blatantly racist misogynist nonsense: utter disbelief.
One day I’ll cease to be surprised by this type of thing, but this is just so over the top that I’m shocked anyone saw fit to make it and invite media to screen it without fear of being torn apart. (via stufficareabout)
I’m not expecting to emigrate any time soon, but all those bikes and marriage equality cannot overcome this aspect of Dutch culture. I still might visit, though. ~Erica
Let me tell you something: as someone who faces sexism on a very personal level, I have no interest in politely trying to educate misogynists when we live in a culture in which their misogyny has no repercussions. Our government is introducing bill after bill of offensive, woman-hating legislation, murder is still the leading cause of [death of] pregnant women, and rape is under-prosecuted at staggering numbers. Birth control is up for debate, governors are rolling back equal pay laws, and you think I have the energy to be polite to these people?
Because it doesn’t do any good. There’s no evidence that being super nice to sexists, or racists, or homophobes, or bigots of any kind will make them see the error of their ways - it’ll just make them more comfortable to be around you because you’re playing by their rules.
My blog is one of the only times these people will face any repercussions for being bigots. And you know what? They can turn off the computer and go right back out into the world where they are sexist jackasses and people tolerate it or even encourage it. When I turn off the computer, I’m still in a world of sexist jackasses that are tolerated and even encouraged. There’s this culture of not having any accountability for being a bigot, and I’ve created one tiny space on the internet where that’s no longer true.
Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let’s call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?
Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.
This means that the default behaviors for almost all the non-player characters in the game are easier on you than they would be otherwise. The default barriers for completions of quests are lower. Your leveling-up thresholds come more quickly. You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for. The game is easier to play, automatically, and when you need help, by default it’s easier to get.
John Scalzi, “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is” (via emm-in-sem)
The analogy seems apt. Scalzi makes a good point about the word “privilege” being offputting. I know it’s exciting when you finally learn what exactly privilege is and it’s all you want to talk about because you see it everywhere. But the word “privilege,” while not quite up there with “racist,” does tend to make people tune out, either because they don’t get it at all or they don’t get it in the same context that you do.
I have always recoiled from the idea that certain conversations by marginalized people can only be held behind closed doors (The old “Don’t air our dirty laundry” thing.). But now I’m wondering if some things simply cannot be discussed effectively within a mainstream context without “othering” the group in question.
It was the latest article in The Washington Post’s series on black women that got me thinking. Lonnae O’Neal Parker is a good writer. Her effort was measured and thoughtful. She is a black female writer in a space where the voices of black women are not the majority. The Washington Post has accompanied its coverage with online discussions and the actual voices of black women—something that doesn’t often happen. Now, I complain all the time about the absence of black women in mainstream media. I hate that they so often ignore us. But here The Washington Post is paying attention to black women and I find I’d rather they didn’t. Because despite all the panels and surveys and a black woman writer and the presence of black female voices, it still reads as exotification and demonization because of the context and because of who is observing the conversation.
I recall feeling the same way last year, when I took part in a CNN online article about the phenomenon of black women with natural hair enduring unwanted touching. Several black women honestly shared our lived experiences with a black writer, who had navigated similar waters. But a brief web article cannot hold the nuance and history related to African American hair and beauty standards and power dynamics. And, based on the nasty attacks several of us endured as a result of the article, in the end, it served more to inflame than educate. (More here.)
Last week I found myself working on an article about an element of black culture for a mainstream feminist publication. My criticism of the Post series and the aftermath of the CNN article began haunting me. Because here I was explaining a black issue for consumption by a mostly non-black audience and perhaps opening the door to the same “othering” that I hate.
So, I wondered: How do other folks who are members of historically marginalized groups, and who write about race and gender and sexuality, wrestle with this? Do they? Should we? Are there topics writers will not or should not discuss outside of a “safe space”? Are there story ideas writers reserve for “of color” or GLBT spaces?