Monday, September 24, 2007

Taking Gold-Digging to a New Level

Women in India are being tortured and even killed as a result of spousal abuse resulting from a highly gendered topic in the West: gold digging.

According to the LA Times piece "Wedded to Greed in India" by Staff Writer Henry Chu, ever 77 minutes, a woman is murdered in India for failure to meet the demands of her spouse and his family, demands directly linked to her dowry. While we have our own form of dowry practice in the United States with the family of the bride customarily footing the wedding bill, the bride and her family are expected to give far less after the marriage has begun, our gender roles dictating that the woman rely primarily on her husband for financial security and, in pop culture, making men look more like small business loan officers than spouses to love, honor, and cherish. In India, however, as Chu reports, the roles are reversed. While the man is still considered to be the head of the household, the bride and her family were to provide a dowry for reasons that were once quite feminist:

The practice of dowry in India goes back thousands of years. Its original intent,
scholars say, was to protect women, who by bringing property and belongings to the marriage could enjoy some creature comforts and not have to depend entirely on their husbands.
But somewhere along the line, what was supposed to be security for the bride came to be seen as a boon to the groom and his family, a way for them to augment their wealth.

Chu goes on to describe the increasing correlation between India's economic growth and the unrealistic dowry expectations women from all walks of life are expected to meet upon marriage.
A few years ago, the Times of India listed the expected price tag on grooms from different professions; the more prestigious or lucrative the job, the bigger the dowry a man's family could demand. A businessman with an MBA could fetch 1.5 million rupees (about $37,500 at today's exchange rate), and a member of India's storied civil service could ask for 2 million rupees ($50,000).

And what used to be simple dowries of livestock and everyday household furnishings have given way to packages of cash, jewelry and big-ticket items, often just to help the groom and his relatives keep up with the neighbors. In many cases, the bride is hounded for more well past the wedding day."Whatever the latest consumer goods are in the market is what gets demanded," said Neelu, a women's rights advocate here in Patna, the capital of Bihar state, who goes by only one name.

"Cars, refrigerators -- now there's a demand for computers, too."

And while made illegal in 1961, the practice of demanding dowries continues, the law widely unenforced, and overlooked despite the continued abuse of women linked to the custom. Experts have also suggested that a high incidence of abortion of female fetuses may also result from the fear of pending abuse if their girl children were to marry as adults.

This alarming information seems ironic considering India's recent election of its first female president, Prathiba Patil and rising rates of women continuing their education beyond high school and even holding more positions in the workplace. It's possible that just as things are looking up for women in India, their rising status comes as a threat in a rapidly changing society, proving that despite progress, social norms, no matter how archaic, often outweigh reason. Unfortunately, India is not alone. Citizens in countless other countries, including many in the West, frequently make decisions marred by their own inability to see beyond "tradition."

-Wendi Muse READ MORE

Friday, September 21, 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007

Does Rezoning Mean Resegregation?

This may be the case in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a racially mixed city where some say segregation is alive and well.

As a result of the recent public school overcrowding, city authorities decided on a rezoning plan to deal with the problem. Unfortunately, this left hundreds of students to the mercy of "virtually all-black, low performing schools" reads a New York Times piece by Sam Dillon, and many black parents calling foul, especially considering that the school's superintendent and board president are white, yet 75% of the public school system is black.

Tuscoloosa's rezoning project, while raceless on paper, is being administered via the same justification found in the recent reversal of the Brown v. Board of Education decision (which I covered here in July) and the somewhat faulty No Child Left Behind program, both of which are considered to be essential in what is fast becoming a race-blind America. Yet for some parents and local black leaders, the situation is a haunting flashback:

All the issues we dealt with in the 60s, we're having to deal with again in 2007," said Earnestine Tucker, one of the black members [of the Board of Education]. We're back to separate but equal - but separate isn't equal."
Some of the students feel it too:

Telissa Graham, 17, was a sophomore last year at Northridge High. She learned of the plan last May by reading a notice on her school’s bulletin board listing her name along with about 70 other students required to move. “They said Northridge was too crowded,” Telissa said. “But I think they just wanted to separate some of the blacks and Hispanics from the whites.”

