Archives for November 2009

(Re)Producing Gender: Being-Temporary

In June of 2009, a young woman was out celebrating her college acceptance with two police officers she apparently knew. They proceeded to get her drunk, take her to a hotel, and then they took turns raping her. On October 27, they were sentenced. It is at this point that the series of events takes an interesting turn – the judge decided to sentence them each to only three years as he viewed their crime as “temporary” – there was no evidence of premeditation and all parties involved were ‘appropriately’ apologetic.  A lawyer from Zhejiang Hai Hao Law Firm  explained that under normal circumstances, when two or more people rape another, it is generally referred to as gang rape, and that under existing law “they should have been sentenced to more than a decade in prison, life imprisonment or death, which has a significant difference from their three-year term.”

Understandably, this grotesque judgment has unleashed a fury of criticisms. The outcry has been so loud that even the paragon of global feminism and progressive politics, the Wall Street Journal, took notice.

It would be accurate to situate this whole series of events within the rot of corruption that plagues nearly every system where the law and the enforcement of that law are part of the same apparatus. It would be equally accurate to attribute this to misogyny, another case where the woman was “asking for it” and thus convinced the helpless men to commit a crime. But what if there is more to the story? As pointed out by Marta Cooper at Global Voices Online, it is about society.

As one commenter has added to the discourse, “We will soon be living in a temporary time.” Presumably, this means a time where all crimes that lack premeditated malice are temporary. What if it is actually this woman, and others, who are judged to be “temporary” and not the crime itself?

If this is the case, the era of temporality is no so much looming over us but rather we are already there. This woman was not yet a productive member of society. She had yet to find herself in full-time employment, that climax of meaning and value ascribed by capitalist logic. Even worse, she was not yet a part of the reproductive labor force. There is an assumption that she is only at the beginning of her own long march toward modernity.

It is in this context of value, that the Wall Street Journal’s attention comes back into focus. Why would the bourgeoisie who leaf through its pages care about rape, let alone the rape of an anonymous woman in China? The story is more than just a retelling of a method of masculine disciplining of the woman at the heart of this story. At the periphery are the dagongmei.

The same logic which constructs temporary rape is similar to the processing of dagongmei bodies where they migrate to the factories so that they might migrate into a more culturally desired representation of their femininity. For all the ways that gender is used as a tool of discipline for these woman (and the woman) the masculinized domination receives a far lesser sentence, which is useful knowledge when much of the economy has been made in China.

Labor, of either the physical or intellectual variety, has been constructed as temporary so as to deskill and devalue the efforts. Being-temporary means being-replaceable. On this scale, there is a necessary regulation of identities to ensure enough of a cold conformity that there is little difference between the models. To vary from this regulation is to be unproductive. And unproductivity is the greatest sin under this contemporary logic of capitalism.

As far as this particular brand of logic is concerned, these little sisters have no real identity of their own prior to being inserted into the factory process where they (re)make themselves into something that has concrete use value in place of what was before only the potential for it. This something is the simulacrum of femininity that Kristeva articulates in her observations on female sexuality. The value of a woman’s body is her potential to (re)produce the commodities of desire.

As far as this logic of capitalism is concerned, what is the value of a woman’s body to the system? In “The Arcane of Reproduction” Leopoldina Fortunati identifies that there are really only to possibilities which have been made ‘natural,’ and hence invisible, by this system which has largely reduced human interactions into questions of exchange and value – housework and prostitution. This creates two worlds of gender, one where there is a partner who sells their labor to capital while the other partner sells their labor to the reproduction of social norms adhered to by the State (and the reproduction of the State itself) is one the causes of the compulsory heterosexuality within the structures of the nuclear family (pg 24).

Is this the source of the self-fulfilling prophecy that is being-temporary? Have our collective bodies and identities become so regulated, commodified, and instrumentalized that there is no alternative to other that to be temporary until the time that we become domestic?

Then again, it really could just be corruption and misogyny.

I don’t know but I must admit that the outcry gives me hope. Even if it is only temporary.


(Image Credit: China Digital Space)

Kenya Imagine Women: Pray the Devil Back to Hell (Review)

The rebels fought for resources. Charles Taylor fought to stay in power. Young boys were recruited to fight in a war they barely understood. And the women of Liberia, they fought for survival, theirs and Liberia’s.

Pray the Devil Back to Hell is a gripping, tear-jerking, yet empowering story of the resilience of the human spirit and the capacity of our survival instinct to triumph over the greatest challenges.

The film’s early scenes are set in 2003 when a group of Liberian women begin organizing themselves to get an audience with President Charles Taylor. Taylor was disinterested: his full attention lay in proving his military prowess as he fought rebels across the country. The women persisted: dressed in white dresses and white headscarves they gathered in hundreds and waited by the roadside for Taylor to pass by and notice them. For days, they continued meeting, until he finally relented.

Leymah Gbowee was one of these women. She says she was exhausted by war’s sorrows and destruction and yearned for a return of normalcy. Together with other women groups she formed the Liberian Mass Action for Peace, a coalition of women’s groups that included both a Christian and a Muslim women’s association. They were up against men who were not afraid of raping or killing women in their community. Their religious conviction was not unique however. As Gbowee says of Taylor, who would later be charged in an international court on actions committed during those violent times, “he could pray the devil back to hell.” Taylor like many Liberians went to church and prayed.

