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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I can't get behind #JeSuisCharlie without feeling disgusting and here's why

I'm sorry, but I can't get behind ‪#‎JeSuisCharlie‬ without feeling disgusting, and here's why...
There were two hotspots for terrorism this past week, and the fact that the vast majority of the Western world only knows about one of them says much about racism in media, particularly that racism transcends international borders.

The terrorist attacks in Paris are abominable; 17 people lost their lives to horrific men that most certainly do not represent the Islam any reasonable person knows and respects.

But something else happened this week: 2,000 people were massacred in the town of Baga, Nigera by terrorist group Boko Haram. When I say "massacred", I don't mean "armed conflict". I mean two thousand women, men, and children were slaughtered by terrorists.

As you might remember, Boko Haram is the group that kidnapped 276 Nigerian schoolgirls in April. Of those, 219 are still missing. As recently as October, four schoolgirls escaped to freedom and gave horrifying accounts of being raped daily by their captors.

Boko Haram has been acknowledged as a terrorist group for months by Western countries... and we've done little about them.

So, imagine the surprise of many when the world's collective press practically fell over themselves eulogizing those killed in the Paris attacks while barely mentioning the massacre in Baga by comparison.

Imagine if nearly 300 schoolgirls had been abducted in Germany or France or the UK or Spain or the United States. There would have been an allied effort to track down these terrorists and eliminate the threat they posed, let alone rescuing the children kidnapped.

But here we are... over 200 children are still missing--reportedly being raped daily--and 2,000 innocent people have been killed by a terrorist group with the same motivations as the assailants behind the attacks in Paris.

This isn't about "freedom". It's about white freedom. This isn't about "free speech". It's about ensuring white reporters, or at least, white news sources are free to say what they wish. It isn't about a "collective sense of safety" but comforting white people across the Western world that action is being taken to keep them safe.

Today, dozens of world leaders have gathered to march with millions of French citizens in honor of the Paris terrorist victims. These are leaders who offered lukewarm assistance when the Nigerian kidnappings took place but won't be traveling to Nigeria to march for freedom anytime soon.

But don't worry. In about 10 years--maybe even 5--one of the captured schoolgirls who escaped (or perhaps a child in Baga) will write a memoir about the horror they witness and endured. It will undoubtedly be a New York Times bestseller. It might become a movie. The author will make the rounds on American morning talk shows, and white Americans can breathe with a sigh of relief that purchasing the book proves they care absent of further action. The white publisher wins. The white studio head wins. The white journalists covering the issue years after the fact might get a special on network television. We might even create a museum to honor the victims, who will otherwise fade into obscurity.

And then, we can all return to repeating the cycle and implicitly endorsing our value system that human beings matter based on skin color and nationality.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

When Racism is Masked as Outrage

[Source: https://cut2thetruth.wordpress.com]

In the months since Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, a nationwide debate has raged over the causes--and even existence--of police brutality. While tens of thousands of protesters have marched and demonstrated around the country against institutional racism, conservative commentators have raged against the "injustice" of being made aware of their own white privilege.

Let's make this clear: the killing of a young woman and two NYPD officers on Saturday night was an act of terrorism, plain and simple. It was not only a tragedy but an assault against all of society. The killer was a hateful coward, and I am personally glad he's dead.

But what followed immediately in the wake of these killings makes me ashamed to be an American. It took mere minutes for conservatives on social media to blame the murders on Attorney General Eric Holder and Mayor Bill de Blasio, both of whom have spoke out against institutional racism in recent months, particularly the conduct of police toward people of color.

In a live press conference on Dec. 4th, Mayor de Blasio spoke of his personal anxiety as the parent of a black child, how he and his wife had trained their son on how to interact with police because of the rational fear, based on a long and consistent history of police brutality, of the "dangers he may face" in doing so.

This is not a speculative fear. Since 2009, the NYPD has paid out $428 million in settlements over lawsuits brought against the department. A report by the Associated Press released the following year and covering the previous decade found nearly $1 billion paid out in lawsuits over that time.

