Privilege Praxis

December 12, 2008

Sherman Alexie’s Book Banned From Classrooms in Oregon

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — quiteneil @ 9:21 pm

via Oregon Live:

The Crook County School District has temporarily removed a book from classrooms after one parent complained to the school board that the National Book Award winner was “trashy” and “inappropriate.”

Written by Sherman Alexie, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” which is based on Alexie’s own experiences, follows a boy who leaves the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white school “where the only other Indian is the school mascot” according to the book jacket description.

But Hank Moss, of Prineville, read the book his son was assigned to read and raised objections to the school board earlier this week, according to the Bend Bulletin.

Moss, reached today by The Oregonian, said the book includes “a reference about masturbation, and that it’s ok and no big deal.” He added that he felt it was “inappropriate”…But Moss, the parent, said he does not think the book should be taught at any age.

“I don’t think it should be for anybody,” he said. “I think it’s trash. I don’t think a 50-year-old ought to read it.”

Blech.

December 8, 2008

Beer Pong, Objectivication, and Agnes Scott

Check out the article one of my friends, a senior at Agnes Scott College, wrote about the recent film shot on campus: “Road Trip 2: Beer Pong.”

Basically, Agnes Scott is a small women’s college in the South that prides itself on being the world for women. However, from time to time movies are filmed on campus, and this one was clearly quite terrible. The straw that broke the camel’s back, however, was when a student from Agnes Scott was paid to recruit other students during dinner to participate in a scene about a “LUG club”–lesbians until graduation. Students were told that they didn’t have to kiss, they just had to be comfortable around lesbians. Ick.

Other terrible stuff happened, too–Louisa writes that

FURTHERMORE, the movie’s Craigslist ad states “primarily seeking White” and “Attractive Female Model Type” extras, valued at $7.17/hr (be sure to send in your weight!). These racist and sexist standards are clearly visible on the movie’s promotional flyer. The flyer shows a headless white woman’s body, focusing on her large breasts, barely covered by a shirt that says “Nice Rack.” Her pelvis is in front of a triangle of shot glasses. The tagline? “Get your balls wet.”

Check it out. Ick.

Eta: One of the Bitch Magazine blogs has a write up about it.

December 5, 2008

queercents guest blogging!

Filed under: Uncategorized — quiteneil @ 2:08 pm

Hey folks, I am guest blogging over at Queercents for a bit, and I wanted to share with you the first post. It’s about getting all your ducks in a row when thinking about coming out.

December 4, 2008

ridiculousness of the day: english-only elections in tennessee

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — quiteneil @ 2:22 pm

via The Tennessean

Metro Nashville’s English-only special election is on, for now.

Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman ruled Wednesday that her court did not have the authority to grant a request to halt the Jan. 22 election.

“The court takes no pleasure in dismissing the lawsuit filed by Ms. Quinteros but does so … because the issue is not ripe,” she said.

In essence, Bonnyman ruled that plaintiff Rosa Quinteros — a Honduran immigrant who has been living in Davidson County since 1998 after being granted temporary asylum by the U.S. government — must wait until the measure is put to voters and becomes law before she can challenge its constitutionality. She is suing Metro government and the Davidson County Elections Commission to stop the election.

Quinteros declined to comment on the advice of her lawyers, David Randolph Smith and Sean Lewis.

Smith said he would file an appeal as soon as possible with the Tennessee Supreme Court or the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Either court could rule in favor of Quinteros and could halt the election.
Voting begins Jan. 2

Metro Councilman Eric Crafton, the driving force behind efforts to limit most government business to the English language since 2006, said he doesn’t understand how Quinteros’ rights have been violated.

“What I don’t understand is why someone granted temporary asylum … felt that that gave her the right to suppress the right of voters to be heard,” he said.

Bonnyman did not rule on whether the English-only measure is constitutional. She said that a 2004 case decided by the Tennessee Supreme Court indicated that such a determination cannot be made before an election unless there are questions about the process or procedures used leading up to an election.

Ballots will be mailed to military personnel and other Davidson County voters living abroad on Dec. 8. Early voting is set to begin Jan. 2.

On Tuesday, a naturalized citizen from Myanmar joined the lawsuit, claiming that he has concerns about how an English-only rule would affect his ability to assist Southeast Asian refugees in Nashville. Win Myint’s legal filing said he has noticed more divisiveness locally since English-only has become an issue.

I really want to write more about the oppressive privileged nature of the English language, both in the academy and in every day life.

December 3, 2008

Prop 8 Response, Privilege, and What Have You

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — quiteneil @ 3:36 am

I know I’m behind the times blogging about this, but Dan Savage’s comments along with the generally terribly racist response that went unchecked over at a reposted letter at the Bilerico Project have frustrated me beyond words. I was reading over bell hooks’s Teaching Community tonight at work, and I wanted to pull out this section from it.

Often the white women I have encountered who are most passionate in their will to be anti-racist, who carry their commitment from theory to practice, are gay women. Interviewing them I heard again and again that discrimination against them on the basis of sexuality helped bridge their understanding of the pain of race-based discrimination. Rather than assuming that this pain was identical to the pain they experienced, they accepted the “bridge” as merely a base to walk across, allowing them to learn from people of color the nature of our experience in the social context of white supremacy.

