Friday, June 01, 2007

Which Is Not to Say I Won't Post Once in a Blue Moon

Blue_Moon_2007_2JPG, originally uploaded by ilyka_damen.

And--why, look! Here's one right now.

Okay, first, the boring clarification: I am fine, all is well, but again I find I need money, and again I recall that I never put up AdSense or anything like that, so again I kick myself and again I commit to typing more doctors.

Second, in order but not importance: Holy crumb, is there some good discussion here or what? And yes: Like all good discussions, it is lengthy. If you absolutely must have a short version, Blackamazon follows up and highlights some favorite points here.

I stay out, I mean far, far out, of the sex-pos/radfem debates. And stop your typing fingers right there, missy, because I know the very terms themselves are a problem, not so much radfem as "sex-pos," and I know in real life feminists don't always line up neatly into one category or the other, and in fact, that is my point: Neither do I. I like both. I reserve the right to agree with anyone at any time for any reason, whether it makes sense to anyone else or not. And you can substitute "disagree" for "agree" in the preceding sentence and have it be equally true, as some disappointed team players learned last week.

That said, you can probably tell from what I write and who I link to that I lean slightly towards the radical feminist side. I attribute this to my being a little old and a lot prudey, and I don't care. I will turn 38 in a week, and that's old enough to have reached a comfort zone with my own desire level, and--this is the best part--to understand and accept that my comfort zone and your comfort zone may not intersect at all, AND THAT IS OKAY. Get your freak on! I'll be over here with a book. Or I may be getting my own freak on, but you are not going to read about that here because my policy is, no posting about my girl parts unless I do something spectacularly stupid with them, at which point they become a comedy prop, and, why, just call me Gallagher. But be honest: You're grateful I'm not pitching this particular prop at the audience, now, aren't you? See, so am I.

And that is my position in general on the sex wars: I refuse to assume any position, ho, ho.

But I am more definite about cultural appropriation. My position on that is that white people (1) do too much of it; (2) are seldom honest about what they're doing upon being caught doing it; and (3) when they do admit to appropriating, too often follow it up by telling you their very good, unimpeachable by reasonable persons, reasons for doing it.

Case in point, this fella.

I found that by reading this interview with Chris Crocker in The Stranger, via Chaos Theory (Lauren, Lauren, what have you done?). And reading the interview, my heart did bleed:

. . . Chris took me to the nearby mall, a small cavern of beige floor tiles and pasty patrons, and gave me a tour that offered a new way of looking at this video, a way that made it much less funny. As we walked around, past the Sunglass Hut, past the pushy smells of scented candles and baking cookies, people stared hatefully at us, and mostly at him. They stared hard, with the kind of presumed right to glare that people in more sophisticated places wouldn't dare show.

. . .

Most young men like Chris, at loggerheads with their families and unwelcome in their communities, quickly give up. They either adapt to a closeted lifestyle or they run off to a big city, locate that city's gay neighborhood, take a job in a coffeeshop or bar or theater, and start anew. Chris may still do that. He's given himself until mid-June, the anniversary of his first internet video, to leverage enough money and opportunity out of his internet fame to escape his small town. If that doesn't work, he says, he'll consider doing something more old-fashioned, like buying a bus ticket.

Okay: I can't say "I get it" as in, "I've been in this situation," because plainly I haven't. But so far as I'm able to get it, I get it. I get that Chris is a young gay man stuck in what the interviewer describes as a town that "seems to hate him." I get that he has black friends online and I get that not all black people find videos like the one above offensive.

And I get also that when white people are being stomped on by other white people, for whatever reason, the seemingly logical thing for them to do is to draw support from people with even more experience in being oppressed by white people, and those sadly experienced people do tend to be nonwhites.

Finally, I get that some cultural mixing goes on anyhow, and probably always will, and if I really thought it were such a terrible thing, I'd have to give up eating tamales just to be able to sleep at night, and me giving up tamales, that is not going to happen.

The problem is that it's almost always one way. I've been trying off and on all night to come up with an example of resistance initiated by whites against other whites that wasn't originally borrowed from people of color, and I can't think of too many. Why, white people, when we rebel, do we always have to jump someone else's oppression train? And how many of us, once we're feeling a little better, once we've escaped our repressive Bible Belt towns for Hollywood or New York or Paris, jump right back off that train and wave bye-bye to the people still riding it, shouting after them some nicey-nice version of "So long, suckers"?

Thanks for letting me borrow your Compton slang. It really helped me tell my youth minister to fuck off in a creative way.

Thanks for telling me about Cesar Chavez. I may have to quote that guy the next time Harvey complains about doing his share of the housework.

Thanks for the book on Tantric tradition! So like is it true you can have sex for eight hours with this stuff? My lover is so busy these days, I'm lucky to get eight minutes.

I know there are whole schools of theory on this stuff about which I know nothing, nothing, but how hard is it not to ABS: Always Be Stealing? Or is the above video not stealing at all? Am I wrong to view it as stealing? I don't know, honestly, but something doesn't feel right to me. It feels to me as though once again, someone out there is confusing entitlement with empowerment.


Thin Black Duke said...

"Am I wrong to view it as stealing?"

