Gawker Compares New Dating Service to ‘Comfort Women’

Gawker Compares New Dating Service to 'Comfort Women'

In an article about The Dating Ring—a startup that aims to even out the ratio of (heterosexual) women and men of “dateable” age in New York and San Francisco by flying women out to the West Coast—the popular daily gossip blog Gawker raised some serious eyebrows. While this new dating site perhaps deserved a jab, the way that Gawker and its Silicon Valley blog ValleyWag chose to go about it was regrettable and offensive to those connected to legacy of Japanese occupation during World War II and that of “comfort women”—girls and women forced to work as prostitutes for the Japanese military. 

And the timing couldn’t be less appropriate. On Monday the Japanese government announced it would not amend a 1993 apology made by a cabinet secretary, which refused to acknowledge the women were coerced into sex work. Scholars estimate tens of thousands of women were forced into prostitution during this era.

But social media users aren’t letting Gawker off the hook for its latest gaffe. Check out this Korean American writer’s Storify charting how the general public took Gawker to task for its insensitive remarks. 

Watch the Latest Episode of the Black Girls CODE Web Documentary

Watch the Latest Episode of the Black Girls CODE Web Documentary

The U.S. technology sector remains predominantly white and male, with few opportunities for young women of color to get involved and succeed in the field. Black Girls CODE (BCG), founded by tech entrepreneur and White House Champion of Change award-winner Kimberly Bryant, teaches young black women and girls HTML coding, app design, and marketing starting as early as elementary school.

Last fall BCG launched a web documentary to introduce some of the young people they work with and the kinds of projects they complete. In the latest episode we hear from educators and youth in South Florida, who struggle to help youth of color get ahead in the midst of underperforming schools, income inequality, and racism. Hear about the experience of learning to use new technology from young women at a “build a game in a day” in Miami-Dade County.

ICYMI: Belly Dancing When You’re a White Woman

ICYMI: Belly Dancing When You're a White Woman

Reaction is still coming in to last week’s, “Why I can’t stand white belly dancers,” essay by Palestinian-American novelist, Randa Jarrar. Muslimah Media Watch, a Muslim feminist forum on global religions site, Patheos, is the latest to weigh in. But notably, so too have white men in the MSM, including a First Amendment law professor blogging at The Washington Post and Atlantic writer, Conor Friedersdorf. As in all cultural appropriation conversations, a common thread: where do you draw the line?

Jarrar’s essay, which uses the Egyptian name, “Raqs sharqi,” after the popular style, is worth the read. For her:

This dance form is originally ours, and does not exist so that white women can have a better sense of community; can gain a deeper sense of sisterhood with each other; can reclaim their bodies; can celebrate their sexualities; can perform for the female gaze. Just because a white woman doesn’t profit from her performance doesn’t mean she’s not appropriating a culture. And, ultimately, the question is this: Why does a white woman’s sisterhood, her self-reclamation, her celebration, have to happen on Arab women’s backs?

Over at MMW, some of the women identify with Jarrar’s visceral recoiling. They also inject a definition around cultural appropriation versus cultural exchange, as well as introduce a new question: is it still cultural appropriation when “minorities” do it?

UCLA Law prof, Eugene Volokh objects to the idea that belly dancing like all cultural art belongs to anyone but humanity.

Maybe — and I know this is a radical thought — artists, whether high or low, should be able to work in whatever artistic fields they want to work in. Maybe they should even be able to work in those fields regardless of their skin color or the place from which their ancestors came. Maybe telling people that they can’t work in some field because they have the wrong color or ancestry would be … rats, I don’t know what to call it. If only there were an adjective that could be used to mean “telling people that they mustn’t do something, because of their race or ethnic origin.”

And Conor Friedersdorf uses a Native American example to agree with Jarrar that appropriation can be insensitive or disrespectful. But common ground ends there:

Randa Jarrar writes as if all appropriation is self-evidently objectionable, and if her attitudes were adopted widely, we’d miss out on the awesomeness that emerges from our wonderfully polyglot country. Insofar as anyone considers any aspect of any culture to be partially mine, I hereby cede my share of it to the creative commons. Have at the appropriation. 

Be sure to check out all the perspectives above. And, add your own.

