Monday, August 31, 2009

Macon D's "StuffWhitePeopleDo" blog and reflections on the birth of my own awakening



Since I've joined the blogosphere (which hasn't been long) I have discovered some interesting blogs that I feel are worth following.

Just a few days ago I found a blog page entitled stuffwhitepeopledo. The blog is written by a man named Macon D. On his profile he describes himself as, "a white guy, trying to find out what that means. Especially the 'white' part."

Not only do I admire Macon D's efforts, his story brings me to a point of reflection. His story has me reflecting on some of my own efforts and history.

I am a woman of a mixed ethnicity. I am half Mexican and half White "mutt." The first period of my life that I really began to explore race, culture, triumph and oppression was in college. I was attending a liberal arts college in the small town of Olympia, Washington. I can honestly say that The Evergreen State College changed my life and for that I am eternally grateful.

At one point I took a multi-cultural counseling class entitled "180 Degrees". Like most classes at Evergreen, there were no grades, no tests, and technically no majors only an "emphasis". Let me reassure you that this school IS accredited and has a wonderful reputation! Haha! Let me also note that this unorthodox schooling did not equate to an easy ride. 180 Degrees was very much a preparation for graduate school.

The class consisted of about 19 students and a work load of heavy reading, writing, projects, internship and very intense class discussion. When we met for "seminar" the topics were often heated. Sure the class taught us psychology and therapy but we also focused on cultural competency.

This winded story carries me to one specific memory. At one point several of the black students turned to the rest of us who weren't, to say that they were sick and tired of being our tutors or teachers on race. They told us that if we really wanted to know...if we really wanted our questions answered we needed to do our own research and find our own creative ways in which to understand.

Initially, I was torn. At 21 years of age I remember thinking...well, aren't we all here in this class to share our specific perspectives? Aren't we here to learn from each other? While these questions seemed perfectly logical and appropriate at the time, I remember having to really ruminate. I was conflicted.

One black woman announced to the class that she had been stewing with frustration for quite some time as she felt the class "skated" around the issue of race but never really addressed it. Being the introvert that I am it was difficult for me to really put myself out there. Eventually, I turned to her and asked her what she meant specifically. She was vague and never gave a clarifying answer. At a certain point I felt so frustrated I wanted to just blurt out, "TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT!"

I remember that after a while I became uneasy around this woman. A woman who was twice my age, with more life experience, and certainly more racial oppression than I had ever faced. Eventually, I put that asiade and told myself to just snap out of it. Could she have easily been more specific with me? Should she have simply told me what it was that she wanted the class to acknowledge? Perhaps. But there was a bigger issue at hand.

When we want questions answered about feminism should we seek out women? When we want to know more about the LGBTQ community should we seek out a gay friend? The person whom you seek will have an experience that is unique to them. And yes, there are some individuals who are very willing to share their stories and educate the masses. But really, it can be an exhausting job. I find this to be true when I speak up about feminist issues.
So, yes I think it is quite important for us to take the initiative and explore for ourselves.

I am not in touch with anyone from that class anymore. It was certainly a life changing journey but I think in the end we went our separate ways. The professor who teaches that class had said that his students react to the experience differently. But really, it did turn me "180 Degrees."

After I had graduated and returned home to California I felt changed. I continued to reflect on my experiences and realized that the journey did not end upon my culmination of that exhausting but inspiring program.

I began seeking out literature on race, sexism, privilege and class. I am no expert and I have no idea how much of these books I retain but I am always seeking a forum in which to touch upon these issues.
Can it be scary to open up about sensitive issues like these? You betcha! But really..what else are we going to do?

***

So, moving on to Macon D's recent post on his blog stuffthatwhitepeopledo. He just wrote a post entitled Rarely Notice Their White Moments.

Rather than simply paraphrase his post (even though I have posted links above to his post) I am just going to paste it here.

Monday, August 31, 2009

rarely notice their white moments

If you're a person who fits the category of "white," how often do you actually notice that you're white? I propose the concept of "white moments." These are moments when something happens to a white person -- usually something positive, or good -- that would have happened differently if he or she were not a white person. These also tend to be moments that the ordinary white person doesn't notice as a white moment. As a moment, that is, in which something happened differently because they were white than it likely would have otherwise. I also propose a corollary, "non-white moments" (or if you prefer, "people of color moments"). These are moments during interactions with white people when something happens to a non-white person that would have happened differently, or even might have happened differently, if he or she were white. It's also a moment that the non-white person -- as opposed to the white person in a white moment-- is likely to notice as a racial moment. Non-white people, that is, are more likely than white people to notice how their race affects, or may affect, the things that happen to them. If this is true, then this difference is part of a more general difference: non-white people generally understand racial realities, including their own parts in them, better than white people do. In Revealing Whiteness: The Unconscious Habits of Racial Privilege, Shannon Sullivan explains how the psychoanalytic concept of "leading ideas" can help to understand common white ways of thinking and being, including this particular mode of white oblivion. Freud points out that "leaders" of groups are usually thought of as individual people, but that the members of groups also follow big ideas that function like the people who lead groups. Such leading ideas are often conscious, but they can also be unconscious. Also, a leading idea can be more conscious for one group than it is for another. Generally, the leading idea of "race," especially one's own race, is more of an unconscious leading idea for whites than it is for non-whites. As Sullivan writes, Because the white supremacist consciously affirms white supremacy as her leading idea, she is consciously aware of her membership in a group of white supremacists. In contrast, it might sound strange to describe a person as unaware of what groups she belongs to, and Freud does not discuss this as a possibility.

