Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sci-Fi, Heterosexism, and the N-Word All in One

Apparently conversations about who can and can't use the N-word aren't just unique to hip hop culture or even hip hop culture in the U.S. A yell from across the pond:

For the word did not drop out of the sky, nor is it uttered in a vacuum. It was born in a culture that was forcibly segregated and racially oppressive. It is because the races remain, by and large, separate that they have maintained their own linguistic traditions; it is because they remain unequal that such a loaded word can retain such contradictory meanings for blacks and whites. In other words, without racism both its offensiveness and its camaraderie would be meaningless. - Gary Younge, Not while racism exists, January 2002
Reflecting on Gary Younge's piece in The Guardian (UK), The Feminist SF sticks it first to white (British Empire) youth culture:
I don’t know why these kids want to use the n-word: I have my guesses. (I think the main reason is probably that to them it feels like a “word of power” - they are aware without being conscious of the whys that it is a word with terrific impact. But I think also that hearing black men use it (Samuel R. Delany notes in Motion of Light in Water that, to his knowledge, it was a gendered word used between black men only, not in the presence of white people or of black women) says to these white kids that there is a community that they can’t be part of. That they can’t be part of it because of white privilege - that they have no reason to be part of it - is clearly not something they want to examine. They just want in, regardless of whether they’d like it when they got there. (Yes, see When Worlds Collide: Fandom and Male Privilege, again.)
And then sticks it to Dr. Who fan-dom. Dr. Who is a television series that ranks high in Anglophilic science fiction culture:
But moving back to the fan who had described Mickey as a “simpering poof” and thinking that all she had to do was change the word “poof”: this isn’t just a homophobic hit, it’s an indirect bit of misogyny. Mickey was being denigrated because he wasn’t heroic when he first appeared: he was an ordinary South London kid who was scared, confused, and, while fond of Rose, still wanting to catch the end of the current match down at the pub. More than that: Rose chooses to leave him. If you have classic cliched feelings about how male/female relationships are supposed to work, to justify Rose dumping him, you have to denigrate Mickey. If Mickey is worth loving, Rose ought to have loved him - never mind that she’d just been offered the whole of space and time to travel in. In this view of relationships, a good woman would have stayed with a worthwhile man no matter what she’d been offered: if you are of this way of thinking, and you want to consider Rose a good woman, you justabout have to denigrate Mickey, because otherwise, in your way of thinking, Rose was a bad woman to have left him. All of that out of two words? Yes, well: it’s a pattern I’ve seen before in fanfic, that to justify a current relationship as the best, previous canon partners and relationships must be denigrated.

So much critical thinking goodness all in one post! Politics, African diaspora, racism, privilege, heteronormativity, gay rights, black resistance, in-group cultures and sci-fi/fantasy....

It's like having chocolate cake for breakfast.

Happy Sunday to Kismet.

Read the whole thing. It's worth it.

(Don't know about Dr. Who or need a refresher (particularly on this season) go to io9 for the most recent Dr. Who tags.)

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