Tuesday, April 19, 2016


One thing my chronic illness has taught me is that I cannot do this alone. The same goes for feminism (or any social justice movement). That's why when my friend and I conceived this blog, we subtitled it "A Feminist Dialectic..." We wanted our posts to be conversation starters, and I (we) still want that. If anything posted here gets you thinking, talking, and acting, excellent! Remember too that you can post comments to enter into the conversation. I encourage other view points, light shed on gaps in my thinking, questions, additions...bring it. Bring your feminist dialectic to my yard. It's our yard after all; we're all sharing this world.

P.S. This is also why we accept submissions of essays, poetry, fiction...I'm currently looking for anything on the intersectionality of racism and sexism.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

European vs. White

The importance of names has been on my mind lately--see my last post, "Call me by My True Names." It began with something I had never seen before at my latest trip to the doctor, a new doctor. On the forms for new patients was a term I'd never seen or considered for myself: European. There was no "White," just as there was no "Black" or "Yellow" or "Brown" or "Red."

I think this is an important change and have been using it since on all forms I complete. Not checking "White" but writing in European in the "Other" box. My reasons?

1) The current PC terms for racial categories are based on geographical location, not color.

2) Why should white people be the only exception to this? I'm not offended at being called white and am not, therefore, seeking a kinder, gentler term for myself. I simply think we should have consistency because...

3)Race is social, not scientific. There is no biological basis for race. Race is an entirely social construct. That being the case, it makes much more sense to use the geographical categories to classify ourselves as people.

4) White being the only non-geographical identifier, sets us--as ever--apart from. This distinction reinforces the idea that White is the standard. That Whites have no country, no race, no culture. Whites are then positioned as "normal," the standard against which all others are compared. Non-Whites, then, become the only ones of place, culture, and color. The truth is, of course, that Whites do have countries of origin, have a socially constructed race, and have just as much culture as any other group of people. White people simply have the privilege, and incredibly powerful advantage, of not having to notice it because it is everywhere. It is The Norm. We never push against it or disrupt it because of our race...though we may based on other things such as wealth--or lack thereof--gender, gender classification, sexuality, immigrant status, language, education, region...

What say all of you? Am I right? Should European be the term we use and is that change as important as I think it is?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Call Me by My True Names

I owe so much to the peoples of the East. We all do. Siddhartha Gautama (India) taught people how to find peace on earth. Thich Nhat Hanh (Vietnam) explains how to practice nonviolence and mindfulness within ourselves in order to find that peace whenever we need it. Matsuo Basho(Japan) gave us the Haiku, and four centuries later Haruki Murakami (Japan)has already given us over 10 books of the most beautiful, disturbing, mythical, fiction ever written. Kar-Wai Wong (Hong Kong) created In the Mood for Love AND the best sequel ever made, 2046. Ziyi Zhyang (China) showed me my first real movie and performance. Muslims created public education. Malala Yousafzai (Pakistan) taught us that young girls can fight terrorists with such education and win even when they're shot point-blank in the head...

I've always been quite disturbed by the phenomenon of English names,which are particularly common among Eastern peoples living in the U.S. I first encountered this as a teacher when a student--so obviously not christened Charlie--told me his name was Charlie. This, he explained, was his English name as opposed to his birth name, that birth name being the one his parents worried about, argued over, and finally penned at his birth. The reason given for English names is that they are easier to pronounce, are less trouble for U.S. citizens who typically speak only one language and can choose not have exposure to unfamiliar languages.

I've had many thoughts on this over the years, ranging from outrage to acceptance...maybe it's not a big deal, maybe I would decide to do the same rather than hear people repeatedly mispronounce my lovely name. After all, this isn't my fight. Why am I even writing about this on a feminist blog? Because feminism is about unequal power structures, and unequal power structures overlap. Racism intersects with sexism, homophobia, classism...and unequal power structures are bad for everyone.

I recently saw a friend who has an English name that I had once asked her about. Her birth name is lovely--it's even spelled phonetically. Now, I make no judgement on anyone who chooses to use or not use an English name. That, I would guess, is an extremely personal decision. But as the person with the power in this situation of unequal power, I do see it as my responsibility to inquire about someone's birth name, and to learn how to say it correctly, and to use it if that is what that person wants. It's my responsibility to ask, to open that conversation, to recognize the situation for what it is (unequal, unfair, advantaged in my favor), to acknowledge that people have the right to be called by their true names.