No. I call bullshit. In my eyes, it's no different than when people latch on to slavery or the Holocaust as an analogy for how they've been wronged. And yeah, I get it too; he's definitely in a bad way (well, maybe not so much anymore since he seems to be famous now), and feel for what he's been through, but why does he have go one step short of blackface to get that across? I mean this:

"Girl, what is it, girl? What I got to hide, nigga, what I got to hide?"

Why? Why did he have to go there? So unnecessary and wrong on so many levels. His persecution as a gay man does not excuse his racism here any more than some black man's persecution excuses his homophobia. How can he complain about people calling him a fag and then turn around and call people nigga?

So I'd go a step further and say not only is he stealing, he's being straight up racist as hell.

Magniloquence said...

I don't know. I mean, I think there's a point at which yes, he's just playing or using whatever comes, er.. 'naturally.' The type of language as a choice, anyway. If someone wants to put on an accent for his MySpace fans, and he does so because that's what he likes, what he hears, and how he best expresses himself... good on him.

BUT. I don't think that's the major issue with him, specifically. Especially all the "I speak this shit as a second language and am therefore better than you because it's not authentic to me" is just... yeah. If you are going to use it, then you own your use of it. It's either authentic to you and a valid expression ("this is who I am and you get to deal with it"), or it's stupid playacting that only dumb people engage in.

So I absolutely don't think you're wrong to think of it as stealing, Ilyka. It's entitlement and appropriation, and racist as well. What bothers me most is the condescension though. That it's good enough for him to play with and try on and get fans and maybe a TV show and book deal or whatever out of ... it's good enough for him to appropriate for its 'rebel' status... but it's something to be looked down on if it's authentic? It's only okay if you're playing at it... like the jaded 20something art student people think he is? That's just... ugh. If you're going to be obnoxious and appropriate stuff, the least you could do is be nice about it.

(And, okay, here's where I probably lose my young asian woman card - if I have to choose between condescending appropriation and fetishizing appropriation, I'll choose the latter. I'd rather not deal with either, of course ... but I'd definitely take one of those skeezy 'yellow fever' types over this guy. Which is possibly a privileged statement of mine, as I don't usually look asian at all.)

ilyka said...

How can he complain about people calling him a fag and then turn around and call people nigga?

Exactly. When I was watching that one I kept thinking, "He's using 'girl' and 'n-' as slurs, and for bonus points, he himself is NEITHER."

Especially all the "I speak this shit as a second language and am therefore better than you because it's not authentic to me" is just... yeah.

You homed right in on the part that made my eyebrows REALLY start climbing my forehead. Yeah--"I'm better because I'm just trying this on for costume." Excuse me? And only white people have command of grammar now? Because I would not know that from some of the MySpace pages I've seen, including his!

I get that he's frustrated and in pain, but he doesn't need to be adding to anyone else's torment like this.

I really think the interviewer glossed over the race issue in that piece, too. Like he noted that some of the callers to the party line have started calling Chris "cracker," but then he moved right on from that information without making the connection that, hey, maybe not everyone thinks it's so cute that the flaming white boy is pretending to be black.

Lesley Plum said...

Not only was he appropriating, but he was throwing what he was appropriating back in the face of the people he appropriated it from as a way of saying "You're inferior to me." What the Thin Black Duke said: He doesn't get a pass on racism because he's a victim of homophobia.

Thin Black Duke said...

I forgot to add; this shtick isn't particularly groundbreaking either.

Nanette said...

Kevin, that's what this reminded me of too. I have not seen a lot of either of their works, but just with this one video I was thinking "less eminem or even Vanilla Ice, and more Shirley Q. Liquor".

I was all prepared, too, after reading the article, to be Very Understanding of what could be just a young person in pain trying to escape their own world, but no... this goes a bit beyond that.

belledame222 said...

TBD beat me to it. yeah, "Shirley Q Liquor," a real charmer. gah.

In instances like that, it's not even really -stealing- so much as--*slumming.* You know, like the oh so cutesy "Spic and Span" parties you were talking about not long ago.

I don't think it's possible to create anything entirely out of whole cloth; the fucked up part about white rock n roll and jazz and hiphop isn't so much that it was -influenced- as that it--or rather, a lot of artists and the business chunk of the various Industries-- got credit and other goodies for shit other people came up with/worked hard on, and in many cases, frankly, did better. and saw none of the rewards or even credit for it. know, it all gets mixed up. when people intermingle, sure, you're going to pick up stuff from each other and probably take it in your own direction; that's how -every- creative endeavour has evolved.

the problem, again, is that structurally, some people are given the shit end of the deal to begin with, so saying, "hey, nice art/religion/whatever you came up with there! I'll take that. now, back to your oppression whilst i cheerfully and obliviously enjoy myself with it, oh yeah, and probably misrepresent your "culture" while simultaneously erasing your actual voice, anyone got a problem with that? no didn't think so, moving right along..."

insult to injury, iow.

belledame222 said...

and it's funny, you know, i was just looking at wossname's videos today (didn't see that one, though) for the first time. at first i was sort of amused and charmed; i have a soft spot for very femmey boys. but then, rather quickly, he began to grate. i can't pin down why (like i said, didn't see this one). something. i dunno. besides the ugly racist shit, he comes off as a bit like Liza Minelli on speed, or something.