Last year, a federal judge ruled that the NYPD systematically targeted black and Latino citizens under their controversial "Stop and Frisk" policy, calling it unconstitutional. Despite blacks and Latinos making up 54.1 percent of the city's population, they composed an astounding 86 percent of those stopped by police, with 90 percent of the detained being released from custody without an arrest or summons. Or in other words, nine out of ten of these stops had no basis in reasonable suspicion.

Two years ago, The Nation released an eye-opening documentary feature on Stop and Frisk, with police officers giving anonymous testimony about the racist machinations behind the program, how the department is pressured to maintain a quota for stops, which is made easier by racial profiling.

New York City clearly has a problem in how its citizens of color are illegally treated by its police department, and because this dynamic has led to the deaths of several unarmed black men at the hands of the NYPD, Mayor de Blasio and his wife Chirlane did what any rational parents would do: they took the necessary steps to protect their child, and this meant teaching their son how to respond if stopped by police.

But for Patrick Lynch, head of NYC's police union, the Mayor's acknowledgment of the department's racist actions was tantamount to treason, claiming the NYPD was thrown "under the bus" by de Blasio. Fast forward to Saturday night, and in the midst of that terrorist action by an awful human being, the union boss politicized the tragedy and claimed the Mayor has "blood on his hands" simply for stating he fears for his black son in a city with a history of police brutality and racial profiling.

And Lynch was far from alone. On Twitter and Facebook, conservatives wasted no time in exploiting the deaths to vent their pent-up anger over the ongoing #BlackLivesMatter protests across the nation. They have been stuck oscillating between claims that racism doesn't exist and even if it does, black men bring it upon themselves by not complying with police officers.

The latter assertion strikes me as particularly interesting since this comes from the same political movement that celebrates white men openly (albeit legally) carrying assault rifles in public spaces to intentionally antagonize authority figures. They speak openly about protesting "gun control obsessed liberals" and hoping to be challenged by police, so they can declare the legality of their actions.

Were one of these white men to be asked by a police officer to hand over their weapon, the outrage in conservative media would be immediate and histrionic. And were that white man to refuse complying with the officer, he would be celebrated for spurning government overreach. And if a pattern emerged of white male members of the NRA being harassed by police, there would be an armed March on Washington, to say nothing of "roving mobs" of white men carrying assault rifles and occupying public spaces to further antagonize authority figures.

But black men unreasonably stopped and searched by police officers? They are criticized by the same people for not complying, for not simply doing what they're told. It would seem the concept of "government overreach" has no merit in cases concerning people of color.

When Mayor de Blasio arrived at a police conference Saturday night, hundreds of officers silently turned their backs to him in an organized protest presumably led by Lynch and presumably inspired by de Blasio's voiced concern for his son and children who look like him.

Early Sunday morning, the hashtag #TurnYourBack emerged on Twitter to take that protest against the Mayor online. And yet, it's easy for white men to turn their backs on acknowledging racism when they don't have worry about getting shot from behind by people who are supposed to be protecting them.

These two innocent and honorable NYPD cops and Eric Garner have this in common: they were murdered by others based on their existence. Both instances are inhumane. Both instances are tragic and inexcusable and carried out by people who lack humanity.

But where protests followed Eric Garner's death to change how people of color are treated by police, protests by conservatives following Saturday night's killings seem to be borne out of pettiness and an abhorrent attempt to capitalize on tragedy.

This was not about the lives of the slain officers but about moving quickly to push a political agenda.

Hell hath no fury like an ignorant, racist conservative with limited insight and unlimited access to a computer. Because Obama. Or Islam. Or socialism. Or hoodies. Or hip-hop. Or pants hung too low. Or something--anything--other than white privilege.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2014 Misogyny of the Year: TIME Magazine

 

Today, TIME Magazine is expected to announce its "Person of the Year", a distinction pulled from a list of eight finalists chosen by the editors, which was released this week.

And of the eight finalists, only one woman made the cut: Taylor Swift. That's it.

TIME's reason?

Swift is "one of the world's top-selling pop artists, who shook up the music industry by pulling her music from streaming service Spotify, which she believes should compensate artists more."

