This is a Ferguson Omnibus


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If you’ve looked at a computer or television screen in the last week, you’ve probably heard something about Ferguson, MO and a boy named Michael Brown. Perhaps you’ve heard a lot of conflicting stories. Let’s gets some facts straight.

This is Michael Brown. He was 18 years old when he was murdered by Officer Darren Wilson.

This is Michael Brown, on the right. He was 18 years old when he was murdered by Officer Darren Wilson.

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A Tale of Two Play Parties


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Content warning for trans-antagonism and rape culture.

I’ve been doing kink in private for years, but in the past six months I finally broke out into the public kink scene and went to my first two play parties.

Play parties are events in public or private venues where people do BDSM in front of other people. Play parties may include sex, but they also might not. What’s nice about play parties is that people can share knowledge and toys with each other, discover new play partners, have observers to intervene if something goes wrong in a scene, and of course, there’s a certain exhibitionistic thrill to doing kink in front of other people that many BDSM practitioners enjoy.

As you might imagine, I was excited to attend these parties. But as my friend Lunas has written before, there are a lot of safety issues associated with kink communities in general and play parties in particular. So I was also apprehensive about whether I, as well as the other party guests, would feel safe and supported.

My experiences at these two parties were different in ways deep and complex enough to really get me thinking about what set them apart. Here is my perspective, as someone new to the public kink scene, on what was good about these parties, what could be improved, and how kink communities can make their parties fun and safe for everyone.

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A sign of her own


This is a guest post by Nechama L.


A few weeks ago, a series of signs were posted in Crown Heights, home to one of the largest chassidic (sect of Orthodox Judaism) communities in New York City, urging non-residents passing through to dress modestly.  Supposedly, these signs were addressing people of all genders, but in practice, all subsequent comments on the signs singularly addressed women.  In response, someone assumed by most to be a woman, though the poster could have been of any gender, posted a sign of her own.

Genderfluidity in a Relationship

This is a guest post by Marie Richards. 

When we met, Alex was 20, and I was 19. We had known each other as acquaintances in High School, but reconnected through mutual friends while I was finishing my first year of University. We’ve been together for two years now, and I couldn’t be happier. I am a firm believer that there are things that Alex and I have been through together that bond a couple like nothing else.

One of the biggest, hardest changes for both of us happened about six months ago when Alex told me that they were genderfluid. Although it was a huge challenge to accept at first, it has really strengthened our relationship. They (I’m using they for the sake of clarity; Alex isn’t fussy about pronouns) told me this after what felt like an eternity of fighting, and we had had strap-on sex for the first time. I should have known when I felt so connected to Alex in a way that I had never felt before that our strap-on was more than just a strap-on. They told me that thanks to a couple of Women’s Studies classes that I had taken and shared the contents of, they had come to think of themselves over the past few months in a way that finally fit, in a way that being a girl never had. They had come to the realization that they were not, in fact, a cisgender woman, like we had all thought, but a genderfluid person.

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Let Stan be Loretta: Monty Python & Gender


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I often like to say that I was born loving Monty Python. As superlative as this sounds, it is a claim based on a vivid childhood memory of my Dad flipping through channels one day and letting the screen rest on a clip involving an English narrator and exploding bushes. As any Python fan will know, this of course was the “How Not to Be Seen” sketch, but all I knew at the time was that I was rolling on the ground laughing uncontrollably and experiencing a joyous sensation of silliness unleashed and liberated. But then my Dad changed the channel and started watching NASCAR, and it wasn’t until a decade or so later, after half-watching Holy Grail during a German class (in English; don’t ask) that I caught myself wondering if this was the same group of people I encountered in that still fresh and delightful memory. So it is with all that affection in my heart that I started thinking about gender dynamics in Monty Python – and realizing, with some surprise, that there are elements in their work worth thinking about critically.

