Tuesday, April 27, 2010

disrespect a black president in racist ways

A reader sent in a link to a product that will go on sale later this year, a doll that looks like Barack Obama. The thing is -- and the reason I haven't reproduced a photo of the doll here -- it's being sold naked, and I'm guessing that like me, other bloggers will be blogging about it for that reason. Here's a link, for instance, to a Jezebel post about this upcoming Obama doll.

So what's up with advertising and selling this doll naked? And further, what's up with so few commenters at Jezebel who see that as a problem? And what are the implications, in terms of race, of the Jezebel post's title, "Meet Barbie's New Boyfriend: Naked Barack Obama"?

The Jezebel writer, Margaret Hartmann, who only had the following to say about the product, doesn't seem bothered by a naked Obama doll either -- just a little hot and bothered, in a sexual way, which I guess is supposed to be a "good" way:

For just $55 you can pre-order your own Barack Obama action figure, complete with two pairs of hands, two heads, 38 points of articulation... and no clothing. He can wear Ken's suits, if Barbie doesn't hide them.

I had to do some Googling around to find a site that sells this doll, or rather will sell it, later this year. I found out that it's manufactured by TrueType, which makes a line of such dolls for "adult collectors" (which I gather does not mean, given their Barbie-doll size, that they're sex toys; and if they are supposed to be sex toys, well, I just don't want to think about that). TrueType promotes a line of these dolls as either "Caucasian" or "African American"; here's a link to this product line.

As far as I can tell, none of these male dolls immediately resembles a celebrity, except for the new one, which is a dead ringer for Barack Obama. Which, I'm sure, will make it sell like proverbial hot cakes, compared to the other dolls in the series.

I remember George Bush dolls, and also dolls that looked like other presidents, and I've never seen a naked one. And even if naked-white-president dolls were available, given the stereotypes that still impinge on the lives of black men -- about their supposed, heightened sexual drive, and the supposedly accompanying threat of them as sexual predators -- selling a doll based on the current president naked, and advertising it that way, is worse than selling a naked doll representing a white president would be. The latter could well be construed as excessively disrespectful, but the former is also racist.

I'm reminded of various images that depict either Bush or Obama as primates -- Bush because some think he looks like one, and Obama simply because he's black. When people objected that ape-like depictions of Obama are racist (in part because in many white minds, all black people resemble primates), supporters of Bush, as well as other, usually white people, insisted that depicting Obama as a primate was no more disrespectful than depicting Bush that way -- since they're both presidents, and they're both being depicted as primates, then both types of images are supposedly the same.

However, as with this line of dolls, sometimes depicting a black president in a questionable way is different, and worse, because of the stereotypes that racially clueless (or sometimes, intentionally racist) depictions can evoke.

Racism in such cases can arise from contextual elements as well. Take that Jezebel post title, for instance: "Meet Barbie's New Boyfriend: Naked Barack Obama," which places an unavoidably black Barack in a sexually and racially charged relation to an unavoidably white Barbie. As the person who sent me an email about that Jezebel post wrote,

A naked Barack Obama, made specially "for" white Barbie -- the proverbial "Mandingo," so eager for white female flesh that he doesn't even come with clothes -- brings up issues of ownership, human ownership. His sole purpose is to serve at the pleasure of Barbie. Ken was Barbie's (notably clothed) companion, but Barack is her sex slave. His nakedness leaves no room for doubt as to his limited role.

Barack Obama is arguably the most powerful person of the so-called "free world," and what has he been reduced to? An object that can be purchased, at the right price ($55+), by anyone who so desires. Rather than trying to address the myriad issues plaguing our country, apparently, first and foremost in our President's mind is ... sex with Barbie -- the embodiment of white femininity and physical perfection, no? Black male sexuality is hot, appealing, when manipulated by the purchaser. Black male sexuality controlled by the black male? Significantly absent from this scenario. Although Barbie is woman and B.O. doll is a man, the racial hierarchy, untrumped by gender, remains intact: white controls, black obeys.

Even if you're a highly-educated, faithfully-married, law-abiding, church-going, biracial father of two daughters... you're still a white-flesh-lusting black buck at heart (there goes that "POC are sneaky" assumption again). The scenario also disrespects his marriage to a black woman, Michelle, which also involves a racial hierarchy of desirability and aesthetics, clearly placing black at the bottom and white Barbie at the top.

It shows how black males' humanity is reduced by the over-sexualized stereotype (an odd parallel to the dehumanizing sexual objectification that women of all ethnicities experience, i.e., “that’s all they’re good for”). Rather than a celebration of sexuality, as Jezebel and Random Good Stuff pretend, this doll is used to trivialize and demean the President: you may think you have authority as the President but you will never "rise" "above" your "place," boy* (that place, evidently, being essentially a sexual servicer and nothing more). I am skeptical as to whether any naked dolls of Bill Clinton, that infamous luster of white female flesh, were made. Its probable absence is telling -- and even if it did exist, its existence can be explained by Clinton's real-life predicaments, as opposed to a racist stereotype.

So, if the post on the popular blog Jezebel does spawn other posts, I think we should watch for how the doll is written about, and how commenters react to it. I suspect that if the bloggers and commenters are white, they by and large won't see what's wrong with the image -- some will instead think it's cute, or "hot."

It is of course okay and (to my mind) good to be disrespectful of political leaders, humorously and otherwise. But when that disrespect is also racist, that's just not okay.

---

*”boy” is exactly right, since adults are presumably in control of their sexuality but children remain at the mercy of whomever takes care of them.

66 comments:

  1. Fair warning, dear readers: I will not publish dismissive comments here along the lines of, "Oh come on, it's just a doll!" If you're thinking that way, I suggest that you read the post more carefully.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I want to continue the list of racist shit people are saying and doing that is and has flown under the white gaze. Because I see this doll as just one example of such a white trend. It's appalling.

    I hope other readers will also submit their examples of things they're seeing. It'd be one thing if people were attacking things that he did that they didn't like about Obama. At least I could respect that. Instead, they're attacking him as a person, and they're also dragging other races and ethnicities into it (as seen below)

    - Image of a New Yorker cover with the President and First Lady

    - one with him looking like a chimp and with a white woman (Clinton)

    - more nakedness from this site

    - conflation black people = Africa...just kidding, it equals Bono!

    - There are no words for this one...

    So... most, if not all, of those are actual magazine covers on non-indie magazines. I understand that we have a "freedom of speech" here but what I don't understand is why THE PEOPLE do not take care of this by boycotting, calling attention to, and sending letters.

    ReplyDelete
  3. >> "And further, what's up with so few commenters at Jezebel who see that as a problem? "

    Expecting enlightened attitudes from the comment section at Jezebel? Aww, how quaint. ^_^

    I did reply with a link to this post, but I'm not a registered commenter there (Jezebel uses Gawker), so it might not get posted.
    ~

    White patriarchy has done an unbelievable job of convincing WW that we can "gain equality" by trouncing on MOC. The real world does not work like that. (I know I am preaching to the choir here, sorry, y'all).