Now, I have nothing against Taylor Swift. Her music makes millions happy, and she happens to have had quite a transformation this year on social issues, especially in her claiming of feminist values.

But Person of the Year? For pulling her music from Spotify? Are you fucking kidding me?

Meanwhile, Beyonce has not only sold more albums this year than Taylor Swift using an innovative business model but did so while being quite outspoken on feminist issues, on and off her new album. She has sparked ongoing discussions within the feminist community on white privilege, sexuality, and what it means to be a feminist.

I don't say this to cast Taylor Swift in a negative light (nor do I believe it does) but to illustrate how blatantly ridiculous TIME is when it comes to pop culture.

Because although TIME claims "Person of the Year" is about influence (or newsmakers) rather than popularity, we kinda all know that's bullshit.

TIME picked Taylor Swift because she's the "right" kind of popular, someone young who's edgy and fun enough to appeal to younger Americans without discomforting anyone over 65. Their citing Spotify serves as (very weak) support of her place on the list.

On the other hand, Beyonce, who has sold more albums and definitely has more influence, is seen as something generally threatening to older, white Americans: a young, successful black woman who is confident in her skin and expressing her sexuality.

But the average Millennial knows all this. We get it: TIME wants to sell as many copies as possible while pissing off as few people as possible. "Person of the Year" is simply the sensational heap of shit we all get to look forward to around this time of year.

So, why does this matter? Why should we care what TIME peddles out to older Americans?

Because although TIME has a habit of being ridiculous, that doesn't mean they don't wield an enormous amount of influence on how our society perceives itself. And the fact that TIME regularly excludes women, especially women of color, from these "markers of power and influence" is infuriating and exasperating.

TIME is not just a news magazine. Even when they're being stupid, they're shaping the national dialogue of our country.

So, when TIME essentially says that Taylor Swift--of Spotify merit--is the woman who made the greatest substantial impact in 2014 (and the only one worth noting), people listen to that. They accept it.

Because Beyonce isn't the only woman who should have made TIME's list of finalists.

What about Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for leading a national fight in Congress on behalf of victims of sex crimes in the military?

Or Shonda Rhimes, who has three television shows in primetime with high ratings and cultural influence?

Or Anita Sarkeesian, creator of @FeministFrequency, who has received rape and death threats--and generated a national discussion--over her calling out of sexism in video games?

Or Emma Watson, whose speech at the U.N. on the role men in gender equality sparked debate and advocacy among millions around the world?

What about Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Sen. Dianne Feinstein or Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen or Malala Yousafzai?

Because 2014 saw no shortage of women influencing the world, and it was yet another year in which women arguably had just as much--if not more--influence as men in world events.

But you know who did make the list?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the guy who got outsmarted by TMZ after he literally worked to cover-up domestic violence among players in the league and then, seemed to be completely incompetent in the aftermath of the scandal.

THAT guy was named one of TIME's finalists because apparently, profound stupidity and unethical behavior are enough to get a highly visible man ranked among the most influential people in the world although it's not really clear who exactly he influenced since even NFL players have been openly critical of his leadership.

So, when TIME ignores all these influential women in favor of less influential men, it increases the disparity of how women are viewed in society because when they put something on the cover (and choose to ignore other subjects), people talk about it (or don't), regardless of its importance or accuracy.

And after TIME's apology-non-apology in response to last year's backlash over the same damn thing, I kinda expected them to do better this year, maybe be more nuanced and understanding of how they influence what people are thinking.

But 2014 hasn't seen much change. Earlier this year, TIME published an op-ed on how male/white/straight privilege doesn't exist by an unknown straight, white male undergrad student from Princeton.

Amid that backlash, more attention was drawn to TIME's blatant snub of Laverne Cox, a transgender actress and advocate who won the website's public poll for "Person of the Year" by a healthy margin, yet appeared nowhere on the long list of finalists among the editor's choices.

Who did appear on that list? Miley Cyrus, alongside two other women, former Sec. Kathleen Sebelius and Edith Windsor... out of a total of ten finalists.

Some will say, "Well, they put the Ferguson protestors on this year's list. Isn't that a big deal?"