But people who are not aware of their leading ideas often are not aware that they belong to a particular group and that the group's attitudes affect the way that they view and interact with the world. This is certainly true of many white people with regard to their membership in whiteness. The seeming naturalness and resulting invisibility of white privilege often prevent it from being recognized as a leading idea.
In contrast, Sullivan adds, members of racial minorities tend to be highly aware of their racial membership, "because it often is forced upon them by a racist world." Michelle Johnson attempts to quantify the black experience of this phenomenon in her book, Working While Black: The Black Person's Guide to Success in the White Workplace. She calls the overt, relatively frequent black awareness of being perceived as black "the 15 percent difference": What I think many whites, including (ironically) even liberal whites, don't get, is that even though our experiences as black people can be 85 percent the same as white people, some days that 15 percent difference is the only difference we feel.

Johnson explains that this difference comes about in moments when a black worker in a largely white workplace either knows, suspects, or wonders if what just happened had something to do with his or her race. Johnson is careful to note that not all blacks feel this difference in the same amount, and that different jobs will produce different percentages. "One could say," she writes, "that when you're a leader in the civil rights movement, your 15 percent is actually 100 percent." Of course, different people of color will also feel this difference differently, and in different percentages. I'd like to hear, for instance, what percentage of time a Korean American feels his or her race in largely white settings, or a Latina, or an Arab American, or an Indian in England, or an Indonesian in Australia. These will all differ, but the main point here for me as a white American is that when I interact with others in largely white environments, I'm almost never encouraged to know, suspect, or wonder if what just happened had something to do with my race. As a result, my awareness percentage in those terms could well be below one percent. And so, paradoxically, one of the "leading ideas" of whiteness is the false idea that being white has next to nothing to do with who I am and how other people treat me. One thing that white people are often encouraged to do in anti-racism discussions is take note of their "white privilege," as Peggy McIntosh does in her pioneering article on the topic. I try to do that, and doing so has actually become something of a habit for me. I often pause in the midst of a day's events to think about how much easier the day is going for me, simply because I'm white (I wrote about such a pause here). One thing that I think even fewer white people do is notice, during ordinary, everyday moments, the dynamic relevance of their whiteness -- aside from white privilege. Notice, that is, that they are white, and that it does affect how many situations play out for them, whether or not those situations clearly involve "privilege." And yet, when I do think of such moments in my own life, they always do seem to boil down to privilege. At the very least, any moment I can think of in a largely white setting that seemed to play out in a particular way because I'm white also went more smoothly or easily than it would have otherwise. That smooth easiness is a form of white privilege. For example -- was the following just a "white moment," or a moment of "white privilege"? I went to a movie the other night with a white friend. As the previews began we found seats, as we always do, in the third row. We like being that close to whatever big fantasy world the filmmakers have put together; also, we can sit in the middle of the screen, and rarely have anyone sitting next to us. Plenty of arm-room that way. But last night the theater was crowded, so a white woman ended up sitting next to me, along with her white male partner. As she sat down, I removed my arm from the armrest between us. "Oh, that's okay!" said the blond, thirty-something woman cheerfully. "You can put your arm back. I'm not worried about catching cooties from you!" My friend and her friend/partner heard this, and all four of us laughed. I've noticed that strangers often use such cheerful, joking comments to put each other at ease. The laughter assures everyone that we're all okay with each other, and with being thrust together like this, into a sort of intimacy that we wouldn't otherwise share. However, as we all turned to the screen, sitting sort of together now in the dark, I also realized that we could all laugh about her "cooties" comment, and laugh more easily, and more together, because we were all white. What if, that is, I hadn't been white? Would she have even said that to a black man or woman? Or someone clearly Hispanic, or Asian? "I'm not worried about catching cooties from you"? And if she had said it to someone of another race, what might that have meant, or implied? She might not have even chosen to sit next to me if I hadn't clearly been white -- there were some other empty seats. Again, if I'd been a member of a clearly different race and she had chosen to sit next to me, she might not have said that. Or, she might not have said that, but still thought it. Or rather, some version of it: I better not sit next to him -- I might catch cooties! As the movie began, I also thought about how I was probably the only one among us four who thought about what it meant to be white in that moment. I don't mean to pat myself on the back for that. But I do mean that I'm more aware of what it means for me to be white than I used to be. That awareness makes me understand my own life better, and how it typically goes for me, and how I got to where I am. It helps me understand how my becoming white has meant adopting a distorted and oblivious view of the world, and of my place in it. This better understanding of the daily workings of my whiteness also makes it a little easier to understand how others got to where they are, and to think about them, and react to them and treat them differently, and I hope better, than I would otherwise. It also motivates my social activism, my efforts to reject the complacency encouraged by my whiteness by joining anti-racism efforts. The movie, by the way, was that muddled racism allegory, District 9. The theater was almost full, and most of the viewers were white. As we watched, I noticed something else that I think a lot of white people there didn't notice. When the cartoonish villain who was a black guy (a Nigerian gang leader) got his head blown off, most of the audience laughed. Later, when the cartoonishly villainous white guy (a murderous mercenary) was also decapitated, most of the audience was silent. I think that together, those two moments in time became another white moment.

