Tag Archives: intersectionality

Commentary on the Oscars: Diversity in Film 2014

23 Feb

Guest Post by Jonathan Scott Chee

Looking through the nominations for this year’s Oscars, you’d be forgiven for thinking Hollywood had outsourced the entire American film industry to some parallel universe, populated almost entirely by white men.

The Oscars have long been a biting reminder of just how ubiquitously white the film industry truly is, but is the Academy itself purposefully excluding non-white artists, or are they simply taking their pick from an already white-dominated industry?

Analysis of the top grossing films of 2014 paints a troubling picture of exclusion and underrepresentation. People of colour and women make up a woefully small percentage of the principal cast, and behind the cameras white men also make up the vast majority of directors and screenwriters.
diversity_in_film_2014__does_art_Really_imitate_life

As alarming as the statistics in the infographic may be, they fail to tackle an important, yet subtle, element of the structural inequality within the film industry: the kind of roles minority actors and women get. While people of colour may only make up 16% of the total cast of 2014’s biggest blockbusters, they end up playing similar characters time and again: the sassy black sidekick, the tough-yet-warm-hearted convict, the swag drug dealer, the goofy immigrant with a hilariously poor grasp of the English language, the math nerd virgin – these are the roles our minority ethnic actors are relegated to, rarely getting to tackle a role with real depth and therefore rarely getting the opportunity to showcase their talents.

For women, too, the story is much the same – a blockbuster film led by a female protagonist is still very much an anomaly in movie theatres. Worryingly, the industry seems to be becoming even more exclusionary over time, with fewer women than ever involved both in front of, and behind, the camera.

For women of colour, the outlook gets even bleaker as they made up just 3% of all the speaking roles in 2014’s biggest blockbusters. Once again, this statistic doesn’t quite paint the full picture, as that 3% is overwhelmingly made up of black, or mixed race black/white women. If you are an East Asian woman, roles outside of the sultry, accented “dragon lady” or “comedy immigrant” are practically non-existent. South Asian actresses hunting for work in Hollywood may as well be hunting unicorns.

The effects of Hollywood white-washing go far beyond out of work actors, however. As people of colour, our children grow up in an environment where they see no reflection of themselves in mainstream culture. Personally, I don’t want my children to grow up in a society where the only representation of themselves they see on screen are as nerds, sultry objects of white male fetishism or kung-fu geniuses, because as much as art may attempt to represent reality, conversely, it’s clear that it works to shape perceptions of it as well.

Justice for Renisha McBride

8 Nov

From the US comes another sickening case of racist violence and murder. This time it is a young black woman, Renisha McBride, a teenager who was murdered while seeking help after a late-night car crash in a white suburb of Detroit.

From this article by journalist Rania Khalek, who broke the story:

Dearborn Heights police initially told McBride’s family that her body was found dumped near Warren Avenue and Outer Drive, but that story quickly changed. Not only are police refusing to release the identity of the man who shot McBride, they’re now saying she was mistaken for an intruder and shot in self-defense on the homeowner’s front porch. Even if that’s the case, and there’s reason to believe it’s not, the shooter still failed to call 911 after shooting an unarmed woman in the head, instead leaving her there to die. Does that sound like the behavior of a law-abiding gunowner who made a tragic mistake?

Writer and filmmaker Dream Hampton and Detroit hip-hop artist Invincible organised a rally for justice for the slain teenager, whose conduct on the night of the shooting is being questioned in accusations by the police and the media. This Huffington Post article describes the rally, and Hampton’s critique of the blame-the-victim response:

“This is what happens, again and again,” Hampton said, invoking the killing of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin last year. “It’s kind of textbook. We’re able to break it down in the public media, when it came to Trayvon, the criminalization of the victim, of the corpse. Look, he got a C, look, he was a teenager who smoked pot, he had a sugar problem, he liked Skittles. … It becomes the criminalization of the corpse. … The police are supposed to be advocating for victims.”

Black feminists on Twitter have called out mainstream white feminists for not engaging with the Renisha case. Intersectionality, or the interaction of multiple dimensions of oppression, is as important to remember in this case as ever. If Renisha had been a white woman, we suspect there would have been little chance of her being murdered when seeking help on a stranger’s porch.

As of today, Ranisha’s murderer, who first claimed he thought she was an intruder, later changing his story to “the gun discharged accidentally“, has not been arrested, and his identity is being protected. Due to a stand-your-ground law in Michigan, it is possible he will not be charged. The absurdity of her murder, and the official response to it – for her actions to be questioned, not those of the man who killed her – illustrates the continued calamity that is racialized violence in the United States, supported by a legal structure that systematically denies justice for victims whose bodies are black and brown.