No, a big deal would be putting Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, or Eric Garner on the list as the face of police brutality and the effect of white privilege. That would be addressing racism head-on in a way that is effective in discussion, even if uncomfortable for older, whiter readers.

TIME likes to talk a big game about "Person of the Year" representing the zeitgeist, being a "singularity" that best represents that year's events, which is why choosing individuals (or a small group of individuals) is more compelling to that end than selecting a demographic.

Which is why TIME's other finalists are specific names rather than events: for the entertainment value and singularity factor.

They knew they couldn't simply ignore Ferguson and police brutality, but they could frame it in the most palatable way possible to white Americans. Their announcement of the finalist doesn't have the words "racism" or "policy brutality" but only alludes to it by saying a white officer killed a black teenager.

But please, let's make sure we get the nitty-gritty on how Taylor Swift is changing the world by pulling her music from Spotify.

In fact, that should be TIME's "Person of the Year": white privilege. The cover will be a collage of incidents that all-too-painfully illustrate it.

That'll be a welcome respite from their usual "edginess", which hovers a few notches above the sight of Speaker John Boehner in a backwards baseball cap.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

An Open Letter on Ferguson and Racism

I realize tensions are high about Ferguson, but given the enormous evidence and inconsistencies--not to mention the history of police brutality against people of color--I have no room to negotiate on the grand jury's ridiculous decision not to proceed with a conviction.

This was not about declaring Darren Wilson's guilt; it was about simply asking that the issue be given a proper trial. The conduct of Ferguson and St. Louis County officials have not only failed the people of that area but the citizens of this country.

And to dismiss concerns of racial bias by pointing to the "conduct" of black protestors "rioting" while ignoring behavior that is just as negligent--if not worse--by white citizens after losing a sports game, let alone irrationally blasting the President with public antics, is embarrassing.

When I consider the events of this week, I am embarrassed to be an American. We're better than this. We're better than acting like children and claiming we "don't see color" when it seems that it's all we see, particularly those who benefit from white privilege, myself included.

I don't want white folks--or anyone--to feel guilty or that they are personally being blamed. I want them to feel empathy and compassion and to have the ability to step outside our own experience and consider, even if for just a moment, that there is significant foul play, not only in Ferguson but across the country, when it has been established again and again that people of color, and black males in particular, are profiled and targeted by law enforcement.

We cannot continue to call ourselves a just society that prides itself on that well-worn line of "all men are created equal" when the very agents tasked with preserving that edict seem to go out of their way to treat people of color as second class citizens.

And yet, I've read so many irresponsible and uninformed assertions on race and police brutality and the criminal justice system in this country that I would like to believe these are borne out of a lack of understanding more than a need to remove our complicity (primarily) as white people in this system.

So, for those who insist that Ferguson is not a blatant series of racist incidents, let me ask you: on what do you base your opinion? Let's talk about this because it's my firm belief that you're operating on very, very bad information, and it's hurting all of us.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I Am Gender-Nonconforming

Sometimes, even when nothing has really changed, it helps to say the truth out loud:

Today is ‪#‎SpiritDay‬, when we encourage folks to be who they really are and stand up against bullying, especially against LGBTQ youth.

I have wrestled with my gender since I was a child. This has been further complicated by the sexual and physical abuse I suffered during childhood.

I don't know exactly what I am. I don't think I ever have. But out of respect for folks who are committed to their personal identification, I've refrained from being open about myself. I felt being honest about my gender while I couldn't change it would cheapen the struggles of those who are in the midst of that journey.

Additionally, cultural and financial constraints aren't things that disappear overnight. These, too, have discouraged me.

And frankly, I'm not in the kind of place where my mental health or responsibilities--work and school--allow me to further explore this issue with the resources it deserves. Someday, I hope to be there.

But I can at least say this, and it's a relief to finally say it after a lifetime of attempting to fit myself into a box that doesn't fit:

I am gender-nonconforming. I believe both masculinity and femininity have beautiful and powerful qualities, but I don't feel comfortable identifying as a man or woman, at least in the cultural expectations that I have always known exceeded what I'm willing to sacrifice.

