Tag Archives: Culture

The Unbearable Whiteness Of Being (Part III)

We’ve spent the past few weeks talking about Whiteness, but maybe it’s time just to ask the question directly.

When I say something’s White, what image pops into your head?

Is it something like this?

Or something like this?

Or maybe one of these?

There is a certain image attached to White people, or the very least, generalized to White “culture.” That of the dork. The effete nerd. The bland, out-of-touch suburbanite, fearfully barricading themselves in their comfortable gated community.

And that’s a little ****ed up.

A little.

My day isn’t ruined when I hear a comedian lampoon White folks. I don’t fly into an indignant rage when someone cracks a joke about mayonnaise being too spicy. I certainly don’t think being called “Cracker” carries the same nasty implications as someone getting called “Nigger.”

But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t annoy me just a tiny bit. Continue reading

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The French War On Religious Freedom

France has long held a ban on overt expressions of religion in public, being one of the first European countries to have banned full face covering in public in 2010. While similar laws have gained traction in neighboring countries, following the tragic Bastille Day massacre in Cannes a number of French coastal towns have passed ordinances banning the “burkini”, a swimsuit for conservative Muslim women.

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No, not that one. That’s a wet suit.

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No, that’s also a wet suit.

Muslim Lifesavers Unveil The 'Burqini'

There we go.

But I’m guessing you can see the problem already. Continue reading

JK Rowling’s Problem With America

I read Harry Potter.

Liked it.

Didn’t love it.

Which puts me in perhaps one of the smallest minorities on the planet, between folks who’ve been struck by lightning multiple times and folks named “Craig Craigerson”.

Now I, like many, was enthralled at first. Tore through ’em at a lightning pace. But as the series wore on, I found myself drifting away from it. Certain issues I’d have been more willing to forgive as a kid just didn’t hold up. Problems like-

  • Why is the reportedly most powerful wizard in the world a high school principal?
  • Why are these kids not also being taught history, literature, and chemistry?
  • Is Voldemort such a nerdy loser that his plan for domination gets undone by his insistence on conquering his old school?

Also, why not just shoot the guy?

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I mean seriously- he clearly views Muggles [non magic-users] in such low regard that he’d never see it coming. Granted, this is the issue I have with Doctor Who, Sherlock, and most British shows, but I do think that there’s few problems a well-aimed .44 can’t solve.

Yes, that’s a distinctly American attitude, and part of my problem with Rowling’s latest venture.

1454122663 Continue reading

Filmmaker Christine Welsh on Tracing Her Heritage in Women In the Shadows

My Canadian studies class recently watched Women in the Shadows, a documentary by feminist filmmaker and professor, Christine Welsh. Not long after we had watched her film Welsh agreed to visit our class for a question and answer period. Below I’ve included a little of what I learned from her film and her visit.

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Norbert Welsh’s oral history was recorded by Mary Weekes.

In an article detailing her documentary experience, Welsh explains that her interest had been sparked when her mother recovered a copy of The Last Buffalo Hunter, an oral history by her great grandfather, Norbert Welsh. In the film, however, Welsh attempts to recover more information about her great grandmothers, figures who were much harder to trace.

Along her search, Welsh discovers the name of her great grandmother, Margaret Taylor, and Margaret’s mother, Jane. Welsh surmises that Jane was most likely Cree. Jane’s union with George Taylor meant that Margaret was one of the first generations of Metis women. While documentation about women was lacking during early colonization, Welsh was able to uncover some details about her foremothers because of Margaret Taylor’s connection to Hudson’s Bay Company Governor George Simpson.

In the early period of Canadian colonization, Hudson’s Bay employees often took “country wives”. These women, of First Nations or Metis heritage, would create family ties between the explorers and the local community and were often the reason their husbands survived their first few Canadian winters. In Women in the Shadows, Welsh discovers that Taylor had been Simpson’s “country wife” for many years, only to be cast aside by Simpson when he returned from a trip to England with a new white wife.