This occurred to me first on what must have been the 27th or 29th viewing of The Life of Brian, undoubtedly their best movie and in fact, one of the best movies ever made. I was watching one of my favorite scenes in the film, when Brian befriends the revolutionary Jewish cell the Judean People’s Front (or is it the People’s Front of Judea?). At one point, we meet the vulnerable push-over member of the group, Stan. Stan keeps interrupting the flow of declarative principles that the group leader, Reg, likes to harangue his followers with by correcting Reg’s gender-normative language to include women. The short exchange that follows involves Stan confessing to his desire to be a woman, and Reg eventually commenting of this, “it’s symbolic of his struggle against reality.”

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OITNB star visits Kara Walker’s exhibit, misses point: some notes for our fellow white queers


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This is a guest post by Cordelia Nailong & Emma Shakarshy

Queer communities have a long way to go to be the welcoming places that we would like them to be, especially when it comes to racism.

Orange is The New Black’s “Big Boo”, Lea Delaria, recently viewed Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety”, an exhibit in Brooklyn’s Domino Sugar Factory that highlights the legacies of white supremacy, capitalism, colonialism, anti-blackness, slavery, and patriarchy that have shaped the past 500 years. The Domino Sugar Factory was chosen as a venue for this piece for a number of reasons including the fact that enslaved folks were the foundation of the sugar economy that Domino rose from and were the enslaved labor of the sugar plantations. This is not to mention that factories like this one literally processed sugar from brown to white. Walker’s exhibit features sculptures of enslaved children made of molasses to highlight the sugar factory’s, as well as many other industries’, reliance on black labor to benefit white capitalistic goals.

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Turn Down For What: An ode to rape culture

TW for rape culture and graphic depiction of rape threat

If you listen to pop radio, odds are you’ve heard Turn Down for What (TDFW) by Lil Jon and DJ Snake. I’ve heard it before, but only recently had the misfortune of watching the music video. It was an innocent click—I was browsing YouTube and there it was. I guess most people simply see it as a somewhat bizarre electronic dance music video, aimed to shock the viewer. What I saw was an appalling and offensive embodiment of rape culture. Continue reading

Not Black, Just Hood: Classism is Not a Good Argument for Why Appropriation Is Ok


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There has been a lot of discussion about black women and appropration lately- from the “Dear Black Women, White Gay Men Are Your Allies debacle, to criticism of Iggy Azalea and pushback against Katy Perry’s most recent antics. I’m not going to rehash all of that here, because I want to address something different- the classism against working class African American femininity and culture that is embedded in the rhetoric of many black people during conversations about appropriation.

Last week, for example, For Harriet posted a picture of Katy Perry and asked readers “What do you think of this image?” A black woman responded with:

“The other part of what frustrates me is the question of why so many black people ALWAYS want to get upset at someone claiming a so-called “black image”. i’m sorry, ghettofied representations =/= black to me. sorry, but that’s just some people’s internalization of negative self images taking offense…

What do I think about this image? I think Katy needs to go'on and sit down somewhere.

What do I think about this image? I think Katy needs to go’on and sit down somewhere.

The “not black, just hood” or “not black, just ghetto” train of logic is a fascinating (and oppressive) case of convenient, collective amnesia. All of a sudden cultural phenomena that were clearly developed in black communities, by black people, are “not black, just hood” because class privileged black people don’t identify with them. (Another common reason can be that people don’t know the black origins of a piece of culture because it has been adopted by working class communities of other ethnic groups who often live in close proximity to poor black people in urban areas.) I’ve seen it over and over and over again- colorful cornrows aren’t black? Twerking isn’t black? The grammar of African American Vernacular English, which HAS THE WORDS AFRICAN AMERICAN IN THE NAME, isn’t black? All of these cultural phenomenon are “just hood”? Please, tell me more.

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Food Poisoning: A Metaphor


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[This post includes semi-graphic descriptions of physical and mental illness.]

How do I explain this?

Where do I start?

If you’ve never had depression, if you’ve never lived with a chronic illness, how do I make you understand what I mean when I say I can’t do something as normal and easy as going out to see my friends?

Let’s try this: Remember the last time you had food poisoning?

I google image searched "food poisoning" so you don't have to.

I google image searched “food poisoning” so you don’t have to.

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