Friday, May 20, 2011

I Call 'em Like I See 'em

Sara Quin, of Tegan and Sara fame, recently wrote an amazing letter which echoes the sentiments of many people. She asked, "When will misogynistic and homophobic ranting and raving result in meaningful repercussions in the entertainment industry?" Her whole letter can be found here

a call for change

When will misogynistic and homophobic ranting and raving result in meaningful repercussions in the entertainment industry? When will they be treated with the same seriousness as racist and anti-Semitic offenses? While an artist who can barely get a sentence fragment out without using homophobic slurs is celebrated on the cover of every magazine, blog and newspaper, I’m disheartened that any self-respecting human being could stand in support with a message so vile.

As journalists and colleagues defend, excuse and congratulate ‘Tyler, the Creator,’ I find it impossible not to comment. In any other industry would I be expected to tolerate, overlook and find deeper meaning in this kid’s sickening rhetoric? Why should I care about this music or its “brilliance” when the message is so repulsive and irresponsible? There is much that upsets me in this world, and this certainly isn’t the first time I’ve drafted an open letter or complaint, but in the past I’ve found an opinion – some like-minded commentary – that let me rest assured that my outrage, my voice, had been accounted for. Not this time.

If any of the bands whose records are held in similar esteem as Goblin had lyrics littered with rape fantasies and slurs, would they be labeled hate mongers? I realize I could ask that question of DOZENS of other artists, but is Tyler exempt because people are afraid of the backlash? The inevitable claim that detractors are being racist, or the brush-off that not “getting it” would indicate that you’re “old” (or a faggot)? Because, the more I think about it, the more I think people don’t actually want to go up against this particular bully because he’s popular. Who sticks up for women and gay people now? It seems entirely uncool to do so in the indie rock world, and I’ll argue that point with ANYONE.

No genre is without its controversial and offensive characters- I’m not naive. I’ve asked myself a thousand times why this is pushing me over the edge. Maybe it’s the access to him (his grotesque twitter, etc). Maybe it’s because I’m a human being, both a girl and a lesbian. Maybe it’s because my mom has spent her whole adult life working with teenage girls who were victims of sexual assault. Maybe it’s because in this case I don’t think race or class actually has anything to do with his hateful message but has EVERYTHING to do with why everyone refuses to admonish him for that message.

It is not without great hesitation and hand wringing that I enter into the discourse about Tyler, the media who glorifies and excuses misogyny and homophobia, and the community of artists that doesn’t seem remotely bothered by it. I can only hope that someone reading this might be inspired to speak out. At the very least, I will know that my voice is on record.


For those too busy to read the letter, basically, she takes issue with performers and artists who are using misogynistic and homophobic lyrics without repercussions, without being questioned or without being called out for their offensive message. In fact, many of these artists are being lauded for their vision and their talent. While, yes, they may have talent, does that mean we should excuse their prejudices and degradations?

I feel the same way about people who want to excuse Roman Polanski of his raping a 13 year old girl just because he's made some amazing movies. As if their talent outweighs any harm they bring unto others. Any offenses they may commit seem to be wiped from the slate and they are granted forgiveness because of their genius. Or, worse, in some cases they may even be encouraged for their abhorrent behaviour.

I agree 100% with what she has written and it has inspired me to write this as well.


I want to know why Tegan and Sara use American Apparel products for their merchandise if Sara has specifically said, "I’m disheartened that any self-respecting human being could stand in support with a message so vile." I am not doubting Sara's commitment to her message. I only want to point out that it is hard to support Tegan and Sara financially without supporting someone like Dov Charney, the founder and CEO of American Apparel , who has made himself famous with quote after reprehensible quote, spewing misogynistic proclamations in many of his interviews.