Mic Check: Joan Morgan and Brittney Cooper in Conversation

Mic Check: Joan Morgan and Brittney Cooper in Conversation

Joan Morgan, author the hip-hop feminist bible, “When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost,” sits down with Rutgers University professor and Crunk Feminist Collective co-founder, Brittney Cooper. The early February talk was the closing keynote of The Ohio State University’s annual Hip Hop Literacies conference.


(h/t For Harriet)

Live Chat: Dear White People and Black Student Activists Talk Race on College Campuses

Live Chat: Dear White People and Black Student Activists Talk Race on College Campuses

College campuses are rife with incidents of racial ignorance, and even plain old racism. Sadly, none of that is new. But in this post-affirmative action era, when colleges’ ability to consider race in their admissions policies is only becoming more constrained, higher education is also becoming increasingly racially stratifed. Black, Latino and Asian-American students depend heavily on community colleges and the for-profit college system, but black and Latino students in particular are underrepresented among the nation’s elite universities. It all makes for deeply racially isolated college climates. In recent months students from University of Michigan, UCLA and Harvard have launched social media-driven public conversations—#BBUM (Being Black at University of Michigan), UCLA Law School students’ YouTube video, and Harvard’s #itooamharvard Tumblr campaign—raising all of these issues.

Today at 4pm PT/7pm ET, join Colorlines, students from all three campuses, and the folks from Dear White People for a Google+ Hangout to discuss race in higher education and how social media’s stepped up the public conversation about all of it. Just click the play button in the YouTube embed above at 4pm PT/7pm ET to join us. 

Suicide Crisis Continues Among Native Youth on Reservations

Suicide Crisis Continues Among Native Youth on Reservations

Domestic violence, poverty, substance abuse, unemployment, and what some experts describe as “pervasive despair” mark the lives of many young Native people living on reservations, which many say leads to higher suicide rates among these youth. A recent report from the Washington Post tells the chilling stories of places like Gila River Indian reservation—where eight young people ended their lives in just one year, and Spirit Lake Nation—where a 14-year-old killed herself after laying in bed for three months following her father’s and sister’s suicides.

Native youth are more than three times more likely to commit suicide (a number that increases to more than 10 times on some reservations), and have post traumatic stress symptoms on par with Iraq War veterans. Experts say in addition to these factors, a “trail of broken promises” adds to a feeling of hopelessness, as do the experiences many youth have in public schools off the reservation, where they often face abuse, bullying, and sexual violence. But advocates also point to changes in some Native American cultures, once extremely protective of youth, that have diminished as tribes are pressured to assimilate. 

Sadly, this is not a new phenomenon, and Native youth suicide rates appear to be holding steady. Institutions such as the Aspen Institute Center for Native American Youth and the recently formed DOJ American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) Children Exposed to Violence task force are both working to address the suicide crisis in this community, though the federal task force has yet to share findings or provide recommendations for helping Native communities cope with these tragedies and prevent future suicides. 

(h/t Washington Post)

Border Patrol Use of Force Rules: Shooting at Rock-Throwers Still OK

Border Patrol Use of Force Rules: Shooting at Rock-Throwers Still OK

On Friday the Border Patrol released guidelines to officers outlining when the use of deadly force is permissable. The guidelines come after intense advocacy from immigrant and human rights activists in the wake of multiple deadly Border Patrol shootings aimed at people who were allegedly throwing rocks at officers.

Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher wrote that the officers’ “level of force applied must reflect the totality of the circumstances surrounding each situation.” Fisher advised officers to stop shooting at moving vehicles and rock throwers, that is, unless officers believe that the “subject of such force poses and imminent danger of death or serious injury.” According to Fisher, Border Patrol officers have killed 10 people since 2010 after rock-throwing incidents after 1,713 incidents of rock-throwing. 

The memo “leaves much to be desired,” ACLU policy counsel Chris Rickerd told the AP. “It is largely a restatement of existing policy, which is a shame because clearly existing policy isn’t working,” Rickerd said.

Read the Border Patrol memo (PDF).

Watch DREAMers Come Back Home

Watch DREAMers Come Back Home

Some 150 people who have been deported from the United States are set to return over the next few days via the Otay Mesa post of entry between Tijuana, Mex., and San Diego, Calif. Organized by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, the crossers will split into two groups: Dreamers will cross today, and families (including children) will cross sometime this week. The group has pulled off largely successful similar actions in the past. This third crossing is being called Bring Them Home 3. 