***

I remember after completing the multi-cultural program at Evergreen, I began questioning everything. I saw issues of race, sexism, classism, homophobia, and agism everywhere! It was frustrating and exhausting! Certainly, not an easier life but a more conscience one. One in which I could not only continue to educate myself, but one in which I could be an example for others. My goal then and today is to be that ripple in the pond in which I can influence and learn from others.
In addition to my new awakening I realized I was also afraid. I was afraid of offending another individual, I noticed that rather than really critiquing an issue I might jump to an assumption that something was oppressive. I think I developed some liberal guilt. I am not ashamed in anyway. My experience was part of the learning process and a natural progression from where I had started.

I will continue to make mistakes, to fumble, to learn, to regress, to grow, and reach out through activism.

After 26 years Reading Rainbow says goodbye


(npr.org)
LeVar Burton as the host of Reading Rainbow

It is coming to a close my friends. This Friday will mark the finale of the PBS children show Reading Rainbow.



Even though I haven't watched Reading Rainbow since childhood I have fond memories of the show. The show began in 1983 and was hosted by actor LeVar Burton for 26 years.

Each episode featured a children's book that inspired an adventure between the kids and Burton. Burton would reference the intrigue of the book by spouting his famous line, "But you don't have to take my word for it ..." Kids would then give their own review of the book.

So, why is the show ending?

John Grant, who is in charge of content at WNED Buffalo, Reading Rainbow's home station explained in a recent NPR interview that no one is willing to fund it anymore. Several hundred thousand dollars are needed to renew the show's broadcast rights and PBS and the station are turning a blind eye.

Grant says that in addition to the lack of funding there educational television programming is changing. During the time of the Bush administration the Department of Education preferred a bigger focus on the basic tools of reading, spelling and grammar.

Reading Rainbow was a show that did not so much teach kids HOW to read but rather why. was trying to do.

"Reading Rainbow taught kids why to read," Grant says. "You know, the love of reading — [the show] encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read."

In my opinion this is worth keeping the program on the air. The program has done well for all these years and imagine it would continue to have an audience if continued.

I am an avid reader myself and I am always thrilled when I meet a person young or old who is a reader. As a person who has worked with children in different capacities over the years I can tell you that I have always encouraged kids to read. I think that if they find an interest in reading that can only help them in terms of spelling, grammar and pronounciation. I guess the big wigs didn't think so.

Fare thee well Reading Rainbow you inspired so many!


Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high!
Take a look! It's in a book!
Reading Rainbow!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sex educator and artist turns her bout with cancer into a process of art and healing



I just posted a piece about Annie Sprinkle, Phd. A woman who's views I often disagree with but some I embrace. I am a feminist against pornography and she is a feminist that is in favor of it. She started her career with stripping, pornography and prostitution. She is now a sex educator and performance artist.

I have just learned that Sprinkle had a bout with breast cancer in 2005 and I am impressed with the way in which she attempted to handle it. It seems that she had a lot of support and love around her. She used her illness as a catalyst which promoted art, love and well being.

When Sprinkle began losing her hair during the process of chemotherapy she decided to shave her head. Her wife shaved her head as well and the photos from the piece are part of a project they call Hairotica. I do not view this piece as sexual although her goal might have been to make it so. I see this as a beautiful moment between two people who love and support each other. She has turned an intense and for some scary and sad time into art. To view more photos from her website go here.











Sprinkle continued to use her illness as an extension of her Love Art project. In her words she says, "what better way to explore the themes of security and survival than to try and stay alive." Sprinkle posted photos from her biopsy.

DISCLAIMER: THE PHOTOS YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE ARE GRAPHIC IN NATURE. IF YOU GET QUEASY EASILY I SUGGEST YOU DO NOT LOOK


According to Sprinkle's website, her nipple and tumor turned blue from the dye the surgeon injected into her lymph nodes. Sprinkle's cancer was found to be stage one which means it was caught early.







Sprinkle later posted these photos in a gallery with medical bandages outlining the frames. To see more photos go here.


This next piece is what Sprinkle calls her Chemo Fashion Show. It seems that when Sprinkle went to her chemo infusions she decided to make the process quite fashionable and flirty. She said that her efforts actually helped other women receiving chemo feel lighthearted and entertained. At a later date the photos were put together into a slide show performance in which Sprinkle presented as if she were an emcee at a fashion show. Here are some of her photos and captions that go with it. To see more photos click here.



Never clash with your chemo—coordinate red on red—and drip with rhinestones



Chemo cocktails anyone?


