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Sexually Enlightened R&B Song: Burnt Out Feminists Respond

17 Oct

The notoriously shallow, fairly bro-focused site College Humour has produced a viral video entitled ‘Sexually Enlightened R&B song’ featuring a black heterosexual couple, both stereotypically attractive, in which the man serenades the woman with a standard-composition 90’s R&B tune about having a fair and equal sexual encounter with her that evening. At face value, this content should not be at all humorous, but I found myself laughing out loud, not at the ideas being shared, but at the ridiculous thought that a mainstream cultural product would ever seriously espouse such blatantly feminist values from the mouth of a man.

I liked it and laughed despite the basing of the piece upon clearly heteronormative, liberal feminist views (not the radical queer intersectional feminist approach I try to take. As I commented to my friend, hard feminist porn producer Nikki Swarm, it’s important for the singer to clarify that although his woman is experienced, she is not a ho, because it would be going too far to — gasp — humanise sex workers! and they are getting married, so clearly she can’t be a ho! I disagree with versions of feminism where some women do not receive feminist protection, where those who have made ‘bad choices’ about themselves and their bodies, including sex work, casual sex and abortions are demonised, and the line between good and bad girls is tightly upheld. Instead, I believe that everyone has the agency to make their own choices under structural systems in which the options for oppressed people (in this case, make money from sex work, be in debt and unemployed, or work shit jobs and make peanuts for hard, stressful labour) are all problematic.

Nevertheless, despite all this, the feminist principles articulated in the song were still far enough from the androcentric social norm around heteroromantic, sexual and intimate relationships to be highly unusual, and worthy of attention. The ideas it introduces, such as sexual reciprocity (‘I’ll go down on you / You’ll go down on me) and a woman having a healthy human sexuality (In my opinion / your sexual liberation / is healthy and normal / and makes you human), as simple and pedestrian as they should be, are presented as alien to the misogynistic norm, so far-fetched and impossible as to be funny. Continue reading

Sunflowers (a poem for Black Lives)

5 Aug

They are even afraid of our songs of love’
Carlos Bulosan


Van Gogh wrote that the sunflowers in his paintings communicated ‘gratitude’.

 for the son of Korryn Gaines and the Movement for Black Lives

Van Gogh painted sunflowers
close, in a vase
his yellow a hue
fresh to the cadre

a vision sliced through reality
with a brush and pallet knife

For artists, activists,
seekers of truth
in this generation
the narrative is broken
each vision is different
each invented colour is new
but we paint with it anyway

the ability
to remain willfully
is privilege

today we choose to believe
the child eyewitnesses

Like sunflowers
with our heads bowed
we form secret circles
take to the streets
they still killing us

A shut down is sensation
But what options are left
When they refuse to hear
our songs of love?

UK Stands With #BlackLivesMatter

13 Jul




Brexit: The Aftermath

26 Jun

Yesterday morning we woke up to confirmation of a new reality. Half of the British public had announced their isolationist views, fuelled by a deep-seated hatred for immigrants and their fear of a brown planet. Elderly white British people voted against their children and grandchildren’s interests, refusing them the opportunity to live, love and work in 27 other countries, for the sole purpose of ideologically ‘taking their country back’, although who exactly had taken it from them was a question that went unanswered. Fascist, sexist skinheads emerged from their lairs wearing Vote Leave t-shirts, carrying St George’s flags, well chuffed with what they saw as a victory for their own. The EU referendum  results have given them the encouragement and ego boost they needed to posture and crow more than ever before in recent memory. This is supported by the approval they have received from the extreme right across Europe, from the Greek Golden Dawn to the Dutch Party for Freedom and French National Front calling for similar referenda for their own countries. The tension produced by this energy is leading to even more harassment and negative actions against already marginalised people, which are being well documented on social media (see below). And yet, it is very unlikely that any of those who voted to Leave would have known to point to neoliberalism as the true source of their woes, nor would they have seen the irony in the country that colonised half of the world cannibalizing itself due to fears of immigration.