Many white gay people are unable to bridge the gap. They remain unable to look at the way in which whiteness and white power give them access to privilege to the role of dominator. They refuse to see the ways discrimination can impact on our consciousness differently even though the forms it takes are the same. Often gay white people look down on black people because they percieve us to be more homophobic or less sexually progressive. These stereotyped assumptions are rooted in white-supremacist thinking, which deems white folks to be always more sophisticated and complex than people of color. White gay women and men who are fundamentally anti-racist do not need to use the notion that they are intellectually superior or to legitimize their fear of us.

ETA: Renee from Womanist Musings has a post up at Feministe about pearl clutchers that speaks to this really well, too. I think that a lot of response to Prop 8 from white people has very much been a pearl clutching response, almost in the worst way–”Of course we aren’t privileged–we’re gay! Why don’t you understand!” while repeating the same racist blather that keeps them from seeing their own privilege.

November 7, 2008

Privilege and Response to Barack Obama.

One of my best friends from high school couldn’t have more divergent political views than my own.  He posted a dramatic note on Facebook about how Barack Obama would tax the upper middle class to death and that was nothing less than a “Marxist created theory of the redistribution of wealth.”

I didn’t reply, because there is no way I could change his mind, but I couldn’t put my finger on why I was upset until I did my laundry last night.  I realized I was upset because economic policy, while part of the reason I didn’t vote for John McCain, was not my main decision.  Here are some of the more salient reasons I didn’t vote for him.

  1. John McCain, on his campaign website, states that he “believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench.”  Clearly, he doesn’t care about women’s bodies, or their right to make decisions.  I must also say that I hate this idea of “activist judges,” because it implies that first, an activist is a bad thing incongruent with being a member of the judicial system, and second, because it implies that conservative judges aren’t “legislating from the bench.”
  2. John McCain also states he “believes the institution of marriage is a union between one man and one woman. It is only this definition that sufficiently recognizes the vital and unique role played by mothers and fathers in the raising of children, and the role of the family in shaping, stabilizing, and strengthening communities and our nation.”  Thanks for upholding a heterosexist, sexist, and generally not accurate view of what a family is.
  3. If John McCain had been elected, it would continue this paradigm of a white, rich man being the president of the United States.

I could go on and on.  You know the facts; you know what each candidate stood for.

I just think it’s privileged to focus on how each candidate will affect your tax return.  If you don’t have to worry about conservative activist judges making decisions about your body, if you don’t have fight tooth and nail to enjoy the privilege of being married, if someone who shares your identity has NEVER been president, then you have the privilege to focus on taxes.

September 19, 2008

NCTE survey

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — quiteneil @ 10:22 pm

The National Center for Transgender Equality is taking a survey in conjuction with Penn State to document the experiences of trans folks. If you identify as a trans person and don’t mind being frank about your life experience (the questions are pretty intense), take a few minutes to do the survey.

August 8, 2008

Extreme.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — alejo @ 8:39 pm

I got hit by a car last Sunday. The car was taking a turn and wasn’t going very fast, so I wasn’t badly injured; still, an ambulance was called and I gave them my information as coherently as I could. One of the EMTs looked at my information, looked at me, and said

“So, you’re, uh, a male or a female? You’re a female, correct?”

Semi-conscious and bleeding not being my favorite state for Trans 101 talks, I started to nod until I realized that made my neck hurt, and then grunted in acquiescence instead. And that was it.

I got strapped in to a gurney. While strapping one of those blood-pressure measuring cuffs around my upper arm, one of the EMTs felt it was appropriate to note to the rest of the riders in the ambulance that I have lost weight.

“Oh my god, you’ve lost a lot of weight, haven’t you?” She indicated the loose skin on my upper arm. “This is one of the most extreme examples of this I’ve ever seen.” We started moving, and the topic proved irresistible. “How much weight have you lost?” Still in shock from the accident and kind of afraid to not answer – this is a medical person! asking me questions! – I mumbled out an answer. “Oh, wow. Congratulations,” said the EMT. And then that line of questioning was over.

Most of my emotions from immediately after the accident were fairly insignificant against the backdrop of that HOLY SHIT, I JUST GOT HIT BY A CAR feeling, but even at the time, this exchange felt awfully objectifying and inappropriate. And I’ve gotten angrier after the fact, as I confirmed with a medical professional friend of mine that information about my weight loss had no fucking bearing on the whole got-hit-by-a-car thing that was the issue at hand. But it’s seemed to me that the fact of my changing body has been open for comments from pretty much everyone, whether I know them or not, at pretty much any time; it’s suddenly alright to openly describe my body as an “extreme example” while I’m injured and disoriented and in pain. And to moreover expect me to be happy and complimented with this description.

I’ve found it hard to negotiate my changing relationship to fat politics and fat identity. I have lost a lot of weight. I can’t say that I personally identify as fat anymore, because that feels disrespectful to my former fat embodiment and the social hardships and oppressions that came with that. I still feel like I’m chubby; but, really, how many gay boys can say otherwise? – and at any rate I’m very aware that my weight issues now are quite different from the ones I had when I was fat. But my very experience with weight loss has made me all the more invested and committed to a fat politics.