Notice how the acupuncture needles draw attention to the richness of the fabrics and the sari’s details


When you’re feeling scalped and your cells are under attack, look sassy, make art, and survive

Breast cancer is no doubt a scary prospect. As a woman it is something I certainly fear. I am glad that Sprinkle was able to bring humor and wit to her recovery process and am happy to know that she is doing well.

I applaud and thank Sprinkle for sharing her experience and turning it into art. What a method of healing and hope ay?

Annie Sprinkle: Porn star with a Phd - What we agree on and what we don't



There are a lot of things I could say about Annie Sprinkle. As a feminist against pornography we don't agree on a lot of things but there are some philosophies that I admire and I will touch upon those in this post.

First let me give a little background on Sprinkle. Annie Sprinkle began her career as a porn actress in 1973. She has also worked as a stripper and a prostitute (although I would argue that all forms of sexual exploitation is prostitution). Sprinkle is currently an artist and an educator. She has earned a Phd in human sexuality in 2002. Sprinkle travels and tours with workshops and lectures that focus on sex positivity.

Annie Sprinkle and I disagree on the issue of pornography. To put it simply she is pro-porn and I am anti-porn. I believe that pornography distorts any kind of honest sexuality and provides a narrow and conservative view of whatever sexuality can be. I think pornography cages sexuality rather than allowing it roam free. So, obviously I do not support Sprinkle and her efforts to advocate porn.

What I do admire is the fact that she wants to promote sexual health and also wants women to embrace their bodies and celebrate their sexualities.

One of the projects that Sprinkle is known for is her "Public Cervix Announcement." Sprinkle believes that the cervix is amazing but understands that many women and men alike never have the opportunity to look at one. Throughout the years, Sprinkle has allowed individuals to take a peek inside her vagina with a flashlight and speculum.



I have mixed feelings about this project. One the one hand I enjoy the fact that this exhibit is not meant to be sensual but rather educational. But of course this woman is still taking her clothes off and allowing individuals to look at a part of her that I personally feel is quite private. I personally don't allow anyone other than myself or a boyfriend I trust to see that part of me.

So, here's the question. Is this display pornographic? I dare to say no.

If you care to actually look at Annie Sprinkle's cervix you can do so here.

Annie Sprinkle also provides information about the cervix and how one can view their own.

HOW TO EXAMINE YOUR OWN CERVIX

Excerpted with permission from The Urban Herbalist, a newsletter of self-help healthcare, herbal healing, and sexual adventure. The HAGS are resting right now, and are not currently publishing new issues. For information about back issues, either send email to WiseWomb@aol.com, or send SASE to The Urban Herbalist, P.O.Box 974, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013.

Disclaimer: In accordance with FDA regulation, none of the information contained in this text in intended to be used for diagnostic or treatment purposes. Use at your own risk.


Lady J's Disclaimer: This information consists of some language that I personally do not use in my daily life. Language that may be quite casual for some but for me is aggressive and sophomoric. Words such as "pussy", "cunt" and "dick" are not of my choosing.

PART I: Vaginal Anatomy


THE VAGINA is a closed tube. If there is not a tampon, dick, dildo, finger or other object inside it, the muscular walls of the tube are collapsed and touching one another. Compare it to an airless balloon. When you stick your fingers in, the walls may vary from very dry to very wet. This all depends on where you are in life and where you are in your menstrual cycle. Get to know this Gooky Goo. It's completely natural and an intimate relationship with your own vaginal secretions means fewer venereal disease freak-outs and better knowledge of the patterns of your cycles.

THE CERVIX is that little knob at the end of the vaginal tunnel. It is the lower tip of your uterus (where your monthly bloods come from). To the touch it could fell like the end of a nose or, if you've had a baby, more like a chin. If you're having trouble feeling it, push like you're taking a shit or bring your knees closer to your chest. The small depression or indented ridge-like hole in the middle of the cervix is called THE OS; it's the doorway to your cervical canal which is about 1 inch long and lined with tiny mucus-secreting glands; lots of that lovely pussy goo comes from here. The cervical canal is also the hallway to your uterus. No tampon, finger, or penis can pass up through the os, but it can expand for a baby to come out. Pretty fucking cool, huh? Too bad lots of women have died very painfully and for no reason because some idiot thought they could stick a wire hanger up there for an illegal abortion.


PART II: USING A SPECULUM TO SEE YOUR CERVIX

Before beginning this adventure, you'll need to get a speculum, a flashlight, a hand-held mirror, and possibly some lube. YOUR SPECULUM is for you and you alone. Wash it after every use with an antiseptic soap or a very weak bleach mix, and when you're not using it keep it in a clean plastic bag. If you do not share it, you do not need to worry about getting any weird diseases from putting it inside you. Check out how it works before sticking it in your cunt. Practice opening and closing it a few times. To open, push the handles together and press down with your thumb. It;s al lot easier to do outside your pussy than inside. Most importantly, relax. Putting a speculum in at first can be difficult and frustrating. Remember the first time you had to use a tampon? Or the first time a sponge, diaphragm, etc. got stuck in there? Practice makes it easier. Also, speculums are designed for doctors to use on you; no one's designed one for women to use on themselves (evil gynos worry that they won't get so much cash out of us). If putting it in hurts too much, then spend more time exploring your external anatomy and fingering yourself before trying again -- especially if you are not used to staring at, playing with, or shoving things up your pussy. Be gentle with yourself, don't force it. If you have penises and/or dildos inside of you regularly, your vagina is probably stretched enough to start out with a medium-sized speculum. Otherwise, start with a small one.
HOW TO INSERT A SPECULUM
1. Lie down, prop your back up with pillows and spread those luscious legs.