But I'm no longer willing to make that sacrifice. At least silently. It has eaten at my soul for far too long.

I am simply me. I present as a man in public because I simply don't have the energy or emotional health to endure what others do. I find them courageous.

But it hurts. I feel a sharp pain when I'm placed in a strictly masculine context, not because masculinity isn't wonderful but because I know it's not who I really am.

This is the small step I'm willing to take at the moment, and it feels incredibly liberating.

I still have male privilege since I present as a man, but with time, perhaps years from now when I'm in a place that allows me to explore this further, I hope to be able to fully express who I really am.

In the meantime, I feel grateful for my friends and family and the support of those who have counseled me in the last few years as I began to seek answers.

I only ask for that continued support

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My Response to the Insanity and Slander of #StopClymer

[CORRECTION: the Slate article mentioned in the original post was actually Salon. Thanks to Slate for graciously letting me know of the error. My apologies!]
If you’re reading this, it’s because you’ve seen tweets or news stories about #StopClymer and are curious about what I have to say in response.

Back in late May, when #StopClymer started, I decided I would not respond. I felt that slander should not be dignified or validated with a response, which is also  why I declined to pursue legal action. I believed this was an enormous distraction, and I expected reasonable folks in the feminist community to see through it and dismiss it.
Unfortunately, that is not what has happened, and four months later, I have had at least one website decline to publish me for fear of backlash and people with whom I have professional relationships express hesitation in interacting with me. Many have called on me to simply respond and put it to rest, but I felt doing so would be a betrayal of my values, that validating the hateful words of others would empower them to continue doing so.

On Monday, Feministing posted an article that repeated the same slanderous accusations that have already been stated in poorly-researched pieces by The Daily Beast and Salon. None of these authors reached out to me for comment or asked for evidence of the claims they were endorsing. In fact, none of these authors appeared to do any research beyond copy/pasting the same sources.
If they had looked deeper into the rumors, they would have found them to be completely false.
Instead, the articles have made their rounds online, and many angry folks who have been unable to substantiate these claims have made it their mission to inform the world that I am an abusive, misogynistic, fake feminist ally who targets women online and marginalizes their voices.
In short, this has become an echo chamber in which lies are repeated in a vicious cycle devoid of intellectual honesty, and it would seem that many are happy to continue repeating the same lies without asking for evidence.

Accordingly, I’d like to set the record straight:
The only thing true of which I've been accused is writing the message in this article:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/darlena-cunha/men-feminism_b_3275303.html
It was almost 18 months ago, and I apologized for it 18 months ago, and in the 18 months since, I have done nothing in this vein. It was stupid, inconsiderate, and completely contrary to my normal behavior.
And instead of denying it or refusing to cooperate with the author, I admitted to saying it, gave no excuses for the behavior, and posted the article online to support transparency.
To emphasize, this is literally the only thing I've done that should warrant reasonable criticism, and the vast majority of feminist writers and activists who have seen this accepted my apology and moved on.

But there remains factions of those who claim to be feminists that have made it their mission to destroy my reputation and because I refuse to validate their hatred or distract from the important issues of gender equality, I've refused to respond.
Here are the reasons they’ve given, none of which have a basis in reality:
MYTH #1: I profited from, and/or stole money through, feminist advocacy.