    The phrase "white gaze" needs to gain equal credibility next to "male gaze." If this were a naked doll of the first female president (of any race, presumably), white feminists wouldn't hesitate to condemn it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. “A naked Barack Obama, made specially "for" white Barbie -- the proverbial "Mandingo," so eager for white female flesh that he doesn't even come with clothes -- brings up issues of ownership, human ownership. His sole purpose is to serve at the pleasure of Barbie. Ken was Barbie's (notably clothed) companion, but Barack is her sex slave. His nakedness leaves no room for doubt as to his limited role.”

    In addition, manhood is not automatically conferred; his dignity as a human being has been stripped- much like the slave on the auction block. By presenting him naked- raw and bestial, you downgrade his God-given status from human to primeval-other. This hearkens back to whites during Jim Crow South (and post) calling black men “Boy,” refusing to recognize them as equals; ascribing the black man to a status of perpetual childhood. There are simply times when I must shake my head and ask- what in the hell is wrong with white people?” and why should any of us be surprised?

    But it’s always been about race hasn’t it. Even whites who voted for the man may have voted for him just to prove to themselves that they weren’t racist; he was their quintessential magical Negro. Course when he let them down- when he ventured down a path they didn’t expect- taking their destiny in his hands to mold as he pleased; well that’s just going too far. Some of those whites expecting change took a step back and then turned on him. Even now, some have vowed not to make the same mistake twice.

    Its amazing how in white eyes, being the best Golfer- Boxer (the strongest man in the world in white eyes back then) or Tennis player in the world is not enough; even though these sports were dominated by whites at one time. Being the first black Valedictorian of Notre Dame is not enough. Rising to the very heights of the Presidency of the United States of America is still not enough. Winning the Miss America pageant is not enough- becoming one of the most powerful women (and richest) in the world is still not enough. To some whites we are still less than human and not worthy of consideration or respect.

    To some whites we are either, Toms, Coons, Jezebels, Mammies- Negress or Buck. Especially when one considers the entertainment industry, for we are appreciated only when we play out the roles whites have set aside for us. Course, the Presidency wasn’t one of them- they didn’t figure on that. Reminds me of the movie, The Man starring James Earl Jones. A basketball player- rapper, tennis player or talk show host hath not the power to threaten whites. But a President, well that’s a whole nuther kettle of fish. I hoped I haven't offended anyone..this was typed in anger.

    ReplyDelete
  5. add the sick racist cartoon depicting obama after raping lady liberty

    http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2010/03/30/racism-is-a-mental-illness-barack-obama-rapist-of-freedom-and-the-statue-of-liberty/

    ReplyDelete
  6. I hate this sort of vague, unspecified racism and the deliberately "clueless" reactions it spawns. You know this is offensive and racially charged in some way, but the manner is not necessarily explicit or easily defined. That gives the perpetrators an easy out - exactly, "it's just a doll" - and white observers relief in believing that they don't have to see anything racially meaningful about the situation (which they are resistant to doing in the first place) and - lest we forget - those whiny ass POC ample opportunity to play the apparently overexposed race card.

    well played.

    ReplyDelete
  7. White patriarchy has done an unbelievable job at convincing white women that we can "gain equality" by stomping on MOC. The real world does not work like that.

    Willow, could you expound on this?

    ReplyDelete
  8. I hate this sort of vague, unspecified racism and the deliberately "clueless" reactions it spawns. You know this is offensive and racially charged in some way, but the manner is not necessarily explicit or easily defined. That gives the perpetrators an easy out - exactly, "it's just a doll" - and white observers relief in believing that they don't have to see anything racially meaningful about the situation (which they are resistant to doing in the first place) and - lest we forget - those whiny ass POC ample opportunity to play the apparently overexposed race card.

    Co-sign.

    @ Macon,

    Thanks for the alert.

    My, my, my...I could comment, but it's already all been said. I'm just going to link this to my Facebook and whatever other post I write in the future and uh, yeah...call it a very unpleasant day.

    ReplyDelete
  9. To the anonymous Jez tipster, please send me a PM over there (same username) because you are awesome and I want to heart you, if I haven't already.

    @Willow, I will look for your comment over there and promote it.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I don't get it...

    If you're only going to allow posts if they say certain messages that you want them to say...

    What do you want us to say?

    ReplyDelete
  11. beggle,

    I'm not saying that I want you to say anything in particular. I'm only saying don't say dismissive things like, "Oh come on, it's just a doll!" Which is what people often say when I say things like what I and an anonymous emailer said in this post.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I don't expect much deep analysis from Jezebel. I go there for light reading. I'm not making any excuses for Jezebel though, because sometimes they really drop the ball when it comes to discussion of race.

    I actually didn't read that post, because the thumbnail looked absurd. It really is absurd though. A naked president doll?! Black bodies are so sexualized in our society that someone thought a naked president doll was appropriate. Even the frickin president of united states isn't safe from being sexualized because he's black. It's ridiculous.

    ReplyDelete
  13. "A naked Barack Obama, made specially "for" white Barbie -- the proverbial Mandingo," so eager for white female flesh that he doesn't even come with clothes -- brings up issues of ownership, human ownership. His sole purpose is to serve at the pleasure of Barbie. Ken was Barbie's (notably clothed) companion, but Barack is her sex slave. His nakedness leaves no room for doubt as to his limited role."

    Mandingo Plot:
    "The story begins on a run-down plantation lorded over by Warren Maxwell (James Mason) and his son Hammond (Perry King). Hammond travels to New Orleans where he buys a top-of-the-line slave, Mede (Ken Norton), at an auction. Hammond is proud of his purchase, hoping to bring in money by training Mede to fight his other slaves. Hammond returns with Mede to the plantation, where he has to contend with his sex-crazed wife Blanche (Susan George). Hammond looks upon Blanche as damaged goods since he discovered her to not be a virgin on their wedding night. Instead, Hammond prefers erotic pursuits with his slave Ellen (Brenda Sykes). Blanche licks her lips at the sight of Mede, and seduces him to get revenge on her husband. Blanche soon becomes pregnant and gives birth to a half-black baby. Enraged, Hammond comes after Blanche, poisons her, and then the child bleed to death before going after Mede."

    This is how I interpreted the film as well- the end of the film left me with my mouth gaped open. (well the whole film really) Imagine the supremacy the slave master's wife wielded over Mede- the hopeless paradox of his situation, spelling his death knell. Hollywood billed/implied it as a black lust for white flesh thing- but we blacks saw it as the total and unfettered exercise of white power. In this case- White lust for black flesh.