You can watch two live streams of the crossing—one from the Mexican side, and the other from the U.S. side

Ann Coulter Suggests Creating ‘Death Squads’ if Immigration Reform Passes

Ann Coulter Suggests Creating 'Death Squads' if Immigration Reform Passes

Conservative pundit Ann Coulter is never one to mince words, but in her recent debate with journalist Mickey Kaus at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) she expressed some shocking attitudes about immigrants and immigration reform. She began by suggesting that Democrats only support immigration reform because they’re looking to increase their voter base, and criticized both Democrats and Republicans for endorsing so-called “amnesty.” But she also shared some disturbing views on shaming and “the poor.” 

There’s an overwhelming cultural sense, a political correctness, to end shaming. Shaming is good. It’s almost a cruel and insensitive thing for the upper classes, the educated, the college graduates, to refuse to tell poor people ‘keep your knees together before you get married.’

She went on to suggest immigrants should be shamed for “running across the border illegally,” and said the notion of families getting torn apart by immigration policies is a myth perpetuated by liberals and the media, because most undocumented immigrants are young men (who come into the country illegally in the backs of trucks marked “pico de gallo”). Coulter ended the conversation with a zinger. 

Immigration is forever, it is game over when that happens. Amnesty is forever. You gotta vote for the Republicans one more time, and just make it clear that if you pass amnesty that’s it, it’s over. And then we organize the death squads for the people that wrecked America.

Considering the climate around immigration reform, the hardships caused by record numbers of deportations under President Obama, and the most recent polls suggesting voters across political parties favor immigration reform, Coulters comments come across as narrow-minded, cruel, and disconnected from the tough realities immigrants face. 

New Romantic Comedy Explores Detroit’s Arab-American Community

New Romantic Comedy Explores Detroit's Arab-American Community

Stereotypical representations of Arab-Americans as hyper-religious or terrorists are all too common, and one Detroit filmmaker hopes to challenge these notions in a new romantic comedy. “Detroit Unleaded” tells the story of two young Arab-Americans, Sami and Najila, falling in love and balancing culture, romance, and everyday life in Detroit.  Lebanese filmmaker Rola Nashef originally produced the film as a short, and was encouraged by local community members to create a full-length version.

In a recent Q&A with Truthout, Nashef describes the challenges of dating within Arab-American communities, racial tensions among different groups in Detroit, and what inspired the film. 

I wanted to present a story that was told through an Arab-American dynamic instead of explaining Arab-American culture. It was my goal to create complex characters on both sides of the glass, seen through an Arab-American perspective. If I can get an audience member to identify with Sami, who is trapped in a job that he doesn’t like - and just happens to be Arab - that audience member is bonding with a person that they have been told is their enemy. 

I think it is important to balance our image with more universal experiences. Who hasn’t lied to sneak out of the house to see their crush or been stuck in a job they don’t like?

(h/t Truthout

Kumbia Queers Launch U.S. Tour

Kumbia Queers Launch U.S. Tour

On Thursday the Kumbia Queers, an all-woman Latin American cumbia band whose name parodies the popular all-male Kumbia Kings, launched a U.S. tour to promote their newest album “Pecados Tropicales.” Playing for an intimate crowd at the Queens Museum, the Kumbia Queers talked about the role of women in a music genre that continues to be heavily masculine, where women are more often sexy backup dancers or sex object in songs than performers. Nearly all the band members have backgrounds in punk and heavy metal, and said that they chose to develop their unique cumbia style, which they call tropi punk, in part to make a statement about the representations of women (particularly queer women who challenge common notions of femininity) within the cumbia scene 

Cumbia, described by some as the “backbone of Latin America ,” is a music form that blends African and Indigenous sounds and rhythms with Latin American styles and instruments.  The music is commonly heard, with distinct regional characteristics, throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and has also been growing in popularity in the U.S.  The Kumbia Queers tours continues on to Washington D.C., Chicago, and Austin, as well as multiple dates in California. 

