Tuesday, March 13, 2007

on periods and prejudice

I interpret Lucille Clifton's "Wishes for Sons" as a metaphor; it is more like "Wishes for Men," since all men are sons. Her poem seems less like a tender sentiment than a resigned one, as in, she is tired of discrimination and violence toward women, but recognizes that there is likely no end to it. If men had the same anatomy as women and the same experiences as women, they might be less likely to discriminate, hurt, and assign outmoded gender roles to them, but it's not going to happen.

Erika Lopez's story isn't so much about criticising some women's boycott of the tampon industry as describing the (if you will) sticky predicament that women find themselves in--support a greedy industry that holds the almight bloody dollar higher than real concern for women's wellbeing (tampons are made with rayon and cotton, which contain dioxins and pesticides, and they're too expensive), or use a method that is less convenient, less accepted, and sometimes probably seems ridiculous (e.g., applique-ing a gold mandala on your handmade maxi-pad). She presents neither option as appealing. The speaker might be proud of herself for trying an alternative method of flow control (when she washes out her sea sponge tampons in the public bathroom sink) but not ready to face the criticism of other women for taking the path less traveled (so she jams the door closed with her foot). Lopez recognizes the inner voice that reminds people that there is a little bit of hypocrisy in every action they take to "make a difference" (and that includes me. I think everyone hears that voice sometimes).

"A Selection of Cartoons" by Eric Johnson is humorous and thought-provoking, but it also elicited the feeling that I am incredibly naive and will never understand what it is like to be a person of color. I mean, I understand why something is funny, but the realization that some of the situations that the black character finds himself in are based on real-life situations is sobering. I laugh, but I cringe, too, and I recognize that the reason I'm cringing is because I've never had to deal with anything like this, and then that makes me realize the extent of "white privilege," knowing that I'll never have to worry about someone assuming I'm from the ghetto or using me as a footstool. It seems that Johnson, like Lopez, recognizes that social activists are also guilty on occasion of hypocrisy, particularly in the cartoons about the black maid and the black janitor. The most humorous one, to me, is of the guy on the phone saying he's the one with the corsage instead of "I'm the only black guy in the room." I find it ironic because many white people automatically qualify people of color when it is unnecessary, e.g., "This black guy I work with told me about a great restaurant." I believe Johnson's comics probably provide a cathartic release for him, evoke a knowing chuckle from people of color, and, hopefully, make everyone take a look inside to check themselves.

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