Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Roxane Gay

Catcalling Video in NY city: White people edited out?

On Tuesday, Slate and everyone else posted a video of a woman who is harassed more than 100 times by men as she walks around New York City for 10 hours.

More specifically, it’s a video of a young white woman who is harassed by mostly black and Latino men as she walks around New York City for 10 hours.

The one dude who turns around and says, “Nice,” is white, but the guys who do the most egregious things—like the one who harangues her, “Somebody’s acknowledging you for being beautiful! You should say thank you more,” or the one who follows her down the street too closely for five whole minutes—are not.

Hanna Rosin
Hanna Rosin posted:

This doesn’t mean that the video doesn’t still effectively make its poinst:

1. a woman can’t walk down the street lost in her own thoughts, (particularly if attractive?)

2. men feel totally free to demand her attention and get annoyed when she doesn’t respond, (and vice versa?)

3. a woman can’t be at ease in public spaces in the same way a man can.

But the video also unintentionally makes another point: that harassers are mostly black and Latino, and hanging out on the streets in midday in clothes that suggest they are not on their lunch break.

As Roxane Gay tweeted, “The racial politics of the video are fucked up. Like, she didn’t walk through any white neighborhoods?”

The video is a collaboration between Hollaback, an anti-street harassment organization, and the marketing agency Rob Bliss Creative. At the end they claim the woman experienced 100-plus incidents of harassment “involving people of all backgrounds.” Since that obviously doesn’t show up in the video, Bliss addressed it in a post.

He wrote, “We got a fair amount of white guys, but for whatever reason, a lot of what they said was in passing, or off camera,” or was ruined by a siren or other noise. The final product, he writes, “is not a perfect representation of everything that happened.”

That may be true but if you find yourself editing out all the catcalling white guys, maybe you should try another take.

This is not the first time Bliss has been called out for race blindness.

In a video to promote Grand Rapids, Michigan, he was criticized for making a city that’s a third minority and a quarter poor look like it was filled with people who have “been reincarnated from those peppy family-style 1970s musical acts from Disney World or Knott’s Berry Farm,” as a local blogger wrote.

Activism is never perfectly executed. We can just conclude that they caught a small slice of catcallers, and lots of other men do it, too. But if the point of this video is to teach men about the day-to-day reality of women, then this video doesn’t hit its target.

The men who are sitting in their offices or in cafes watching this video will instead be able to comfortably assure themselves that they don’t have time to sit on hydrants in the middle of the day and can’t properly pronounce “mami.” They might do things to women that are worse than catcalling, but this is not their sin.

A really good video about catcalling actually already exists. In “Jessica’s Feminized Atmosphere,” Jessica Williams of the Daily Show covers the whole range of street harassment, from construction workers (of all races) to security guards to Wall Street “douche bags” to teenagers hanging on the corner. She and a group of women lay down pins on places in New York to avoid and by the end, the entire map is covered.

There are race and class issues latent in her video, too. She is black, and the women she gathers for her discussion group are all races. But you don’t leave with that icky impression of a white woman under assault by the big bad city. Plus, she has the group demonstrate the armor they wear while walking down the street, which turns into a glorious mosaic of bitch face.

Hanna Rosin is the founder of DoubleX and a writer for the Atlantic. She is also the author of The End of Men. Follow her on Twitter.

Belly dancing: Performed by white western women?

Google the term “belly dance” and the first images the search engine offers are of white women in flowing, diaphanous skirts, playing at brownness. How did this become acceptable?

Long time ago, I worked at Marrakesh Restaurant in Downtown Washington DC and a white US woman performed a belly dance during intermission. All applicants were US white women. If I knew a Lebanese dancing publicly for money I would have invited her to apply,

When eastern women danced for women alone, there was a different kind of eroticism, perhaps more powerful, definitely more playful, or maybe that’s how it felt to me, as a child and teenager, wary of men’s intentions.

 posted this MAR 5, 2014

Why I can’t stand white belly dancers

Whether they know it or not, white women who practice belly dance are engaging in appropriation

The term “belly dance” itself is a Western one.

In Arabic, this kind of dance is called Raqs Sharqi, or Eastern dance.

Belly dance, as it is known and practiced in the West, has its roots in white appropriation of Eastern dance. As early as the 1890s in the U.S., white “side-show sheikhs” managed dance troupes of white women, who performed belly dance at world’s fairs (fun trivia: Mark Twain made a short film of a belly dancer at the 1893 fair).

Many white women who presently practice belly dance are continuing this century-old tradition of appropriation, whether they are willing to view their practice this way or not.