Last Abortion Clinic in the Rio Grande Valley Shuttered

Last Abortion Clinic in the Rio Grande Valley Shuttered

Following news that the Alabama House passed some of the strictest abortion restrictions yet this week, the aftermath of the new Texas abortion legislation continues to unfold. On Thursday the last abortion clinic in the Rio Grande Valley, the poorest region in the state that houses two of the poorest cities in the nation, were closed. The McAllen clinic, one of two operated by Whole Woman’s Health that were shuttered, was the closest available reproductive health provider for predominantly poor immigrants and Latina women living in rural areas along the U.S. Mexico border. Following these closures there are 24 abortion providers in the state, down from 44 in 2011 and expected to fall to eight once the final provisions of the new Texas law goes into affect. As more and more clinics close across the state it creates an undue burden particularly for low-income women of color, who must travel farther and incur added expenses to obtain reproductive health care.

Rachel Maddow recently did an exclusive story, visiting women living in the Rio Grande Valley and talking with advocates from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. Paula Saldaña, is one of the advocates volunteering to do health care outreach for women there—who are one third more likely to die of cervical cancer. In addition to the increased financial burden that comes with decreased access to reproductive health care, Amy Hagstrom Miller of Whole Woman’s Health says they’ve seen a steady increase of self-induced abortions among women in Texas since regulations became stricter, sometimes with dire consequences for women.

Watch the Trailer for the ‘Annie’ Remake Starring Quvenzhané Wallis

Watch the Trailer for the 'Annie' Remake Starring Quvenzhané Wallis

In an incredibly adorable adaptation, Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis stars in the much anticipated remake of the 1982 hit film “Annie.” Set to release on December 19, the film also stars Jamie Foxx as the newly named billionaire Benjamin Stack (once Daddy Warbucks) and Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan. Will Smith and Jay Z are co-producers on the film, and originally Willow Smith was set to play Annie. As expected, there have already been a slew of racist comments on social media about the the new black Annie, but just as much praise for why this is a welcome and exciting adaptation of a classic story. 

Production Begins on New Biopic of First Openly Gay Baseball Player

Production Begins on New Biopic of First Openly Gay Baseball Player

Jason Collins and Michael Sam have both been applauded for coming out about their sexuality and helping change homophobic sports culture, but in 1976 a less celebrated athlete was paving the way. Glenn Burke was the first openly gay person in major league sports, and came out while he was a player for the Oakland A’s in the late ’70s. According to friends and teammates, he was ostracized for his sexuality and pushed out of baseball. 

Following the 2010 documentary “Out: The Glenn Burke Story,” it was announced that Jamie Lee Curtis is producing a biopic about his life.  The film will be called “Out at Home: The Glenn Burke Story,” based on the memoir Burke wrote with Erik Sherman. In addition to his contributions to sports and LGBTQ communities, he is also credited with inventing the high-five. Burke died of complications from AIDS in 1995. 

Immigration Activist Disrupts Obama Speech in Connecticut

Immigration Activist Disrupts Obama Speech in Connecticut

On a routine visit to Central Connecticut State University on Wednesday, President Obama was again confronted by a passionate immigration reform activist calling for an end to deportations. John Molina, a 46-year-old Colombian immigrant, interrupted a speech Obama was giving about his recent minimum wage increase. Much like 24-year-old Ju Hong—who called out the president in November during a speech in San Francisco—Molina stood on a chair and yelled, “Mr. Obama, stop the deportations!”

Originally, Molina went to the event to join a demonstration outside of the university, and hadn’t planned on going in. But once he arrived he decided it was his only chance to tell the president how he really felt.  Unlike with Hong, however, the president did not respond, nor did he intervene when Molina was asked to leave. 

“I feel good, but frustrated. I couldn’t tell him everything, and I wanted to say more,” he told Colorlines over the phone in Spanish, calling from his job doing maintenance at a Connecticut golf club. “He’s deporting too many people, and he’s the only one with the power to stop it. I don’t want him to deport any more families.”

Molina came to the U.S. 20-years-ago, fleeing Pablo Escobar-era Colombia, and seeking economic opportunities. The number of deportations during Obama’s term in office, reportedly more than under any other U.S. president, is set to hit two million by April.

New Film Honors WWII Muslim Heroine

New Film Honors WWII Muslim Heroine

Add the name Noor Inayat Khan to the honor roll of women who fought against Nazi Germany. A new docudrama, “Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story,” dramatizes the real-life story of Khan, a young Muslim of Indian and American heritage who was the first female radio operator sent by the British into Nazi-occupied France. Khan’s decision to join the war effort is all the more intriguing given that she was raised in a pacifist Sufi household.

