First published at Feministing.com.
In response to the increasing influx of migrants crossing the border into the U.S., a group of protestors blocked three buses filled with migrant women and children from entering the local Murrieta Border Patrol facility. The protests have continued for weeks, and the buses – which came to Murrieta in order to relieve overcrowded facilities in south Texas - are now being rerouted to San Ysidro.
These anti-immigrant protestors are using some of the oldest – and worst – stereotypes in the white supremacist, misogynistic handbook to attack people who even the UN has recognized as refugees fleeing violence. The chants and signs coming out of Murrieta range from sexist to xenophobic to violent. Continue Reading →
I’m such a fan of ARTivism, and this is a great example of it. In this PBS News Hour, learn about women and men who are using street art in Brazil (which is legal) to speak out against violence against women. Featured in the spot is Panmela Castro, a street artist and a survivor, has become internationally known for her work raising awareness about this issue. She started Rede Nami (Nami Network) to provide courses and spaces for other women to raise their voices through urban art. Learn more about her work at their website.
First posted on Feministing.com.
A few months ago, the Brazilian Research Institute published a report documenting that 65 percent of Brazilians believed that if a woman showed too much skin, she deserved to be raped. Before that, Adidas created a shirt that promoted the World Cup through the objectification of women’s bodies. Developments and increased militarization for upcoming mega-events continue to hurt primarily women of color, as seen in the horrific killing of Claudia Silva Ferreira back in March.
The struggle for women’s human rights in Brazil is real, but as the World Cup looms ever closer, let’s resist the temptation to believe that Brazilian women are victims who need saving. Brazilian women are creatively fighting back. Continue Reading →
On his blog this week, my good friend Michael looks a little deeper into the history of Brazil’s urban ghettos, also known as favelas. These communities have obviously spent a lot of time in the news in the past year as favela residents were among the most affected by World Cup development projects.
Michael breaks down the notion that favelas sprang up out of necessity as the rural poor migrated in droves to the urban coasts of Brazil, escaping drought for the pull of new urban jobs.
It is not free to live in a favela. To move to an established favela is, like in almost any other community in the Western world, to submit to a regime of private property. You save or borrow money to buy a plot of land, and you build, buy, or rent a structure you can call home. The difference is only that the state is not there to sanction or protect your right of ownership. This function is instead left to informal authority structures, if they have developed, or otherwise it is left to the winds. Favelas, then, are simply the black market of private property, and like most black markets, they serve as a lubricant to ease the friction of a normatively biased legal system that contradicts social reality on the ground.
He argues that although Brazil has a surprisingly progressive constitution, the country still operates on a “slave-era model of social organization, today adapted ineloquently to a ‘middle class’-driven mode of economic development.” This means that in order for the economy to function, certain people have to be considered non-citizens (many of whom who literally do not have the papers to prove their citizenship). By doing this, the Brazilian government is able to justify denying these people the basic human rights guaranteed them in the constitution.
Only outside the law can they continue to have poor healthcare, live in squalor, and attend inadequate schools. Only outside the law can they remain faithful to a time-tested system of social values that guarantees their destitution today and for many generations to come. And it is outside the law where we find the favela, an alternative living arrangement for so many millions of people ill-prepared to live as equals among their more privileged countrymen. Society demands just such a loophole in the framework of a progressive democratic constitution.
Lastly, Michael notes that Brazil has made some major strides towards extending services and rights to the marginalized, particularly favela residents. This will certainly make a huge effect on many lives, but these policies are not enough to eradicate the system of urban marginalization Brazil depends on.
MonkeyParking is a new app out from the Silicon Valley bunch that allows you to make money by selling your awesome San Francisco parking spot to the highest bidder. Started in Rome, the app has made it’s way to the Bay Area, where parking is notoriously difficult to find. In the eyes of the app developers, MonkeyParking is a convenient solution to everyone’s parking woes.
In reality, MonkeyParking is a bandaid solution for wealthy white gentrifiers who understand the world through capitalism and settler colonialism. Business ventures like this matter because they validate and reaffirm power structures that leave space, land, and resources in the hands they have always rested in: mostly white men. Monkey Parking is a great example of how white men are taught that they are entitled to land, space, and women’s bodies.
Let’s break that down. This app serves only those wealthy San Francisco residents who own a car, and can afford to pay someone to leave their spot – and then probably pay the city to park in that spot. It will do nothing to create more parking, or make it easier to get into the city via public transportation. The only thing it could do, if successful, is drive up the price of parking, and the overall cost of living for other residents – otherwise known as gentrification.
This kind of gentrification has some undeniable similarities to settler colonialism, where the implicit goal of the colonizer is to remove the colonized population from a location – through various means – in order to obtain their lands (as opposed to their resources or labor). By making housing, food, transportation, and the overall cost of living more expensive, gentrification makes it harder or impossible for people to afford living in the city they once called home. Rising cost of living sits as a heavy burden on women, and particularly women of color who make up the majority of San Francisco residents living in poverty. This, plus the displacement and evictions that are tearing up primarily communities of color means that gentrification looks an awful lot like a modern manifestation of colonialism.
Colonialism was largely a project of conquering space and resources, two categories which were understood to include women’s bodies. Often, colonization was described in blatantly gendered terms, where the colonized land was referred to using feminine pronouns, where “she” was “fertile and fecund” or an offending army “raped and ravaged” the space they invaded. Women’s bodies were considered to be part of the territory that needed to be conquered so that rape became an integral tool in war (still today, wars waged with guns are simultaneously waged on women). The same is true for harnessing the labor of people of color, who were often enslaved or exploited at the profit of white colonizers as part of the colonial project.
Business strategies like MonkeyApp remind us that for centuries and centuries, men and white people have been told that they have the right – or the obligation – to exploit the land and bodies around them. Who else but a white guy would think that – in the words of Disney’s Pocahontas – they “own whatever land [they] land on”? Of course the app is not the reason that families who have been living in the Bay Area for years suddenly cannot afford their homes, or why sexual violence against women is still rampant and people of color are still exploited for their labor. Rather, the app is a symptom of a larger problem of capitalism and gentrification and how these systems give power to whiteness and masculinity.
And let’s be clear: this mentality of entitlement to public space and public land is everything. It’s why indigenous groups around the world still struggle for the most basic land rights. It plays a crucial role in violence against women and the perception that men are supposed to take and women are supposed to give, or be taken from. It’s why land rights for indigenous communities are often inextricably tied to bodily autonomy and safety for indigenous women. It’s why Tumblrs like this exist.
When I was a little girl and I found a toy that my sister wanted, I would often do something really mature like swing it in front of her face and obnoxiously sing “Finders keepers, losers weepers!”
We need to stop teaching our kids, our men, and our privileged peers that this phrase works in the real world. Because it certainly does not work for the whole world.
During the most recent attack on affirmative action, Justice Sotomayor gave the Supreme Court a history lesson on racism within the United States, and it’s beautiful, all 58 pages of it. Here’s an excerpt to get you riled up:
And race matters for reasons that really are only skin deep, that cannot be discussed any other way, and that cannot be wished away. Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter the neighborhood where he grew up. Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, “No, where are you really from?”, regardless of how many generations her family has been in the country. Race matters to a young person addressed by a stranger in a foreign language, which he does not understand because only English was spoken at home. Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: “I do not belong here.”