The Black Panther Problem

I’ll be honest here.

I didn’t want to go and see Captain America: Civil War. I don’t why I didn’t, I just didn’t.

And also, I was concerned about Black Panther.

I was concerned that they were going to do him wrong. Because sometimes Hollywood can really fuck up representing other cultures, especially ones that are often considered to be a subject of controversy in American culture: e.g a black man.

Because sometimes in movies, a black man is just there to be a black man just a skin color added into the background so that brownie points (no pun intended) can be appointed to the movie. And these characters, they have no struggles, no thoughts, no evolution of self. Sometimes they will come with a singular character attribute, but rarely are they more than just some skin pigmentation that might say a few lines every now and then.

I walked into that cinema thinking that I was going to leave with the same political rage that I usually do. But I didn’t.

Because he was amazing. The Black Panther was amazing, and more than that, he was a character. And I was so ready for him to just be a cardboard cut out with a tape-recorder strapped to his cardboard lips. And he wasn’t and it was great; realizing that he was being treated as a legitimate, recognizable character with hopes and dreams and flaws and struggles.

And racism isn’t gone just because Black Panther wasn’t fucked up, and he’s going to get his own movie, of course it’s not. But at least there is progress being made. At least there is something to show that even though it’s slow going and takes time, there something is happening.

And it just might be something good.

And, because I loved him so much in the movie, I looked him up on Tumblr. A rookie mistake. Because most of the posts were dominated by things like this:Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 10.45.22 pm.png

And I worry about things like this; I worry about it a lot. More than I worried about Civil War, I worry about this. Because on one hand it’s a classic case of ‘we saw him first’, but unfortunately it’s a lot more serious than that because it involves centuries of abuse and discrimination. And posts like this were everywhere, an attempted defense. And on one level, I can understand it. Here is this one black character that it’s anyone’s goddamn sidekick, or love interest, or a villain. Here is a character that looks like me, and he is kicking goddamn butt. And I think if I had been deprived of that all my life I would be protective of it also.

But I’m white.

And I really, really wanna talk about T’challa because he’s a great character and I want to talk about him. But I don’t want to talk about him because he’s black. And in some ways, these posts make that the most important thing about him. And that’s just degrading.

And I wanna know whether it’s okay to call them on it, because it happens. People who have been treated so badly that they believe it is their right to treat others badly. Because I don’t know whether it is.

Because I don’t think that vengeance should be a thing and I don’t think that generalizations should be a thing, and I don’t think that attacking people or telling them they can’t talk about something because of their skin color should be a thing.

But I’m white.

So I’m not sure whether I’m allowed to tell anyone.

I’ve thought a lot about those men who go onto twitter and attack feminists and say ‘Not all men’ and I hate that because that’s not the freaking point… but they are technically right. Not all men. Not all white people.

Not all of anything really.

Because when referring to any large group of humans, there’s always going to be people who you are insulting, even when they are on your side.

And I feel like we should work on that.

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The Hot Pink Purse

There was this man, this man standing on the platform opposite mine with a hot pink purse slung over his shoulder; texting. My first thought was that he was holding it for somebody, for his girlfriend, or sister, or mother, or friend. And my second notion was that he was holding it for him. And then I thought that he looked smashing in order to make up for the fact that a man holding his own hot pink purse is what I thought of second.

But I’m not going to lie. I had no idea whether he looked smashing with his texting and his purse. No idea. None at all. I just called him smashing because I didn’t want to be…. I don’t know. Whatever word that applies to assigning people to certain items because of there gender. I could feel myself be so blinded by his non-conformist accessory that I could no longer tell whether it increased or decreased the ultimate value of his outfit. And that is so confusing, because on paper, I am so certain in my beliefs.

I’m not a racist.

Or a homophobe.

Or a sexist.

But I’m inherently anxious about black people in real life, and sometimes I assume people are gay because they’re flamboyant, and I feel really uncomfortable when young men sit near me on the train. And that’s not good, and I can recognize that it’s not good, but those instinctive little coils in my throat don’t go away and I’m left wondering if I can just pass this off as social programing and therefore not really my problem or if it’s something that’s wrong with me and I actually need to deal with it.

And this is very confusing to me.