Of the claims made, this is the most easily disproved. I have made a grand total of $100 for two feminist articles I wrote for Mic News (formerly PolicyMic), $50 per piece. My entire revenue from Mic News was $200, $50 for each of the four paid pieces they bought. HuffPost—for whom I have written the majority of my pieces—does not pay its bloggers; every piece done for them was done for free.
I also received $400 through a fundraiser for the Equality for Women page to partially reimburse costs for advertising that exceeded several thousand dollars out of my own pocket.
Additionally, I’ve donated several more thousand to various feminist organizations and causes over the past few years.
I don’t want--nor do I need--a cookie for this. The point is that if this were a venture to exploit the feminist community for financial gain, the numbers would indicate I’ve dramatically failed OR these are simply issues I care about. I would imagine any reasonable person would have to go with the latter.
MYTH #2: I have sexually harassed women online.
As a survivor of childhood rape, I find it repugnant to think I'd harm someone else. Although there are studies that suggest some survivors are more likely to commit sex crimes themselves, I have never done so in any form. The two or three women whom I supposedly sexually harassed have never provided proof, despite being requested by many people. Since I would have had to sexually harass them online through some sort of messaging system, one would think they'd have proof. And yet, they don't. Because it didn't happen. Darlena Cuhna, who wrote the above article, wrote a companion piece a month later, in which she says she investigated these claims and found nothing:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/darlena-cunha/bully-feminist_b_3442276.html
What’s most infuriating about all this is that the myth of widespread false claims about rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment is a real problem that derails conversations on how to best combat rape culture. It’s one I’ve written about quite a bit. And yet, ironically, I have found myself to be the target of ridiculous claims by people who refuse to provide proof for very serious accusations.
When you perpetuate false claims like this, you become part of the problem. You make it harder for survivors to gain legitimacy in a world that all too easily dismisses even well-supported incidents of sexual abuse, and as a survivor that has been told I’m lying about my past trauma, I can tell you it’s quite damaging.
MYTH #3: I’ve otherwise “abused” women online.
Aside from the insane sexual allegations, some have asserted that I am a monster who abuses women online by “silencing” them. Again, when asked to provide evidence for these claims, all that can be produced are anecdotes of women who were banned from the Equality for Women page.

Let me be clear: I banned many people, women and men, from EFW, and I stand by that. Homophobia, transphobia, victim-blaming, and dismissive remarks on obstacles faced by women of color all resulted in immediate bans from the page. What infuriated many is that the vitriol they brought to other feminist forums on Facebook did not fly on the page I created. A safe forum should be a safe forum, and I cannot—and will not—tolerate these kind of remarks, regardless of gender. And yes, that included disparaging remarks about myself or other moderators. Respectful disagreement was welcome and encouraged; personal attacks and willful ignorance were not. Every moderator for EFW banned people on a regular basis for these infractions. We did so independently of each other.
“Freedom of speech” does not mean I—or anyone—is required to condone the level of invective in a space that has been created to provide safe and collaborative discussion. The idea that being a woman precludes someone from extending respect to others in a feminist forum is antithetical to the values feminism has attempted to express, among them that respecting others is not an option. If this were true, we would not see the widespread criticism and dismantling of women who identify as anti-feminist since it would mean their being women should mean anything they say is inherently correct in the eyes of feminism.
MYTH #4: I “abused” a woman of color online.
This stems from a conversation I had with a person--later reposted anonymously by that person on Tumbler--who claimed I was a “white supremacist” literally because I suggested all parties in an argument refrain from personally attacking each other. She called every person a “white supremacist” in the group who “failed” to openly support her opinion. Had I been smart, went she sent me her initial message—the same message she sent to several others in the group—I would have simply ignored it, but I did not. I felt I could discuss this with her in a way that we’d reach mutual understanding. I was wrong in assuming this. But even so, disagreeing with someone does not constitute “abuse”. I did not call her names or threaten her or make unfounded accusations, nor did I even initiate the conversation.
White privilege is a pervasive problem, and it must be confronted, but this does not mean a person’s race should mark them as “abusive” simply for offering a different opinion. Can it be construed as ill-informed or arrogant in some instances? Yes. Abusive? No.
I will not apologize for this interaction, and those who claim it warrants an apology would do well to reevaluate their intellectual honesty.
MYTH #5: Former moderators of EFW were abused.
This is also false, specifically the outrageous claim that "18 moderators" got together to bring down the page. In reality, one of the moderators told several other moderators she was sexually harassed after I distanced myself from her following months of consensual, enthusiastic flirting. I wish to god I was making this up because it would simply things greatly. Half the team simply didn't want to deal with the drama and left the page, which is understandable. Three of the moderators, including the one who made the accusation, worked to destroy the page overnight as I slept. As you'll read in the above article, one of them later apologized for what happened and for the hurt she caused me. I also have e-mails exchanged with her with similar statements. The rest of the moderators remained friends with me, including Bhaswati Chattopadhyay, who warmly and enthusiastically interacted with me for more than a year before suddenly seeing an opportunity to increase her own social media presence by joining Suey Park in blatantly slandering me. Those interested should observe Bhaswati’s Twitter account to get a sense of how her character and intellect operate: simply using snark to not really say much of anything beyond attacks on anyone in the progressive community who is white, male, straight, or cisgender. This is not done out of principle but to gain a following among people who have been hurt by sexism, racism, homophobia, and transphobia, exploiting their pain to enhance her online influence.
MYTH #5: Various screenshots of supposed comments or messages.

