Posts Tagged With: race

What’s So Feminist About #Frankenstorm?

Several days ago, our class received an email from Professor Daniels suggesting that we respond to some current events touching on gender, race and feminism. Included in this email was a link to Professor Daniels’ recent blog post on Racism Review, titled, “Is (Hurricane) “Sandy” a White Name?” The article was insightful as it was informative. Daniels posed the significant question:

“Does it matter what name a storm gets called?”

After reading this post and several of its comments, I started to think about the chronic gendering of nature, which our [Western] culture has been guilty of throughout history; not to mention the inherent stigma attached to femininity. Among many thoughtful messages of safety and well-being, I received several texts and tweets referring to the so-called-bitchy nature of (Hurricane) Sandy: her brutal wrath; hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, etc. The implications of which are dangerous in reifying negative female stereotypes about uncontrollable emotional rage. Let us remember we are discussing a hurricane and not a woman when we discuss “Sandy” and its devastating effects. After all, many individuals refuse to conform to one such categorical gender, so why force natural disasters into that same [false] binary construction?

But beyond name blaming, there are many other issues surrounding this recent disaster, which indeed necessitate a feminist critique. And that leads us back to the discussion of a hurricane – the second consecutive hurricane to DIRECTLY impact the New York-New Jersey area, among many other 2011/2012 tropical storms, since 2011’s Hurricane Irene. Now I may not be very old, nor wise, but I have lived in southern New York all my life – that’s twenty-some-odd years – and I can assure you that THIS IS NOT NORMAL. What I mean by normal is normative weather for a location like the north-eastern United States. And if you haven’t already guessed it, yes I am referring to global warming.

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! I said it: the controversial buzz word of all dismal realities. And I hope it goes without saying that what New York & New Jersey are experiencing right now include the devastating effects of one such complicated occurrence. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has publicly announced his support for incumbent presidential candidate Barack Obama on the basis that opposing candidate Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney has not adequately acknowledged the effects of man-made global warming and thereby has not contributed to the safeguarding of our fair city of New York (and not to mention the planet).

“Mr. Obama was the better candidate to tackle the global climate change that he believes might have contributed to the violent storm, which took the lives of at least 38 New Yorkers and caused billions of dollars in damage.” -Mayor Michael Bloomberg

I took this photograph right outside my sister’s apartment on East 26th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan on October 30, 2012.

So what makes climate change a feminist issue? Climate change is planetary change, meaning it affects every intricate level of [human] life. It dictates population control policies, public control over drinking water versus private, adequate access to contraception, education and the right to work, to name a few. So as New Yorkers, we are currently dealing with the immediate effects of Hurricane Sandy – in the wake of all its chaos and destruction – but I encourage all my fellow citizens of the planet to wake up and observe the larger picture, the one that is STARING us all in the face.

Let us remember that on election day this November, when we cast our votes for the consequential in/action of environmental protection by the United States for the next four years…

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Shattered Illusions: ‘Intervention’ and How A&E Got Rich Off of Recovery

Do these faces look familiar?

These are the faces of A&E’s hit reality television series, Intervention.

Each of them are white and every one of them has their own story to tell, or rather has a version of their story told for them – by friends, family and the show’s network narrators. I have been watching this series on and off for a couple of years now. It is very intriguing and, needless to say, has brought its network (A&E) so much success, that can be measured in both dollars as well as credibility. In fact, Intervention reports a 70% success rate for its “participants” – using a method of intervention known as the Johnson style. This traditional model typically yields a 30% – 40% success rate, meaning that those who undergo one such style of intervention report sobriety one year after treatment. But the folks down at A&E have separate standards by which they measure success. In her lecture earlier today, Professor Daniels shared with our class that several people have died since their episode featured on A&E, but were counted as “successes” simply for having completed their 30-day-or-so treatments.

But aside from revealing those not-so-inspiring truths about Intervention’s so-called-success rates, Professor Daniels lecture and article on, “INTERVENTION: REALITY TV, WHITENESS, AND NARRATIVES OF ADDICTION,” did work to truly deconstruct those narratives told by A&E’s Intervention, exposing their representative biases. The show is predominantly heteronormative, in that it almost exclusively deals with heterosexual individuals – rarely featuring those identifying as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Furthermore, the show is totally cisgender in that it has not featured transgender individuals or those identifying as genderqueer (i.e gender identities other than man or woman, which do not adhere to binary categories of cisgender normativity). In terms of sexual diversity, Intervention consistently ignores the wide ranging reality of sex-gender variance among ‘substance abusers’ alike.

So what are the dangers in framing representations solely along heteronormative lines? It occludes differences among what substances impact which communities (and how). It undermines the legitimacy of human variance. How can something (or someone) be regarded with any real validity if it (or s/he) continues to go unrecognized? But those blind spots (unfortunately) do not stop at sex, gender and/or sexuality. Intervention features [cisgender] men and women equally on their program – meaning 50% of the episodes feature men and 50% feature women. However, this seemingly non-biased representation of addiction is skewed. Real life statistics paint a very different picture pertaining to substance abuse and gender.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):

  • Any use of alcohol is reported by 58% of males and only 48% of females
  • Binge drinking is reported by 31% of males and only 15% of females
  • Heavy alcohol use is reported by 11% of males and only 3% of females

In all cases, males accounted for more or heavier usage of alcohol, which just happens to be the predominant substance featured on A&E’s Intervention as the abused drug of choice. But in the case for alcohol consumption/abuse, women are being over-represented, as such 50/50 narratives of addiction do not properly mirror reality. Daniels further elaborates on such (mis)representations in her piece on, “INTERVENTION: REALITY TV, WHITENESS, AND NARRATIVES OF ADDICTION,” as she deconstructs the show’s deployment of medicalization, biopower, and governmentality. These Foucaultian buzz words indicate certain regulated processes of policing bodies that are racialized as they are gendered, according to strict standards of health and morality.

We have discussed some of the ways in which A&E’s Intervention disproportionately features women as addicts, and furthermore how the show systemically constructs a heteronormative binary world of just men and just women; failing to mirror reality on both accounts. Daniels also focuses on the series’ depiction of addiction as whiteness in crisis. That is, social privilege being wasted: “wasted whiteness,” as the show rarely features men and women of color. This works to reify certain punitive measures surrounding race and addiction that are present in society at large; that is to say that the State penal system punishes racial/ethnic minorities while “self-sufficient [white] citizens” are subjected to more “neoliberal regimes” of bodily regulation.

…whites make up 63.7% and Latinas/os make up 16.3% of the general U.S. population, 4 yet Latinas/os only appear as characters in 6% of episodes of Intervention. African Americans make up 12.6% of the U.S. population, while only 4% of those appearing on Intervention are black. Asian and Pacific Islanders make up 5% of the U.S. population and appear on Intervention as main characters 1% of the time (Daniels 7)…

We can draw parallels from the show’s narratives of addiction to the ways by which we conceive of race and addiction in our every day lives. By constructing addiction as both badness as well as sickness, A&E’s Intervention effectively justifies popular notions of moralizing health that are the productive rhetoric of biopower (hard at work). The show’s representations of race, ethnicity, sex, sexuality and gender contribute to hegemony, as they are skewed. It is imperative that we remain critical of these makeover reality television series, which aim to construct certain capitalist qualities as desirable (i.e. heterosexual relationships, and in the case for women, beauty).

Let us unpack these narratives, so as to reveal the neoliberal mechanisms by which they have been articulated.

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