Saturday, February 6, 2010

Domestic Violence on MTV

If you know me, you know I love This season's Real World is placed in D.C. While only one of the four male housemates is openly "bisexual," the other three look "even gayer." And as for the girls, one of them shares that her last relationship was with a woman. In what seems to be the "gayest ever" season, two housemates--Ashley and Andrew--a joke turns into a physcial altercation. At one point Ashley gets really scared that Andrew is going to hurt her and she references being physically abused as a child. Andrew and most of the mates think she has blown the situation out of proportion. In the below clip, the four housemates (excluding Ashley) discuss how she decided to stay in a hotel that night.

One user articulated what was making me uncomfortable in this whole incident--I identify with the "Panda" (blonde, sensitive, silly Andrew) the most out of the housemates, so I had initially sided with him in this dramatic episode.

She writes: Emily comes across as being really rude in this clip and exceedingly insensitive. I am really shocked about MTV's lack of attention to the history of domestic violence in the background of this episode. As much as MTV puts disclaimers in a show, say Teen Mom, about reaching out for help on pregnancy or teen violence, here the network washes their hand and makes Ashley out to be at best, comical, and at worst, an annoying complainer. Being a survivor of domestic violence is NOT easy. You can be triggered by many things - things that to other people seem 'silly' or 'small'. All of these clips, particularly Emily who attempts to portray herself as a voice for independent women, make light of what it means to be a survivor of violence. It is really disturbing. Obviously Ashley has some work to do - but we all do. No one is perfect. But violence won't end in this world until we all begin to take it more seriously - and that means taking seriously someone's 'comfort' (which Emily mocks in this clip), people's boundaries, people's histories and lived experiences, etc.

Back to me: censorship plays such an important role in what we learn to be 'normal.' On the Jersey Shore, remember, the image of Snookie being struck in the face at the bar was blacked out, and they played a p.s.a. about domestic violence at the end. (They also showed the whole clip on all the promos leading up to the show--I hear this, but I don't have cable.) In this carving out of norms regulating violence, is not domestic violence until the woman actually gets punched in the face? Otherwise, are these women just trying to get attention? (Remember how many times that explanation was given for Jersey Shore women's actions as well?)

It's interesting to see which oppressions/fights are sexy enough to make it onto MTV, and which are still completely ignored (e.g. there's only one black housemate; duh, it's a man; the black man talked about how women were naturally dependent and it wasn't that big of a deal; the out bisexual man keeps saying how he doesn't want that to be his defining identity; no lesbians; no trans (okay, props for the other season); no black women (on mtv, anywhere); no race/ethncity whatever you want to call it other than white and black; no combination of the previous). I could go on and on, but I want to watch the new episode of My Life As Liz before Rachel gets back.

Monday, April 20, 2009

from a nice, young, german friend

When I was in Bocas del Toro, I met the love of my life in white, heterosexual, male form.  (Therefore, there were limitations to our love.)  

In a message to a friend, I wrote that:

He and I make Hitler, black, sexist, dirty, IRONIC etc. jokes constantly and also are on the same exact page socially/politically. He can't really command syntax and vocabulary at a high level, but he is able to execute this wonderful type of humor (which you and I share) despite it. It's just amazing being around him.

Then in a message to me, he explained what happened to him on the way back into Panama from Costa Rica.  He had left his passport on the way there (having never contemplated living the country when he came to Bocas from the capital, and coudn't manage to sweet talk to attendant to get her 'official' okay, so we 'snuck' him over the border.  We figured he would be okay because he was white, foreign, and male.  When we left Puerto Viejo I went north, he went south.  