Ironically, as the article notes, the parents of Tuscaloosa have co-opted the No Child Left Behind Act, which its critics consider to be detrimental to the process of improving the health of public schools as it, in fewer words, places more importance on a student's selective school re-assignment on a case-by-case basis, as opposed to focusing on the poor schools themselves. The parents have argued that they have no other choice than using the act a means of securing a better future for their children, many of whom, as a result of the residential rezoning, have limited access to the educational opportunity they once experienced via busing. Thus far, 180 students have requested to transfer from schools that have received poor scores in the evaluation system used by No Child Left Behind, but their present status is pending, much like their hopes for a better future in the highly racially divided Tuscaloosa.

Critics could easily say, however, that parental involvement for black student came a little too late. White parents beat them to the punch, helping to initiate the program with which they are at odds:

At a meeting in February 2005, scores of parents from the two majority white elementary schools complained of overcrowding and discipline problems in the middle school their children were sent to outside of the northern enclave.

Ms. Tucker said she, another board member and a teacher were the only blacks present. The white parents clamored for a new middle school closer to their homes. They also urged Dr. Levey to consider sending some students being bused into northern cluster schools back to their own neighborhood, Ms. Tucker said. Dr. Levey did not dispute the broad outlines of Ms. Tucker’s account.

“That was the origin of this whole rezoning,” Ms. Tucker said.

Months later, the school board commissioned a demographic study to draft the rezoning plan. J. Russell Gibson III, the board’s lawyer, said the plan drawn up used school buildings more efficiently, freeing classroom space equivalent to an entire elementary school and saving potential construction costs of $10 million to $14 million. “That’s a significant savings,” Mr. Gibson said, “and we relieved overcrowding and placed most students in a school near their home. That’s been lost in all the rhetoric.”

Could re-segregation have been avoided by way of parental involvement?

Possibly. But without the tax money to back up the words, very little can be done to change a public education system on the brink of ruin. As socialist as it may sound, we, as a nation, will continue to segregate it's young people until one's income bracket no longer corresponds to the availability of local, high-quality, public schools. Due to the very obvious links between color and class, some children will inevitably always be left behind.

-Wendi Muse

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Hate Crime reported yesterday that a 23-year-old black woman was held for at least a week in the West Virginia home of Frankie Brewster, a 49-year-old white woman. The police are treating this as a hate crime and have arrested six of the suspected kidnappers; which include Frankie Brewster, 49; her son Bobby, 24; Danny J. Combs, 20, of Harts, West Virginia; and George A. Messer, 27, Karen Burton, 46, and Alisha Burton, 23, all of Chapmanville, West Virginia. All are being held in lieu of $100,000 bond each, and all have asked for court-appointed public defenders, according to AP.

The victim was found with week-old bruises on her face and legs, part of her hair had been pulled out and with lacerations on her neck. She had been stabbed repeatedly in the left leg and her ankle had also been cut.

The motives of the six perpetrators will most likely take center stage in the proceedings that undoubtedly follow. The center of this crime is the victim. Her suffering as a human being and the acts perpetrated against her are sickening, not only because of the obvious racial motivation, but because she is a person who has been grievously wronged. Let the outrage begin there.

However, it is a relief that the crime is being considered a hate crime from the beginning. The lives of minorities are too often treated with little worth, our suffering dismissed with terms used in judicial and political process.

Hate crimes do not, however, always occur so neatly, the injustice not so easily pointed out, and the victim and the perpetrator do not always fit uniformly into our preconceptions.

It is interesting to me to hear politicians discuss the founding principles of America; the good Christian values, etc. It is important that when we consider hate crimes that we remember that many of the roots of the systems on which we depend to dispense justice are founded in the soil of discrimination and malfeasance. We are working against a long history. Sometimes the crime exists not as a direct action but in legislation, the status quo and sometimes, even in simple perception.

With that in mind...for your (re)consideration.

Jena Six

-Ashleigh Rae READ MORE

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Mark Your Calendars

Congress is to hold a hearing on misogyny in hip hop on September 25, 2007. Though the hearing has yet to be officially announced, a bit of information has been leaked to the press. The reason being? My guess is that they wanted to keep the whole gig in line with the industry they're talking about. Get some of your work out to the public before someone else does it without your permission, a smart move considering how the mainstream press tends to greatly distort academic and activist-led response to hip hop..