People who would not have not found it at all appropriate to comment on my fatness seem to have no problem openly marveling over its’ disappearance. My weight loss, while it has made my body more inconspicuous and more normative in many, many ways, has also made my body open season for endless comments that let me know that people are damn well noting and policing my size. Weight loss has had a way of stripping away people’s courteous inhibitions about talking about my sized body, either to other people or directly to me. When I was fat (read: bad), it wasn’t so OK to comment on my size (though it happened sometimes, of course, but not generally by people who were trying to be friendly or polite) because it’s not nice to insist on talking to a person about this negative thing about their body. Obviously my body is better now, though; that I’ve lost weight is a great, happy thing, a sign of personal success and strength, and who doesn’t want to congratulate someone on that, huh? No one! And few have failed to avail themselves of the opportunity. The new-found social goodness of my post-fat body have thrown in to clear relief for me the extent to which my body was and is marked and made meaningful by its’ size.

I’ve wanted for a while to write something for an upcoming fat-queer anthology, and I think this may be a good place to start. I’ll certainly be writing more about fat/size politics in the future.

Moderator’s note to readers: Exactly how and why I have lost weight is not really any of your business at all, and if you were thinking about posting to ask about either of these things, I suggest you read my post again until the point that having my fat/loss constantly scrutinized, commented upon, and questioned really sucks sinks in. All posts not respecting this will be deleted.

Alejo’s intro

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — alejo @ 6:22 pm

I’m Alejo, Neil’s co-blogger here at Privilege Praxis.

I’m a mostly middle-class college student at a major state university in the South. I studied graphic design before I dropped that in favor of critical theory, in the guise of a dual English and Women’s Studies degree, thus buying myself a ticket to the thrilling and decadent lifestyle of the activist-academic. My father is Costa Rican, my mother is a Southerner of mostly Scottish decent, and I’m a fairly light-skinned person with a hyphenated surname. I’m a short, queer transguy who’s generally able-bodied. My three favorite people I’ve never actually met are Foucault, Morrissey, and Bea Arthur.

Hello, world.

July 29, 2008

Tutoring “Examples” in Writing Center Tutor Training Texts, Take Two

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — quiteneil @ 8:46 pm

“As you read these responses, think about the experiences that you bring to tutoring writing. From Jessi:

 

I remember when I was in fourth grade, I was singled out (I hate when teachers do that) to help a slow kid named Peter with his reading. We sat down during “quiet time” and I helped him go over the lesson we had learned earlier that day. Each day when we were alone, the teacher would give me a sticker, I assume as an award, that I had to wear on the front of my Catholic school uniform. She never gave Peter a sticker.

Today I am still undecided as to why I chose to help Peter. Was it because I had always been good at matters pertaining to English? Did the teacher think that Peter would benefit more from my help as a peer? Or was she just lazy and preferred to have “quiet time” to herself? I guess I don’t expect a sticker at the end of each of my tutoring sessions these days. I do expect tutoring to be a fulfilling experience for both myself and my students/classmates…”

The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Peer Tutoring, Gillespie and Learner, Allyn and Bacon, 2000 (emphasis mine).

Blech.

As we saw last time with Darren and Yaroslav, privilege plays a key role within the texts used to train writing center tutors. In the St. Martin’s guide, they primarily rely on fictional representations of the tutoring session; Allyn and Bacon gets in the “tutor voice” by beginning their text with narratives from tutors reflecting on what brought them to tutoring. The above passage is the first narrative. Here’s a few things that are problematic about it:

1) As the first tutor narrative in a book whose audience is meant to be tutors and people in courses preparing to become tutors, it uses perjorative, ableist language to describe a tutor’s relationship with a situation that brought Jessi to the writing center.

2) It sets up that tutors will be rewarded for their ability to help someone who is not fitting an academic mold or standard, not a relationship between two people who want to examine ideas/context(s)/text.

3) Is Jessi a peer to Peter? Given that she was “singled out” (specially chosen) and given “a sticker” (rewarded) that Peter didn’t get, I don’t think that a peer relationship is what Jessi nor her teacher had in mind. I think it’s interesting too that she refers to her current tutees as students/classmates–especially when later Allyn and Bacon goes into such detail about why tutors are not teachers.

What I’ve learned so far from reading these guidebooks (we’re not required to read them to tutor at Agnes, but they’re around) is that their kind of peer tutoring isn’t actually peer tutoring. It’s semi-peer-tutoring. It’s about going to see a para-para-professor to clarify your ideas and get your paper in shape for academia. It is about instituing privilege into a tutor so that they have the upper hand in a tutoring situation. Consequently, tutoring guides don’t tell you how to deal with issues that tutors might have with their own race/class/queer/gender/ability stuff. It assumes that all tutors don’t have to worry about it and only tells you (sometimes) how to deal with someone else who has race/class/queer/gender/ability stuff.

 

 

 

 

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