Contextural Margins

by matttbastard

Well, bastard.logic–and *ahem* yours truly–have made it to the finals of the Canadian F-Word Blog Awards (final round voting takes place February 22-23–w00t!) Fellow nominee Pomegranate Queen did not make it past the first round (too bad, as her blog kicks ass). While expressing her gratitude for the acknowledgment she took the opportunity to explore some personal concerns the nomination provoked: namely, that having a separate Women of Colour category others WOC who may (or may not) identify as feminists; how the awards serve a microcosm of feminism in general; and how WOC have been marginalized throughout the history of the movement.

Prole from ACR shows up in comments to address the matter of the WOC category:

I’m really sorry to have offended you or anyone – to be honest, I had questioned the category also when we were putting this together. We consulted some other bloggers while coming up with the list, and the WOC category was insisted on, by a person of colour. We deferred to their judgement.

First of all, in the interest of full disclosure, I am the person of colour in question.

Prole, please don’t take this the wrong way, cause I love your guilt-ridden cracker ass (grinz), but “my black friend sez” is never a valid explanation (not that you’re the first to fall back on it). I’m certainly no proxy for all the brothas and sistas out there, and apologize to all concerned if I presented myself as such. I hold opinions that many would disagree with (obviously), regardless of ethnicity, identity, gender, or orientation.

With that out of the way, speaking solely for myself, I do happen to believe that (for whatever reason, right or wrong) there IS a difference between mainstream middle-class liberal white-centred feminism and the sort that is practiced and written about by WOC bloggers (to say nothing of the perspectives that are highlighted by black male, LGBT bloggers, or disability bloggers). By itself, having a distinctive category highlighting and celebrating the unique contribution to feminist blogging made by Women of Colour isn’t necessarily othering; however, the lack of nominees in the WOC category is indicative of the fact that white feminist bloggers (and white feminists in general) do need to expand their horizons with regards to interacting with bloggers who reside out of the so-called mainstream*, to redefine the boundaries of what feminism(s) is (are).

What does lend credence to the charge of othering (and I should have thought of this when I pushed for the category) is the lack of a parallel “Best Mainstream Middle-Class White-Centred Feminist Blog.” Having an unqualified “Best Canadian Feminist” category alongside categories specifically devoted to racial/gender identity makes “Canadian Feminist” the default stand in for “white”, illustrating the fact that, to too many folks, “white” is synonymous with “normative”. PQ is right: what needs to be discussed isn’t that the F-Word awards othered WOC, but rather that WOC are already marginalized from so-called “mainstream” (read: white middle-class) feminist discourse (and discourse in general) to the point where POC have to cause a ruckus in order for the experiences and issues that affect them (us) to be acknowledged.

Would any WOC-authored blogs have been nominated otherwise? I suppose we’ll never know, and perhaps my (unwarranted?) cynicism was precluded by witnessing too many battles within the USian femisphere where the voices of WOC were reflexively marginalized to the point of non-existence.

The issues explored by POC/WOC bloggers, like all issues, are simultaneously universal and unique; that people default to “white” as being “the norm” is a product of a white supremacist (and no, I don’t mean skinheads and white sheets, lol) patriarchal discourse that has been imposed upon–and willingly embraced by many in–our society. And, much like oblivious Popular Male Liberal Bloggers, white feminists (and, to varying degrees, POC) aren’t immune; having a vagina (and/or darker complexion) doesn’t mean one can’t be affected. But if Feminism(s) truly represent a radical discourse, then the idea of the existence of an inherent “norm”–rather than lazy assumptions born of unconscious and deliberate social conditioning–needs to be challenged.

And that includes lazy assumptions that exist within a radical discourse, even if the privilege is affirmed by somebody who should know better (doh!)

* One thing that I’ve realized throughout all this is that I don’t have much interaction with other Canadian bloggers of colour. That fact was made apparent when I tried to think of blogs to nominate in the category and was stumped–ironic, huh? Which, as I said, is partly the point of the awards: expanding one’s horizons.