In his words we tells me that:

so... i got 30 dollars left (from 400 at the beginning of the week) so i bought a bottle of Rum and a busticket for the way back. I got totally drunk on the bus and were singing songs with Beatz. On half of the way (somewhere in the mountain area) we had to pass some kind of checkpoint. Police came in, controlled the bus and us. I felt dizzy and gave the policeman my ID-Card - what for him had not been enough. So he dragged me out into the policestation. It was so fun - i saw the bus vanishing while i was stucked in a mountain-policestation, stinking, ugly, without passport, drunk and 70 centimos in my pocket. I hided my beloved rum in my bag Harr! The policeofficer asked me all the bla bla questions. Where do you come from, porque no tienes pasaporte, que nacionalidad bla bla. I felt drunk and dizzy and was really in trouble to concentrate on him and answer in espagnol to his questions - my capability of speaking spanish is seriously undermined by alcohol. I asked him for a phonecall - a service an average panamanian mountain police-station is not offering. Next day i could take a call in the main police station in the big ciudad. The night i spend in a cell without water, food or a coat (that has also been part of their service-package i guess). I hadn't slept the whole night. Next morning we left. There were others before in that prison - they had carved encouraging jokes in the wall I was carving also: "i can strongly recommend this hostal to everone". In the town they didn't want to let me take a phone-call. They were not really interested to let me getting out of prison. A guy from argentina gratefully lended me his phone so i could tell my host the whole story - she was so pissed off (she's been in the middle of a meeting) hearing that her sweet little arian amigo got busted. She faxed me my passport. Since they still didn't want to let me go - she finally totally went berserk and told me to hand her some - how she articulated herselve - son of a bitch. I handed the phone to an office-woman and observed her face taking a different color slowly. It was so fun. My host later told me that she menaced to sue them and that they could get another job. Right after the call everything went out astonishingly fast: they handed a receipt for my stay (5 $) and got me free. A friend of my host came by, gave me 20 $ for busticket and food - and i even had saved meinen geliebten Rum to get wasted the last four hours back to Panama City. Being arrived totally drunk at the terminal my family said nothing - just lended me the way to the car - ha ha - what an adventure! wait a minute...

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Co-ed Project

Dustin, Beth, and I will be performing at a benefit show for Redux on Sunday, April 19, at 7 p.m.  

Redux Festival Benefit Show

Start Time:
Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 7:00pm
End Time:
Monday, April 20, 2009 at 12:00am
Leighton, Tony and Nathan's house
105B Line St.
Charleston, SC


Nick Jenkins
The Fun Police
The Co-ed Project

There will be food! This is a fundraiser to help the Festival at Redux happen, so bring a few bucks if you can.

Much love!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

An Obama, a Castro, and a Blockade

On some mornings, the record player turned radio will pick up N.P.R. with just a little 
fuzz. (Maybe record players turned radios are meant to be so close to the kitchen sink). This morning, ON POINT's topic was Cuba and Cuban Americans!!!!


In response to a caller that discussed all the benefits of the Cuban Revolution, the male guest posited that racial inequality in Cuba was the result of the Revolution. He is entirely incorrect.  

Within the Revolution and Wars of Independence from Spain, racial unity was seen as a necessity in overcoming the oppressor. Any white-black hierarchy that existed before rebellion was the result of the hegemonic Western culture.  

Yes, Castro, has played up racial unity abroad, while quelling in domestically, but his purpose was not to maintain white privilege; it was instead to prevent insurrection from below.  

However, today racism is apparent in Cuba. It is not the result of a Revolution that increased the access to education, healthcare, food, and housing to ALL and improved the quality of life, literacy, and body weight of ALL that has brought racism.  

It's the controlled openings of Cuba's economy to the dual investments of Canada and Europe, It's once again European preference for white customer service representatives. And whites maintain these high-paying jobs (tourist tips) just like they do in the U.S.: selective recruitment, relative and friend referrals, etc.).  

Therefore, blacks have to resort to the secondary economy (black market) in order to afford the same goods that whites have access to with their tourist dollars. (Cuba has a dual economy: national pesos which the government pays workers in and can be used in most local places and tourist dollars (CUC's) which only tourists and those few with jobs in which they are paid by entities other than the government. In order to purchase goods at 'dollar' stores, malls, hotels, some pharmacies, some restaurants, Cubans (and tourists) must use CUC's.  

Therefore, in order for blacks to gain access to certain goods, they must resort to hustling, prostitution, etc.). Furthermore, negative stereotypes about the behaviors and morals of blacks are reinforced.  

Regardless, the embargo prevents so many Cubans access to food and medicine (and tons of materialistic goods the Americans couldn't imagine living without) for the simple fact that Cuba can't get together enough (internationally valued) dollars or trading partners to get the goods in the first place.  

