Friday, February 27, 2009

Tracey and Tami talk blogging and feminism; Mandy and Brittany say "sorry"

Last week I tackled the controversy surrounding Mandy Van Deven and Brittany Shoot's post on the blog, Professor What If, that critiqued the marginalization of women of color in the feminist blogosphere:
The same hierarchies of race, sexuality, ability, age and class that play out in our larger society, are also present within the feminist movement and, in turn, the feminist blogosphere. This week, in a controversial post on the always compelling blog, Professor What If, Mandy Van Deven and Brittany Shoot attempted to address racial inequality in the femisphere. And while the writers made some very good points about the ways WOC bloggers are marginalized, they also unwittingly committed several sins of privilege. Read more...
Since then, the writers have issued an apology:
Though probably not comprehensive (and with the disclaimer that lack of knowledge is not an excuse for poor behavior), I've put together a list of the places where I fell short in my weak and reckless attempt to support those who are marginalized (myself included) in the feminist blogosphere.
I should have known that the baggage of the history of racism in the feminist blogosphere (and in real life) is MY burden to carry.

I understand that this post comes with the baggage of the myriad ways other white feminists have done RWOC/WOC wrong, both in "real life" and in the blogosphere: Yes Means Yes, Full Frontal Feminism, Amanda Marcotte, Seal Press, etc. This history of white women backstabbing RWOC/WOC has created a blogging environment where white women aren't, and probably can't and shouldn't, be given the benefit of the doubt by RWOC/WOC. White women have just fucked up too much. This history is exactly what I did not/do not want to replicate. And it's exactly this history that makes it all the more important to me to focus on mending this wound instead of simply mending my own hurt feelings and ego. I want to demonstrate that white women are not all alike, and that I want to rewrite the script of white women's poor responses to being called racist—from one of defense and denial to one of accountability. I know this will be hard to do; many have even been telling me that it's never been done before in the blogosphere. I hope that if this is the case, I may be among the first. I may not feel it's fair to carry the baggage of other white women's mistakes, to be a symbol of past racism and wrongdoing, to be chastised because a post written by two white women has gotten more attention than similar posts written by RWOC/WOC, but I recognize that is my burden to bear. I believe in righting this, and I humbly ask RWOC/WOC to believe me.
I don't wish to flog this already dying controversy, but I do want to dig deeper into some of the issues it raised. So, on this weekend's episode of "The Best of What Tami Said," 4 p.m., Sunday, March 1, the topic will be WOMEN OF COLOR IN THE FEMINIST BLOGOSPHERE. I will be joined by Professor Tracey of Aunt Jemima's Revenge. We will talk about the place of women of color bloggers in the femisphere; why spaces dedicated to the unique issues of woman of color are so necessary; and, hopefully, solutions to ongoing marginalization, including how allies can help.
We want to hear from ALL feminist and womanist bloggers on this issue, regardless of race.
Let your voice be heard. Call in (646) 716-4672.
If you are interested in playing a larger role in this podcast, as a panelist, e-mail me.

Old School Friday: Music from sophomore year

This week’s Old School Friday theme is “sophomore year,” which for me is 1984-85. Back in high school, I was all about the second British Invasion: New Wave, New Romantics, synthesizers and boys in makeup. Of course I loved Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” from their album, “Welcome to the Pleasuredome.” I even had the requisite “Frankie Says…” white t-shirt, with big, black, block lettering, which I wore tied at the hip over some black-and-white patterned leggings.

For a sheltered, suburban teen in Northwestern Indiana, “Relax” was just a hot song with a banging beat. I didn’t “get” the lyrics until experiencing them again and an adult. And little did I know then, but the song that spawned a fashion craze among Anglophile teens, also sparked a shit-ton of controversy:

Morley intentionally courted scandal with the promotion of "Relax". ZTT initiated the ad campaign for "Relax" with two quarter-page ads in the British music press. The first ad featured images of Rutherford in a sailor cap and a leather vest, and Johnson with a shaved head and rubber gloves. The images were accompanied by the phrase "ALL THE NICE BOYS LOVE SEA MEN" and declared "Frankie Goes to Hollywood are coming . . . making Duran Duran lick the shit off their shoes . . . Nineteen inches that must be taken always." The second ad promised "theories of bliss, a history of Liverpool from 1963 to 1983, a guide to Amsterdam bars".[4]

On Thursday 5 January, Frankie Goes to Hollywood performed "Relax" on the BBC flagship TV chart show, Top Of The Pops, and in less than a week, the song had risen to number 6 in the UK singles chart. On 11 January 1984, Radio 1 disc jockey Mike Read expressed on air his distaste for both the record's suggestive sleeve (designed by Anne Yvonne Gilbert) and its lyrics. Perhaps Read's decision was based on his
interpretation of the song's lyrics as being sexually explicit: "Relax, don't do it, when you want to sock it to it, Relax don't do it, when you want to come." He announced his refusal to play the record, not knowing that the BBC had just decided that the song was not to be played on the BBC anyway.

In support of their DJ, BBC Radio banned the single from its shows a reported two days later (although certain prominent night-time BBC shows - including those of Kid Jensen and John Peel - continued to play the record, as they saw fit, throughout 1984).[5]. The now-banned "Relax" rose to number 2 in the charts by 17 January, and hit the number one spot on 24 January. By this time, the BBC Radio ban had extended to Top of the Pops as well, which displayed a still picture of the group during its climactic Number One announcement, before airing a performance by a non-Number One artist.

This went on for the five weeks that "Relax" was at number one. The single remained on the charts for a record consecutive forty-two weeks. It would rise up from a declining chart position to number two during the UK summer of 1984 whilst Frankie's follow-up single "Two Tribes" held the UK number one spot.

The ban became an embarrassment for the BBC, especially given that UK commercial radio stations were still playing the song. Later in 1984 the ban was lifted and "Relax" featured on both the Christmas Day edition of Top of the Pops and Radio 1's rundown of the best-selling singles of the year.

The track was re-issued in 1993, first of a string of Frankie Goes to Hollywood singles to be re-issued in this year. It debuted at a high number six on the UK singles chart and peaked at number five the next week. Read more...
More on music in the year that was 1985.


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