2. Insert the speculum into your body with the duckbill closed, handles separate, and loose. I find it more comfortable to insert mine sideways and turn it. If you don't have too many natural juices going on, putting a little KY jelly on the duckbill might help, but don't goop it on so thick your can't see which juice is you and which is the lube!

3. Once you stick it in, clasp the handles together to open the duckbill and separate the walls of the cunt. To open it wider and lock it in the open position, press down with your thumbs until it clicks no more and is all the way open.



PART III: MEET YOUR CERVIX!

So you've gotten it in and gotten it open. Shining the flashlight into the mirror will give you a view of the inside of your pussy. If you can't see your cervix, bear down like you're taking a shit -- check also to make sure the speculum is open to the widest position. If you have a long vagina you might want to try just before or after your period (when the cervix is at its most visible in the vaginal cavity). Or try on the lightest day of your blood flow when it's easy to see the blood coming out of the cervical os. If your vagina is very fleshy, and pads of fat are bulging around the blades of the speculum, try a larger size, or inserting the speculum sideways. So now you check out your insides... groovy. Look at the colors and textures. If you are pregnant, your cervix (as well as the walls of your cunt) might be a little blue to bright blue; in older women it might be pale pink. Repeat self-exams will cue you into the natural condition of your own. And don't be ashamed by the amount of mucus!!! It's natural and unless the goo is accompanied by weird smells or itching, don't worry about it.

Excerpted with permission from The Urban Herbalist, WHAM!'s newsletter of self-help healthcare, herbal healing, and sexual adventure. For information about back issues, send SASE to The Urban Herbalist, P.O. Box 974, Canal St. Station, New York, NY 10013.

Looking for a speculum? You can buy one at www.medicaltoys.com!

***

Sprinkle engages in other performance projects that I certainly do not advocate such as a ritualistic type performance where she masturbates in front of a crowd and then may engage in a discussion afterward.

On Sprinkle's webpage she has a gallery of photos where she is naked from her earlier porn days or current photos where she adds humor and light heartedness...and nakedness to her photos.

Being that I am a feminist that does not advocate pornography of course I do not support some of her performance pieces. However, within the last several years Sprinkle has been moving her projects towards the theme of love and relationships.



Sprinkle's cuddle project involves her wife. The two lie in a double bed which is positioned as part of an art exhibition. As part of their Love Art series, Sprinkle and her wife put on "cuddle outfits" and spend several hours cuddling with visitors of the art gallery. Appointments were made in advance. Participants take off their shoes and sucks and cuddle between the two women for 7 minutes. Sprinkle has said on her website that some participants which to talk or spoon and others wish to be held in silence. Sprinkle says that on one occasion she and her wife performed Cuddle at a sex fundraising event where the Cuddle exhibit proved to be more popular than the more sexual event options such as lap dances and peep shows.


Another Love Art performance is entitled the Extreme Kiss. Sprinkle and her wife kiss for three to four hours and do nothing else while passerbyes at various gallery venues can watch.



I'm sure there are some who find great meaning in this event. I think it is slightly interesting as it can exemplify that kissing alone is quite a grand act. But really, I'm not fond of watching couples kiss in public and watching two kiss at an art show doesn't make it more appealing to me.



While this is not a performance piece it is a bit of activism. Sprinkle and company set tables and chairs in front of Good Vibrations boutique in San Francisco during gay pride weekend. The panel of five counseled the public about sex, love and relationships. According to Sprinkle they "helped a college student majoring in gynecology, a bachelor party, a transsexual woman looking for a lover, a middle aged male virgin, a young woman whose own scent disgusted her and dozens of others."

Lastly, I discovered that each year Sprinkle and her wife conduct an interactive performance art wedding. They then display parts of it at art galleries. The wedding projects incorporate colors and themes of chakras.

So, while Sprinkle and I have many differing views on sexuality, I do admire her efforts to educate women about their bodies and her effort that focus on love. Her work is interesting and definitely creative.

For more information on Sprinkle's love and relationship art performances and weddings go to
http://loveartlab.org

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Post Secret



I think a lot of us by now have heard of the Post Secret project and books organized by Frank Warren. To some Warren is considered the most trusted stranger in America. His work is simply this. People submit anonymous secrets on a postcard.

I knew that Frank Warren had a website, I knew that he had published books full of collected postcards but until recently I had no idea just how his project has expanded.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this project allow me to post some examples from Frank Warren's Post Secret Blog.













