Sunday, July 31, 2011

Vs. the Pomegranate has moved to WordPress!

I have moved Vs. the Pomegranate to WordPress. Please update your bookmarks and/or RSS feeds. This link will bring you to the new, improved blog:

If you've followed my blog here at Blogger, thank you. I have truly appreciated your readership. I hope you continue to read Vs. the Pomegranate at WordPress.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Moving to WordPress

Dear Readers,
I am in the process of migrating my long(er) form blogging to WordPress. It's complicated but I'm trying to archive the contents of this blog--including your intelligent comments--at my new spot. As soon as I'm up and running I will let you know and redirect you there. In the mean time please visit my Tumblog at

For what it's worth I like Tumblr a lot... but it's primarily a visual experience for me. I almost never want to read long blocks of text there so it has discouraged me form writing anything too in-depth, which the reason I began blogging in the first place. That, along with the ease of re-posting, encourages me to pass along already existing photos and smaller chunks of text or links at my Tumblog. I'll still be doing that but with everything that is happening in the world I want to do more.

The move to WordPress is meant to blow the dust off (Blogger looks really old-fashioned post-Tumblr, I think) and provide a space to explore the things that interest me in more detail.

More soon.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Only Rapture I Am Caught Up In

It is a beautiful spring day in New York. I'll work out and then bring my dog to the park so he can run around. Later on: dinner... and if I all goes well, dessert.

This, I think, is the difference between me and the end-times Christians: I love the world. It frustrates me and there are things I want to change, but at my core I love the world and I love my life. And I do not need for it to be swept away to feel close to God. I just have to walk around on a day like this and watch my dog gallop around the park, kissing everyone he sees.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Kyriarchy is a Bitch, Part Two: This Time It's Personal

Despite its vast, unbounded openness sometimes the internet is a small town. When I wrote about freelance "race and gender" writer JoNubian's bizarre, anti-Arab racist twitter-rant yesterday I didn't think she'd see it--or if she did, certainly not right away. But I was wrong. Out of nowhere she tweeted me this afternoon.

In case you didn't follow that, here is a brief play-by-play:

* Calling out anti-Arab racism is degrading... to the anti-Arab racist.
* Calling out anti-Arab racism is the same thing as street harassment... if the person doing the calling out is an Arab.
* Pointing out racial intolerance is racist.
* Jo thinks this would have been better handled between us, despite the fact that when I tried to do that she blocked me, making such a discussion impossible.

... At least she admitted that she'd made an "unfair generalization." So that's something, right?


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

With Friends Like These (or, Kyriarchy is a Bitch)

So this happened:

Um, what?

What the entire fuck? I log on to Twitter to see what's what and I'm confronted with this? From someone on my own timeline?

JoNubian is ready to drop some science on you Sand Monkey, so don't get it twisted! ... Sure, if you own a Bodega in Brooklyn you are probably South Asian but the fact that she can't tell the difference will not slow her down. (Just the opposite, apparently. Keep reading son)

Her "humanity." Hm. Right.

So, to clarify JoNubian is a graduate student at Texas Southern University who writes critically about human rights, race and gender on her own blog and at Race Talk. Seriously.

I can't remember why I started following her. We chatted every so often at first--mostly about a shared interest in Frantz Fanon-- and I promoted a few of her pieces on my blog. In return she put me in touch with the editor of Race Talk, although I was too busy to submit anything there. Up until this point Jo's tweets were pretentious in a faux-academic/ Afrocentric way-- a lot of florid Zora Neale Hurston, Fanon and Baldwin quotes-- and she describes herself in her profile as a "Dreamer. Lover. Provocateur." (I kid you not, see below) In other words, unoriginal but harmless: i.e. a grad student. So I was hoping I'd misunderstood. I questioned her about what she'd written to make sure I hadn't wandered into the middle of an inside joke or something.

Although I was hurt and put off I didn't automatically write her off as a racist. Twitter lends itself to a speak-before-you-think style of posting. I was hoping she'd see that she was acting out and modify her thought. If she'd responded with, "Know what? You are right, I wasn't thinking when I posted that. Peace." we would be good.

I figured her reaction would tell the tale and unfortunately I was right...

So... Jo was offended not because the attention was unasked for and unwanted, but because she thinks an Arab woman in the same circumstance wouldn't also be harassed? Which is why she is "especially" offended by Arab men who act inappropriately on the street? What? Even if she had some way to know what street harassment is or isn't suffered by Arab women (and let's be clear, she doesn't) what does that have to do with anything? I repeat: Jo specializes in writing about race and gender. At this point I thought, wow, that is ten different kinds of fucked up.

I also thought, "the hood"? Where are you tweeting from, 1995?

Jo, who has over two thousand followers on her feed, then turned to them for a bit of twitter-affirmation...

...And it worked! This thought-- not wrong in general but grotesquely inappropriate in this context-- was retweeted. But here's the thing, if the only way you can articulate your oppression is to oppress me, then we have a problem. Arab men are not "savages" we are just men. Some good, some not--just like everybody else.

