Ever think there was something a wee bit dodgy about rich white Westerners heading over to African countries, taking some inspirational photos with kids and milking that delicious charitable reputation for all its worth? Africa Is A Country would like to introduce you to The Bullshit Files: Christina Aguilera Feeds Rwanda. A teaser- but do read the rest:
Africa: helping white people who’re a wee bit down-in-the-dumps feel better about themselves since 1884.
It’s like a whole continent of cheap therapy for Westerners.
Fatima Mernissi is an incredible Moroccan feminist whose writing was one of my first introductions to feminisms that were about far, far more than simply white Western women. In Size Six: The Western Women’s Harem, Mernissi- who can tell you a thing or two about harems, having grown up in one- talks about her experiences trying to buy a skirt in the US:
I suddenly felt not only very ugly, but also quite useless in that store, where, if you had big hips, you were simply out of the picture. You drifted into the fringes of nothingness. By putting the spotlight on the prepubescent female, the Western man veils the older, more mature woman, wrapping her in shrouds of ugliness. This idea gives me the chills because it tattoos the invisible harem directly onto a woman’s skin.
…Even though access to education and professional opportunities seem wide open, the rules of the game are very different according to gender. Women enter the power game with so much of their energy deflected to their physical appearance that one hesitates to say the playing field is level. ‘A cultural fixation on female thinness is not an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one,’ says Wolf.
…‘I thank you, Allah, for sparing me the tyranny of the size six harem,’ I repeatedly said to myself while seated on the Paris-Casablanca flight, on my way back home at last. ‘I am so happy that the conservative male elite does not know about it. Imagine the fundamentalists switching from the veil to forcing women to fit in size six!’
How can you stage a credible political demonstration and shout in the streets that your human rights have been violated when you cannot find the right skirt?
Speaking of weight and worth, over at Buzzfeed, here’s Louis Peitzman on how while coming out as gay wasn’t exactly a cakewalk, being visibly fat is a whole other thing. It Gets Better, Unless You’re Fat:
As an openly gay writer, one of the questions I’m asked most often is, “Were you bullied growing up?” And the answer is yes, but it’s never the answer they’re looking for. In many ways I was lucky to have come of age in a liberal enclave where my sexuality was accepted if not embraced. Oh, sure, I’ve had the word “faggot” hurled at me — and the sad truth is, I’d be shocked if a gay man hadn’t — but it was always secondary. The real source of my bullying was the extra weight I’ve carried since childhood. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been called a “faggot” to my face, but I couldn’t tell you how often someone has made a dig about my weight.
Outside of anonymous internet comments, the gay slurs have stopped almost entirely. Remarks about my weight, however, are a depressing constant.
Over at A Girl Called Jack, Jack Monroe responds to Edwina Currie’s accusation that most food bank users are just ‘rational opportunists’ looking to save a few quid for big screen TVs:
Food banks are often the only port of call for some of the hardest to reach members of society, people who wouldn’t ordinarily ask for help, or for whom the thought of visiting their local council office to query why their housing benefit has been delayed or suspended is another thing on a to do list wracked with anxiety, instead stuffing the letter into the pile of final demands and bailiff threats.
In response to this, many food banks act as signposting organisations, with agencies on hand to offer help for the issues that led them to the door in the first place. There is practical help, such as courses for job skills, cooking classes, and recipe cards handed out for low cost nutritious meals. There are also child and family support, domestic abuse specialists, and benefit and debt advisers.
Also on welfare, cuts, and their consequences, here’s Maman Poulet in Taking The Hit And Being Clobbered, talking to a woman in Ireland with significant physical disabilities about the effects that cuts to social welfare have had on her life:
- A 25% cut in home help hours. Refusal to transfer home help hours into Personal Assistance hours which would have meant the PA’s could have helped her go out into her community. (Home helps can only assist with personal care within the home, sometimes the person who helps Claire cannot cook or does not know how to cook – Claire buys food which is more expensive to cover those times to ensure that she will eat. She also mentioned this being more of an issue when her home help hours were cut and getting up out of bed, washed and laundry done competed with time spent preparing food.) Claire’s home helps are called carers – Claire doesn’t like the word much. She would prefer assistants as she thinks having a carer means she should be grateful for it and just let herself be cared for and have no say in things.
- A cut to Electricity and Telephone allowances (Claire has to have a landline for her emergency response unit – a pendant operated call system if she needs help – her line rental is no longer free.) Her electricity Bill is up due to the cuts in allowances and also the big increases levied by the power company in recent years.
- A cut to the number of fuel allowance payments each year from 32 to 26 weeks. Claire noted that she feels the cold more due to her health and also the fact that she is at home more that people who are able to work she has additional costs.
- …and a whole lot more.
Need some cheering up after all that? I sure did. Here, broadsheet have some comics for you. Enjoy!