As a dusty third worldling, one of the things I learnt first was to see if there were other dusty people in the room whenever I go to any transnational feminist conferences. Something else I also learnt is to not expect ‘solidarity’ from anyone unless expressly proven otherwise — and these views are a result of the way people view me and my body in notIndia, what people assume of me in most internet spaces and fandoms. My friend and I compiled this list comprising of a few of the most repetitive and inane stereotypes that we’ve encountered of Third World Women. By no means is this list exhaustive, feel free to add your experiences in the comments — and tread carefully, the list is full of racial slurs and epithets.
2. Not all Third World Women live in lands that are in a state of constant war. We exist in cities, between towns and villages — many in the West. There is no fixity of geo-political location, we don’t need to be in the Third World to be marginalised.
3. Not all of us live in tin shacks or mud houses, like every other group we too are scattered across classes and communities across the planet.
4. In popular culture and media, if Third World Women characters don’t wear shiny and bright colours, reality will not crack I assure you.
As a DustyLady who completely and absolutely hates restrictive dichotomies, more often than not I’m squeezed into a tiny box of stereotypes so tight I eventually grow claustrophobic and completely disinterested, barely an inch away from completely disengaging myself from these situations. As Women Of TheBroken World, we’re supposed to be either poor, limitless, undeniably open to possession and incredibly in tune with Nature or Gramsci’s little organic intellectuals, capable of seeing through oppression enough to elevate one’s status to an Earth Goddess, imparting wisdom on every stone; while the dusty realities of who we really are conveniently effaced. Sometimes I just need to read an article like this one and hear distinctive popping sound in the vicinity of my temporal lobes and hope fruitlessly it’s going to end soon. And no, sometimes, even caffeine doesn’t help. Just reading opinions like “I like women from countries that have sustained political turmoil,” makes me want to pack every book I possess, a vat of coffee and just go live in a cave till this blimp called ‘civilization’ is over. In which way can you say Assange isn’t being an arsehole excluding the one that implies cultural appropriation and tokenism is a sign for appreciation? If you can figure that one out, let me know.
Assange translated for everyone -- courtesy Of the Privilege Denying Dude
Once the urge to puke at his every word went away — by the fifth or so read — one thing that becomes clear is the cast of the ‘Eternal She’¹ that is manufactured for women from ‘broken countries’ to keep us at an exotically attainable distance. Exotic dudes are generally just pouty and exude potent sexuality, capable of letting the ‘inner beast’ — of course all exotic dudes are animals inside! Who said colonial tropes have to die anyway? — possess them into taking the WhiteWashed Lilly of a Woman for an erotic journey, but exotic ladies or the ‘Eternal She’ is always in a position of subordination. If the Dusty Lady is not in a submissive position, sexually or otherwise, then she is either Westernised or has 2 parts English ancestry, which makes her not ‘authentically’ Dusty anyway, so giving her quasi agency doesn’t upset the world order. From the druggedtame Auoda who is rescued by the adventurous White Man, to say Peter Walsh’s Daisy whom he leaves behind in India² as he re-forms his ties with Clarissa Dalloway, and all women that I can’t name right now, so many whose names we’ve erased away, all fit into the shoes of this ‘Eternal She’: Eternally passive, eternally waiting for the White man to rescue her, or just make her more than a minor background detail in the narrative. Her ‘ethnic’ identity comes through from her ‘native garb’ that she loses through the course of the narrative, to something more civilised as a dress or a skirt. In my mind’s eye, eventually their skin goes white as well. In this way, ‘Ethnic’ dress becomes interchangeable with tradition and essentialism, and the female body enters an unstable arena of scrutiny and meaning, till you can change ‘Ethnic’ with ‘Woman’ with ‘Body’ and come away with the same image, ready for consumption at will!
Marketers are increasingly using Retro Sexism to sell products. This form of advertising uses irony and humour as a way to distance itself from the sexist and/or racist representations and stereotypes they perpetuate.
Retro Sexism (n.): Modern attitudes and behaviors that mimic or glorify sexist aspects of the past, often in an ironic way.
The following is a speech I made at a university in Port Elizabeth today, where I was asked to speak on stereotypes and the trans community as part of their Diversity Week. A special note of thanks to Busisiwe Deyi of the Eloquor Society.
My name is Christina Engela and I'm here to talk to you about transgender and transsexual stereotypes.
If someone just said the word "transsexual" or "transgender", what sort of image would pop up in your heads? What is the stereotype?
Mrs Doubtfire? Boy George? A drag performer on stage? A man in women's clothing? What sort of stereotypes come to mind? A stereotype is like gossip - even though it hasn't been proved, people still accept it as fact, and I suppose it depends on what people have been saying.
Am I someone who's after your children or perving over other women in the ladies room? Do I pee standing up? Am I someone that other people need to be protected against? Am I a threat to society?
I'm sure you can tell I have a "unique" voice for a woman - but I can assure you that I am none of these things.
When we talk about transgender and transsexual stereotypes, lots of words come to mind, words like "freak", "pervert", "deviant", "he-she's" and a lot of other nasty words that are meant to hurt. But do any of the people who use these words or say these things about us actually know what it means to be a transsexual person? Do they know what is true and what is false about transgender people? Or are they just acting on an assumption based on their lack of knowledge of something?
This is the nature of a stereotype, it is based on ignorance, assumption and inaccuracy.
