What if the U.S.A. extended its holidays to include more than DWMs (dead white males)?

Sure, the US has a few days honoring those other than DWMs (Martin Luther King, Jr. day, for example). Yet, for the most part, the USA closes  schools, banks, post offices, etc to honor those of the dead white male persuasion.

Seeing that this year President’s Day and Susan B. Anthony Day fall on the same day, the strikingly un-diverse practice is put into sharp relief. How many people know it is SBA Day? How many kids study her work, and the work of other important women, as much or as often as that of all the dead white dudes?

I found a 3rd/4th grade lesson plan on SBA here. Thank Aphrodite for teachers that recognize SBA deserves as much (or more!) attention than former presidents.

As Miriam at Feministing notes in her “Today in Feminist History” blog column, most recorded history is about white men:

“In just the few months that I’ve been doing this series, I’ve encountered how difficult it can be to find important feminist historical moments, particularly organized by date. Especially when I’m doing most of my research online. So much of recorded history (particularly available on sites like Wikipedia, NY Times on this day) is about white men.”

This is why the 90th birthday of the league of women voters goes relatively unnoticed (except at feminist blogs, as here) and why I couldn’t find any mega big, mainstream blog covering SBA day. Seems like with all the coverage DWMs and AWMs (alive white males) get, we could pay a tad more attention to women’s history. (Yes, I know, it’s called HIStory for a reason…)

As noted by A Funny Feminist (who posted the someecard above), having this day off school “is a total wasted opportunity for kids to learn about presidents and other government whatnot.”

Just imagine if ONE day a year were devoted entirely to learning about women’s history? Yeah, we say there is a month, but my kids experience thus far reveals that Women’s History Month usually involves putting a few women’s pictures on the wall and maybe doing one report on an important woman. If I didn’t cajole some of the teachers into letting me talk in their classrooms during the month, there would be NO mention of feminism and no coverage other than the “rockstar women” that all the kids have already heard about…

If we really did honor these “Other” months, imagine the twist people like the white male studies peeps would get their boxers/briefs in!

Happy Susan B. Anthony Day everyone.

What if the “best books” were not always centered on male protagonists?

Today we have a guest post from Meg of Planning the Day. Meg responds to Nicholas Kristof’s list of best children books, a list that featured mostly male writers/protagonists. Granted, Kristof’s list was much more diverse than Publishers Weekly Best of 2009 book list that was male/white biased in the extreme. He included some books I would count among “bests” — Charlotte’s Web, Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables. Yet, he, as Meg points out, has chosen a list where ONLY ONE GIRL is front and center. In keeping with the call at She Writes to speak out against the still male dominated world of publishing/writing, Meg offers us a more diverse, less penis-privileged list in what follows:

“I usually enjoy the writing of Nicholas Kristof, the New York times columnist who often uses his space to bring attention to the ongoing genocide in Darfur and the plight of trafficked women in Southeast Asia. So I was excited when I saw that his column this week was a list of the best children’s books; I expected selections that would inspire social-consciousness and empathy among their readers.

What I did not expect is that nearly every book would feature male (and when he is a person, white) protagonist. Out of thirteen suggestions, only one is based on the story of a young girl. Who is the lucky lady? Anne of Green Gables, “one of the strongest and most memorable girls in literature.” And not one of them centers around the story of a person of color.

Some of his other suggestions have great girls in supporting roles: Charlotte’s Web, with beloved Charlotte and Fern as Wilbur’s best protectors and friends, topped the list. The Harry Potter series was also recommended, which features such strong women as Hermione Granger and Ginny Weasley.

So what’s the problem with his suggestions? There’s nothing wrong with any book in particular on his list, but it fails to offer characters that young girls or children of color can immediately relate to. There is something special about picking up a book and connecting immediately with its main character by seeing yourself in that person. While it is not out of the question for girls or children of color to relate to a white boy protagonist, it would be great for children to see themselves, with all of their historical particularities, represented in their books.