As fascinated as I have been with this project I never sought out the story behind it. I won't attempt to paraphrase and will take Warren's explanation straight from his website .

What is the story behind PostSecret?

In December 2003, I took my first trip to Paris, France. That night checked into a hotel in the Latin Quarter. While I slept I had an extraordinary dream that would change my life and eventually lead me to the PostSecret project.

My first day in Paris I had purchased three Antoine de Saint-Expery's "Little Prince" postcards from a small shop near my hotel. When I got to my hotel room and prepared for bed I placed the cards in the nightstand drawer and went to sleep. During the night, I had a lucid dream in which I was aware that I was in my own dream. I found myself in my hotel room. In my dream I opened my nightstand drawer and examined the three "Little Prince" postcards. Each one had been altered with messages written on their backs. The first message read, "unrecognized evidence, from forgotten journeys, unknowingly rediscovered," the second message was about a "reluctant oracle" postcard art project and the last message I could not understand at the time. In January 2004, I started the "reluctant oracle" project. Every Sunday, I created an released a new work to be discovered. They were discovered by people serendipitously. The story found local, national and international media coverage.



The last message from "reluctant oracle" bore the message, "You will find your answers in the secrets of strangers." The next Sunday the PostSecret began.




I recently learned that Frank Warren also holds various Post Secret events.


Frank Warren and his Post Secret events: Trailer

I had no idea that Warren had a bigger goal with his Post Secret project. He doesn't present a mission statement of any kind on his website but it is evident by this trailer that this project has assisted many.

In fact Warren's website offers not only information about his project but links to suicide prevention and wellness hotlines. I am glad that Warren does this as I am sure there are many who directly or indirectly seek help from Warren or in general.

I think Warren is doing a great service to so many. When I initially heard of the project years ago I considered it to be strictly a work of art. It is so much more.

For more information on Post Secret go to http://www.postsecretcommunity.com









"Free your secrets and become who you are"
--------------------Frank Warren

Colbert responds to Archie's proposal to Veronica

Not to long ago I posted about the new turn of events in the Archie comic book series. To read that post click here. Here is Stephen Colbert's response to the news. I appreciate not only his humor but the fact that he compares the archetypes of (get it..archie-types?) of Bettie and Veronica and the fact that we "define women characters based on which man they can land."
In this piece Colbert offers comic relief to the co-dependency of Archie's relationship with Betty and Veronica but also the sexism that occurs in the world of politics which he compares to the Archie cartoon.

Sure it's just a goofy comic strip but I see no harm in pointing out obvious.

"Good Hair" vs "Bad Hair" in the African American community

Chris Rock has made a documentary entitled "Good Hair." I am so glad he did this as I think it will help non-African American men and women understand (and I am including myself in this as I am not African American) the racism often accompanies the form of a person's hair. Not only this but it explores the difficulty of maintaining "good hair" and the relationship that both black men and women have with their hair.

Good Hair - Trailer

In a recent New York Times article, Ingrid Banks, an associate professor of black studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, says,

"For black women, you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. If you've got straight hair, you're pegged as selling out. If you don't straighten your hair," she said, "you're seen as not practicing appropriate grooming practices."

There is so much at stake here. Not only are black women subjected to and sometimes perpetuate a system that infuses their hair choices with all sorts of social and political implications, but there are major economic implications as well. The Times article reports that "Last year, sales of home relaxers totaled $45.6 million (excluding Wal-Mart), according to Mintel, a market research firm, a figure that has held steady in recent years."

I would also like to point out that even though Chris Rock's documentary is new, he is not the first to expose or discuss this topic. I would like to point out a few who give attention to this issue.

Feminist author (one of my favorite authors) and Harvard professor Bell Hooks wrote a children's book in 1999 entitled Happy To Be Nappy. The book explores a child's individuality and celebrates hair that is "soft like cotton, flower petal billowy soft, full of frizz and fuzz."

Author Carolivia Herron is another author who promotes love for nappy hair. The author's 1998 released children's book follows the story of a little girl who is initially teased because of the style of her hair.

I think these books are so important as children are often exposed to the biased idea that African American hair can be unttractive or unnatural.


Cartoon artist Aaron McGruder is the author/artist of one of my favorite comic strips The Boondocks. The comic has been retired but I recommend purchasing the anthologies.

Here "Huey" is having a conversation with his next door neighbor "Jazmine".

HUEY: Here… Take my pick. Really. Think of it as a gift.

JAZMINE: I don’t want your stupid pick Huey… I don’t care what you say. I DON’T. I DON’T. I DON’T!!!

HUEY: (Sigh) So sad.

JAZMINE: What?!

HUEY: You’re suffering from “Afro-Denial.” Textbook case.

JAZMINE: Afro Denial?

HUEY: This looks serious. I better start planning the intervention.



***

Moving on..

Now, I am not really a fan of the Tyra Banks show but occassionally I will run into it and find she has some interesting topics to discuss.

On Tyra's show about black hair she had two guesst who is the author of a book entitled Hair Story. This is one of the many books on my "to read" list.