I’ve seen several images of things I supposedly wrote floating around Twitter, things that would never enter my thought process, let alone leave my mouth. The care and attention that has gone into fabricating images of me would be impressive if they weren’t so hateful. I know who I am, and those who care about me know who I am, and I will not be held accountable for things I did not write or say. If you are the kind of person who is willing to accept these images as true, I would have to say that I’m not the least bit concerned about your perception because it is clear you value sensationalist slander more than seeking the truth.
Now that these issues have been addressed, the question remains: why would this hatred build up among so many people if it weren’t true? Here are my thoughts:

1. I am a very convenient target. The much-needed backlash against the incredibly abusive (in the accurate sense of the word) Hugo Schwyzer has bred widespread suspicion of any man in feminism, especially if they're straight, especially if they're white, especially if they're cisgender, and especially if they're Christian. I am not the person you'd most likely find at a feminist conference. Many women in the feminist community of all backgrounds are appreciative of this novelty while some find it incredibly offensive to see any straight, white, cisgender male in a feminist space. While I can understand suspicion, I will not be held accountable for the perceptions and assumptions of hateful people, regardless of their gender, race, or sexuality.
2. Suey Park. She's a controversial "feminist activist" who has been widely criticized for her intellectual dishonesty, pettiness, and outright hatred. After the #YesAllWomen hashtag in late May, I was included in several news articles for my tweets. This did not sit well with Suey Park, who proceeded to spread incredibly vicious rumors about me on Twitter, ranging from the above to the accusation that my being sexually abused makes me dangerous to women. More than anything, she has singlehandedly been behind this smear campaign. She started #StopClymer. When asked for proof, all she was able to post were screenshots from that first Darlena Cuhna article, ignoring both the rest of the first article and the second in its entirety. She was not--and is not--interested in what is ethical or moral; she's interested in generating controversy to increase her visibility. She's good at it. And she was hoping I'd respond in anger, which would validate the image she's attempted to craft of me. And I refused to give her the satisfaction. I ignored her and blocked her and her followers on Twitter who have incessantly tweeted at me with the same false rumors since May with the #StopClymer hashtag.
3. I shut down the EFW site, which led some to believe I was admitting guilt. Wrong. I did this as a temporary move because it's a lot of work, 30 hours a week on average to generate content and moderate. If you want to keep a Facebook page safe, you have to constantly monitor it to prevent it from being filled with hateful comments. I managed to do this for months while having a full-time job and being in school. Once Suey Park started her insane campaign, I could simply no longer juggle everything. And so, I decided to take a break. Once I get to a place where I have more time to focus on the page, I'll reactivate it. At the present time, it’s all I can do to keep up with my current schedule.
4. My silence. Somehow, even absent of further evidence, silence came to mean admission of my supposed guilt. The fact that I am speaking about this now is what makes me feel truly guilty because it is an abandonment of my belief that hateful, small people should never be given the time of day. Even though it means giving attention to people who gleefully went so far as to claim I wasn’t raped, constantly harassed myself and those who follow me on Twitter, and organized what can only be described as a witch hunt online.
If I hate myself for anything, it’s with having to finally acquiesce to the demands of people whose values represent the very worst of the feminist community, in which snarky takedowns of anyone and everyone have replaced discussions that actually create positive change in the world.
I am not leaving the feminist community. I will not stop writing. I will not stop advocating. And if certain people have a problem with this, it is one they will negotiate on their own time, not mine.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Who's afraid of Atima Omara?