Kristof invited his readers to comment on his article with their own additions, so I’ve made my own list to add to his. Not all of them feature girls or people of color, but I hope that they represent a more diverse set of characters:

  1. “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’Dell. I vividly remember buying this from our school’s book fair when I was in fourth grade, and then retreating into my room for three days to read, emerging only for meals. This book is based on the true story of a 12-year old Native American girl, Karana, who survived alone on an island for 18 years.
  2. “Tuck Everlasting” by Natalie Babbitt. I was enchanted by Winnie when my mom read this story to me in first grade.
  3. “Number the Stars” and “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. These are two of my absolute favorites from elementary school. I read them countless times between third and fifth grade, and remembering them now makes me want to check them out of the library again. Number the Stars is the story of Danish girl whose family helped her best friend escape from the Nazis in Denmark. And The Giver… just read it, it’s great.
  4. “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor is the story of Cassie, a black girl growing up in a segregated and oppressive southern community in the 1930s.
  5. “Walk Two Moons” by Sharon Creech. Native American Salamanca Tree Hiddle travels across the country with her grandparents, trying to find her disappeared mother. I don’t remember much about this book except that I loved it.
  6. “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” by E. L. Konigsburg. This book-on-tape kept us kids silent for countless car trips, as we listened to the adventures of Claudia and Jamie, two kids who secretly live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art while they try to solve the mystery of the new statue.”

(Please add your suggestions in comments!)

What if we made June white-male month?

In an earlier post about Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I included the fairly well known joke:

Question:

If February is Black History Month and March is Women’s History Month, what happens the rest of the year?

Answer:

Discrimination.

Renee, of Womanist Musings, expanded on the joke’s answer in the comment thread:

“…having those two months dedicated to women and blacks is discrimination. Deciding that we only need to talk about blacks in February and Women in March means that for the rest of the year it is okay talk about white males. If we truly meant to be inclusive these would be issues that we talked about 12 months a year. “Special Months” are not a sign of tolerance they are a sign of discrimination.”

I, along with Renee, take issue with “special months.” I think they set up a segregationist approach to learning that allows (and even celebrates) learning about “Others” only during appropriate months.

Come February, teachers break out the Martin Luther King Junior picture books or play his speeches for students. If they are really trying to be “multi-cultural” they might also include “extra” curriculum on Black History, ensuring their lesson plans pay homage to the month. The problem is that this type of inclusivity should not be done for a month, but throughout the year.

However, being the white-centric, male-centric society that we are, some claim we should be thankful for such months. I say what we should do is flip it around and make June “white-male history month.” The rest of the year could be all-inclusive curriculum. (Note: I picked June as it is the end of the school year and I think it is high time WM’s came last for once. I think it is also important to point out that I am referring to the normative conception of white-maleness here — or middle to upper-class, Christian, heterosexual, able-bodied, right leaning, “properly masculine” white males who must, of course, like sports)

It is not that I don’t like white males – in fact, there are quite a few I love. Those that I love don’t see this idea as problematic because they realize their privileges and want to work to dismantle them. They understand it’s time to share the reigns.

I am not saying we need to deny that WM’s have done great things, but we need to give everyone else an equal place in history (and school curriculum).

So, I say enough with the “special months” – let’s make the whole damn year reflect the true diversity of this planet and let’s stop making it ok to be racist, sexist, and homophobic year round. Let’s stop making it ok to only care about cancer in October or only be aware of transphobia on transgender remembrance day. How about instead if we tried to be human(e) every damn day? How about if we revamped our conception of history to include everybody – not just white male heterosexuals? And while I’m at it, how about we paid as much attention to social injustice and what we can do to make the world a better place as we do to friggin’ Super Bowl Commercials? That would truly be a time worth celebrating.

What if you were Obama? What cabinet would you build?

While there is definitely good news regarding items on Obama’s presidential “to do” list, most of the news about the cabinet so far is worrying. Sexist Larry Summers??? Anti-Palestine Rahm Emanuel?? Anti-education Arnold Schwarzenegger? Nooooo!