The book explores not just the current issue of black hair but the history of it.


What Is Good Hair - Tyra Banks Show - PART 1


What Is Good Hair - Tyra Banks Show - PART 2


What Is Good Hair - Tyra Banks Show - PART 3


What Is Good Hair - Tyra Banks Show - PART 4


What Is Good Hair - Tyra Banks Show - PART 5

I cannot assume to know what it is like to face the pressures of maintaining "good hair" as I am not a black woman. I do have curly hair and have struggled with it. I've straightened it, I've dreaded it and now it it remains curly. My hair is not unattractive to me however, I have always preferred straighter hair as it is easier to maintain.

I think that my experience is very different from those who have black hair. I think most of us who are not black really have no idea as to what it is like to grow up as a man or woman with hair that is as course as a black individual.

I very much feel for black children who often face pressures from such a young age. I don't know about you but I have never seen a doll with poofy hair or a fro.

We need more folks to promote natural beauty that is not modified. I do not condemn women who alter their hair styles with relaxers, braids, corn rows, dreads etc. I just hope that those who make such choices are not ashamed of their natural hair.

Why are we still waiting for male contraceptives?



Today women have eleven female contraceptives on the market to choose from, but men only have two. A man can either use a condom or undergo a vasectomy. According to Scienceprogress.org current data suggests that women alone use contraceptives 63.3% of the time. When the percentage of negotiated condom use is added into the equation the total rises to 91%.

Many female contraceptives can be expensive especially if a female individual does not have access to health care. Due to the expense some women are less likely to purchase birth control.

It should also be noted that many of the birth control options come with side effects such as weight gain, depression, decrease in sex drive and others.

The bottom line is that women devote time, money, and often physical and mental stressors when trying on a contraceptive. While I very much think that a male partner should pay for half the cost of contraceptives, it is still mostly the woman that bears the responsibility.

Scientists differ in opinion as to why other male contraceptives have not been explored. Some scientist say it is much more difficult to create a male contraceptive as men are fertile at all times and women are not. Others say that a man's body is easier to control and manipulate.

Researchers who actually wish to focus on male contraceptives are not always able to as allocated monies are usually geared towards female contraceptives. Part of this reason is because many pharmaceutical companies fear male contraceptives will not bring in enough money. Why not? Because most figure men would not be interested in taking on the responsibility of birth control in the way that women have for so long.

According to Scientificprogress.org there is a male contraceptive currently in the works that will hopefully have little to no side effects. While pharmaceutical companies say it is still most likely that men will be reluctant to use such contraceptives and will continue to rely on their female partners, current empirical data reveal that 55% of men would be willing to use contraception.

I understand that it might be frightening for a man to try a contraceptive when historically women have been using contraceptives that are known to be successful in warding off pregnancy. I think it is approrpiate to be cautious when it comes to treating our bodies. Even if a male contraceptive is put on the market I think it would be helpful to conduct research and seek varied opinions from different doctors.

The point of this post is to expose the sexism that lies within our society. When I say society this includes the medical world.

I would like for more women to be outspoken about contraceptives and not simply view it as something that is their sole responsibility or something they are "supposed" to do. I encouage couples of all sexual orientations to really talk to their partners about what sex means to each individual and what protecting each other really entails.

Icarus



Icarus
By Lady J
07/08

Heart broke open like a hard coconut shell
Open hard like a stubborn bull's pride..
It pulses, pulses pink and red
Nothing you'd want to paint or capture in time

And no one mentioned how I'd change, but it goes without saying..
Once you venture too close to the sun
You're not sure if it'll do any good but you start praying..
You've got the spirit of Icarus all over your face

It's not easy to play dumb but sometimes it happens to be your default quick fix rule
And when it happens you're feeling dumber than you're pretending to be
This act isn't protecting you from anything
Who's the fool, who's the fool?

I don't know if I ever had creativity or if it fades with age
When everything seems to go wrong at once
Great earth becomes a landslide, you can't help but feel betrayed

So, now heart breaks open like a hard coconut shell
I know in my bones it wasn't the impact of gravity..
The heart doesn't have far to go
cuz inside the cage of tissue and rib lies a muscle that lavishes itself to depravity

With all the fragility in the air you think I'd be more careful
No one mentioned how I'd change but it goes without saying..
Once you venture too close to the sun
You're not sure if it'll do any good but you start praying..
You've got the spirit of Icarus all over your face

Friday, August 28, 2009

Typewriter Art

As a child I remember one of my favorite things to do whenever my my mother took me to the house of my aunt "nonnie" (her name is Joanne and her husband calls her Joannie. I couldn't say Joannie so I called her nonnie and it has stuck to this day) I loved to tinker with her typewriter.

I never inquired about it. I never asked how often she used it, and what she thought about it. I didn't have great typing skills as a child but I loved to hear the click click click of the keys and watch the metal pieces fly.

I found some typerwriter art in my search for more information about typewriters and I thought I'd share.


