“No sense of humor; you’re not sophisticated enough to get it; don’t be so sensitive.” These were the remarks running through my head when a family member, hearing that I was working in a domestic violence shelter in 1995, told me the joke: What’s the first thing a woman does when she gets out of a battered woman’s shelter? The dishes if she knows what’s good for her. And these were the same remarks in my head when I cringed, watching Tina Fey’s recent SNL performance as it popped up over and over on Facebook this week.
My reaction to the joke back in 1995 was to smile. I didn’t outright laugh; I didn’t find it funny. At all. I was fuming inside, but I did not confront issues in those days, it’s not easy for me still, especially from family members. I remained silent. Why? Because of a pattern of behavior I had adopted after being sexually abused as a child. I saw myself as “less than,” as “damaged goods.” As a result, I would do anything to be liked, to be accepted. That meant smiling; that meant “having a sense of humor;” that meant, though I didn’t realize it at the time, betraying myself. I stayed silent or laughed so that I wouldn’t be perceived the way I saw myself: the girl at the edge of the field; the outcast; the oddball.
I’ve read many comments this week from white women on social media who used the very same phrases as above: no sense of humor, etc. Many white women feel that viewers who criticized Fey’s “skit” just didn’t “get it.” In her January 2017 article in Daily Kos, Wagatwe Wanjuki writes, “When a joke ‘punches up’ it is making fun of the people in power and highlights how they’re abusing it…When we ‘punch down’ we end up re-inforcing the status quo by mocking a systemically oppressed group. That’s why jokes making light of the plight of undervalued people like rape victims, domestic violence survivors, trans folk, people of color, etc. just aren’t right.” I believe the latter definition is where Fey failed.
So a note to white women: If you want to make a case for Fey “punching up” in her reference to “sheetcaking,” go ahead and try. But making a joke about Sally Hemings or 6’4” black drag queens is punching low. When black women and other people of color point out white privilege, what should we (white women) be doing? Right. SHUT UP and LISTEN. And, in this case, READ the first two articles in this week’s Roundup. Let’s put our defenses away…then maybe we can contribute effectively to the discussion.
Other stories this week include a focus on the continuing conversation around white supremacist America; the horrors of pedophile priests who were tunneled to reservations in Montana; how to memorialize slavery; creating safe workplace environments for the trans community; and offering better options and choices for the disabled community when it comes to vehicle operation.
Many weeks ago, I reported on the racism and domestic violence issues inherent in the NFL; I also stated that I would return to the topic. Colin Kaepernick still has not been drafted by a NFL team and protests across the country have begun to take place. I’ve chosen an article from Dame Magazine to highlight this issue. Lastly, I end the list of article links with a Rebecca Solnit essay from March of this year. Her focus is on the necessity of hope and persistence. Despite the way our world is continuing to spin out of control, we have to engage in the work. As Solnit believes: our actions may not be visible in our lifetimes, but future generations still depend on us.
So, for these stories and more, Please Read On!! Your comments are always welcome.
What’s not going to help get us there are stereotypes that invade our brains from regular exposure, like this one: “Part of me hopes these neo-Nazis do try it in New York City and get the ham salad kicked out of them by a bunch of drag queens. ‘Cause you know what a drag queen still is? A 6’4” black man.” Fey’s perpetuation that underneath their costume of makeup and heels, drag queens like RuPaul (the 6’4” bit was an obvious reference to RuPaul’s height) are big, scary, violent Black men who can be counted upon to do the dirty work we don’t want to do and take the heat for it. Well, that continues a narrative that’s responsible for much of the criminalization and incarceration against Black men in America today.
“Why #ImNotWithHer: Tina Fey and the Politics of the Liberal Resistance”/ by Dakota Kim/ Paste/ August 23, 2017
2. Meanwhile, some fans of comedy read this as a satirical commentary on the lackadaisical attitudes of many white liberals. In order for satire to be effective, it has to be understood by its audience, and those of us who do not find it funny have been quickly disregarded by white liberals and told that we just don’t understand the razor-sharp wit of the SNL sketch.
“All White People Are Socialized to be Racist & Tina Fey Made That Clear”/ by Sherronda J. Brown/ Wear Your Voice/ August 21, 2017
3. We are on a precipice. What happened in Charlottesville is not the end of something but, rather, the beginning. And it is from this precipice that I am reminded of everything I did not do during the 2016 election. Hindsight reminds me that resistance must be active, and constant. Resistance is the responsibility of everyone who believes in equality and demands the eradication of racism, anti-Semitism and the hatred that empowers bigots to show their truest selves in broad daylight. I am reminding myself that I should never allow my fears to quiet me. I have a voice and I am going to use it, as loudly as I can.
“Hate That Doesn’t Hide”/ by Roxane Gay/ New York Times/ August 18, 2017
4. I always tell people, they did what they could to erase your past. Even if you run away, you cannot go home. And one day you just surrender. But that doesn’t mean that home doesn’t exist anymore inside you, because you don’t need a suitcase to pack your culture; it is in you. But they erase your identity, your past; you cannot trace your family back.