The hearing will be sponsored by the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection and led by Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL), the subcommittee chairman, who ". . . want[s] to engage not just the music industry but the entertainment industry at large to be part of a solution" His approach is admirable because he admits that despite what we are often led to believe about hip hop, the artist is not necessarily the primary culprit, bearing in mind that lyrical content goes through several channels for approval:

The intent is to examine commercial practices behind the music's most controversial content. "I want to talk to executives at these conglomerates who've never taken a public position on what they produce," Rush said. "But it's been surprisingly very difficult to get them to commit to appearing." Rush had planned the hearing twice before and had to postpone both times to accommodate execs' schedules. "But after a series of long conversations and other communications, they know this hearing is going to go forward, and they will be coming -- reluctantly, if I might add." Witnesses include toppers Philippe Dauman of Viacom, Doug Morris of Universal Music Group and Edgar Bronfman Jr. of Warner Music Group.
As expected, record labels are less than eager to take the fall:
A music industry exec said the delay [for agreeing to a set date for the hearing] was more an issue of getting the right people to appear. "Not everyone agrees that the top people are the same as the right people," the exec said, noting that decisions to sign particular artists or distribute their CDs are often made at lower levels.
It sounds a lot like the same level play we hear when it comes to military mess-ups. Like a bad case of he said/she said, the higher-ups defer responsibility to those below and vice versa. One thing is for sure, however, Bobby Rush seems to have a handle on where the problem starts and has clearly been pro-active about finding a possible solution, or at least discussing one. He has entitled the hearing "From Imus to Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and Degradation," alluding to the prevalence of misogyny beyond the hip hop industry, something its critics sometimes disregard. He has also expanded the scope of the hearing by seeking to include African-American women's groups, noting that he wants "to look at not only the problem caused by misogynistic content in some hip-hop music but also some of the pain that emanates from this degradation."

I am not sure how productive the hearing will be, especially considering that similar hearings on violence and sex on television (which Rush has referenced in order to bolster the legitimacy of the hearing on hip hop) have yielded few results with regard to changing sexism and violence in this country. The hearing also begs the question of how much government involvement is necessary in the arts, if at all? Rush notes that he is not using the hearing to potentially act in opposition to freedom of speech, but I can't help but consider the significance that such government-level activism may have on artists' rights. Could the war being waged on hip hop become a neo-McCarthy movement?

On the other hand, however, I admire Rush's commitment to making an attempt to do something about what many consider a large problem not only within hip hop, but also outside its boundaries. As a woman who is adamantly opposed to misogyny in music, media, and daily life, I am relieved that someone in the government is attempting to hold at least *some* of the people who continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes about women responsible for their actions.

We'll see what happens in two weeks . . .

h/t to dnA for the article!

- Wendi Muse


article originally posted at Too Sense


Friday, September 7, 2007

Let's Not Lose Focus

For a while now, we have been bombarded with the 2008 Presidential elections. With the many nights of watching the debate of the Democrats and Republicans to Senators making the headline news, it has almost become too much!

What about other news? Have we forgotten that we’re still fighting a war? That people are still suffering from Hurricane Katrina? What about these tragic events? Better yet, do you know the latest on these tragic events? I bet you don’t.

Well, as you know the war in Iraq continues. After researching the latest on Iraq and the victims of Hurricane Katrina, it made me realize that we are (and have) done nothing! Yes, we had to react to the tragic event on 9/11/2001. But war for six years was not the answer. And as for Hurricane Katrina victims, the government still has not done enough for the communities or the people.

What is going on my people?

With the war, “we” (yes you and me) have bitten off more than we can chew. We have caused more turmoil than peace and have not gained anything positive since the war started. Gas prices alone were enough to hurt my feelings, yet alone my wallet. (I know it has hit some of you where it hurts too). Hurricane Katrina has affected us too. The hurricane has caused victims to move into other cities and states, making it hard for businesses like hospitals and schools, to operate at full capacity. Texas alone has become overcrowded and crime rates have tripled.

So what is the government doing about it? Or what are “we” doing about it?

Below are links that will take you to the latest news on the war in Iraq and the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I pray that after you read the following articles that you will be inspired to do more for the next person and your community. It is time out for thinking about ourselves, we need one another. We cannot wait on the government forever!