    Hammond could rape his slave whenever he wished it. The fact that the director sought to lesson the implication by having the character develop feelings for his slave makes the crime of rape no less horrible. However, Blanche, perched atop this inane pedestal all white women occupy in this racist society, could compel- even command her black slave to couple with her. Knowing full well she could cry rape if he (Mede) refused. (and I believe he did) To quote Rutger Hauer in the film Blade Runner- “Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it? That's what it is to be a slave.”

    ReplyDelete
  14. The Macabre Mr. CrossApril 27, 2010 at 2:18 PM

    "They put Michelle's arms on him!"

    One of the comments, I believe the first, below the post. I would comment on this...but words that would sufficiently articulate my anger do not exist.

    Let's chalk this comment up to nefariously classic "Black women look like men!" mindset. Ah, racism and sexism at their finest.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Yeah, the comments about Michelle Obama's arms really annoyed me. Channeling Mandingo through POTUS wasn't enough for you, let's dig up the Black women are unfeminine trope too.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'm not sure if this triggers your arab trader rule, but it seems relevant that this doll is a product of a Hong-Kong based company, Hot Toys , Ltd. (TrueType is one of thier product lines)

    ReplyDelete
  17. “One’s reliance on stereotypes appears to be heightened with increased exposure to stereotypes, regardless of whom the stereotype is portraying.”

    Granted, this study focuses on the dissimilar stereotypes of Native Americans and Asian Americans, and how exposure to NA "mascots" increases tendencies to believe anti-Asian stereotypes, but the fundamental principle seems generally applicable, beyond the two specific groups. Which is why I posted it here. This news re: wide-reaching, indiscriminate effects of POC stereotypes may be a "well, duh!" moment for many POCs ... but this study's findings, if applied to the Obama doll here, may increase (further entrench?) negative stereotypes about non-black POC as well.

    IOW, "it's just a doll" is similar to "it's just a mascot, what's the big deal?" Well, this study shows why it's a big deal: it promotes anti-POC bias, not only against the immediate POC target but against any other POC groups as well.

    ReplyDelete
  18. The arms comment was kinda whack, but I think they were referencing the media's obsession with Michelle Obama's arms.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Actually....

    Celebrities:

    * Marlon Brando
    * James Dean
    * Michael Jackson
    * Namson Lau
    * Wong Ka Kui

    (From Wikipedia article.)

    That's a partial list, BTW. In addition to the forthcoming Barack Obama, there are numerous others, including Ahnold and Brad Pitt.

    Here's the company's official website". (Hong Kong domain -- and painfully slow)

    Here are some good images.


    And here is a link to the charity auction the company held for victims of the Taiwan typhoon in 2005.

    I found an interview with the company president, Howard Chan, too...kind of mundane unless you're a fanboy (or girl).

    Macon, I appreciate the line you walked in writing this article (particularly in not ascribing motive, only calling attention to results and implications - evident in such phrases as "Racism...can arise from contextual elements as well."), and think you make some very good and thoughtful points. And social worker did too - I really agree with a lot of it in general terms. But I do think this is a false alarm, given the other information available. Namely, the company president's ethnicity, his nationality, his charity event, the rest of the product line, the quality of the products, and the customer base the company markets to. All of this suggests to me that there isn't anything intentionally racist about this.

    Is there something I'm missing?

    ReplyDelete
  20. Mike D,

    Please think for a minute -- have you yourself, ever in your life, done something racist without intending to be racist?

    ReplyDelete
  21. Mike D,

    Regarding your list of celebrities, the point in the post that you think you're correcting is not about celebrities who are "licensed properties" of the Hot Toys Company; it's about the dolls they sell in this particular product line of dolls that are sold naked. Again, from what I can tell, only one of those is recognizably based on a celebrity -- Barack Obama. (And if you do think one of them resembles some celebrity, I really don't care to hear about it; it would be a moot, derailing point.)

    ReplyDelete
  22. @Mike D. re: "But I do think this is a false alarm, given the other information available. Namely, the company president's ethnicity, his nationality, his charity event, the rest of the product line, the quality of the products, and the customer base the company markets to."

    So having a company that does some good work (on their products and in the community) and having a PoC CEO means that there's no possibility of that company creating something that supports racism by appealing to a stereotype? What kind of world do you live in?

    Does anything that perpetuates a racist stereotype have to come from evil, white fire-breathing bigots? If that's all there was to racism, it wouldn't be such a problem. Racism and white supremacy can be part of anyone's world view, whether they are aware of it or not. To say that the things you bring up somehow disqualify any perception of racism in the effect this product has on those who see it is to confuse, as macon suggests, the intent with the impact or effect. It's the latter that matters.

    ReplyDelete
  23. But I do think this is a false alarm, given the other information available. Namely, the company president's ethnicity, his nationality, his charity event, the rest of the product line, the quality of the products, and the customer base the company markets to. All of this suggests to me that there isn't anything intentionally racist about this.

    Is there something I'm missing?


    IOW, it's just a doll!

    Is there something you're missing? Yeah, the entire post - you made no mention of the Jezebel post, which is what triggered the SWPD post in the first place. And exactly which president was the naked white doll modeled after? As far as I can see, all the other "models" you posted are clothed - but same thing, right? They're just dolls!

    And, of course, since the company's president is a POC in a majority-POC land, then obviously it couldn't be *racist*, could it? Didn't the British relinquish control of Hong Kong in 1997? I'm sure during that entire time period, the British never conveyed racist, dehumanizing media stereotypes of Blacks and other POC - they reserved that for...everywhere else, I guess.

    And what does his charity event or the product quality have to do with anything?

    ReplyDelete
  24. Macon, yes - and I don't even have to think for a minute.

    I realized after I clicked Publish that I had mistakenly included the word "intentionally" at the end of my post. That didn't make sense & shouldn't have been there - as evidenced by the fact that I had just complimented you on successfully walking a rather delicate line - addressing results and implications without ascribing intent.

    [I redacted the rest of this comment -- stay focused on the topic at hand, please. ~macon]

    ReplyDelete
  25. @blogblogger:

    "So having a company that does some good work (on their products and in the community) and having a PoC CEO means that there's no possibility of that company creating something that supports racism by appealing to a stereotype?"

    No, but a possibility is not the same thing as an actuality. The fact that subtle racism does, indeed, occur is not conclusive evidence that it occurred in a particular instance.

    "To say that the things you bring up somehow disqualify any perception of racism in the effect this product has on those who see it is to confuse, as macon suggests, the intent with the impact or effect. It's the latter that matters."

    That's the kind of comment that helps me understand where you're coming from - thanks. But I do think you're misrepresenting me. I said I think it's a false alarm. But what I think is just what I think, and I most certainly didn't say any perception of racism is disqualified.