Atima Omara, Candidate for Virginia House of Delegates

On June 27, Bob Brink, who has served the folks of Arlington in the Virginia House of Delegates for 17 years, announced his retirement after being offered a position in Gov. McAuliffe's administration.

Brink's retirement launched a crowded field for the Democratic primary being decided tomorrow on July 6th, among them Atima Omara, who has generated enormous support since she announced her candidacy, just this past Tuesday.

But not everyone is enthusiastic. Popular local Democratic blog Blue Virginia expressed thinly-veiled pettiness toward Omara based on rumors they heard:



"Atima Omara gets an "A-" for her answers, which are solid across the board. My main concerns about Omara have nothing to do with her answers to the questionnaire, but with people have been telling me over the past few days (I didn't know anything about Omara before this race and had absolutely no preconceived notions), such as that she's "not a hard worker" and that she has "no substance." Is any of that true? Got me, but I keep hearing it from Arlington Democrats who know her well, so I'm not sure what to believe at this point. Also, she ran into a buzzsaw of criticism yesterday after her campaign claimed an endorsement from NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, which that organization quickly made clear they did NOT make. So, while she gets an "A-" for her answers to my questionnaire, there are many questions in my mind about her candidacy." 

Of course, to those of us in the DC metro area who know Omara--and there are many, she has a vast network--this is a strange, ridiculous assertion.

She doesn't work hard enough? No substance?

Last year, Omara became the first black woman elected President of the Young Democrats of America and only the fifth woman in its 81-year history.

She's a board member at Planned Parenthood Metro Washington, DC Abortion Fund, and Emerge Virginia. Previously, she served on the board of the Virginia Chapter of the National Organization for Women and the Arlington Country Commission on the Status of Women.

She's been an organizer on behalf of health care worker unions at SEIU, an advocate for the mentally-ill and disabled with the National Disability Rights Network, and worked passionately for women's advocacy through the Women's Campaign Fund and Doorways for Women and Families.

Her direct campaign experience is just as impressive: eight elections on the federal, state, and local levels and prior to that, a Special Assistant to then-Gov. Mark Warner.

And her extensive resume hasn't gone unnoticed: in the past year, she's been honored by the Women's Information Network with a "Young Women of Achievement Award in Leadership" and was named to Ebony Magazine's "Power 100" and Jet Magazine's "40 under 40".

Did I mention she's a child of African immigrants? Or that she graduated from the University of Virginia and subsequently earned an MPA from George Mason?

This doesn't strike me as someone who doesn't "work hard" or "lacks substance", and had Blue Virginia taken five minutes to Google her name, they would have found such rumors without merit.

This all makes me wonder what's intended here by Blue Virginia. For candidate Paul Holland, one of the "top scorers" in their rubric, they wrote simply: "gets an "A" for his answers, which are excellent across the board. Nice job -- Holland is definitely one of the top choices for Democrats going to the caucus Sunday to consider voting for, either #1 or #2!"

Despite the slander, Omara is apparently choosing to stay above the fray, campaigning hard in the final 36-hour stretch before the polls close and declining to validate ridiculous rumors.

But I am not above the fray, and I can confidently say this: had Omara been a white male with her dazzling resume, she would have been declared the frontrunner on the day she announced.

There would be no third-hand hearsay claiming she doesn't work hard or lacks substance. There would be no targeting of a woman widely praised for her advocacy on reproductive rights because her campaign mistakenly announced an endorsement from NARAL, even though she already has the enthusiastic backing of Planned Parenthood Metro Washington and Virginia NOW.

And given that Blue Virginia's assessment is already making the rounds, I find it horribly irresponsible for this blog--one that's supposedly progressive--to peddle lies about a candidate that's been heartily endorsed by Mayor of Alexandria Bill Euille, Arlington School Board Chair James Lander, and a large contigent of other local Democratic leaders.

But for any dedicated observer, it's clear to see this is the challenge of black women running for office, even in reliably progressive campaigns: an uphill battle to earn credibility and respect, often despite qualifications that put them head and shoulders above other candidates, as in Omara's case.

Voters will make their choice at Yorktown High School tomorrow, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.