Not sure what quotes I'm talking about? Read 'em and weep:

“Women initiate most domestic violence (claims)…and this has made a victim of culture out of women.”—Dov Charney

“Feminism is extremely restrictive. You cant call a woman a bitch, you can't call her this, you can't call her that. But that's what life's really like. Yet, she can do whatever she wants. It's out of balance and that's why young people haven't embraced feminism, because it's out of balance.”—Dov Charney

So, as much as I support Sara's message I can't actually support Tegan and Sara's band, monetarily, by buying their merchandise because I would be doing exactly what Sara has admonished in her letter.

I would love if they decided to go through a different merchandiser but I know that good quality, sweat shop free products are hard to find. Until they decide to switch their supplier, I am happy spreading Sara's message of holding public figures (artists and CEOs alike) accountable for derogatory and offensive statements, even if it means I can't wear a cool Tegan and Sara hoodie.


P.S. I'm aware of the lawsuits filed against Dov Charney for sexual harassment but decided not to include them in this as I would prefer his own words be my evidence of his character.

P.P.S. I also purposely decided not to include pictures of anyone I mentioned in this article because, again, I wanted the words to speak for themselves.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Hyphen

Last night, while out at the bar with a couple of my friends, our waitress tested me.

She said, as she conversed with our table, "My family is Scottish..." and I refrained from looking shocked. Shocked because she's a POC (Person of Colour) or perhaps you prefer the term Visibly Monitory. She said it with all the casualness in the world and because, so many times, have I said I'm Native and people look stunned and in disbelief, I wanted to respond with a casual acknowledgment of her statement.

I'll admit, sometimes I like when people look stunned because I know it's surprising to some people since I'm so pale. But I've resented when people didn't believe me or questioned it. No, I'm not trying to punk you. No, I'm not lying. Yes, here is my treaty card as proof. Sure, go ahead and decipher my facial features to see if you can find my Native heritage. It's cool.

Side by side comparison to make it easier on you

In the past, Mixed Race was sometimes looked on as a solution to a problem. For example, A.O Neville, the Chief Protector of Aborigines in Australia until 1940 and made well known by the movie "Rabbit Proof Fence", systematically enforced the practice of removing "Half Caste" Aborigines from their parents in order to lessen their contact with other Aborigines and encourage "biological absorption". I look in the mirror and wonder...have I been biologically absorbed? But...that can't be because, although I look white, I identify much more with being Native. But, perhaps Mr. Neville would've thought that I had been biologically absorbed successfully as most would never guess my Native heritage unless they knew what to look for.

Then I think of it from the other perspective. Has my Native DNA tainted my Caucasion DNA? Is there no redemption of my lineage now that I am Mixed Race? Is this a case of the One Drop rule? Honestly, I don't care. But there are people who cared about these things and still do. It was not that long ago when governments and society were trying to figure out where Mixed Race people fit. In fact, many of the decisions made by yesteryear's racists, white supremacists and eugenicists are still affecting People of Colour and their right's today. For example, the issue of Virginia Natives trying to gain recognition as a tribe. Even my own treaty rights rested on a very precarious balance as one of the only reasons I got them was due to my mom being Caucasian and my dad being Native. Native women and their children lost their treaty rights when they "married out". This was amended in 1985 (the year of my birth) but still affects many people, especially their grandchildren who don't get treaty rights or status despite the amendment.

One of my favourite insights into being Mixed Race is the short film by Vin Diesel called Multi-Facial, which deals with him struggling at auditions to be what they expect him to be. I have included it (in two parts) below:

I'm not an actress. I don't face these challenges professionally but I think many people of Mixed Race deal with the reality of not filling the role you are expected to fill. Either being too this or not enough of that and society looking at you and trying to figure out what stereotype is more fitting for you. Personally, I enjoy not fitting into any of molds that have been cast for me. When I catch someone off guard because I am paler than they thought a Cree person would be, I am happy. I've made them question their own reality by introducing them to mine. And last night, I was happy to be on the other side of that interaction when the waitress made me question my own preconceived notions.