The supposed short list of other candidates for the cabinet is not encouraging, populated as it is by sexists, extreme Zionists who bow to AIPAC rather than the populace, Hummer drivers, and those of white penis privilege. As Jill over at Feministe notes, “I can’t help looking at his list of advisors, and his growing list of White House staff, and think, ‘Huh. That’s a lot of dudes.’” I can’t help looking at the list and thinking “Huh. Looks like one party government as usual. What about CHANGE?”

If I were Obama, my list would be much different. First of all, I have a cynical mistrust of most politicians, so I would look to fill my cabinet with activists, humanists, feminists, womanists, academics, and artists… My cabinet list is obviously a “dream cabinet” rather than a reality based one… But, if this cabinet were to exist, think of how the world might change…

Without further adieu, my cabinet choices are as follows:

Chief of Staff – Cynthia McKinney

Who else to give the highest cabinet position then to my FIRST CHOICE for president. (Yes, I voted for McKinney.) She wants to end the Federal Reserve System, she is critical of Zionism, AIPAC, and other imperialist forces that aim to keep power in the hands of the few. She is not beholden to lobbyists or the interests of PNAC. She has an excellent stance on immigration and on other key issues – see here for proof!

Attorney General – Angela Davis

Longtime activist and founder of Critical Resistance, who better than to lead the department of justice? Plus, how cool to have a former member of the “FBI’s most wanted” list as Attorney General!

Secretary of Homeland Security – - Cindy Sheehan

She may not have evicted Nancy Pelosi from the house, but she sure could make our global home a more secure place for us all through her de-militirized, anti-imperial, pro-peace and justice stance.

Secretary of State – Maya Angelou

Her wisdom and vision would certainly serve us well in matters of relations with other nations.

Secretary of Agriculture  – Vanadana Shiva

OK, so if she would be willing to move stateside for awhile and serve in the US cabinet, this Indian ecofeminist extraordinaire would be my first choice.


Secretary of Commerce  - Barbara Ehrenreich

Best known for Nickel and Dimed, her understandings of wealth inequality and worker’s rights, along with her incisive, humorous voice, would make her a fabulous edition. Plus, an adventurous streak like hers is most definitely needed in any cabinet.

Secretary of Defense - Karen Kwiatkowski

A woman who believes that “We have a Congress that failed in every way to ask the right questions, to hold the President to account. Our Congress failed us miserably, and that’s because many in Congress are beholden to the Military Industrial Complex” most definitely would be a good choice.


Secretary of Education   - bell hooks

A passionate advocate for “Feminist Education for Critical Consciousness,” hooks would remove biases in the curriculum and work to create a mass-based educational movement for EVERYONE.


Secretary of Energy -  Maxine Waters

As an advocate for women, children, people of color and the poor, and as the founder of the “Out of Iraq” Congressional Caucus, Waters could surely uses her experience and intellect to advocate for a sustainable, eco-friendly, socially just energy policy.


Secretary of Health & Human Services – F.R.I.D.A.

The more dedicated activists in the cabinet the better! These disability rights activists would rock the way we approach health and human services while shredding ableist bias.


Secretary of Housing & Urban Development – Dolores Hayden

We need professors in the cabinet too! The author of “What Would a Non-Sexist City Be Like?”, Hayden could work towards non-sexist housing and development.


Secretary of Interior – Winona la Duke

As a Vice Presidential candidate with Nader (who endorsed Kerry during her campaign), la Duke is a “hellraiser” of the best kind.


Secretary of Labor – Dolores Huerta

This  labor movement leader and co-founder the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez would be the best Secretary of Labor eva!


Secretary of Transportation – Jennifer Schumaker

Who better than a woman who walked 500 miles along highways and byways as our Secretary of Transportation? Plus, as a mom of 4, she has expertise in ‘reality transportation’ – or , how to get 4 kids all the places they need to be with one car and no decent public transpo system… Anyone who has dealt with similar transportation conundrums, knows that a person with ‘parent taxi’ experience would be a great choice for managing the transportation needs of the nation.