The latest Political News…

War in Iraq

Hurricane Katrina

Republicans views for Iraq

Democrat views for Iraq

(Note: There was hardly any news about the political parties and their actions towards Hurricane Katrina)

~ Briana Henderson

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Fluffer Nutter returns...

Sorry for the hiatus but I was on vaca for a week and it was quite lovely if I must say so myself. I went to a Javier concert (if you don’t know who he is you need to go here), road trip Maryland to hang with the man’s fam, back to NY to see the Tyra show, got one last bit of tan by the pool, and watched the “Kill Point” marathon and finale (you know I loves me some TV). But now I’m back to the old grind…and as you can see the Manifesto. Moving right along…

In response to the outrage over Michael Vick’s dog fighting charges he has not only been dropped by Nike from all endorsements but has also been suspended indefinitely from the NFL.

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On Monday he plead guilty to federal dog fighting charges and faces up to 5 years in jail. He’ll be sentenced in December. Before the hearing he held a press conference where he apologized to the children and let us know that this ordeal helped him find Jesus.

Ok, I’ve had just about enough of all of this nonsense! I love lil puppy dogs just as much as the next girl but seriously I honestly DO NOT CARE…and neither would you if he wasn’t famous. Oh! And another thing! Why do people always seem to find Jesus when they do something stupid? 1. I didn’t know he was hiding and 2. if he is hiding he probably doesn’t want to be found by the likes of you!

Feeling like you need a dose of God in your life? Wanna feel like a celebrity? Or simply need a work break? Go here and find Jesus! I did and it changed my life!

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I recently watched a trailer for Tyler Perry’s new movie “Why Did I Get Married?” and I must say it looks pretty darn good (thanks for the clip Paula). The cast includes Tyler Perry (Madea isn’t in this one), Janet Jackson, Malik Yoba, Jill Scott, Michael Jai White, and a bunch of other black folk who I’m sure you’ve seen before but have absolutely no idea what their names are. Check out the link below and give me your opinion on whether or not we should go see it.

This Just In…

We’ve got the new cast of “Dancing With the Stars”

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Jennie Garth - Actress (Beverly Hills 90210)

Marie Osmond – Singer, Talk Show Host, Maker of scary dolls

Albert Reed - Model

Melenie Brown– Spice Girl and Baby Mama

Helio Castronetes - Race car driver

Jane Seymour – Actress (Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Wedding Crashers, etc.)

Jose Maran - Model

Sabrina Bryan - Member of the Cheetah Girls

Mark Cuban - Billionaire

Cameron Mathison – Actor (All My Children)

Floyd Maywather - Boxer

Wayne Newton – Las Vegas phenom! Or just creepy lookin old dude

Random Pics…

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Excuse me new cast of “America’s Next Top Model”, but Cher just called and she’d like her silver lame back…thanks!

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Its kinda like when you went to the picture place in the mall with your girlfriends and got glamour shots together…except not so much.

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I don’t know if this is Tamar or Towanda Braxton but one of dem hoes done lost their damn mind. Toni! Get your sister!

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Sweet mother of God!!! What happened to you Maxwell!?!? I think I’m going to be sick. Excuse me while I go lie down for a moment.



Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Do Copycat Complaints Fall on Deaf Ears?

For New Yorkers, it's that time of year that most of the beauty and body-conscious look forward to during the sweltering hot months that involve beyond tropical subway platforms and scant clothing to deal with soaring temperatures: Fall Fashion Week.

Every year, there is a gossip-column worthy scandal: models weigh less than 90 pounds despite their 5'8" plus frames, there was a fall on the catwalk, a designer lost his temper backstage. This year, however, the battle against counterfeit designer goods is in the top spot for fashion controversy. For years, designers have been considering applying for patents and copyrights for their wares, and with the fierce competition of stores like H&M, Forever 21, and almost any street shop in Chinatown, the fashion district is feeling the pressure. According to the New York Times article "Before Models Can Turn Around, Knock-Offs Fly," the number one priority of the Council of Fashion Designers of America is the reproduction of their clothing for sale at much cheaper prices, and even the U.S. Senate has gotten involved.