“What Should a Memorial to Slavery Look Like? One Museum’s Answer: Put Slave Stories First.”/ by Michael Patrick Welch/ Vox/ August 23, 2017
5. I quickly grew accustomed to being asked by white people about my ethnic heritage—whether at the grocery store, sports bar, or on TriMet—and learned to say that I’m Indian American in the first few minutes of practically every conversation, just to set them at ease. It never really worked. They specifically wanted to know about the “Mohamed” in my last name.
“How Portland is Driving Away New Residents of Color”/ by Zahir Janmohamed/ Portland Mercury/ August 23, 2017
6. In the Pacific Northwest, however, the Catholic Church and the Jesuit Order have been accused of using Indian Reservations as their “dumping grounds” for the worst recidivist priests accused of sexually abusing children throughout the 1900s. Here, church officials reportedly determined predatory priests could remain undetected. Here, the church acted as an anchor for the communities, and the victims lived with the abuse in silence.
“Montana Reservations Reportedly ‘Dumping Grounds’ for Predatory Priests”/ by Seaborn Larson/ Great Falls Tribune/ August 16, 2017
7. As a Black American I am marginalized, my experiences have been tainted by racism. However, when I began my gender transition, those experiences shifted. I recognized it as I was preparing for my first job interview, being openly femme and trans, I found myself worrying about how passable and how polite I would appear to the employer before I even thought about the interview questions.
“How You Can Help Create a Safe Space for Trans People in the Workforce”/ by Serena Sonoma/ Wear Your Voice/ August 1, 2017
8. Driving shouldn’t be seen as a one-size-fits-all indicator of adulthood and independence, especially when there are still so many barriers to disabled people learning how to drive. There are plenty of disabled and nondisabled people who can’t drive or don’t want to, but there are also many of us who want to get our licenses but can’t.
“Accessing the Open Road”/ by Alaina Leary/ Rooted in Rights/ August 22, 2017
9. “Black women continue to suffer worse health outcomes than white women,” she said. “In the United States, black women are still two-to-six times more likely to die during childbirth than white women. The institution of reproductive health was built on the exploitation of black women, but this very institution continues to underserve black women.”
“Why Black Women Are Protesting A Statue Of This Famed Gynecologist”/ by Jenavieve Hatch/ Huffington Post/ August 21, 2017
10. Three protesters were hit by a vehicle late Wednesday night in St. Louis while marching in honor of Kiwi Herring, a transgender woman who was shot dead by police earlier this week.
“Driver Runs Car Through Protesters Following Vigil in St. Louis”/ by Breanna Edwards/ The Root/ August 24, 2017
11. A federal judge blocked Texas from enforcing its revamped voter identification law on Wednesday, ruling that the State Legislature’s attempt to loosen the law did not go far enough and perpetuated discrimination against black and Hispanic voters.
“Federal Judge Rejects a Revised Voter ID Law in Texas”/ by Manny Fernandez/ New York Times/ August 23, 2017
12. Many brands, claiming to self-monitor, focus only on factories with which they have direct agreements and ignore the back chain of unauthorized sub-contracting to smaller factories. In the wake of the 2013 collapse of Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza building, in which over 1,100 workers died, over 200 brands signed up for the Bangladesh Accord and the Alliance for Bangladesh Workplace Safety, committing to improving safety standards by summer 2018.
“One Way to Make Sure Workers Weren’t Abused While Making Your Clothes”/ by Elizabeth Winkler/ Washington Post/ August 24, 2017
13. We, as White Americans, are so accustomed to seeing patriotism made in our own image, bereft of all struggles of people of color, that it is jarring to see a Black American exercise their free speech to protest injustices we can scarcely comprehend.
“Who Owns American Patriotism”/ by Charles Clymer/ Dame/ August 23, 2017
14. Hope is a belief that what we do might matter, an understanding that the future is not yet written. It’s informed, astute open-mindedness about what can happen and what role we may play in it. Hope looks forward, but it draws its energies from the past, from knowing histories, including our victories, and their complexities and imperfections. It means not being the perfect that is the enemy of the good, not snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, not assuming you know what will happen when the future is unwritten, and part of what happens is up to us.
“Protest and Persist: Why Giving Up Hope is Not an Option”/ by Rebecca Solnit/ The Guardian/ March 13, 2017
Joyce Hayden left her university teaching job two years ago in order to pursue her own artistic work. An assemblage artist, painter, and writer, Joyce is currently in the process of acquiring an agent to represent her memoir, The Out of Body Girl, which describes her 8 year relationship with a charismatic gambler and the dangerous road that eventually led to her freedom. Her chapbook of poems, Lost Handprint, is forthcoming from Dandelion Review. A freelance editor and writing coach, Joyce’s writing services and a selection of her artwork can be found at her website joycehayden.com. Joyce is available for commission art work, including celebration shrines for loved ones and pets.