And when I walk down the street the strangers passing me suddenly have none of there own features, only the ones that stand out. Black guy. Dyke. Teenager. Asian. And when I first see them that’s all I can see, these obvious things about them that have nothing to do to with who they are as a person.

I don’t know who they are, these metaphorical strangers on this metaphorical street, I don’t know what makes them laugh or makes them cry, I don’t know whether they have children or are in love, or are hateful or crude. I don’t know anything about them, but in the split second between me seeing them and me assuming things about them I hold these templates in my head up to their faces and whichever one they match the most I staple to their file. And it stays there until they prove me wrong.

And I spend my whole life with these strangers. I spend my whole life not knowing who they are, but thinking that maybe I might. And it’s so weird, and so not right and I can understand why this instinctive little bit of engineering takes place, but every now and then I have to step back. And look at the world. And just say to it:

I don’t know who you are.

And I’m sorry.

Measurements of Evil

This week, my older sister participated in a debate for her legal studies class, which largely circulated around capital punishment and whether or not it’s a good idea, and it became a little bit of a topic in our house. And I knew, even before the conversations began, that I was against it, that, for one reason or another, it was bad and immoral. But I wouldn’t be able to tell you why because the reason that I thought it was bad and immoral was that mum thought it was bad and immoral and I figured that if she was against something, chances were, so was I.

But conversations make you think about things, so this weekend, amongst the drama, and the gardening, and the abolishment of most of my debt to my parents, I had to think about death by justice. And I realized, as I dug up weeds and got mud all under my fingernails, that I’m not against capital punishment, I’m firmly indifferent to capital punishment.

What I’m against is when alive people get made dead.

Dying, dying happens all the time, death is just another event of life, and that’s fine, whatever, nature is doing its thing, I’m not worried about it. What’s worrying is when other people, people who will, probably in their own time, die, make decisions about when their peers get to stop being an alive person. When humans get to decide what is punishable by death, when humans get to decide what you have to do to die. And it’s completely apathetic; you can’t feel guilty for killing somebody like that, because you decide to do it, you have to think about it, it goes through process after process, it goes through person after person who think it’s okay because it’s embedded in justice.

And that’s the great lie here.

Justice, that justice will save us, that justice will bring victims some sort of closure, that killing people is justice, and eye for and eye and all that, that the world will be a better place without these people in it, but humans, humans don’t get to decide that, we don’t get to apply measurements of evil to our own species, we don’t get to point and yell, and make a point about danger to the community, about giving humanity a bad name, because humanity already has a bad name, what we, as people, are meant to do is try and prove it wrong.

Dear Mr. Not-Yet-President

Dear Mr. Trump,

You will not my president, because I am not an American, and you are not an Australian, and I find these facts very comforting. Though I share this world with America, I watch your tv, and eat from your franchises, I buy your brands, and I grew up knowing that America was the most powerful country in the world, and now that I am older, and I know that it is far more complicated than that, the vast mess of global power does not allow me to speak that sentence with such certainty. And you pose a very big threat to that. You threaten the huge, unbalanced ball of tangled speeches and declarations that comes with being a world leader, being a human who can make decisions on behalf of other humans, important decisions, you pose a threat to this world’s complications and contradictions and paradoxes.

You threaten to make it all simple.

Because your ideas, your opinions and your promises are simple. You have seen the world from your point of view, and your point of view is the view of a straight, able-bodied white American and that is not an accurate display of neither the world nor America and from this you have received your perceived assumptions, and you make them sound like facts.

And you are compelling, everything you do you do with such conviction that it leaves people feeling that whatever it is something that needs to be done, and it is you who has to do it. You make people want to join you in your certainty, in your knowledge in the one, absolute truth that you hold so tightly, so certainly that you feel free to preach it, safe within the reasoning that you can never be proven wrong.

And that is no good, because the issue is there is no one, absolute truth and you keep saying there is and I keep looking for one, but it’s just not there. Not all Muslims are terrorists, refugees are not trying to take anything over, and homosexuals have no interest in making everybody else homosexual, and truth is never absolute. That’s not how truth works.

And I want to talk about Megan Kelly, but I’m not going to, because, Mr. Trump, you are not an original man. You’re comments are old and your views are older, and I do not care even a little bit because you are inevitable. You are everywhere, you happen all over the world, and the issue is not that you are a sexist; the fact that you are a sexist is not the biggest thing about you, there are lots of sexists, you are not unique. The issue is that you are running for President of the United States and as hilarious as you toupee is, I do not want you running a country that has over four thousand nuclear weapons because I like it when people are alive.

