Thursday, December 22, 2011

Our Feminist Future

By Sikivu Hutchinson, From the Feminist Wire

On the school grounds they call each other bitches with machine gun fury. This is the “new” term of “endearment”; a grand show of eye-rolling, teeth-sucking hardness to a world that chews them up, spits them out, and leaves them for dead, stranded between Virgin Mary and Jezebel. The righteous fury that they direct at and expect from each other is a function of criminal invisibility and zero expectations. Who would expect them to do anything more than pop out babies, latch onto some man, and live in the shadows of mainstream America’s white supremacist Barbie-Disney princess infantilizing caricature of womanhood? When I first met Sanaa and Karin* as 9th and 11th graders while teaching classes for my Women’s Leadership Project (WLP) feminist mentoring program, I was immediately impressed by their agile minds, sage observations, and sharp wit. Karin was in foster care after losing both her parents; Sanaa was one of six siblings from an emotionally turbulent home environment with little parental support. As the founder of WLP, which is based in South Los Angeles high schools, I train my students to do peer education on the everyday impact of sexism, heterosexism, misogynistic language, violence against women, and media imagery. Central to WLP’s peer training is enabling our students to develop a humanist critical consciousness about their shared struggle around paradigms of the sacrificial good black/Latina woman of faith.
I have been fortunate to have the assistance and vision of Diane Arellano, herself a mentee and former student of mine from the California Institute of the Arts. As an emerging artist and activist in her own right, she has been deeply committed to our goal of developing partnerships between black and Latina young women. Our program also provides reproductive justice resources, HIV/AIDS prevention education, and peer mentoring for undocumented youth. The high schools where our programs are based have high dropout rates and low four-year college going rates. In some instances, students can go all four years at these schools without knowing what California’s “A-G” college preparation requirements are.

Both Sanaa and Karin blossomed as speakers and feminist activists, challenging mainstream notions of what it means to be a girl of color...MORE @ The Feminist Wire 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Faith Pimps, Secular Conspiracies

By Sikivu Hutchinson

In American politics, patriotism, race-baiting and faith-based pandering are the last refuge of a scoundrel. And this political season militant GOP appeals to white Christian evangelicals have veered into neo-Cold War hysteria. One of the most powerful scenes in Orwell’s 1984 was when Party member O’Brien succeeds in brainwashing protagonist Winston Smith into believing that 2+2 equals 5. The Religious Right has been practically virtuosic in its 2+2=5 mass doublespeak; convincing mainstream America that Christians are the new minority and that commie pinko “secular progressives” (Bill O’Reilly’s preferred “smear”) are at the helm of a socialist conspiracy. The latest salvo in right wing doublespeak comes from Rick Perry, playing the Christian victim card in a desperate bid to remain relevant in the hinterlands. Primed for the Iowa caucus, Perry’s new campaign ad opens with an alpha male declaration that he is not “ashamed” to say he is a Christian. The ad then blasts the very Christian-identified Obama’s “war” on religion, the indecency of allowing gays to serve openly in the military and the prohibition on prayer in schools.

When Newt Gingrich coined the term “secular socialist”machine to flog his new book in 2011 he was just another overpaid neo-con on the rubber chicken circuit. In the years since he was forced out of the House in disgrace, he sleazed up to evangelicals with a Ted Bundy-esque conversion/redemption line—“humbly” laying his sins as a serial philanderer and ethics violator at the feet of God. Now his rise as frontrunner in the GOP race ensures that Glock force culture war rhetoric, diverting attention from the GOP’s war on the working class, will continue to command center stage. Good Christians know that poor children, who, according to Gingrich, never see anyone working in their crack-ridden, pimp-patrolled, drive-by riddled urban jungles, should rightfully be shoveling the shit of the bootstrapped middle class. This is what God intended. Poverty doesn’t speak the language of hard work, thrift and enterprise and poor children mean lazy Blacks and Latinos, shuffling from classrooms to prison cells. In a rigidly segregated downwardly mobile society the GOP’s moral assault on workers’ human rights and protections for poor children is the perfect template for a fascist Christian nationalism.

Sikivu Hutchinson is the author of Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

WORLD AIDS DAY & Gender Justice Education

From The Feminist Wire

What will need to happen to achieve the goal of eliminating new HIV infections, AIDS related deaths, and discrimination? What can we do, collectively, to get to zero?

By Sikivu Hutchinson

Young women of color are at the epicenter of this crisis. My Women’s Leadership Project students are kicking off two days of World AIDS Day peer education. So as an educator who mentors teenaged girls in South Los Angeles schools, I believe preventive education has to begin with breaking down the myths and stereotypes associated with heterosexist relationships, misogynist media images and patriarchal gender norms that undermine young women’s right to self-determination. Increasingly, working class African American and Latina women are being indoctrinated into a decidedly misogynist, anti-feminist view of womanhood and sexuality that has both a secular and faith-based tenor. Coming from highly religious households, many of my students have been socialized to believe that their “authentic” destinies lie in getting and pleasing a man. They struggle with the challenge of developing their own voices, preparing for college, careers and intellectual pursuits whilst battling the insidious tide of a so-called post-feminist universe where hypersexuality is conflated with liberated femininity. Young men of color are also imperiled by heterosexist, masculinist gender norms that promote hard thugged-out male identities at the expense of women’s human rights as well as loving/respectful homo-social, heterosexual and same-sex relationships and families. Getting AIDS cases down to zero must involve a revolution of mind and deed; a transformation of the way masculinity, femininity, and sexuality are perceived in the U.S. MORE@