Why I can't stand white belly dancers(Credit: ValaGrenier via iStock)

Growing up in the Middle East, I saw women in my community do Raqs Sharqi at weddings and parties. Women often danced with other women, in private spaces, so that this dance was for each other. When they danced at house parties with men in attendance, the dynamic shifted.

At weddings, the dancing was celebratory and flirty and beautiful, something a professional dancer would come in to do, and something that everyone else would continue engaging in.

If there was a drummer present, all the better. At my wedding, I was my own dancer. I hired a band that specialized in Arabic music and danced with my family and friends, not all of whom were Arab.

One of the most awkward occurrences for me when I go out to an Arabic restaurant is the portion of the evening when the white belly dancer comes out.

This usually happens on weekends, and I’ve learned to avoid those spaces then, but sometimes I forget.

The last time I forgot, a white woman came out in Arab drag — because that’s what that is, when a person who’s not Arab wears genie pants and a bra and heavy eye makeup and Arabic jewelry, or jewelry that is meant to read as “Arabic” because it’s metallic and shiny and has squiggles of some kind — and began to belly-dance.

She was not a terrible belly dancer. But she was incredibly thin and didn’t remind me, in any way, of Tahia Karioca or Hind Rostom or my absolute favorite Raqs Sharqi dancer, Fifi Abdo.

Abdo used to dance in the expected bra and skirt but later danced mostly in robes that were somewhat shapeless and more traditional — a kind of relaxed housewear- streetwear dress that folks in Egypt rock daily.

There are videos of her in these robes dancing at weddings and smoking sheesha while she dances. When I am having a particularly lousy day, I watch this video of her and dance along

At a movie theater in Cairo in 2007, I argued with a male friend about why the lead actress wore a strange, baggy dress underneath a bra-and-skirt dancing ensemble. He suggested that she was uncomfortable with her body; I suggested that the country was becoming more conservative and she was too much of a media darling to appear with her skin exposed.

Years later, the revolution happened, or tried to happen, and when the Muslim Brotherhood took over, and Western news outlets began publishing stories that claimed belly dancing was a dying art.

Tell that to the women on the streets and on rooftops and in bedrooms and living rooms and weddings dancing their hips off. (See this video, for example, of actual working-class Egyptian women of all sizes and ages dancing in the streets.)

The one interesting thing about these stories is that they reported that Western, or white women, were beginning to take over gigs in Egypt. These women moved there out of an obsession with belly dance and are now appropriating it from local dancers.

“It’s Arab face,” my friend Nadine once said, pointing at an invitation from a white acquaintance of hers. The invitation was printed on card stock and featured the woman and a dozen of her white friends dressed in Orientalist garb with eye makeup caked on for full kohl effect and glittery accessories.

We wanted to call these women up and say, “How is this OK? Would you wear a dashiki and rock waspafarian dreads and take up African dance publicly? Wait,” we’d probably say, “don’t answer that.”

The most disturbing thing is when these women take up Arabic performance names — Suzy McCue becomes Samirah Layali. This name and others like it make no sense in Arabic.

This, in my estimation, completes the brownface Orientalist façade. A name. A crowning. A final consecration of all the wrongs that lead up to the naming.

Women I have confronted about this have said, “But I have been dancing for 15 years! This is something I have built a huge community on.

These women are more interested in their investment in belly dancing than in questioning and examining how their appropriation of the art causes others harm. To them, I can only say, I’m sure there are people who have been unwittingly racist for 15 years. It’s not too late.

Find another form of self-expression. Make sure you’re not appropriating someone else’s.

When I have argued, online and in person, with white women belly dancers, they have assured me that they learned to dance from Arab women and brown women. This is supposed to make the transaction OK.

Instead, I point out that all this means is that it is perfectly all right with these teachers that their financial well-being is based on self-exploitation.

As a follow-up, white belly dancers then focus on the sisterly and community aspect of belly dance. They claim that the true exploiter of belly dancing is Hollywood, and the Egyptian film industry, which helped take belly dancing out of women’s homes and placed it directly under the male gaze.

Here, the argument white belly dancers try to make ignores the long history of white women’s appropriation of Eastern dancing and becomes that this, the learning and performance of belly dance, is not about race and appropriation, but about gender and resisting the patriarchy and how all of us belly dancing together is a giant middle finger to men and their male gaze-y ways.

But, here’s the thing. Arab women are not vessels for white women to pour themselves and lose themselves in; we are not bangles or eyeliner or tiny bells on hips.