You worry me; you make me nervous, because you are so convenient. Here you are, with you absolute truth, and your bad comments, and bad hair, and you make it seem that with some direct action and enough adamant denial of ethics, all of America’s problems will go away, and that sounds so nice. The sweet relief of whatever fear isn’t.

But you are not the hero, you do not get to wear your underwear on the outside, you do not get excused for all the damage you do defeating the bad guy, so please, sit down and stop this.

Kind regards.

Ayesha Curry

I don’t know who Ayesha Curry is.

 

I don’t know where she was born, or even when she was born, I don’t know whether she was popular in high school, or how she met her husband, or whether having her kids was a good experience. I don’t know whether she’s a good mum, I don’t know whether she treats her friends kindly, I don’t know whether she donates to charity.

 

But I do know, I do know that she has made some comments on twitter about the state of dress currently being used by ladies all over the globe. And yes, we are talking about short-shorts, and crop tops, and revealing bikinis and everything that goes with that. And this woman whom I don’t know has been getting quite a lot of attention for these comments.

 

To demonstrate here is one:

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 11.11.30 pm

And a lot of people have come out in support of her staying ‘classy’, they have commended her avid disapproval of some forms of clothing, and that’s… disturbing, honestly.

 

Personally, I don’t agree. Because I don’t think that you get to choose what sort of women you respect; the idea is that you respect all women, that you respect all people, because they are people. Not because of the variables they demonstrate.

 

You respect people regardless of what they’re wearing, because clothing is so unimportant. The value of a human is not to be based on the pieces of fabric that they drape over themselves, or, in this case, the lack of thereof.

 

Covering up doesn’t make you ‘classy’ any more than showing skin makes you a slut, because what you wear does not, in any way, dictate who you are, and if it does then it is consistently nobody’s fucking business anyway. We are not our clothes, we are not our masks, we are not the bodies that we may choose to show the world.

 

And yes, we are wearing masks, and you may argue that that means that they are free to be judged because that’s all they are, masks, if this is the body you show to the world, then surely you know the response that will be gained from this.

 

Surely a girl wearing skinny jeans that shows off her butt and a cutoff shirt that shows off her stomach knows that teenage boys will holler at her from cars and maybe some eyes will linger a little two long for it to not look predatory and maybe some stranger will scoff superficially at her on the internet. Surely they understand that, and if they understand that, then it’s surely fine.

 

But it’s not.

 

Because how someone dresses is still not a measure of how crap you can be to them and have it be their fault. That girl is not projecting out to the world ‘I want you to yell obscenities at me’, or at least you don’t get to assume that she is. You, as a resident of this world, do not have the right to treat anyone like shit, it dosen’t matter what their wearing. You don’t have the right to assume that people are the stereotypes they may choose to dress like.

 

Just because you wear clothes dosen’t mean that you want to be judged and be disrespected because of them.

 

 

 

Friends with me

“And that was the first time I talked to you… and I almost didn’t, because of your… you know… headphones.”

And, I mean, she’s nice. Pretty enough, nice haircut, good teeth, and siblings I’m told. And yeah, yeah she nice, and, for some reason, she wants to be nice to me. I cannot think of one goddamn reason why.
We’re not friends.

Not quite, we know each other, but we’re not friends. She knows it, I know it, and we’re skipping around the fact, trying to coordinate ourselves like we’re blind folded in a darkened room and are trying to avoid touching the other. We should have done this earlier, it would have been normal earlier, and now it’s not. Now it’s awkward because it took us this long.

I always liked her, secretly and from afar. She laughed at the same things I did, only she actually laughed and I smirked behind my laptop screen. We would have been friends under different circumstances, but she’s popular and properly proportioned and knows how to interact with people who aren’t like her beyond just basic small talk. She’s not like me and I’m not like her.

She is not my people.

“Yeah,” I say, I’m trying to grin, “my great strategy.”

She’s tried to talk to me before, has been trying to be my friend for a while now. She’s commented on my hair color and in return I’ve commented on hers, and she’s pointed to the sewn on school logo on my pants and said “everyone say’s there going to do it, but you actually did.” And then she laughed and I laughed too, and I didn’t know why we were laughing. I can’t figure out why she’s trying to talk to me, but I like the fact that she is, and I try to talk to her back.