    However, I honestly think you and some others here are operating from a much broader perception of what racism is than I do - and I'm by no means among the narrowest interpreters of it. So I'm seeking clarity. To do so, I'm expressing what I see as honestly as I can. But while I'm more than willing to grapple with what may very well turn out to be errors in my own perception, I don't simply accept things as true without understanding them. So when I ask, "Is there something I'm missing?" it's not rhetorical, and it's not a blow-off question -- I ask because I actually want to know.

    May I ask, what is the stereotype you believe is being appealed to?

    ReplyDelete
  26. @leedevious

    Not again. Just take our word for it; it was racialized sexism.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I think the problem with holding Hot Toys accountable is, given their market and ethnicity, they may not be atunned to american cultural signposts. Frankly many Americans are unschooled in this history and may not see the offense either. They just see a handsome man being sexualized.

    After all, this is subtle. Its not obvious like portraying Obama as a rapist. Frankly, I always thought the stereotype was not that black men are sexually attractive, but that they the are sexual predators.

    Furthermore, Obama is handsome; the best-looking prez in US history and been an international sex symbol for some time now. So it reminds me of the "articulate" connundrum.

    On the one hand its condecending to point this out (what else is a statesman supposed to be) but on the other hand how do we communicate the idea that obama is Churchill-like articulate. Its critical to his success and qualifications that he has this powerful skill, which put him is a very exclusive club.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Namely, the company president's ethnicity, his nationality, his charity event,...

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't tobacco companies give a lot in charity to cancer research foundations and spend a lot of money telling ppl how bad cigarettes are for your health?: 'This thing will kill you eventually, but we want you to buy it anyway because we want your money.'

    ReplyDelete
  29. I think the problem with holding Hot Toys accountable is, given their market and ethnicity, they may not be atunned to american cultural signposts.

    No, they're not. That's probably why a majority of the figurines they sell are based on American cultural icons and their website is written exclusively in English to ensure they only get Asian clients who don't understand English and are therefore clueless about american cultural signposts. They sure know how to reach their market.

    ReplyDelete
  30. ...I'm more than willing to grapple with what may very well turn out to be errors in my own perception...

    May I ask, what is the stereotype you believe is being appealed to?

    @Mike D

    Your first statement contradicts the second. You are either willing to do much of the work yourself or you want to be spoon-fed.

    On the off chance that you sincerely have grappled with the the subject at hand, and still fail to grasp it, may I suggest that you go back, re-read the post and keep an eye out for the word "stereotype," read the comments thread for the same, and then do some research on your own to learn and understand the long-standing history being discussed here?

    @Manju, @Mike D

    Just because people are unaware of the history of the stereotype doesn't mean they're immune to its effects. In fact, they're more vulnerable to accepting racist mischaracterizations as "truth." But, as Mike D stated, don't believe it just because someone here said it. Go do your own research - and read with as much dedication to understanding as you have applied to rebutting, trivializing and dismissing the comments here.

    ReplyDelete
  31. @Mike D. re: "May I ask, what is the stereotype you believe is being appealed to?"

    Hello . . . Mandingo? The oversexed black man? It's all over the original post and has been explained by M. Gibson and others on this thread.

    I do appreciate that you are coming from a different perspective on what constitutes racism, but the intentional/unintentional distinction is kind of meaningless when "unintentional" amounts to "clueless." The point I'm trying to make is that nobody is calling company president Howard Chan a racist, as if it's some kind of classification of his character's irredeemably evil nature.

    What is being pointed out is that he or his company have, probably through their own lack of racial awareness, produced a product that helps support the system of white supremacy by reinforcing the above-named stereotypes. That they might not be aware of the stereotype doesn't let them off the hook for having reinforced it.

    ReplyDelete
  32. never underestimate the power of symbolism....or sex as a weapon...white society has been fetishizing the Black body for generations...they are a jumble of contradictions...they have to justify our enslavement by claiming we had no souls, that we were "primitive" and needed to be civilized, inferior to whites by any standard of measure...and yet, we are the object of their lust; our physical form scrutinized and put on display for their enjoyment...

    ReplyDelete
  33. Is anyone really surprised anymore?
    Even if you create a montage of all these images of obama and show old racist cartoons, movies from the museum of jim crow and show it to white people they still won't see it as racist.

    ReplyDelete
  34. The fact that the company manufacturing and marketing the doll has a POC CEO does suggest to some extent that the actions of that company aren't properly analyzed under a framework of Stuff White People Do.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I Dislike Jezebel Too, But...April 28, 2010 at 12:33 AM

    @ Willow

    If this were a naked doll of the first female president (of any race, presumably), white feminists wouldn't hesitate to condemn it.

    So, all else equal, if (let's say) Michelle Obama were President and were depicted instead, you wouldn't find this doll more objectionable than you do now? Setting up some disingenuous false equivalencey between objectifying naked women and naked men is no more defensible than pretending apelike depictions of Bush and Obama are identically inoffensive.

    Anyways, we obviously have yet to elect a female president, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find a female public figure who hasn't already been degraded in this or a similar fashion. See, e.g.:

    (product of quick google search. warning, images are NSFW)

    http://mrssatan.blogspot.com/2006/08/mrssatan-hillary-clinton-inflatable.html

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/peggy/sarah-palin-sex-doll

    http://images.encyclopediadramatica.com/images/a/ae/Nailin-palin.jpg

    http://farm1.static.flickr.com/86/210462720_40725b1af8.jpg

    http://www.unconfirmedsources.com/nucleus/media/21/20060629-condinudepreg.jpg

    http://bf-1.com/news-english/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/madeleine-albright.jpg

    http://www.gonzo.org/fun/janet.html

    ReplyDelete
  36. ...Dislike...Jezbel...April 28, 2010 at 12:44 AM

    Oh, and here's the only Jezebel post I could find re: gross porno depictions of Sarah Palin. No condemnation. (I'm no Palin apologist...just saying):

    http://jezebel.com/5329826/palin-family-incestuous-porn-spoof

    ReplyDelete
  37. @muha

    So if a POC is participating in reinforcing a stereotype that originated from white people then it has no place within an analysis of white supremacy? SWPD can only include direct, obvious actions by white people? Examining the ramifications of white-created racist images, disseminated world-wide, is beyond the scope of this blog?

    I doubt it's coincidence that Mike D, Manju and muha have all side-stepped the Jezebel post, which clearly shows the problematic reception of such a "toy." But hey, since the people involved may not have examined their own racist actions, why should we?

    ReplyDelete
  38. Dislike Jezebel has a point. White feminists were/are conspicuously silent about racist attacks on Michelle Obama.

