Monthly Archives: August 2019

Photo of the Week: Photo in Ph21 Gallery Budapest – CorpoRealities


Laurie says:

My photo of Chupoo Alafonté from Women En Large is in the CorpoRealities exhibition at the PH21 Gallery in Budapest. A curated international photography exhibition from August 29 – September 21, 2019.



From PH21:  The human body, in full or in part, is often in the focus of various photographic genres. From documentary, event and street photography to fashion photography and the nude, photographers have always found ways of constructing images in which the specific portrayal of the human body gains significance. This may be stemming from the rich layers of meanings determined and shaped by the specific socio-cultural context of the image, the visual interaction of the human body with the surrounding physical space, or the intriguing compositional possibilities offered by the body itself. When focusing on the body, some photographers explore movements, study expressive gestures and postures, or concentrate on the beauty and details of the human anatomy. Some narrate whole life stories through the depiction of the human body. Others may offer stern visual criticism of our normative conceptions of the human body and its mainstream representation in Western media.

And here is Chupoo’s brilliant text from Women En Large:

When I think of what it means to be a fat, black woman, I think of my ancestors, women at the lowest rung of society, who were forced to serve, nurture, and give birth to a nation that hates and fears people who look like me. Those women were the invisible foundation used to build other people’s wealth and self-esteem. During slavery in this country, black women and men were used to physically build America. Black women were used as chattels to continuously replenish the slavery populations, as pawns to destroy black men’s self-esteem, and as meat to satisfy white men sexually. These women did not have the luxury to worry about their growing dress size. The life they lived called for big, strong bodies that could endure. Many petite, frail little women just couldn’t (and didn’t) survive the brutishness of living in America.

These facts may seem like ancient history to some, but it’s been less than forty years since white people decided it was all right for black people to sit next to them at a lunch counter. As a matter of fact, it’s still not okay for fat black people to sit next to whites at a lunch counter. One can say or do just about anything they want to a fat person in public. What makes the abuse different for women of color as opposed to white women is that for black women it’s nothing new.

Most people of color in this country are not living in their natural habitat. Most African and Indigenous people living in America come from a place where geography and climate dictated that the evolution of their bodies’ metabolism be efficient and able to store food to survive in their native environment. As we were introduced to European culture, we immediately began to lose access to the food and remedies we knew.

The percentage of large people in communities of color is much large than in white communities, and the less we have assimilated to the dominant European culture, the more we are accepted in our own community. I rarely experience discrimination because of fat in the black community. I feel the hatred when I am in public, where white people dominate. Even other black people will ostracize me if we are in a white environment.

So when you ask me about my life as a fat black woman, I have to talk about the many struggles of my people. A black woman is often invisible even in the movements where she is on the front lines. Black males reaped the benefits of the civil rights movement. White women benefit from the women’s movement and affirmative action. Black women are on the bottom of the heap even in these struggles. The realities of our lives are overwhelming, and we still don’t have the luxury of contemplating our growing dress size.

Survival is more important than acceptance.  – Chupoo Alafonté – Women En Large: Images of Fat Nudes 1994


Jeannette Ng: Award-Winner Speech Catalyzes Much-Needed Change


Laurie and Debbie say:

Last week, fantasy writer Jeannette Ng won an award then named the John W. Campbell Award, given every year to the “best new writer” in the science-fiction and fantasy field. Her first novel, Under the Pendulum Sun, was published by Angry Robot Books in 2017.

Scrambling to write a speech on the fly, because she didn’t expect to win, Ng stood up before the audience at the World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin, Ireland, and said, in part:

John W. Campbell, for whom this award was named, was a fascist. Through his editorial control of Astounding Science Fiction, he is responsible for setting a tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day. Sterile. Male. White. Exalting in the ambitions of imperialists and colonisers, settlers and industrialists. Yes, I am aware there are exceptions.

But these bones, we have grown wonderful, ramshackle genre, wilder and stranger than his mind could imagine or allow.

And I am so proud to be part of this.

She went on in her short speech to mention that she was born in Hong Kong: “Right now, in the most cyberpunk in the city in the world, protesters struggle with the masked, anonymous stormtroopers of an autocratic Empire.”

Today, Dell Magazines, which owns this particular award, changed its name to the Astounding Science Fiction award. Trevor Quachri, editor of Astounding‘s successor magazine, Analog Science Fiction and Fact wrote: “Campbell’s provocative editorials and opinions on race, slavery, and other matters often reflected positions that went beyond just the mores of his time and are today at odds with modern values, including those held by the award’s many nominees, winners and supporters.”

Peter Libbey, writing in the New York Times, credits not only Ng’s speech for the change, but also the opinion of Alec Nevala-Lee, whose book Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction examines Campbell’s contributions to science fiction, also supported the change. According to the Times, Neva-Lee said: “It was clearly the right call. At this point, the contrast between Campbell’s racism and the diversity of the writers who have recently received the award was really just too glaring to ignore.”

John W. Campbell edited the most prestigious magazine in science fiction for almost 40 years. From that position, he was able to promulgate a fascistic, militaristic, misogynist, racist view of the world. He accepted and rejected stories based on their political content, he built and destroyed careers, he strengthened stereotypes and cut off original voices. There were other magazines, other venues, but the dominance of Campbell for decades really can’t be questioned.

Alternate history is one of the key branches of science fiction, so as lifelong SF readers, we are tempted to speculate on how fascistic, militaristic, and racist the field would have been during the tumultuous ’60s and beyond. Certainly, in 1968, three years before Campbell’s death, prominent science-fiction writers split into two camps and took out matching advertisements in another magazine, one against and one for the Vietnam war.

Although there were many important and highly talented front-runners dating back into the 19th century, women didn’t really come into their own as science fiction writers until the late 1980s or early 1990s. People of color, again after some brilliant leaders including Samuel R. Delany in the early 1960s, really took the stage after 2009, when the field erupted with unprecedented online conversations about racism. And just a few years ago, a group of radical white men tried very hard to take over the awards and dominate the field — and were crushed by a combination of public opinion within the field and some very clever organizing.

Is science fiction racist today? Of course. Does it have a substantial contemporary body of literature with fascist leanings? Absolutely. But it is also a field where African-American author N.K. Jemisin can win three consecutive Hugos for her Broken Earth trilogy, where the award nominee lists read much more like the world than like an old boys’ club, and where Jeannette Ng, in a brief speech, can be instrumental in erasing an ugly name from the future of a prestigious award.

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