We at Sisters of Resistance are opposed to ignorance in all its forms, yet we call attention to the fact that it is not always the ignorant who are fully to blame for the states of affairs that they may unwittingly enact. We note that from the Brexiters’ perspective, a vote to leave the EU must seem a rational response to the lies, Islamophobic hatred, and purposeful misinformation spread by the Leave campaign, combined with the general untrustworthiness of the elitist Tory government with David Cameron at the helm, and the City, banks and big business urging people to Remain. We also note that the many lies told fell on fertile ground because of the conditions of social inequality wracked by decades of neoliberalism and a half decade of austerity. Moreover, we call attention to the similarities between the social conditions of the populist movements in the US that are buoying Donald Trump and those in England which set the groundwork for the tragedy that is Brexit.

Like the rest of the world, we do not know what will happen next. We hold our breath in anxious and fearful anticipation of a domino effect that has the power to undo the past 70 years of peace in Europe and cause lasting chaos in the global economy. But unlike half of Britain, we are willing to learn from history to avoid at all costs the onset of fascist ideals that creep into mainstream society stealthily, in the guise of nationalist pride. There is no room for nationalism in a global society. In the face of socio-economic, environmental, and political crises like those never before seen, we need each other more than ever, now.

The hardest letter I’ve ever written [tw: sexual abuse]

3 Jun

I wrote this letter to my aunt  and sent it by email in January of last year. I think her husband deleted it because she never replied. I may one day try sending it again but right now I am not ready. So, with the aim of continuing my healing process, I am posting it here and sharing it with you, my beloved readers. Thank you for holding space for me. – dia 

My dearest aunt,

I never imagined I would be writing you this letter. It has taken me years to simply acknowledge and accept that what I am going to tell you is true. It scares me to tell you, but in this case I must face my fears because I believe wholeheartedly that this is the right thing to do.

There is no way to put this that will make it easier to take, so I will say it as clearly as I can. Your husband sexually molested me each summer I was in the Philippines since I was 13. When I was 13, when you and he and I would fall asleep on the couch, I would wake up because he was touching my body and putting his tongue in my ear. I would run upstairs to get away from him. When I came back at age 17, he encouraged me to drink alcohol and when I was drunk he took advantage of me. After that, he would try to touch or kiss me every time we were alone, which was a lot because he was expected to look after me while everyone was at work. His behavior continued until I was 21 and I never told anyone. I blocked out these memories for a long time but they have come back to me now and I think it is important to tell you, because you deserve to know.

The thing that scares me most about telling you is that you, he, or other family members might blame me for what happened. But I know what happened to me was not my fault. I did not ask for, invite, or court his attention. I was young and vulnerable; I thought he was my friend. He was in a trusted position as a caretaker and he took advantage of that position. He was the adult in the situation and he violated the trust that all of us placed in him, yours, mine, and our whole family’s.

I told my mom a few years ago and she decided, without asking me, to tell her sisters. Although this was not my choice and I am not responsible for this, I want to apologise on their behalf that they have kept this information from you for so long. I do not think this is right but I know they thought it best not to say anything, in order to keep the peace.

Today, I am not interested in keeping the peace. I would rather tell the truth. And so here it is, for you to do with it what you will. Your husband groomed and molested me when I was a teenage girl, and he has gotten away with it for a long time. But not anymore.

I am willing and open to talking to you more about this if you would like. I would also be open to talking to your daughter – now, if you want her to know, or in the future if you would prefer that I wait till she is older. However, I do not want to talk to anyone else about it as I think it is important to work things out between just us for now.

If you want to talk, I am here. You can write me by email, or I can call you on the phone. If you don’t want to talk, and just take some time to process this hard and sad news, that is ok with me too. Let me know what you prefer.

I want to add – although I personally do not want to talk to anyone else besides you, I hope that you would feel free to talk to, and get support from, whomever you choose. This information is yours now, it is not a secret, and you can do with it what you think and feel it is right to do.

With all my love

Your adoring niece.