    ReplyDelete
  39. I haven't read all the comments, so maybe this factor has been brought up already, but it should also be noted that Obama is also seen as a very attractive president; he's certainly the first president to be seen this way at a time in which our culture is more into the objectification of known figures than it has ever been, and quite frankly he is perhaps the only president since JFK who has been seen as such to this extent period. The problem is that, because he's also the first black president, it's hard to distinguish what of the objectification surrounding Obama (I have seen a dildo whose head is shaped like Obama's noggin; I am not making this up) is due to the anything-goes objectifying nature of society these days and what is due to his race making it seem more "okay" to render him in such a way. I would argue that I am sure there are individual instances that would have occurred in reaction to any good-looking president of any race, but there's obviously no doubt that his being not-fully-white definitely contributes to this phenomenon as a whole, which makes all such portrayals extremely problematic because of the obscenely unfortunate implications that will arise from any of this, regardless of the motivation. It would honestly be better (wishful thinking in 3... 2... 1...) for everyone to err on the side of caution and not indulge in this kind of objectification at all, even though it is a sort of mindset that is not extremely well-accepted socially and in fact even encouraged, and wait until an attractive white president (or at least no president who also marks the first to break down a particular barrier, especially race or gender) can come forth and allow us to set the acceptable standard for objectification.

    It would be unrealistic to expect objectification to cease completely, at least considering how ingrained in our society it is these days, but I don't think it's too much to ask to try and keep it out of higher government offices until there are no ways it can be amplified by or channeled into (covert or overt) expressions of racism and prejudice.

    Does this make sense? I was feeling a lot more coherent at the beginning of this comment, and I'm fully ready to acknowledge that I might have done a shit job of communicating my point. Let me try to summarize my arguments:

    This objectification is shitty not inherently because it is objectification but because it has chosen to first emerge at a time when it can be co-opted as a furthering agent (or means of expression) for racism. Objectification is part of our culture these days, and I don't think this is inherently evil, but it's way too easy to allow objectification to serve as a means of expressing or furthering hate and would be best (if such a thing were possible) to ban all objectification until a standard can be set free from all potential racist/sexist/etc. implications such that in the future we can be aware of what incidents consist of objectification for objectification's sake and what incidents involve using objectification as a tool to amplify/further/express hatred, prejudice, or contempt.

    ReplyDelete
  40. @ BlueFont,

    I said,
    >> "White patriarchy has done an unbelievable job at convincing white women that we can "gain equality" by stomping on MOC. The real world does not work like that."

    Have you ever humored someone? Agreed with zir to zir face, but the whole time in your head you're thinking, Wow, what a fool? I get the feeling that the collective WM treatment of WW and MOC is along those lines. WW are co-opted in the oppression of MOC, but then the white dudes turn right back around and side with MOC against WW. There is the promise of "equality" with the white male, but ONLY so long as someone else is being put down.

    In this case, we see WW objectifying MOC similarly to and in spite of how men objectify women! There seems to be a sense of "WM gain superiority by objectifying WW, so perhaps I can build myself up by objectifying someone else." THIS IS NOT THE ANSWER. Ask gay men if ignoring trans issues has gotten gay marriage legalized across the U.S. Ask poor white people if the racist myth of "good" and "bad" neighborhoods has helped them stay in their homes in the face of the mortgage crisis. We don't make progress by standing on someone else's back.

    Obviously this could happen with any of the myriad interlocking systems of oppression, but with WW and MOC it is particularly egregious and insidious because the structures that oppress WW and MOC explicitly reinforce each other. (As you might expect, ultimately this harms WOC, and I don't think one can argue that this is coincidental). The most (in)famous example is probably the Scary Black Man/Pure White Virgin dichotomy. This has zillions of facets, so briefly: It is in the interest (defined in power/privilege terms) of white manhood to keep WW out of the arms of MOC, so if society can perpetuate the myth that Black Men Are Dangerous (which expands to All POC Are Dangerous), WW will stay out of POC-dominated neighborhoods and think we are doing it for our own good! This is a way of simultaneously oppressing MOC (all POC, really) and WW.

    MOC and WW should be natural allies in destroying white patriarchy, but all we seem to care about is making gains relative to each other within, and while reinforcing, white patriarchy.

    (Perhaps that this why WOC tend to make the most sense regarding ways to actually end oppression?)

    ReplyDelete
  41. @ Dislike Jezebel and Rochelle,

    To say that a naked Black male doll and a naked female doll (any race) are bad in the same way would be to equate racism and sexism, which of course is not the case. I'm not willing to quantify the racist objectification of Black men and the sexist objectification of women. (Yes, let's do play Oppression Olympics!) So I'm not sure where we disagree?

    Rochelle, you are absolutely right that the majority of white feminists haven't stuck up for Michelle Obama when she's been attacked--heck, even this Jezebel post got the "the doll has MO's arms" comment. However, I do think there would be protest if a doll of a naked WOC president were released, although from some, not all, quarters the underlying motive might not be legitimately feminist. (i.e. "omigosh we can't have a woman of color being the object of adoration!")

    ReplyDelete
  42. @M.Gibson -- the reference to the stripping of black men's bodies to be objectified and sold at auction didn't occur to me at first (hello, LSG's racism), but you're absolutely right. It's obviously sexual but it's not just sexual, it's about power and ownership.

    (Which white feminists tend to get when talking about the objectification/assault/ect. of WW's sexuality!)

    @Willow -- yes, especially on MOC (especially black men) being depicted as rapists in order to frighten WW and keep them aligned with white men as their "protectors". I can add almost nothing, except to say that WW and MOC are also often set up as professional rivals by WM. The speed with which white women/white feminists descended into attacking Obama when he became a rival to Clinton rival (and the degree to which many white feminists ignored both racist and sexist attacks on Michelle Obama, @Rochelle) was revealing.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Willow, I didn't equate them and I wasn't playing Oppression Olympics (I'm Black and female remember).

    If this were a naked doll of the first female president (of any race, presumably), white feminists wouldn't hesitate to condemn it.

    I disagree with 'of any race presumably'. The presumption is a problem in and of itself and I used the example of Michelle Obama in regards to that. If white feminists can't be bothered to defend her when she's FLOTUS I doubt they would if she were POTUS.

    ReplyDelete
  44. @ Willow

    I don't care to quantify oppression, either, but I sense we might disagree because, reading your post, I felt like you had interpreted Jezebel's lack of condemnation re: this doll to reflect some collective racist delusion by white feminists that they "can 'gain equality' by trouncing on MOC." Jezebel and their ilk would definitely protest if a female president were so-depicted, so their lack of outrage here demonstrates that they ignorantly fail to perceive racist stereotyping/objectification as a serious form of oppression on par with sexist stereotyping/objectification. I apologize if I didn't read you accurately, but that was what I took away.

