Tag Archives: capitalism

Unsafe Black Girls/Underpaid Black Women

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photo by Anissa Thompson

Debbie says:

Yesterday was Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, the day on which black women have earned as much since January 2016 as white men had earned on December 31, 2016. Yep, that’s seven months to catch up. Serena Williams, writing in Fortune has things to say about that.

In every stage of my life, I’ve had to learn to stand up for myself and speak out. I have been treated unfairly, I’ve been disrespected by my male colleagues and—in the most painful times—I’ve been the subject of racist remarks on and off the tennis court. Luckily, I am blessed with an inner drive and a support system of family and friends that encourage me to move forward. But these injustices still hurt. …

Data doesn’t lie. It just gives a number to the gap women feel every day. 
It is my hope that I can give a voice to those who aren’t heard in Silicon Valley, and the workforce as a whole.

Let today serve as a reminder that we have a voice. We deserve equal pay for our mothers, our wives, our daughters, our nieces, friends, and colleagues—but mostly, for ourselves.

Consider Williams’ data in the context of Tressie McMillan Cottom’s “How We Make Black Girls Grow Up Too Fast,” published as a New York Times opinion piece.

Cottom writes about how black girls and women (even more than their white counterparts) are divided into good girls and whores, and how that division is used to defend the men who assault and rape them. She namechecks Mike Tyson and R. Kelly. She makes clear exactly how this false dichotomy is used against black girls specifically and disproportionately:

Almost ready.

That’s the kind of comment I have heard hundreds, if not thousands, of times, from men and women, to excuse violence against black women and girls. If one is “ready” for what a man wants from her, then by merely existing she has consented to his treatment of her. Puberty becomes permission.

All women in our culture are subject to this kind of symbolic violence, when people judge their bodies to decide if they deserve abuse. But for black women and girls that treatment is refracted through history and today’s context.

New research corroborates what black women have long known: People across gender and race see black girls as more adultlike than their white peers. In her book “Pushout,” Monique W. Morris shows that teachers and administrators don’t give black girls the care and protection they need. Left to navigate school by themselves because they are “grown,” these girls are easily manipulated by men.

Cottom pulls no punches, just as no one pulls the punches which attack the girls she cares about:

… for black girls, home is both refuge and where your most intimate betrayals happen. You cannot turn off that setting. It is the dining room at your family’s house, served with a side of your uncle’s famous ribs. Home is where they love you until you’re a ho.

If you’re wondering what the two issues–black women’s salaries and black girls’ safety–have to do with each other, think more carefully. Under white supremacy (and male supremacy), society protects the people it respects as human beings; under capitalism, employers pay the people they respect as valuable. Oddly enough, a culture generally protects the people it pays, and fails to protect the people it fails to pay.

This shit ain’t right. And the same voice Williams recommends to close the pay gap can work to close the safety gap.

 

Pink Ribbon Culture? Who Benefits? Not People with Breast Cancer

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Debbie says:

soupKaruna Jaggar of Breast Cancer Action has harsh words for what she calls “pink-ribbon culture.” See #6 for her definition of the stronger term “pinkwashing.”

Jaggar lays out the numbers:

Each year, 250,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer. Up to one-third of all breast cancers will metastasize (spread beyond the breast into the rest of the body); it is metastatic breast cancer that kills women. Black women are 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than their white counterparts. And each year, 40,000 women die of breast cancer, despite all the awareness and pink ribbons.

She gives a good history of the (admirable) roots of the pink ribbon, and goes on to list ” six ways that pink ribbon culture distracts from meaningful progress on breast cancer.” Here are two of them:

2. Corporations exploit concern about breast cancer for profit. Each October, marketers take advantage of people’s sincere concern about breast cancer to make money and generate good publicity. Anyone can put a pink ribbon on anything, and they do—from handguns to garbage trucks, from perfume to toilet paper. But there is no transparency or accountability about where the pink ribbon money goes. Sometimes no money at all from the purchase goes to a breast cancer organization. But even if the company does make a donation, most of these promotions ultimately benefit corporations far more than they help women living with and at risk of breast cancer.

6. Some pink ribbon products are linked to causing breast cancer. Years ago, Breast Cancer Action came up with a term for this, pinkwashing: the outrageous corporate practice of selling products linked to an increased risk of breast cancer while claiming to care about (and profiting from) breast cancer. This year, we are challenging two giant agricultural companies who are using leftover wastewater from oil corporations to irrigate their citrus—while also using pink ribbons to sell them.

(To be clear, I have no reason to believe that Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup causes cancer; I just love the Warhol-ish absurdity of the photo at the top of this blog.)

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Dana Bolger at Feministing (who has previously profiled Jaggar), takes a moment to highlight just how far pink-ribbon October culture can go:

I wish I could say pinkwashing has reached new heights here (get it), but this is nothing new. Last year, Massachusetts cops introduced pink handcuffs (because where do women get better healthcare than… in prison?). And the year before that, Susan G. Komen teamed up with a fracking company to give us pink drill bits (and oh yeah also carcinogenic toxins).

Yep, that’s right, the U.S. military, known far and wide for its concern for human life (women’s or otherwise).  Jaggar shares an image at the link to her article of a pink handgun sold as part of a “breast cancer awareness kit.”

If you wear a ribbon as a memory of your own breast cancer experiences, or to honor someone you love, or to increase your own awareness of the scope and depth of the issue,  I support you, and I feel sure Jaggar and Bolger do so as well. Its the shameless co-optation of a loving symbol to shore up a deeply anti-human set of corporate goals and objectives we despise. It’s the eagerness to embrace a symbol while doing nothing for people with breast cancer (not all of whom are women), and doing nothing to clean up the toxins we deal with every day.  Perhaps worse, it’s the tacit permission for people to substitute shallow “awareness” for real, engaged concern.