Lena Dunham — whose show occupies a grey zone in my heart — woke up from the wrong side of the bed and decided that it was funny to put a scarf on her head and make a “fundamentalist” joke.
Image via thefrisky.com
I’m not sure why she thought this would be funny, but it happened. After a storm of criticism, she offered a kind-of apology, saying she “[d]idn’t realize what a bad time it was to make a joke like that.”
Feministing wrote an interesting piece responding to the Dunham controversy, asking whether it matters that Dunham is a “casual racist,” whether we’re hard on her because she’s a woman, and whether the media is focusing too much on Dunham’s personal behaviour too much.
To which, I say: of course, it matters. First of all, I find the classification of “casual racism” a bit problematic — especially from a site like Feministing. Are we now differentiating racism by their degrees and saying “some” racism is okay? When? Who gets to decide that?
I’m not afraid to say I expect something more from Dunham than say, Charlie Sheen or the creators of Two and a Half Men. Why? Because the same media, which rips Dunham apart, keeps on touting her as a representative of my generation and an inspiration for young women. She’s the voice of my generation that’ll carry comedy forward, they say, and make relatable comedy for “women.” Okay, that’s great. If that is the case then, I’d like her to remain at least somewhat sensitive to the issues that affect all kinds of women.
Women that wear hijabs, for example.
Posted by RK on August 16, 2012
Jose Antonio Vargas (image from Racialicious)
Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer-winning journalist, wrote this deeply moving and personal account of his “illegal alien” status. The piece itself was thought-provoking in exploring the helplessness in many young immigrants whose futures are shaped by their parents’ wishes and hopes, as well as the immigrant mentality that tries and tries and tries to belong, yet never being able to shake off the anxiety of not belonging, amplified by the undocumented status. It was also great to read an account that goes against the typical “undocumented immigrant” image in the media that paints them as having lower socio-economic status and uneducated. Then I started reading more about the circumstances around that article, about how the Washington Post (where Vargas was a staff reporter) killed the story – thus leading Vargas to pitch it to the New York Times instead. Racialicious did a great post outlining the circumstances surrounding the story, and speculated whether “they are worried about seeming too liberal friendly going into 2012.” They also discussed the Post’s opinion piece on the matter, written by the Ombudsman, which was a little bit problematic in its tone, attempting to dismiss the authenticity of the piece by calling Vargas a “relentless self-promoter.” He also said it was “disturbing” that Vargas has formed a nonprofit group to advocate for immigration reform. He has crossed the line from journalist to advocate.”
All of this makes me think about the notion of objectivity and who gets to claim it. Basically, the Post is questioning the veracity of Vargas’s account because it’s too subjective, too personal. But this seems like a strange critique for the piece since he is talking about his own life as an undocumented immigrant. Vargas also wrote in his piece that he tried to avoid reporting on immigrant issues as much as he could, lest his bias or his status get in the way.
But is that what objectivity is? An undocumented immigrant can’t report on immigrant issues because his identity is in the way? Does the same rule apply to other areas – what about an LGBT reporter writing about LGBT rights? An African-American from reporting on African-American issues? A book or a film review from a self-proclaimed fan of the author/director? It seems that objectivity or a blank slate is a space that cannot be claimed easily (or at all?) by those who are not seen as white, heterosexual, and utterly devoid of passion.
To be objective is to have privilege. It’s easy to tell someone to be rational when a certain issue does not affect and threaten one’s livelihood, or his/her identity directly (which is also why the pervasive image of an “angry woman of colour” is so derided by those who claim the privileged space, not thinking for one second about the hardships of being multiply marginalized others). Of course, I understand being a journalist requires a certain kind of privilege, especially now where unpaid internships are pretty much a requirement (and working for free for prolonged periods is certainly a kind of economic privilege). But as journalism moves on to reflect the diversity of this world, having people like Vargas on staff, I wonder if objectivity must be re-examined in some way or another.
As Latoya from Racialicious asked, “Are we still trying to hold on to the tattered notion of “objectivity” – or did Vargas usher in a whole new take on radical transparency?”
Posted by RK on July 2, 2011
My thoughts go out to those in Japan affected by the earthquake and the tsunami. Google has responded with the Person Finder app, which would hopefully aid in the recovery. This footage of the tsunami literally sweeping through Kesennuma City is terrifying.
In this week’s WTF news: a Texas man has decided to establish a white male-only scholarship, because he “felt excluded. If everyone else can find scholarships, why are we left out?” Um, because scholarships that are not specifically dedicated to minority identities usually go to white men?
The Feminist Fashion Bloggers network now has a “home” blog page! See this week’s group post round-up here.
The Kickaction blogging carnival will feature daily blog posts written by writers from all over Canada, discussing women’s issues from various angles. It kicked off on Tuesday (International Women’s Day), and will continue throughout March. Check it out, and join the discussion!
I was interviewed by Concordia University student newspaper, The Link, to promote the Kickaction blogging carnival. I answered questions about why feminist blogging is important, and why I blog – you can find the article here.
Edited to add: Amérasia Festival closes this weekend! I’ve reviewed films and events for Schema Magazine, if you’re curious.
Posted by RK on March 12, 2011