    My reaction to this was, seriously? Female public figures are grotesquely objectified all the time -- the fact that they will be portrayed nude at some point is pretty much taken for granted. If Jezebel posted an item about an incest-fetish porn movie portraying the Obama family, I actually speculate they would cast a more critical eye than they did when they posted the same item re: Sarah Palin. True, Palin has said and done things that would deter the sympathies of Jezebel readers for other reasons, but when Hillary Clinton and Condoleeza Rice were lumped in with Palin, white feminist blogs didn't say anything, either. That's not to measure sexism against racism, but I think it does suggest that Jezebel's lack of umbrage here stems from something other than a white feminist blind-spot towards racism.

    ReplyDelete
  45. There are no words to describe my reaction to this. I can barely even type this response.

    All I can type is this, as long as whites have that mindset and continue to brush it off as nothing like they've been doing for...ever, they should not be surprised if blacks and true, anti-racists of any color get upset by it. Still, they wonder why get bothered by this! It's baffling.

    ReplyDelete
  46. @ Rochelle,

    Oh, bah, I didn't mean to address the first paragraph to you...and the Oppression Olympics comment was supposed to be sarcastic anyway! I don't think you, Dislike Jezebel, or I is playing OO here. Oooops, totally my bad. As for the Michelle Obama hypothetical, I suspect you are right and I am being too charitable on other white feminists.

    @ Dislike Jezebel,

    Okay, gotcha. I'm actually arguing that white women, including feminists, tend to actively participate in the maliciously-tinged objectification of Black men*, and that this is occurring maybe in the original post, and definitely in the comments. It's not just a matter of failing to notice oppression that is happening.

    * To differeniate from the type of objectification that is more along the lines of "That celebrity is hot."

    Obviously I don't disagree with your assessment of how disgusting this is when it happens to women, or even that it happens to women more frequently! In fact, I think it is in part a reaction to everything that happens to women, and the fact that we (WW) perpetuate it despite being the victims of it is part of the reason this upsets me so much.

    ReplyDelete
  47. @bloglogger:

    Re: stereotype, I figured I'd let you speak for yourself rather than just assuming you agreed with Macon 100%. In my experience, many conversations wander in aimless circles because they are more like parallel monologues that predicate upon layered assumptions that were never even articulated. I am careful not to do that (though by no means 100% successful). It's a habit I've developed through a lifetime of being wrong about stuff. (Which makes me wonder, why hasn't the rest of the human race developed this habit?) Now that you have indicated that you are pretty much in full agreement with Macon, we have a slightly better chance of talking without having a bifurcated conversation like that.

    You said:

    "What is being pointed out is that he or his company have, probably through their own lack of racial awareness, produced a product that helps support the system of white supremacy by reinforcing the above-named stereotypes. That they might not be aware of the stereotype doesn't let them off the hook for having reinforced it."

    One of the things I appreciate about this blog is that it is a forum where ideas like this can be brought to light, articulated, explored, and understood better. Part of understanding an idea is querying it & seeing if it stands up to scrutiny, since if one does not test ideas before accepting them, they are not understood, but merely believed.

    Along those lines, I do not see how this doll "supports the system of white supremacy by reinforcing the above-named stereotypes," because so far I personally do not have any sense that the doll is a sexualization of Obama or of blacks in general, which is, I think, a necessary condition for those stereotypes to be reinforced. I say this after considering the fact that it is marketed almost exclusively to a rather select group of mostly gamer/superhero fans, and it's hard for me to see it in that light, because it's very, very hard for me to imagine that they do. I am also somewhat influenced by the fact that I have a family member that makes "naked" dolls of various skin tones, which are then clothed and presented artistically, and anything but stereotypically.

    I understand that others feel differently than I do, but I am looking for a less arbitrary standard than just how one person or another feels - which is why I am seeking as precise an understanding as possible about how people who have different perceptions than me arrive at their conclusions.

    So far, what I am seeing in this discussion - both the part I'm involved in directly and also what I'm reading but not responding to - is that a great deal of the spectrum of racism (which extends all the way to a lack thereof) is subjective. That said, subjective or not, the views of POC about racism, who have been historically disfavored in this society and many others, should certainly be seriously considered and given some added weight if we as a society truly desire to overcome racial bias, for the simple reason that most forms of human bias are so unconscious as to be entirely non-conceptualized. Effectively, it is a pattern of behavior that the mind is unaware of, so it takes somebody pointing out concrete and specific examples to obtain such awareness.

    Supposing the predominant belief/understanding at this site about this doll is correct, what would it say about me that I can see, or at least conceive of the idea, that it could be interpreted as racist, and I have tried to internalize that perspective so that I would have another lens to view the world through, but doing so just doesn't add any dimension or perspective that helps me understand the world better?

    All I have been able to glean from this conversation is something I already knew: many people see racism where I do not.

    ReplyDelete
  48. @TAB:

    I have "sidestepped" the Jezebel post because I am far more interested in the idea that the creation and sale of the doll, itself, is a racist act. And I am interested in this because it is the part of what is being expressed here that I understand least. While you may be more interested in the Jezebel post, in the pursuit of that which I wish to understand, I can't let every individual person's response to an event occlude or substitute for the event itself.

    If the Jezebel post contains racist stereotypes, then that merely indicates that IT is racist, not the doll itself. As far as anybody can tell, effects don't modify causes -- it's a one way street. That's why we can't travel back in time, and that's why the fact that somebody perceives the doll as racist does not, of itself, establish that it actually is racist.

    It appears to me that the dead rat is being laid on the wrong doorstep. I will happily concede that how things appear to me are not always correct - but I'm not so full of self-doubt that I will simply choose somebody as an authority and orient myself to align with their view.

    ReplyDelete
  49. @Mike D

    Stay blissful.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Mike D wrote,

    Part of understanding an idea is querying it & seeing if it stands up to scrutiny, since if one does not test ideas before accepting them, they are not understood, but merely believed.

    Sounds reasonable, except that (as you've been rather willfully demonstrating here), you're white. You're trained to see things from a whitened perspective, and you don't seem to realize that. Despite the extensive explanations of what's wrong with that doll in its various contexts, in the post and in many comments here, you're sticking to your rather arrogant dismissals. It's not just a matter of everyone here seeing things differently from how you do; it's instead a matter of you either refusing to see things how others do, or else acknowledging that, given the preponderance of opinion here that counters your own, you're just not capable yet of seeing things from an unwhitened perspective. I suggest, then, that you sit back for awhile, read some other posts on this blog (including the 101 links in the Commenting Guidelines), and do what you can to catch up with others here on what racism actually is. Because you know what's happening here, Mike D? It's possible that you don't realize it, but you're sucking up most of the oxygen here; you're making this thread inhospitable for others, especially the poc whose views you insist on ignoring, overlooking, or outright dismissing.

    ReplyDelete
  51. @Mike D. re: "That's why we can't travel back in time, and that's why the fact that somebody perceives the doll as racist does not, of itself, establish that it actually is racist."