Secretary of Treasury – Echidne of the Snakes

The cabinet must have at least one goddess. I can think of no better goddess for the Treasury position than a feminist economist goddess.


Secretary of Veterans Affairs  – Ann Wright

Wright resigned in protest of the Iraq War. She works tirelessly towards eradicating war crimes as well as ending military violence against female soldiers and civilians. With 13 years of active duty experience and 16 years in the army reserves, she is critical of the US failure to resolve the Israel-Palestine situation, the illegal occupation of Iraq, and the lack of sound policy regarding North Korea.


Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency – Sarah Palin. Just Kidding!!! Susan Griffin

As one of the matriarchs of eco-feminism, Griffin could put her vision of “placing diplomacy and cooperation before aggression and violence, for the good old fashioned morals our fore mothers and fathers celebrated, not as in we’re going to invade your private life and tell you who you can marry, but as in, we don’t torture and we don’t wage unprovoked wars” to great use in the EPA!


Director of the Office of Management and Budget - IAFFE

Our budget and economy are so messed up I think we need more than one person to solve these problems. I nominate the crew at The International Association for Feminist Economics.

Director of the National Drug Control Policy – Julia Sudbury

Author of Global Lockdown: Race, Gender and the Prison Industrial Complex, Julia Sudbury gets my vote for many reasons – one of them being that she calls GW Bush a “global hangman.”


U.S. Trade Representative – Janie Chuang

Chuang advocates for the inclusion of human rights protections for trafficked persons. She works for international human rights. What a concept – someone who works for the rights of all the globe’s peoples – not just those within our borders!

Joint (not) Secretaries of Feminist Affairs – Gloria Steinem, Ellie Smeal, Andrea Smith, Cherrie Moraga, and Patricia Hill Collins.

Ok, so (BIG SURPRISE!) the Department of Feminist Affairs does not exist. But these are just SOME of the people I would appoint to this MUCH NEEDED department. In keeping with the collectivist tenets of feminism, of course they would have to equally share power and we would come up with an alternative term to the gender-biased ‘secretary’…


YOU’RE FIRED!
Following the wonderful Angela Davis’ insight that What this country needs is more unemployed politicians,” I would like to remove most existing politicians from the government payroll. The first two to go would be:

Nancy Pelosi – for so many reasons:  for ok’ing torture, for ok’ing surveillance and other Orwellien/Patriot Acts, for putting impeachment off the table

Joe Leiberman – yeah he must go, he supports surveillance and illegal wire-tapping, wants to invade Iran, he supports anti-choice licence plates (!) and sucks in so many other ways…

Others chimed in with their recommendations.

Jennifer Schumaker noted “I would have a professional philosopher, versed in the philosophical traditions of the entire globe, not just the Greco-Roman to modern Western strains.”

And Minority Militant, far more of a realist than I, listed his as follows:

Chief of Staff: Rahm Emanuel (Love it, actually my congressman now) – Done
Press Sec: Robert Gibbs (Perfect) – Done
Sec of Def: Prefer John Kerry or Chuck Hagel
Sec of State: Prefer Gov. Richardson or John Kerry
Sec of Treasury: Steve Jobs or Paul Volcker
CIA Director: Move Adm Mullen here (Sailors are the best intel folks)
Joint Chief of Staff: Put Gen. Petraeus here
Attorney General: Hillary Clinton (So what?)
Fed Chair: Keep Ben Bernanke (I know, I know, but he doesn’t like hype. I like that.)
National Security Advisor: Eric Shinseki
Need one or two declared republicans….
Sec of Trans: Any Repub would do (Trying to be bipartisan)
Sec. of Labor:  Some Republican
EPA: Robert Kennedy Jr.
Sec. of Ed: Mike Honda

What cabinet would you build, dear readers?

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