So, if anything, opening up Cuba to the international community most likely will increase the wealth gap between whites and blacks. Oh racism...capitalism loves it...communism loves it (I guess).

And that's not ignore that we are not simply discussing an embargo. This is a blockade, see Torricelli and Helms-Burton. (Any country who conducts trade with Cuba cannot conduct trade with the U.S., roughly).  

I argue that without a doubt, the U.S. should repeal the act. Sure, don't trade with a country with whom you have issue without blocking them from trade with virtually every other (first world) nation. Let Cuba take the international stage on its own terms.  

Soon after, the U.S. would most likely realize that its just hurting itself; we need to get in on the organic farming, the alternate energy, the sugarcane. In the words of my Cuban friend and professor, "The blockade is a knife at the throat of every Cuban."

(The pictures are from my trip to the National Assembly. We met with the Speaker of the House's chief aide. I asked her about gay marriage, I think. Haha.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Central America: Panama City

Panama City
Bocas del Toro
Puerto Vijeo
Isla Ometepe
San Pedro La Laguna
Guatemala City

so let us begin...

On the day that Rachel Reinke began her junior year at the College of Charleston, I boarded a plane and then two more on my way to Panama City.  Days before, my cousin's wife had asked her brother who lives there if he and his family could pick me up at the airport, and if I could stay with them for a little while.  (I can't even begin to remember these feelings.  it hurts so bad to think about leaving my angel.*)  

She gave me her backpack to take, and I filled it with clothes, sneakers, my new apple laptop, first aid, a book, a journal, a guide book, toiletries, a water bottle, and a few tokens of love/good luck.  I didn't check my luggage (next time I think I will) and my sunscreen and bug spray were confiscated.  I was having trouble with the (insignificant) time change, so I may or may not have been really late.  I remember a man and woman on my flight asking me as we went through immigration what I was doing.  Both were fluent in English and Spanish.  When I told backpacking alone from there to Guatemala City, they said I was brave, and they would be too scared to endure such a trip.  Fuck.  I couldn't even speak Spanish worth a shit at that point.

So my cousin-in-law's relatives were waiting, daughter number one was holding a sign with my name on it, though I would have known from the second I laid eyes on them that they were there to pick me up.  Just a feeling and their warm smiles.  I had no idea what to expect, specifically their income level and housing situation.  The first thing I noticed as they paid the parking machine was they had US dollars.  From my experience in Cuba, with its dual economy, i.e. tourist dollar vs. national peso, I thought it mean they were rich.  Later I learned that everyone in Panama has the US dollar--it's been their currency since '94 or so--and, indeed, they were rich.  

The drive home was kind of long, but Dad (Juan Pablo), Mom (Rita), sister-number-one (Virginia), and brother (Juan Pablo, Jr.) all came.  Sister number two (Paolo) stateyed at home presumably because there wasn't room in the SUV and she was the youngest.  How exciting to be back among the Spanish billboards, road signs, and radio stations!  They tried their best to make small talk with me in English, and I tried horribly to speak Spanish.  My knowledge had been reduced to "thank you very much."  J.P. Jr. could speak a little English (leagues more than I could in Spanish) so that helped a lot.  I'm pretty sure that they learned that my brother was preacher and I apologized for keeping them out so late on a school night.

When we got home, they showed me a bed--I would be staying in the girls' room, and they would share a (single) bed or one would sleep in the computer (!!!) room.  Even though it was midnight or later, they heated me up some chicken and noodles and insisted I eat.  Then they insisted that I sleep.  What a great place!

The next morning I woke at nine or so and took a shower (how unusual for me?!).  I went downstairs for breakfast with Juan Pablo, Jr.; he offered me "cornflakes" (which refers to any type of cold cereal in Central America), banana, toast, tea, and coffee.  We then made plans to see the canal.  (I kind of felt sorry for him..having to show this seemingly socially-challenged girl around who couldn't speak Spanish.**)  After breakfast i went to the back patio to admire the fruit trees...oooh panama....  The family pet/guard dog, a dalmation, was chained up to on the patio.  I held out my hand so it could smell me--you know, appropriate dog-human etiquette--and it did so.  Then it licked me.  