Though I myself identify as a fashionista of sorts, I'm certainly one on a budget. I understand the desire to look good without breaking the bank. With that said, it's difficult for me to feel intense sympathy for designers who make clothing only in a few sizes and for prices that make even my monthly rent in NYC look measly. Sure, the quality may be worth the price, but at the end of the day, we're paying for the label, a designer's name in the back of a garment that was made for much less than for what it is being sold.

Another reason I found it really difficult to sympathize is, plain and simple, the copying issue seems small compared to other problems in the fashion world. I can think of two, for example, that affect me the most as a woman of color:

1. Why are there so few models of color on the runway and in print ads? Models of Middle Eastern, South Asian, African, and East Asian descent are missing in action on the catwalk, and while Latin-American, mainly Brazilian-born, models are en vogue for now, it's hard to ignore that they exhibit mainly European features. It's rare that you'd see a woman from Salvador, a city in northern Brazil with a considerably large population of African descendants, walking for Michael Kors. You'd also be hard-pressed to find a woman with very dark skin in an ad for Lancome.

And secondly:

2. The fashion industry has painted the counterfeit industry as one guilty of horrendous labor practices, including sweatshop and/or child labor, yet designers for both low end and high end merchandise are accused on a daily basis for exploiting the lower class of countries within the global south. Adults and children from Turkey, Southeast Asia, China, and throughout Latin America make clothes for Sean John in the same conditions they do for H&M. There is no denying that the people most greatly affected by such occupational abuse in countries that are not faring well economically just so happen to be of color and usually women.

The industry would also like you to believe that counterfeit goods fund terrorism. There have been several ad campaigns geared toward discouraging consumers from buying counterfeit goods, but very few commercials and print ads about the ends designers may go to acquire jewels, animal skins and fur for their products. The poaching and warfare that continue in countries rich in natural resources are undeniably linked to our hunger to look good by dressing well.

So while I don't agree with the downright copying of designer clothes and fully understand the need to protect patterns, I think we all have to take a moment to step back and look at the whole picture in order to see the truth.

For more information about the fashion industry's war on counterfeiting, please check out: The Council of Fashion Designers of America's site

To learn more about sweatshop labor in the fashion industry and how you can take action against it, click here.

-Wendi Muse READ MORE

Monday, September 3, 2007

A girl like me: Disney's first black princess

"The Frog Princess", a film set for release in 2009, and Walt Disney's first film since their pledge to return to animated films will feature the Studio's first black princess. Though little has been uncovered about the plot, the film will be scored by Randy Newman, set in New Orleans, and will star a girl named Maddy.

When I heard the news, I was ecstatic!

As a child I sat obsessed with Disney animated films whenever I was given the chance to watch television. I am and have always been a dreamer, and Walt and company consistently explored and shaped my imagination with their beautiful characters and charming storylines.

I was disillusioned, however, towards the end of elementary school at a sleepover with some of my closest friends. The girls were all white with the exception of my friend Kay, who is Mexican-American. Towards the end of the night we began to play with the hostess' dolls, which were all Disney collectibles. I remember wanting to be Belle since I related most to her love for her father. "She doesn't look like you," the hostess said, and took the doll for herself. One by one, the girls chose dolls that "looked like them". The blond girls snatched Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, the brunette girls reached for Snow White and Ariel, and me and Kay just sat dumbfounded and confused at the commotion.

We held hands while the other girls quickly claimed and grabbed the princesses, young but still aware of what was happening, and discovering by the second what we were destined to face our entire lives. Finally, when the room quieted and the commotion died down, Kay and I looked at the playroom floor. Princess Jasmine lay lifeless, hair rumpled and almost teary eyed that she too was the last to be chosen. The hostess and the other girls stared at Kay and I as they all sat in a circle with their princesses in their laps. They looked back and forth from Jasmine, to Kay and I. "Kay, you should take Jasmine," one of the girls finally said. My heart dropped. Kay squeezed my hand. "She's not Mexican," Kay said. I laughed. "No, but she looks like you," the hostess said.

We ended up watching television instead.

Needless to say the experience stayed with me.

Kudos to Disney! Let's hope the film is worth waiting for. Let's hope Disney knows how to tell the story of a girl like me.

-Wayetu Moore READ MORE