Later captured and executed at Dachau, Khan was posthumously awarded the George Cross—the UK’s equivalent of the U.S. Medal of Freedom.

The film recently premiered in Washington, D.C. but it’s making its way around the country. Ft. Wayne, Ind. is the next stop.


Youth File Complaint Against NC Public High Schools

Youth File Complaint Against NC Public High Schools

A February civil rights complaint accuses two North Carolina school districts of denying, delaying or discouraging school enrollment based on immigration status. The districts’ actions are symptomatic of a statewide problem, a coalition of civil rights groups including the SPLC say.

The complaint describes discrimination faced by a Guatemalan and a 17-year-old Honduran immigrant, twice denied enrollment, allegedly because she was too old.

As of last week, according to a statement reported by the Duke Chronicle, one of the school boards had not yet heard from the DOJ or SPLC-and-company regarding the complaint.

North Carolina law, according to the SPLC, says all students under 21 are entitled to a public education in the school district in which they live.

Alabama House Passes Four Strict Abortion Bills

Alabama House Passes Four Strict Abortion Bills

In one of the poorest states in the nation, the Alabama House passed harsh anti-abortion legislation on Tuesday. The state already had a long list of reproductive health restrictions, including parental consent for minors, state-mandated counseling and ultrasounds, a 24-hour waiting period before receiving an abortion, and limited access to public funds for treatment. Adding to those, this week Alabama lawmakers passed the so-called “heartbeat ban,” which would ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy—once there is a detectable heartbeat—without exceptions for incest or rape. The bill also increases the waiting period for an abortion to 48 hours, requires women to consider perinatal hospice care if there are abnormalities in the fetus, and makes it even tougher for young women to obtain abortions. 

Pro-choice advocates have strongly opposed this type of legislation particularly because many women don’t yet know they are pregnant at six weeks. Similar legislation was considered last year in Ohio and North Dakota. The deliberations also became racially charged when State Rep. Alvin Holmes (D) stated, “99 percent of the whites that are sitting in here now, if [their] daughter got pregnant by a black man, they gonna make their daughter have an abortion.”  More than a quarter of Alabama residents are black, and the Latino population has also been steadily increasing. And of the 542,770 women in Alabama who need access to contraceptive services and supplies, 19 percent are black, 4 percent are Latina, and 19 percent live below the federal poverty level.

Artist Kevin Truong Creates ‘Visual Catalogue’ of Gay Men Across the World

Artist Kevin Truong Creates 'Visual Catalogue' of Gay Men Across the World

For nearly two years Vietnamese artist Kevin Truong has been collecting a visual catalogue of gay men from across the globe. So far he’s photographed 373 different men for The Gay Men Project, each image distinct and highlighting their individual characteristics and personalities. The project is also participatory, and those photographed are invited to share their personal stories to go along the images. Truong recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to continue the project. 

My goal is to create a platform, a visibility on some level, and a resource for others who may not be as openly gay. A visual catalog of gay men and their stories. When I think of my own experience, and all the time I spent in the closet and hiding the fact that I was gay-to be at a place now where I feel completely comfortable being on the blog and telling the world “Hey, I’m a gay man,” I think there’s a power in that, for me and for a lot of the men on the blog.

There are hundreds of wonderful images that showcase a diverse range of gay men of different races and ethnicities. Below are a few choice examples. 








Juan Bago and Remezcla Team Up on New Web Series

Juan Bago and Remezcla Team Up on New Web Series

Actor/comedian Mike Diaz (aka Juan Bago), perhaps best known for his YouTube famous music video ‘Pan Con Queso’ chronicling the hunger pangs of Dominican friends in New York’s Washington Heights, is joining forces with Latino arts and culture site Remezcla on “Studio Heads.” The new mockumentary-style web series follows Bago and friends in their efforts to create a recording studio. Featuring his signature parody of Latino masculinity and jabs at Dominican culture (#DominicanProblems), the series promises to be hilarious, slap-stick comedy that anyone, Latino or other, can relate to, and features cameos by Tony-award winning actor and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda. 

(h/t Remezcla

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