Then it simultaneously BARKED, JUMPED, AND BIT ME IN THE FACE!

Blood dripping, I grabbed my right eye, ran up the stairs to the bathroom, and yelled, "Juan Pablo, yo tango una problema!"  When he saw my bleeding face, I think he freaked out a little.  He got his mom, and she helped me wash and bandage it.  Then we jumped in the car and headed to the hospital--they have a relative who is a surgeon.  Rita was upset with J.P. Jr. because he was supposed to tell me not to touch the dog the night before.  Damn it.  She kept yelling at him in Spanish ("no comprendo") and telling me we were going to see a doctor they knew and talking about how scared of blood JP Jr. was.  All this also in Spanish.  

They also kept asking if it hurt and telling me to push the pad against my face.  It actually didn't hurt that bad (probably the shock and/or adrenaline helped with that) and I didn't think it was even necessary for us to go to the hospital at all.  Thankfully, I had purchased travel insurance and thought to bring a print out with me of the policy (whether or not they are ever going to reimburse the $1200 doctor's office visit I supposedly paid in cash) because it was enough for Cookie the somehow relative to go ahead and give me the stitches and good pain stuff to numb my face.  

At first, though, I thought it was something Panamanian, giving a patient a Cookie before surgery.  Nope, just the surgeon's name, who left me waiting to go and pick up her child from school as I made more uncomfortable small talk with Rita in Spanish.  We were both embarrassed by the situation, but somehow (mostly Rita's exquisite grace and my smiling and nodding) we got through it and came out closer on the other side.  

(For some reason when I see a woman put on plastic gloves to wash dishes, I sense that the task at hand is much more difficult than that which I engage in on a daily basis, and that I should offer to help, as with Rita and Connie, Rachel Reinke's mom, but that has nothing to do with now....except Rita is that kind of woman...the kind that like to keep their fingernails looking nice, but will get down with some dishes.)

So, they stitched me up, Rita paid for the supplies, and in the midst of it all Juan Pablo, Sr., had come across the street to check in on me.  His construction company was actually...constructing these huge reflective windows on the Multiplaza--this huge business center, and probably the best building in the capital.  Rita took me home to nap, I think, then later to the pharmacy , where J.P., Sr., with a smile insisted that I have icecream (like himself) and some breaded something, and the Catholic Church for Wednesday prayer group.  They introduced me to everyone (turns out they are like CELEBRITIES in the church) and I smiled and nodded some more.  J.P. led the meeting, Rita passed out tickets for this play (which they received as thanks for pro bono construction work). 

After church we rode home (the sisters had French class on Monday and Wednesday, so they walked over to the church to meet us afterwards.  JP's fater got a Ph.D. in Philosophy in France...they are all fluent, although JP's French has a pretty Spanish accent to it).  On the way home we listened to Simple Plan, the younger's favorite band, for the first of EVERY TIME in the car.

*The one and only time I will let myself say something this ridiculously cheesy...but don't worry I'll get close.
**Okay, maybe not so much "seemingly."

Friday, September 19, 2008

we have located us yet

So I haven't written much* since leaving my Panamanian family's home mainly because upon my arrival to Bocas del Toro I've been able to a) speak English 2) make friends and play music 3) go to happy hour.  But while i felt that my former lifestyle within the neighborhood of Clayton, near the American Embassy, to be a little lacking in terms of autonomy (I never really knew what was going on...I just followed the periodic direction of "vamos, kaylee" with a smile on my face), this new "independent 20-somethings traveller" identity seems to not be all that I had hoped.

Be warned elder educators:  When you hear that so many American (including your own American) students are traveling abroad for a year or two with open-minded attitudes before entering the "real world," they aren't escaping the bounds of first world capitalism and the white patriarchy!**  For the majority of these "student" travelers, this trip is just a remix of Spring Break:  Cancun.  They are still enjoying the so-called third world within the boundaries and definitions of the first world.

And, yes, extended homestays may be better than the city to city hopping of backpackers (ignoring the fact that a high percentage of these homestays involve "teaching English" in non-English speaking countries, while simultaneously not being required to learn the native language...because everyone needs to learn english and who need to learn (insert third world country language here)).