    OK, I'll bite: what would establish something as actually racist in your view?

    While you're thinking, I'll drop another one on you. I don't accept the racist/not racist dichotomy that appears to be at the heart of your refusal to see. Believing in such a distinction makes it possible to convince oneself that not doing certain things or believing certain other things places one's actions (and oneself) in the not-racist category when in fact anyone's actions, even of the kindest intent, can result in furthering racism (the system). It isn't possible, in my view, to be uninfluenced and unaffected by racism, only to be oblivious of the influence and effect of racism on oneself and one's actions.

    ReplyDelete
  52. bloglogger, I'm ducking out of this at macon's request...but as I didn't see your response before I submitted my last, I'll just offer a (hopefully) quick reply.

    A great many things constitute racism to me, but sticking to the subject of the doll if I may (and not how any 3rd party portrays it), if it caricatured Obama in a derogatory way (i.e. was overtly sexual, had distorted features, showed some characteristic that seemed intended to mock or denigrate), that would constitute racism in my mind. But there we are again - you do see it as derogatory, and I don't - in fact, I find it easier to see it in a positive light. Impasse. Maybe it's not as important that we agree as it is that we respect each others' views - and I apologize if I have not seemed to be doing that.

    I don't accept a racist/not racist dichotomy either, BTW. I see it not as an either/or, but as a spectrum. And yes, I'm sure my eyes are unattuned to some of it. That's why I'm here.

    "It isn't possible, in my view, to be uninfluenced and unaffected by racism, only to be oblivious of the influence and effect of racism on oneself and one's actions."

    Full agreement there.

    Let's let it be at that so I don't keep consuming the oxygen.

    ReplyDelete
  53. @ MikeD

    And yes, I'm sure my eyes are unattuned to some of it. That's why I'm here.

    Your arrogant dismissiveness belies this. Your statements reveal, quite clearly, that you don't believe your eyes are unattuned to seeing racism:

    May I ask, what is the stereotype you believe is being appealed to?

    we can't travel back in time, and that's why the fact that somebody perceives the doll as racist does not, of itself, establish that it actually is racist.

    I'm not so full of self-doubt that I will simply choose somebody as an authority and orient myself to align with their view.

    A great many things constitute racism to me, but sticking to the subject of the doll if I may (and not how any 3rd party portrays it),

    Obviously, the pain and anger revealed by the POC in this thread aren't important enough for you to deign to acknowledge.

    Why would the black men in this thread react so differently from you? Because they were "side tracked" from the "true" relevance of (what you decided is) the only important aspect of this post? Because they, and others, are looking for insult where none exists (b/c, unlike rational white people, POC find offensiveness enjoyable and look for every opportunity to experience it)? *News flash*: this isn't an academic exercise - the various aspects discussed in the post affect our lives directly. So, unlike for you, it's important to us.

    Your limits of understanding do not define the scope of the analysis here. You actually gave an example of charity work for non-black POC as "proof" that Howard Chan couldn't behave in a racist, degrading manner toward blacks, here, specifically, President Obama. You think you're logical but you could drive a mack truck through the gaps of that one.

    You are the one, not the POC and white allies on this thread, who fails to understand the complexity of the subject. Clearly, you have no clue about how white supremacy can and does influence people, including POC, here and abroad. You are not the one who determines what's relevant here and what's not.

    But go ahead and stay submerged in that sensory deprivation tank of privilege you clearly love so much. It's obviously a very comfortable and desirable place for you to remain.

    ReplyDelete
  54. TAB said...
    "Why would the black men in this thread react so differently from you? Because they were "side tracked" from the "true" relevance of (what you decided is) the only important aspect of this post? Because they, and others, are looking for insult where none exists (b/c, unlike rational white people, POC find offensiveness enjoyable and look for every opportunity to experience it)? *News flash*: this isn't an academic exercise - the various aspects discussed in the post affect our lives directly. So, unlike for you, it's important to us."

    Ditto!
    The lack of empathy- the ease by which whites disavow an experience that’s not their own is the point here. Their judicial use of denial, the exercise of mental gymnastics simply to deny the real is uncanny. It brings to mind President Clinton trying to define what “Is” was during Monicagate. "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' (racism) is."

    Invalidating the commonly held experiences of people of color is an ongoing problem. I smoked for many yrs and when I stopped, I found I had developed sensitivity to cigarette smoke. I could smell it a mile away even when the fragrance was lost on my wife’s olfactive capabilities. I knew cigarette smoke when I smelled it. Blacks have become so honed to the experiences of racism- so familiar to the everyday slights; our awareness has become heightened by it. This sense can be likened to prey in the wild that develops a heightened sense of hearing for their very survival depends upon it. Consequently, when one speaks of racism in all of its manifestations, we minorities know it when we see it; we can easily filter out the BS to see the act for what it is.

    I’ll offer up an analogy, albeit a poor one: think of our (POC’s) experience on race as a “Specialized Sensor Array” installed aboard a star fleet vessel. Equipment designed specifically to detect racism and all related algorithms up to three light-years away. Any ship (or race) not outfitted with such equipment will misinterpret an act of racism as a spatial anomaly or some other type of celestial event; it will be seen as anything other than the bigotry it is. Hours will be logged by a “poorly equipped” crew (whites) faulting everything from a possible glitch in the time space continuum, to a probable malfunction of the “Specialized Sensor Array.” So swept up in the effort to over-analyze the problem, to find another “more plausible” explanation for what just occurred, ship personnel (whites) grow ever oblivious to the palpable; namely- the simplest explanation is usually the right one. Racism sir-,” “Very well” chimes the captain.

    ReplyDelete
  55. This might be a little off topic w.r.t the actual post, but I think it's worth mentioning w.r.t the path of the comments.

    One thing that seems to divide WP from POC here in describing racism is prior beliefs. If you start with the belief that we live in a racist white supremacist culture, then you need significantly less evidence to convince you that any individual event is racist, than if you start with the prior belief that we live in a world where racism exists, but only in certain pockets and in the minds of a handful of bigoted people.

    Thus, for a lot of WP who don't experience racism on a daily basis, racism is seen as a rare event and as such an event must be proved racist (since the original assumption is that the event is not racist). This often means that an event is only racist if there can be no other reasonable explanation (hence typical the "explain away racism" action). For POC who are exposed to much more racism, racism isn't viewed as such a rare event, and therefore it takes much less evidence for POC to conclude an event was racist.

    Now, this is sort of encouraging the racism/not-racist dichotomy, but we could just say that is racism does exist on a spectrum, if that spectrum is linear, there exists some level of racism such that anything above that level is labeled racist. (That is to say, we can construct a dichotomy from a spectrum without losing much by way of analysis).