Continue reading

“Hymn for the Weekend”: Appreciation, Appropriation, and the Exotic Black Woman

I don’t know about you, but I can’t stop listening to “Hymn for the Weekend” on repeat.

However, before I had even listened to Chris Martin and Queen Bey meld their voices in a divine mesh of harmonies, I was reading about it on Tumblr.

Cultural Appreciation vs. Appropriation

The first thing I heard about the video was that it had some pretty rampant cultural appropriation. Since there have been a number of music videos and performances accused of cultural appropriation over the last few years, I wasn’t too surprised to hear about “Hymn for the Weekend” being added to the list.

The video quickly split viewers into two groups, those who considered it cultural appropriation, and those who appreciated the video’s focus on Indian culture. The clip below highlights a few of the key elements that have been discussed and criticized.

This discussion is tricky for a variety of reasons. For example, there is a time and place when a white person can wear Indian clothing and accessories without coming off as disrespectful. In some cases, it’s actually much more respectful to embrace local dress customs than to ignore them.

There are even music videos where diverse customs and styles have been featured without any backlash about appropriation.

This debate can also seem confusing when Indian fans, or fans with Indian heritage, don’t seem to be bothered by the video’s representation of their culture.

anigif_optimized-20745-1454418987-1 Continue reading

We’ll Never Be Royals: Why We Need to Kick Our Obsession With the British Crown

It was less than 24 hours ago that yours truly sat at his desk, desperately diving through the dark recesses of the internet in search of something to preach to you about. And lo and behold, dear readers, the internet provided- for yours truly was not seven clicks in before he stumbled across some truly inane Buzzfeed post on Kate Windsor and her offspring.

While the article itself was mostly just pictures of the royal consort and the spawn-of-Windsor (can we please make it a thing to call ’em that?), it was the title that got me. Typical Buzzfeed clickbait, to be sure, but with all that wonder and joy you’d usually associate with a kid on Christmas.

Royal pictures! Princesses and princes! Jewels and castles and- and-!

And all that ****ing drivel.

But don’t you fret, boys and girls, this isn’t going to be another leftist rant against the British crown (the truly sleazy, inbred, useless, parasites that they are).

No, no- it’s a tirade against our obsession with this absurd tradition, and a case for why it’s high time we abandon it.

Now there are doubtlessly those among you who wonder if such a thing is even necessary. The royals are, after all, tucked away in their lavish palaces on the other side of the world. What harm could a handful of random pasty dudes possibly have on our culture?

That, beloved and faithful readers, is a good question. How about we start with…

Undermining Equality

Yes, that most dearly held of American values.

Or at least, formerly most dearly held of American values. With income inequality at historic highs, it’s probably safe to say we’ve let that one slide a bit.

It didn’t used to be like that, though.

Once upon a time, one of the greatest defining characteristics of the nation was a borderline Socialist obsession with equality and the common man. Only slightly more than a century ago the American republic stood unique amid a morass of empires, duchies, and despots, and we, for one, were damn proud of it- even to the point where the practice of tipping was considered to be “un-American”.

Continue reading

Save Refugees, Save America

I believe in America.

I believe that the defining characteristic of this nation was its unerring sense of moral conviction- that all we did was in the advancement of some great work set into motion by ages past. That every undertaking stemmed from the deepest confidence in the simple rightness of our cause.

This faith led us, countless times, to commit terrible acts that damn the conscious of the nation. Slavery and Wounded Knee. Manzanar and Kandahar. McDonald’s and McCarthy. It’s led to the popular image abroad of Americans as fundamentally arrogant; loudly voicing their opinions without being asked, demanding where they have no right, interfering where they have no business.

And it was this same faith that has pulled this nation back every time. Yosemite and Normandy. Harlem and Harper’s Ferry. John Muir and Eugene Debs. The faith that sent millions to these shores from every corner of the world and the same unabashed confidence that sent American music, art, film, and literature back.

In spite of our divisions and our failings- and they are neither minor nor few- we are united by the common belief that our cause is not merely just but justice itself, and that its triumph needs only ingenuity, passion, and will to be secured.

For good or ill, it is this value that made America. Continue reading