I wasn't arguing that street harassment never happens, or that there isn't sometimes a racial component to it--or even that Jo herself hadn't been harassed. I was saying that stereotyping all of us for the actions of a few is complete bullshit. Especially slathered with a creamy frosting of orientalist stereotypes about violent, aggressive Arab men and passive, over-protected Arab women. Unlike Jo I keep my Twitter-feed small, mostly to avoid having to deal with crap like this.

Still, I thought--she got harassed on the street and she is upset. What she is saying is not okay but I don't want to downplay that.

To which she responded:

The reality is that Jo doesn't see anything "constantly" in New York, she lives in Houston. She is a tourist in my city and she is trying to school me on how it is in New York. In the, ah, "hood." Right. But even if street harassment by Arab men is a common experience for her making racial generalizations based on a small, unrepresentative group through her unacknowledged bias doesn't lead anywhere good. I am looking at you Dr. Kanazawa. At this point it seemed clear that her pride wouldn't let her admit she was wrong and in her defensiveness she was escalating her racism.

Given that she'd gone from pretending to know what is inside the heads of all "Arab Dudes" to pretending that she knows what's inside of mine I finally got angry and said so:

And to make sure it was clear I wasn't dismissing her justifiable anger at being harassed I wrote:

And then, one last ditch effort to make her understand her actions as racist by asking her to imagine herself n my place:

So she blocked me.

Right. Now let's review the World According To JoNubian, "a freelance writer whose writing focuses on human rights, especially issues of race and gender" :

* JoNubian is human but Arab men are savages.
* Arab women--those pampered creatures-- don't get harassed on the street, but if they did Arab men would behead the perpetrators.
* It isn't racist to say so because Jo has seen this "constantly" in New York (despite the fact that she does not live here).
*If you object to her racist anti-Arab generalizations, then you are lying.

I think expecting people of color in general and Black people in particular to be more racially enlightened because of their own struggles is a racist idea. It's a close cousin to the "Magical Negro" idea where it is the responsibility of Black people to uplift and educate everybody else, while simultaneously bearing up under the vicissitudes of racism with quiet, noble dignity. Yick.

But it is fair--and necessary-- to hold bloggers, journalists and academics who specialize in race to a higher standard, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds. Race "experts", even if they are entirely self-appointed, perhaps especially if they are self-appointed, must be more self-reflective than the average person. Which doesn't mean always saying (or thinking) the most virtuous, racially enlightened thing under all circumstances--that is unrealistic. But rather that if we fuck up we own it and move forward, trying harder. So this post isn't really about poor, shallow JoNubian. I'm not mad at her: She is a tourist, not only in New York City but in a world of ideas she does not fully understand. Academia is busting at the seams with people like her. She'll either grow up and out of this or she won't. Either way , she isn't my problem. But she does provide a perfect case study of kyriarchy, which the way that marginalized people oppress one another.

Our particular subject positions can create blind spots that seem natural to us, but are created--and can therefore be dismantled if we try. And if you are going to promote yourself as race "expert" you have to try. Period. In my experience anti-Arab racism (and its close cousin Islamophobia) are pervasive on the self-described left, even among people who specialize in writing about racism. There really isn't anywhere to go to escape it, even your own Twitter feed.

That is the reality of orientalism and Islamophobia.

Before signing off Twitter I scrolled down Jo's timeline and came across this gem, posted just before the anti-Arab stuff above. I add it by way of a post script:

Hm. Yeah.

Friday, May 13, 2011

From Portraits to Pin-ups: Representations of Women in Art and Popular Culture

Valie Export, Action Pants: Genital Panic (1969)

Academic Symposium: From Portraits to Pin-ups: Representations of Women in Art and Popular Culture

Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 11:30 a.m.–6 p.m.
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium, 3rd Floor

In conjunction with the exhibition Lorna Simpson: Gathered, this symposium will explore the implications of female artists using images of women in their work, the relationship between popular culture and fine art, connections between women's history and contemporary art, perceptions of race and gender, and representations of beauty. Dr. Wendy Steiner will speak on concepts of beauty, a panel of graduate students will present current research, and a panel discussion with comedian Erica Watson, drag king Shelly Mars, and illustrator Molly Crabapple will follow.


10:15 a.m. Dr. Steiner and panelists arrive (aside from Molly, Erica, and Shelly) for technical check
10:15-11a.m. technical checks, refreshments served
11:00am Auditorium opens
11:25am Introduction and Welcome
11:30am Keynote speaker Dr. Wendy Steiner "Beauty, Woman, Art"

12-2pm Paper session 1: Women and Image
Paula E. Hopkins, Georgetown University: "Subverting the Image: Representations of Black Women in Lorna Simpson's photography"
Shannon Vittoria, CUNY Graduate Center: "Women Artists at Work: Picturing Professionalization in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century France"
Nicole Bebout, Hunter College: "How to Protect Your Virtue: Animal Transformations in the Work of Paula Rego"
Brooke Belisle, UC Berkeley: "Gathered: Portraits of Relational Identity"
Nicole Meyers, Hunter College: "Unpinning the Pinup: Axell’s Vicious Red Circle and the Coca-Cola Company”
Emilia Müller, New York University: "Fashion and Femininity in 1950s Sci-Fi Films"
Li Cornfeld, M.A., New York University: "Shooting Heroines: On Dina Goldstein's Fallen Princesses"

2-2:30pm: Lunch break. Light lunch will be served, cafe is also open.