The only time backpackers, or at least I, even when "roughing" it, interact with locals is when:

1)  They are a housekeeper/serviceman at the hostel.  (Keep in mind only I only interact with usually white, always English-speaking, many time American, receptionists/hostel owners).

2) They are asking me if I want a taxi, bus, etc.

3)  I am trying to make a bargain with either one of the above or a street vendor.

4)  They are offering to sell me drugs or another type of hustle.

5)  They do my laundry.***

6)  They cook "weird," "simpler," or "cheaper" food.

7)  They sell "indigenous" or "native" crafts of the same nature.

8)  They are children peddling said goods or asking for money, and sometimes saying it is because they have nothing to eat.  (Charleston, SC, anyone?  Only there we make sure that they don't tell tourists if they don't have enough to eat at home...and we make them pay for vendor licenses.)

*i.e. anything
**I have only visited Bocas del Toro, Panama and Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
***I haven't actually done that yet.

Monday, September 1, 2008

computer incompatibility

So, I will begin describing my journey, or whatever you want to call it, by sharing some things that happened while I was in transit (Charleston to Charlotte to Newark to Panama City).

On the first leg of the trip I got to sit by myself, and I just slept (of course—in the words of Rita, the sister-in-law of my cousin’s wife…playing the role of host mama I suppose, “You sleep like a rock.”)

The second leg , I had to sit next to a gentleman in his fifties or so, who was very friendly and kind, but who assumed the patrimonial role that many men this age do when coming into contact with a young lady traveling alone. Well intentioned I know, but did he really have to keep patting my knee, poking my side, and assist me in all things (not just getting my pack down from the overhead, but also helping me take off my jacket?)

And what can I do? I guess I could have asked for a seat change, but that would have been kind of ridiculous. I’m just tired of the nice patriarch. I guess I could have said “please don’t touch me,” but then I would be stuck next to him for the remaining hour and a half flight. So I did what most “young ladies” have learned to do our entire lives: GRIN AND BEAR IT.

But that’s not even the whole story. After we talked about what I considered to be somewhat open-minded topics, e.g. teaching American students to actually learn languages beyond English instead of the joke that such education is now in comparison to other countries, we went on to election talk. (Remind me never to let anyone know that I was a political science major in the future to avoid such interactions-jk.)

He began with the classic line, “My wife says I’m racist because I won’t vote for Barack Obama, but I’m not. I just don’t want someone named Barack Obama to be President. And he’s a Muslim. A Muslim in the White House? How do we know he’s not a part of one of those terrorist cells or something?”

Jaw drop.

I thought that time after time Obama has shown he is not a Muslim (sorry to skip the whole, wait you are a racist thought), and I told the gentleman I was pretty sure he had gone on record again and again that he has been a practicing Christian (why isn’t this as scary to anyone else? Shit , Christians think I’m going to hell for being a fag.* They hold signs telling me that God hates me (well, they do use the word fag too, but not in the same sense I think) outside my pride festivals, as well as at the funerals of American soldiers).

But back to the guy on the plane, has FOX News and the GOP really convinced the average American that Obama’s name and (false) religious affiliation are enough to keep him out of office, not to mention justify another four years of the Bush agenda?


On the third leg of the trip, I sat next to an American who had bought a home in Panama (which he rents out partially). He spends 9 months in Panama and 3 months in the States each year, returning for a month at a time. What a life!

He told me that he was also interested in coin collecting. I told him I knew the word numismatics from my GRE prep. I don’t think he was impressed.

But when I told him I had been to Cuba, he became much more interested. As I thought, Cuban money has a high selling price at these trade shows. And to think, the Che $3 coin (it comes in bills too) only costs about 12 cents American. He gave me his email, and asked if I was into capitalism at all. I said yes, if it could fund my trip to Cuba.

I used my headphones and sleep to avoid any more interaction with him. But, alas, he had been drinking at the airport bar and on the plane, so he kept having to get me to move so he could go to the bathroom (though one time while I was ‘sleeping’ he actually crawled over me and jumped into the aisle).

Then, finally, an hour and a half late, we touched down in Panama.

*Sorry if I offend, but just think of it as the whole reclaiming the word thing.