William Kentridge
williamkentridge.net/


www.stephenschildbach.com/fineartportfolio.htm


Arman
Infinity of Typewriters and Infinity of Monkeys and Infinity of Time = Hamlet , 1962


Rebecca Horn's Blue Monday


Typewriter art by Simon Patterson

"I constructed an enormous wall mounted ‘typewriter’ sculpture: Consisting of a giant keyboard on one wall and painted in the United Nations colours of blue and white were keys spaced out in a line on the other three walls spelling out the typing exercise,‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’, that contains all the letters of the alphabet and therefore, potentially, all meanings expressable in the English language. Above some of the keys, placed apparently randomly, were the names of the permanent members of the Security Council, the present and former Secretary-Generals of the UN and some of the places visited by Captain Lemuel Gulliver - the protagonist of Jonathan Swift’s Gullivers Travels.With General Assembly, the juxtapositions of Jonathan Swift, nationhood and nonesense was a way of playing with the various meanings of the word ‘assembly’. It refers to the General Assembly of the United Nations, assemblage sculpture of the 1960’s and 1970’s, assembling people together in an auditorium/arena or gallery. I wanted to show how side by side with place names such as Lugnagg or Glubdubdrib from Gulivers Travels, UN Secretary-Generals’ names such as Boutros Boutros Ghali or Dag Hammarsköld might also seem like a nonesensical language. You are allowed to laugh.
-------------Simon Patterson


Jeremy Mayer’s online portfolio


By Russ Abbott at www.inkanddaggertattoo.com/artists/v/russabbott/


Typewriter tattoo in Austin, Tx. Originally uploaded by Mark Wallace at flickr.com/photos/walkering/312947004/


Typewriter Girl by The Black Apple

Every now and then I think to myself that I should look into buying a typewriter of my own. Just today I found a website that might be helpful. If any of you are curious I recommend you check out http://mytypewriter.com. The site sells various typewriters from different eras. From what I've seen the typewriters range from $325 to $575. The site sells manuals, typing ribbon and even jewelry made from vintage typewritter keys. It's worth checking out even if just to gander.

The Professionals

Today while at work I really felt a queasiness. This isn't the first time I have felt this way. I often feel uncomfortable when I really pause and look at the men and women that surround me dressed in casual business attire.

Often when I happen to be out for lunch during a work day I will watch the traffic of men and women that must dress in more "professional" business attire than I. The whole suit and tie and business skirt dress style really makes me nauseous. This seem a bit extreme? Perhaps. But really, it reeks of conformity.


(corporateclothing.com)
"Business Attire"


(www.wardrobe911.com)
"Casual Business Attire"

I remember struggling with this from teenhood on. In high school and during my college years I sported a variety of bright hair colors. Purple, red, blue, magenta and a variety of pinks. When I entered my first job at a Kinko's Copy store (awful job!) I was once approached by an assistant manager and scolded for my bright red hair. I remember she asked me if I thought my hair appeared "professional." I said no, but really...what is professional?

Eventually, I left that job and began working at a Borders book store where my hair wasn't a problem. And later when left to complete my junior and senior years of college in Olympia, Washington I was allowed to come back and work in the summers with my new magenta dreadlocks. However, I should note that I think the "alternative" look was somewhat of a gimmick at Borders as the company wanted to present itself as a "hip" store.

Regardless of their marketing tactics I don't think the business suffered due to the many employees who chose to wear bright hair, piercings or tattoos. And aren't those three things of the signifiers of "unprofessional"?

Later down the road I took on a job as a childcare counselor for at risk youth and after that I worked at a shelter for runaway teens. I knew that I had to conform and therefore cut off my dreadlocks.

A bit further down the road when I entered graduate school I noticed a young woman in my program who wore dreadlocks. I was surprised as I thought she would most likely have to cut them off in order to appear "professional" when our program began interning. I never met her personally but I noticed that she did cut her dreads off. I can only imagine why.

So, why is it that we have to wear "business clothes" at most work environments? And if such a concept is so important to the appearance of certain agencies, why is it acceptable for some to allow "casual fridays" where some employees are allowed to wear...gasp!...jeans!

When I get up in the morning and dress for work I am wearing items that I would never wear in my free time. I think a lot of us do this. Who am I dressing for? My co-workers? My supervisors? I suppose it's the agency and even the head haunchos have to wear business attire.

I can't help but feel that we are all putting on a falsehood. We are not being ourselves and I often think that these costumes present an "us vs. they" environment. The professionals vs. the client or in some cases customers or consumers. As a social worker I think I would not be harming anyone if I were to dress how I care to.

I plan on getting tattoos on my arms in the future and I know that I will have to begin wearing long sleeved shirts every single day. Doesn't that seem a bit odd and unfair?

The fact that we are presenting a false version of ourselves in our dress clothes (unless of course the individual truly enjoys wearing these clothes on a daily basis) is what depresses me. I feel that we are not authentic and we are not truly living.

On most days I can roll with the punches and just concentrate on work. But other days like today I just feel low. Call me too sensitive, call me whatever; but I think our society is screwed. The "alternative" look is viewed as unprofessional because many work environments refuse to put down biases and discrimination. The norm wins and therefore we march like ants to our respective jobs as "the professionals."