This is the only class we have together, we don’t talk anywhere else. And she sits on the other side to the classroom to me, with her friends. With a loud girl and a girl wearing a hijab. The girl wearing the hijab and me are friends. Maybe that’s why the girl is trying to be friends with me. God I hope not.

She has one of the most truthful views of me, I suppose, out of the rest of the school. I don’t socialize in the class with her, I don’t even try. I used to sit with someone who used to be my friend, then I realized we had never been friends, her voice annoyed me, and I would rather eat my own tongue than continue another conversation that involved both the word ‘adorbz’ or how much she hated this specific person. So I decided not to care, and instead seated myself as far from her as humanly possible.

She saw a Clementine that the rest of school didn’t see. A Clementine that was not out-going, who spoke in dry, ironic tones, a Clementine that was not actively hostile, but not actively inviting and was smarter than all of them.

She’s looking at me hopefully, and I’m looking back, over my laptop screen. I’m keeping my face neutral, but I’m analyzing every novel I have ever read trying to think of something to say. I realize, instantly, that I shouldn’t be sitting with her, I should literally be sitting with anyone else, because this is not going to work. I’m only sitting here because my usually secluded spot has been stolen and I’m really starting to think that I should just get my biggest sharpie and write in big bold letters ‘only sit here under pain of death’.
And then the bell rings, and we untangle each other from the other’s verbal stumbles and excuse ourselves from the presence of the other, me to scuttle of to the art rooms, her to do whatever popular girls do on their own time, and we both know that we’re probably going to do this again until one of us caves and we’re friends.

The Portrayal of Women in the Media

This is an exposition I did for my English class, and I thought I would share it with you:

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The Portrayal of Women in the Media:

In one of the displays, the left, the shirt is advertised as an accessory to the man, as it is meant to be seen, but in the right advertisement the woman is an accessory to the shirt, she makes the shirt look better, rather than the other way around. This shows the stark difference between the portrayal of men and the portrayal of woman in the media. It happens in all sorts of mediums, movies, tv shows, magazine, but very prominently in advertisements. Women, unknowingly or otherwise are seen as an accessory, or something to be taken or conquered. In men’s magazines it’s telling you how to conquer, in women’s magazine’s it’s telling you how to be conquered.

And this is a fundamental misinterpretation of the way that most people interact with each other.

In the advertisement to the right, the woman is viewed more as a mannequin, a lifeless thing, instead of a person. She’s posing, her shirt is open, and she’s not a human being. In comparison the man is just standing, he’s wearing the shirt the way that it’s meant to be worn, the way a person would wear it, he doesn’t have to pose, he is advertising a shirt, he’s not being advertised.

Both advertisements are being used to show how the shirt looks on a human, how it would look on you. In the right one it uses the woman’s open shirt to capture the attention of a potential buyer, in the left the shirt is used to catch the attention of a buyer. A basic difference. In both cases the shirt is the center of attention, it’s in the center of both photos, it’s the first thing you see, but it’s the first thing you see for very different reasons. In the left photo, you see it because he is so plain, he has no expression, he’s not moving, and the shirt is the only factor in the photo. In the right display, you have to notice the shirt, because it cases the area that would not usually be seen. The advertisers using the social inequalities of the picture to draw the eyes to where the shirt is.

Since women have been girls the media has been constantly pushing the basis for insecurity. ‘I need to be pretty’, ‘I need to have a boyfriend’, ‘I’m not good enough’. And when you see this perfect specimen in the right advertisement, this person who is pretty and probably has a boyfriend and is good enough, you have to think that you would like to be her, and she’s wearing that shirt. And once you start associating a specific thing with beauty then you’re already sold. On the other side the man is just wearing a shirt. And lots of men wear shirts, and generally it’s just something that you do and maybe you’d fancy another.

Both the shirts are advertised by American Apparel, a very popular brand, on their website, and it does work, what they’re doing. It is the basis for thousand of sales, has been for decades, advertising hasn’t become any less fundamentally sexist since the fifties, perhaps more in fact. Because it’s stopped being obvious or big or blaring.

It’s become about manipulation.