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Farewell, Fidel

by matttbastard

fidel-castro.jpg

Castro quits, Cuban exiles yawn ( “It’s very good that Fidel resigns. But if Fidel dies, it’s better”–geez, tough crowd.) UK journo John Harris notes the enigmatic record Castro’s time in office presents to both leftists and free-marketeers:

Hagiographies are surely being hacked out as we speak, full of awed tributes to Cuba’s long-standing defiance of the US, Castro’s signature mixture of revolutionary romance and crafty realpolitik, and the achievements of Cuba’s health and education systems. On the other side of the argument, plenty of people will be roundly decrying his record, looking forward to Cuba’s belated opening-up, and chastising those who’d have you believe that Castro’s retirement represents the beginning of the end of a glorious story packed with emotive abstract nouns: courage, strength, indefatigability … you name them.

This, needless to say, is all pretty pointless stuff. Not that you’ll read it in a lot of today’s coverage, but much the most rational response to Castro’s record is a profound ambivalence. If you’ve been to Cuba as a tourist, you may be familiar with the beguiling sense of a society run according to a communitarian ethos, tempered by a nagging fear that you’ve essentially enjoyed a cheap holiday in other people’s misery. One minute, a seductive mixture of revolutionary iconography and jaw-dropping health statistics threaten to pull you towards the idea that the revolution has a lot going for it; the next, you’re reminded of the regime’s truly malignant aspects. As of a sobering reminder to leftist romantics, the absence of free trade unions and lack of recognition of the right to strike usually does the trick.

Sober social democrat Cernig explains why Castro’s resignation may ultimately prove beneficial to socialists of a less dictatorial bent:

One of the ways in which Castro was useful to the American Right – as people like Chavez are now – is in enabling them to muddy the waters of American debate by pretending that modern socialism and dicatorial communism are identical – a meme that has widespread currency in the U.S. How often do you hear rightwingers complain about Tony Blair being a socialist, for instance? Yet the Labour Party which he was head of has always been avowedly a socialist party. Gordon Brown is the current party leader and British PM. How often does his socialism come up in US mainstream reporting?

Hey, fuck the champagne-sipping Commie symps–as Jon Swift modestly illustrates, this is truly a momentous victory for–and vindication of–proponents of the US’ harsh myopic counterproductive freedom-affirming Cuba policy:

All of those liberals who complained that sanctions were not working and said Castro was thumbing his nose at the United States should apologize to the ten Presidents who have methodically plotted Castro’s downfall since 1959 now that Castro has finally said, “Tio.” While it may have appeared to some that Castro emerged unscathed from the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the 638 attempts by the CIA to assassinate him using poison cigars and exploding, mollusks, the embargo, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Mariel Boat Lift, which deprived the country of some of its finest criminals and mental patients, we can now see that each of these incidents chipped away at Castro’s power little by little until he had no choice but to surrender.

So does this mean that the wingnut welfare scheme better known as the Office of Cuban Broadcasting is now doomed to be scrapped on the slagheap of dubious history? And, more importantly, will legal Cuban cigars be puffed by powerbrokering superdelegates in the smoke-filled rooms @ this year’s Democratic National Convention? As Edward Abbey famously quipped, “Democracy—rule by the people—sounds like a fine thing; we should try it sometime in America.”

Update: Sheesh– Miami resident Mustang Bobby sure is a killjoy. Homeboy seems less than impressed with the blessings of liberty that have been bestowed upon the oppressed Cuban populace over the years by the US:

In terms of oppression and denial of freedom, Cuba is in the same league with China, Vietnam, and a host of other countries that we not only do business with but welcome their leaders to our country to sign lucrative deals for the buying and selling of watches, bicycles, and child-labor-produced sportswear. If we had bombarded Cuba with McDonald’s and NAPA Auto Parts instead of John Birch Society rhetoric and Radio Marti, chances are that Fidel Castro’s revolution would have been marginalized by a stampede of Nikes and iPods. As it is, we have left the natural flow of exporting capitalism to Cuba to Canada, the EU, and the rest of the Americas, leaving our influence fifty years to leeward. It’s a lot easier to effect a change in a country when you’re standing in the middle of it counting your money rather than standing outside the fence and screaming at them.

On that note, the embargo will continue for the foreseeable future, as per Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte. Hey, why mess with a successful formula?

Via Memeorandum

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