We are human beings. This dance form is originally ours, and does not exist so that white women can have a better sense of community; can gain a deeper sense of sisterhood with each other; can reclaim their bodies; can celebrate their sexualities; can perform for the female gaze.

Just because a white woman doesn’t profit from her performance doesn’t mean she’s not appropriating a culture. And, ultimately, the question is this: Why does a white woman’s sisterhood, her self-reclamation, her celebration, have to happen on Arab women’s backs?

This piece is the latest in a series by feminists of color, curated by Roxane Gay. To submit to the series, email rgay@salon.com.

Randa Jarrar is the author of the novel, A Map of Home.

Statistics on Reviewing books of “writers of color”? 
You must be suspicious that women are underrepresented in certain echelons of publishing, as in many public and private positions.
You must be suspicious that writers of color are likely to face similar issues in the publishing business and reviewing of their books and manuscripts.

Evidence of proofs will go a long way.  is trying to do just that in “Where Things Stand“, posted on June 6, 2012 (with slight editing):

“After the VIDA counts in 2010 and 2011, as well as Jennifer Weiner’s count (released on her blog in January 2012), I wanted to see where things stood for writers of color.

Race often gets lost in the gender conversation as if it’s an issue we’ll get to later.

As I considered this problem, I had no proof, and people want proof.  And even when you do have proof, people will try to discount your findings. We’ve seen this with birthers and global warming deniers and the like.

I went on a fact-finding mission and found some facts.

These counts are really difficult to execute. A lot of the data compilation requires painstaking work and there are few guarantees of accuracy. There is no centralized database tracking the gender or race of the writers who are published or reviewed in major publications.

Most of the data compilation, particularly when it comes to race, is approximations.

I tasked my graduate assistant, Philip Gallagher, with looking at every book review published in the New York Times in 2011, identifying the race and gender of the reviewed titles’ authors. The New York Times is one of the preeminent book review outlets. We only looked at one year.

The project took 14 weeks, with Philip going at it for about sixteen hours each week. Information for some authors was more readily available than others. Some information was simply ambiguous. Some information could not be found.

We originally set out to look at several major publications but without an army of volunteers, it will never be possible to compile a dataset on race similar to VIDA’s. It is simply too difficult to identify race without a great deal of effort and even then, it’s hard to know just how accurate that data is.

We looked at 742 books reviewed, across all genres:  655 were written by Caucasian authors (1 transgender writer, 437 men, and 217 women). Thirty-one (out of 81 written by Africans or African-Americans were reviewed (21 men, 10 women), 9 were written by Hispanic authors (8 men, 1 woman), 33 by Asian, Asian-American or South Asian writers (19 men, 14 women), 8 by Middle Eastern writers (5 men, 3 women) and 6 were books written by writers whose racial background we were simply unable to identify.

The numbers are depressing and I cannot say I am shocked. The numbers reflect the overall trend in publishing where the majority of books published are written by white writers.

Writers were grouped into rather broad racial and ethnic categories. Without data about how many books were published by writers, across race, it’s hard to know if the numbers are proportionate or not.

The numbers are grim. Nearly 90% of the books reviewed by The New York Times are written by white writers ( Caucasians in the US are 72% of the population, according to the 2010 census).

We know that far more than 81 books were published by writers of color in 2011. You don’t really need other datasets to see this rather glaring imbalance.

These days, it is difficult for any writer to get a book published. We’re all clawing. However, if you are a writer of color, not only do you face a steeper climb getting your book published, you face an even more arduous journey if you want that book to receive critical attention.

It shouldn’t be this way. Writers deserve that same fighting chance regardless of who they are but here we are, talking about the same old thing—these institutional biases that even by a count of 2011 data, remain deeply ingrained.

I don’t know how to solve this problem or what to do with this information. I’m not riled up. I’m informed. I like seeing some numbers, having some sense of the scope of a problem.

I like knowing where things stand. Will these numbers encourage review outlets to be more inclusive in reviewing books?  And treating diversity Not as a compartmentalized issue, where we can only focus on one kind of inequity at a time.

Such mindfulness is important. If we want to encourage people to be better, broader readers, that effort starts by giving readers a better, broader selection of books to choose from.


Note: Roxane Gay’s writing appears (and forthcoming) in Best American Short Stories 2012, New Stories From the Midwest 2011 and 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, NOON, Salon, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Brevity, and many others.

She is the co-editor of PANK, and an HTMLGIANT contributor. She is also the author of Ayiti. You can find her online at http://www.roxanegay.com.


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