2:30-4pm Paper session 2: Women and Embodiment
Kristen Lorello, Hunter College: "Kate Gilmore and goldiechiari: Re-envisioning the City in Rome and Beyond"
Joseph Shahadi, Ph.D, New York University: "Mona Hatoum: Foreign Body"
Aliza Shvarts, New York University: "Art, Hair, Beauty"
Thomas Naughton, Harvard University: "Performance Event or Pop Art Product: Lady Gaga's Instafilm Grimace and the new consumerist 'performance art'"
Al Janae Hamilton, New York University, "Radicalizing the Black Female Body: Fashioning Black Power from Olive Morris to Pam Grier"

3:30 p.m. Shelly Mars, Molly Crabapple and Erica Watson arrive

4:30-5:30pm Conversation with illustrator Molly Crabapple, drag king Shelly Mars, and comedian Erica Watson

Friday, May 6, 2011

Jeffrey Wiesenfeld Explains It All For You: Palestinians Aren't Human

This handsome devil is Jeffery Wiesnfeld.

Photo by Michael Appleton for The New York Times

The story so far: Jeffery Wiesnfeld, a City University of New York trustee and semi-professional Zionist, got his knickers twisted over the inclusion of Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tony Kushner among a stack of proposed recipients of honorary degrees to be rubber stamped by its Board. After an impassioned, if factually dubious, recounting of Kushner's criticisms of Israel, (among other things Kushner is the Co-Editor of Wrestling With Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict) the Board caved like a... I'd like to think of a clever metaphor here but currently there is nothing that caves as fast or completely as the CUNY Board of Directors.

What ensued has been a fairly predictable push and pull: Kushner responded. Former honorees Barbara Ehrenreich and Michael Cunningham have returned their honorary degrees to CUNY in solidarity with Kushner. And Wiesenfeld responded to Kushner's response. In the New York Times Jim Dwyer tried to get a defensive Wiesenfeld to clarify his position, which he did by asserting that the Palestinian people aren't human.

Dwyer writes,

I tried to ask a question about the damage done by a short, one-sided discussion of vigorously debated aspects of Middle East politics, like the survival of Israel and the rights of the Palestinians, and which side was more callous toward human life, and who was most protective of it.

But Mr. Wiesenfeld interrupted and said the question was offensive because “the comparison sets up a moral equivalence.”

Equivalence between what and what? “Between the Palestinians and Israelis,” he said. “People who worship death for their children are not human.”

Did he mean the Palestinians were not human? “They have developed a culture which is unprecedented in human history,” he said.

To paraphrase one of my favorite bloggers, Shark-Fu of Angry Black Bitch:



Right. So how do you engage with someone who believes (and reports that belief to the New York Times) that people like you aren't human? Short answer: you don't.

Like their Evangelical Christian brethren (who also do their level best to bend US civil discourse to suit their political concerns) it is pointless to engage rationally with Zionists. So rather than answer the various–-frankly ridiculously inaccurate and/or sensationally distorted–-racist and Islamophobic claims of various post Kushner-kerfuffle commenters (or of Wiesenfeld himself) I’d like to make three points:

1) The particular context of this debate aside, it should be clear that this incident sets a dangerous precedent at CUNY. Our universities are settings for the rehearsal of such arguments–to the great benefit of their students. The threat implicit in Wiesenfeld’s objection is premised on the potential economic consequences for CUNY based on public opinion, which is not fixed. If I were a Zionist I’d be very wary of opening this particular door. The times they are a-changin'.

2) The cultural behaviors, religious beliefs and legal policies of the various nations of the Arab world (and/ or Muslims in general) are utterly beside the point: the actions of the State of Israel toward the Palestinians are still wrong. They are not *less* wrong (or even somehow “right”) because some of the Palestinians do things that you (or Wiesenfeld, or even I) don’t like. Period. Ethnic cleansing doesn’t magically become justifiable when you use it against people with whom you disagree. In other words we don’t say “Well, slavery was okay because we don’t like the way the Africans treated women or gays.” We say, “Slavery is wrong.” Period.

3) This action–described by Wiesenfeld as “boycotting the boycotters”–has achieved nothing except to betray Zionist fear over the growing international influence of the cultural boycott of Israel. Bad move. I have never been more convinced that the Boycott is working than I am at this moment.

If they cannot see that this is not a Zionist “moral” victory but rather a sloppy, public misstep then they are kidding themselves.