A Statement of Trans-Inclusive Feminism and Womanism

24 Sep

Sista Resista:

We’ve signed.

via Black Space Blog

Originally posted on feministsfightingtransphobia:

We are proud to present a collective statement that is, to our knowledge (and we would love to be wrong about this) the first of its kind.  In this post you’ll find a statement of feminist solidarity with trans* rights, signed by feminists/womanists from all over the world.  It is currently signed by 790 individuals and 60 organizations from 41 countries.

The statement can be found here in English. It is also available in French, Hungarian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian and Serbo-Croatian.

The complete list of individual signatories is available here, or alphabetically or by country. The signatory list of organisations and groups is available here. We would love it if you signed it too. You can either use this form, or email us, or post a comment on this post or on the statement.

Our continued thanks to everyone for your support.

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Chescaleigh Breaks Down the Harriet Tubman “Sex Tape”

19 Aug

Sisters of Resistance have featured the awesome YouTube comedian Franchesca Ramsey, a.k.a. Chescaleigh before, when she took on the “Shit People Say” meme with her pointed and hilarious observations of “Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls.”

She recently posted a video critiquing the deeply sexist, racist and all-around offensive “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape” released by media mogul Russell Simmons last week. (Coincidentally, his video hit the Net around the time that the hashtag #blackpowerisforblackmen, started by Jamilah Lemieux of Ebony Magazine and illustrating sexist intraracial dynamics between black men and women, was trending on Twitter. Funny how that works.)

In addition to breaking down the wrongness that is the video in a smart and funny way, Franchesca also addresses the issue of social responsibility in comedy. She describes how as a black comic, she once relied on racial stereotyping to get laughs, as many other comedians have done in the past. But she was powerfully challenged by a concerned audience member to see what was problematic about this. She listened, and as a result, learned to stop relying on stereotypes (which she calls “lazy” comedy) and instead, to be funny while making social critique.

Her reflexivity and message is powerful, and especially needs to reach the ears of people whose voices and impact are widespread – people like Uncle Russell “Hustle” Simmons, who has weakly apologized for the video and pulled it from the web. In order to shine up his image (we suspect), he has tweeted about having his apology accepted by Harriet Tubman’s descendants (who are not the only ones he needs to ask forgiveness from!) and producing a miniseries on Frederick Douglas. Let’s just hope he has learned the lesson that Franchesca makes so clear – that claiming “it’s only comedy” is no excuse for eschewing social responsibility, and that all of us have a responsibility to reflect on our actions and contribute positively to the world in which we live.

Franchesca’s recent vlog is below. Follow her on Twitter or check out her YouTube channel here.

Update 22 Aug 2013: An Open Letter to Russell Simmons from Harriet Tubman’s Great Great Grandniece (we knew his claim that they “accepted his apology” was dodgy!)

Related Posts:

Why White People Talk Shit about “Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls”

Why We Stand with Rachel Jeantel

28 Jun

racheljeantel

Christina Coleman at the Global Grind has written an excellent article on the racism/classism that is skewing the portrayal of Rachel Jeantel and her testimony in the Trayvon Martin murder trial. Coleman writes:

“What white people see in Rachel has little to do about her own issues, and more to say about the America that white people are blind to.”

 

And Khadijah Costley White has written a moving open letter, published at Role / Reboot, that both recognizes and celebrates Rachel’s resistance while linking her treatment by the prosecution and the court to the legacy of intersecting racism and sexism experienced by black women in the US. She writes:

“You exemplify, in your girth, skin tone, language, and manner, a refusal to concede. You are a thousand Nat Turners, a quiet spring of rebellion, and some folks don’t know how to handle that.

In truth, you’re part of a long legacy of black women so often portrayed as the archetypal Bitch, piles of Sassafrasses, Mammies, and Jezebels easily dismissed, caricatured, and underestimated. For black women, in particular, being the bitch represents our historical exclusion from the cult of true womanhood, a theme traditionally bounded and defined by its contrast to white femininity. For some folks, being black and being a woman makes us less of both.

Don’t forget that in just the last few years, Fox News called the First Lady of the United States “Obama’s Baby Mama,” that a popular radio host referred to a group of college athletes as “nappy-headed hoes,” and that even a gold-medal Olympian wasn’t able to escape physical scrutiny and bodily criticism on the world stage. This rhetoric is bigger than you, older than you, deeper than you—it is not you.

(But you know that, already, don’t you?)”