    So my advice to Mike D is to approach the problem with the initial assumption that the event was indeed racist, and see if you can prove that it isn't. Reject the assumption of racism only if you cannot find one plausible explanation that the event is racist (instead of rejecting the assumption of racism if you can find any reasonable explanation that is isn't racist).

    ReplyDelete
  56. Johnathan L.,

    I think you start off on the wrong foot there. You wrote,

    One thing that seems to divide WP from POC here in describing racism is prior beliefs. If you start with the belief that we live in a racist white supremacist culture, then you need significantly less evidence to convince you that any individual event is racist, than if you start with the prior belief that we live in a world where racism exists, but only in certain pockets and in the minds of a handful of bigoted people.

    I would change those bolded words to "understanding." The dichotomy there isn't a matter of competing beliefs about an as-yet-unsettled question. We (if the "we" is, for instance, people in the U.S.) do live in "a racist white supremacist culture."

    ReplyDelete
  57. Just today I read an article about how older rich white women are hiring poor black men in Senegal as "escorts": http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/senegal/100428/senegal-news-sex-tourism?page=0,0

    It seems like the Mandingo image of black men is alive and well!

    ReplyDelete
  58. [Anonymous: FYI, the person who wrote this post and runs this blog (me) is, like you, white. ~macon]

    ReplyDelete
  59. @Reese

    Not to mention the booming rent-a-dred business here in Jamaica.

    ReplyDelete
  60. @Macon: I was using belief in a statistical sense. From Wikipedia on Bayes' Theorem: "In the Bayesian interpretation, probabilities are rationally coherent degrees of belief, or a degree of belief in a proposition given a body of well-specified information."

    This assumes that there exists a true state of the world, and people have prior beliefs about it based on past observations/experiences and that they update those beliefs when presented with new observations/experiences. This isn't to create a difference between a "belief" and a "fact" (since a correct belief would be true while an incorrect belief would be wrong. While statistically, almost nothing is a "fact", I don't want to further derail with some epistemological debate here.) I'll make sure not to use jargon in the future if the common use of the word has a different meaning.

    ReplyDelete
  61. I know, I know, I should let this go, but...

    >> "Maybe it's not as important that we agree as it is that we respect each others' views"

    No.

    When a person is wrong, the people who are right do not have to "respect" that view.

    If collective society asked oppressed groups to "respect" the views of the oppressor, we would still have de jure segregation in the U.S. and African countries would still be flying European flags.

    Multiple perspectives can be valid, but not all are equally so.

    Get over yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  62. @Jonathan L.

    Who the hell is going to look at the word 'belief' and think of statistics? Who would recognise it as jargon? A very small group of people. Come on.

    ReplyDelete
  63. re: "This assumes that there exists a true state of the world, and people have prior beliefs about it based on past observations/experiences and that they update those beliefs when presented with new observations/experiences."

    What this suggest to me is that I believe that we live in a racist white supremacist culture in the same way that I believe that the earth orbits the sun. In both cases, other people like me have believed differently based on their own observations, but from what I see and hear and so on, the evidence is pretty overwhelming.

    ReplyDelete
  64. When I first read this article, I was pretty shocked. And I agreed wholeheartedly. But when I clicked over to Jez and saw the picture, I felt the need to point something out. I hesitated a while because I saw the reaction Mike D. got, but I really do think this is relevant so I just wanted to mention it.

    This particular doll is a BJD (ball-jointed-doll). They're incredibly popular in east Asian (South Korea and Japan especially), and among gamer/anime fans here. They're often sold naked, because the purchasers tend to make clothes and etcetera for them. I know because I do it. Most of the dolls I buy are east Asian or caucasian females, but they're available in all sorts of races, and designed to look like all sorts of celebrities (I buy from Korean companies, so most of these dolls look like Japanese celebrities, especially glam rockers, but some are Hollywood types).

    The True Type line (which the Obama doll comes from) is full of celebrity look-alikes. Please note that he, like the other True Type dolls, is NOT marketed as "Obama doll" but as "African American" (just like the Jared Padalecki [Sam from Supernatural] doll is marketed as "narrow shoulder Caucasian"). The line is designed to allow you to buy dolls that look like real people and dress them up/customise them.

    Yes, we are a weird bunch, but there you go.

    Now, *I* knew that as soon as I saw the doll, but I'm reasonably certain NONE of the Jez commentors did... Nor did most people who have seen this story. So, I still think all of the analysis in this article remains viable. I just don't believe that the creation and marketing of the doll is a racist act - although the white acceptance and interpretation of this (ie, white people who don't know anything about the BJD scene but don't stop to wonder why this doll is naked) definitely is racist. Just the existence of the doll *itself* isn't.

    Anyway, if you wanted more information on the culture (I'm assuming you don't, but just in case), it can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ball-jointed_doll

    If it matters at all I'm of mixed race (Singaporean Japanese and Jewish), living in the whitest city in Canada (St. John's, Newfoundland - where "the women don't say anything, everyone's white, and there are no queers," according to an article I recently read :/).

    ReplyDelete
  65. I don't know if anybody actually goes back and reads older threads or not, but now that the active commenting seems to have subsided, I hope it's okay if I say a few things.

    First of all, thank you all for your candid comments, especially those that were made after I bowed out.

    I'm sorry I kind of ended up hijacking the thread. I really didn't mean to. And I didn't really quite believe Macon either about the consuming all the oxygen thing either, but judging by what happened afterward, it certainly appears he was right.

    My other experiences with online communities centered on any particular subject matter have not been like this. Usually when I encounter expressions of anger, frustration, outrage, etc., it tends to pivot on ideology (political, religious, what-have-you) - and tends to be fairly philosophical. Here, however, the pivot point is experiential. It was my error not to recognize this from the outset, and my fault not to begin by giving the benefit of the doubt.

    What really drew this into sharp focus for me was when TAB said,

    "Obviously, the pain and anger revealed by the POC in this thread aren't important enough for you to deign to acknowledge."

    As far as I can tell, that was the first time in the entire thread, including the parent article, anybody explicitly referenced the pain that racism inflicts - and when I read it, I was jolted into realization of what an ass I've been, and I understood why he and others have been insisting I am arrogant & dismissive. (For the record: Not arrogant. Just really, really stupid sometimes.)

    I know I'm long-winded & I certainly don't expect that anybody has much interest or incentive in paying much attention to what I have to say at this point, but for whatever it may be worth, I really am sorry I was so aloof to the real issues.

    ReplyDelete
  66. maybe she's voicing a desire that Michelle would be a white Barbie therefore making Barack make sense to her world?

    These little cuts to denying the POTUS' individuality and recasting him as an actor in some weird psychosexual fantasy is like breathing air to some people.

    It's unfortunate and dumb, but at lease we have outlets to discuss, share and counteract such balderdash.

    ReplyDelete

Please see the "commenting guidelines" before submitting a comment.

hit counter code