I am a transsexual woman, which means that I was born in a male body, but I underwent painful surgeries to become the woman I always knew I was inside. A transsexual person doesn't change their physical gender because they just wake up one day and feel like it. It is a lifelong unhappiness with a medical condition in which a mind of one gender is born into a physical body of another. It was something I had to do in order to continue to live and to be happy.
I've just told you this, but up until this moment, did you know what a transsexual woman was? Or did you believe the stereotype?
I mentioned ignorance - because if I don't know what a transgender or transsexual person is, then how can I know the truth from a lie? In fact, there is so much ignorance out there about gender issues that many trans people don't even know that they are trans, until they eventually work it out for themselves, or they become so unhappy with the way their lives are that they are forced to look for help. You see, ignorance - and stereotyping causes so much needless suffering.
If someone tells you a lie about trans people, or if people claim that being transgender is "un-African" or "unnatural", then how can you know if they're lying? Well I can tell you that if you don't see any transgender people in your community, then that is because they are hiding. And they are hiding because they are afraid of people who are afraid of anything that is different to themselves - people who act in anger brought on by their own fear, which is brought on by ignorance.
People fear the unknown, and not knowing something is ignorance. Ignorance is what breeds negative stereotypes, and these reinforce fear. So you have a vicious circle of ignorance, fear and negative stereotypes. And the way to break this vicious circle - and the answer to ignorance - is education.
If you don't know what a transgender person is all about, then find out - ask one, and they will tell you.
Ask me, I am one - and I know what I am - I'm not a stereotype, I'm happy, and I'm not afraid.
Another day, another list of shit women need to remember so men will like them. The shit that gets published these days that is aimed toward women is getting increasingly preposterous and it is worrisome. Take for example this list comprised by the benevolent Amelia of The Frisky, a sometimes cool website. She wanted to know what men like best in women during sex, so she magnanimously interviewed "3 guy friends" who spilled all their deepest desires.
Or something like that.
1. Tell Him What To Do: This was the most common request from the guys I talked to—they’re dying for a little instruction. Guy parts are different from girl parts and sometimes they need to hear what you want.
Oh women, we already know you are so worried about performing well in bed that you usually forget to focus on yourself and gettin' yours, so make sure to remember to tell him if what he's doing feels good! This will help him get better and perfect his technique, you know for the next time he has sex with someone else!
A lot of commentary of late is cropping up across the internet about who is or is not a feminist. I have read countless articles that have provided numerous rules and regulations for women (not men) who want to be, or already call themselves, a feminist. In case you haven't had time to surf the net and check off each item on your "i AM a feminist for reallllls" list, I will kindly provide a recap of everything a self-questioning or thinking-to-pledge feminist will need.
1. You have to have a college degree. If you don't, make sure you are enrolled in a college. Community colleges and technical schools are not the same as a four year institution. The intellectual rigor of feminist theory and gender philosophy requires a diploma, without one you are probably just pretending. If you cared about the advancement of women, you would know that empowerment begins with the mind and education(previously an all male activity) is the way to go.
2. You have to remain unmarried. Okay, so this is an iffy subject. If you are a woman who is married, then you are choosing to conform to hundreds of years of patriarchal subjugation of women and thus you are by default not allowed to call yourself a feminist. There are some who will argue that getting married is okay; if you believe this then get married, but DO NOT change your last name to match his last name. Your feminist card is smoking when you state , "I do". It will explode if you surrender your name.
I went to a party the other day where their happened to be one single person for each couple, all of which were straight and in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties. Topics of conversation were typical; ranging anywhere in between work and how do you open a beer bottle with a lighter. I was stone cold sober as per usual and although I was enjoying the company of others, I was in a quiet and observing mood.
At one point in the evening, I was leaning against the wall in the kitchen listening to a couple guys enjoying some small talk. The event that spurred on this specific little tidbit of conversation, which I’m going to tell you about in a minute, was some sort of superficial dispute between one of the guy’s and one of the girl’s present. The girl in question had just left the kitchen and the guys were doing their whole shtick where they express their exasperation at apologizing to a girl about something the have no idea about and still finding themselves in the dog house without a clue as to why they’re there in the first place.
The conversation turned to the general as opposed to the specific rather quickly, and could only be described as gendered posturing. I felt like I was in an American sitcom staring Jim Belushi and Courtney Thorne-Smith. I’m not a relationship expert having been in a rather minimal amount of them in my short twenty-eight year span and I just had to ask, “Is that really what it’s like?” The answer I got was, “No, it’s not.”
In my last post, I mentioned my ongoing admiration of The Daily Show for its consistent insight. But there is one part of late-evening Comedy Central that frustrates me to no end, and that is the parade of commercials featuring straight men lying to women. The men selling Twix candy bars gets women to sleep with them by denouncing books they enjoy or lying about having been burglarized; the men selling Jim Beam whiskey get women's interest with rented puppies. The straight men in the Captain Morgan rum ad and The Hangover trailers lie to their significant others about drinking and parties, because apparently women Never Let Them Have Any Fun.
And with so many better-organized feminists campaigning against "objectification" and "exploitation," I have to explain that I'm generally not bothered by advertising that links products to sexy, scantily-clad women. It's not clever advertising, but I like looking at sexy, scantily-clad women too. When I go to dance clubs or the dungeon, I often intentionally dress scantily and hope that people think I look sexy. I don't believe that finding someone physically attractive must be mutually exclusive to respecting their humanity.