So these women took courage, prayed for peace and believed their prayers answered when Taylor finally agreed to meet with African leaders in Ghana for peace talks. Gbowee and hundreds of other women followed him there in eager anticipation.

To their dismay however, Taylor and the other warlords were not interested in ending the war. Resolving never to quit, the women decided to press on in faith, and thus began the sit-ins.

I spoke with the film’s award-winning director Gini Reticker.  She says, “the role of women is often neglected when telling history.” For years, international journalists covered the Liberian war, yet Reticker found very little footage on the struggle of the women of Liberia to end the war; this in spite of their very open and significant. It was not difficult to find them, they sat in market places, called on the president and even traveled to Ghana for peace talks. They were central to the peace effort, and it would be difficult to overstate their importance to the peace effort, and to compelling progress at the peace talks.

Reticker says she “made a point not to include violent images… its almost pornographic.” Instead through five women, of different vocations and backgrounds, the story of Liberia is told, or told anew. This retelling is different from the story most people know, for as Reticker says, the traditional approach has been informed by the fact that “the sight of a young Liberian man holding a gun is a more compelling story than that of a woman organizing for peace.”

In times of increasing global tensions, and endless news of strife and crises within countries, conflict and the potential for conflict threaten to disrupt more lives than they have in several decades. The example of this group of women in Liberia, determinedly waging peace against great odds gives many communities around the world, besieged by the trauma of war, the hope that they too can prevail.

For this reason, the film has among other places been shown in the Congo, in Iraq and in Darfur. Following the film’s screening women in Kurdistan and Georgia have written peace agendas for the future of their communities.

For victims of war, and particularly raped women, the film undoubtedly takes them back to those traumatic times, opening up old wounds, but perhaps also uniting and emboldening them and the rest of society in common resolve in their present struggles. These empowering stories, and the accounting of a lengthy healing process, are a testament to how far Liberia and the survivors of its civil war has come.

And for others the film will offer courage, hope and a determination that no struggle is too big to overcome.


(Photo Credit: Global Citizen Journey) (Video Credit: YouTube)

Uganda is … Who is in our hearts of hearts?

Sylvia Tamale

The Rev. Gideon B. Byamagusha is a person of courage, a person of the hearts of hearts. Byamagusha is an Anglican priest in Uganda, in a parish outside of Kampala. In 1992, Byamagusha announced that he was living with HIV. He was the first African religious leader to do so. In 2003 he founded the African Network of Religious Leaders living with or personally affected by HIV/AIDS, or ANERELA. By the end of 2006, ANERELA numbered over 2000 members in 39 African countries. In 2006, Rev. Byamagusha started a shelter for AIDS orphans. In May of this year, Rev. Byamagusha was awarded the Niwano Peace Prize. He lives today with his wife and three children.

He lives today, and in today’s edition of the Sunday Monitor, he writes: “No one really knows how many homosexuals , tri-sexuals, bi-sexuals, hetero-sexuals and non-sexuals we are in Uganda. What is known is that these sexualities are certainly not new ways of life.”

We are … homosexuals, tri-sexuals, bi-sexuals, hetero-sexuals and non-sexuals. We are.

On Thursday, November 19, Los Angeles County reported a 21% increase in crimes against gay, lesbian, bisexuals and transgendered people. The report noted that sexual-orientation hate crimes were more likely to be more violent than hate crimes based on racism or religious hatred.

Friday, November 20, marked the eleventh Annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance. The Transgender Day of Remembrance began in 1999, to commemorate, mourn, and protest the 1998 murder of Rita Hester, a transgender woman of color in Boston

Last year, in Yeoville, a neighborhood of Johannesburg, South Africa, Daisy Dube was brutally murdered, shot, when she and her friends asked three men in an car to stop calling them “isitabane”, a Sepedi slur against LGBT people.

A little over a week ago, on November 13, in Puerto Rico, 19-year-old Jorge Steven López-Mercado, was killed, beheaded, dismembered, and his remains were set on fire, because he was a man dressed in woman’s clothing.

Tara Sawyer sees November 20 as “an opportunity for all of us to stand up to end violence against all women….Some counts have the average number of murders of transgendered people at 19 per month! Or put another way, 1 in 12 of us in America will be murdered. But we as transgendered people are the only ones counting, in pretty much every country across the world. I’m a transgendered sex worker, and I want to not get killed for who I am or what I do. As our death count rises, I beg that you consider your prejudices around gender, and let us live in peace. I’m literally begging for my life.”

We are the only ones counting. Let us live in peace. I’m literally begging for my life.

In Uganda, homosexuality was already criminalized, and that was not enough. A new bill proposes death. Remember, sexual orientation crimes are likely to be the most violent, especially when perpetrated by the State, by Society, by Large Structures. The people must be protected, Society must be defended, the Nation must be preserved. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people must learn to die, must learn to beg for life … and then die.

Die … or dialogue? On Wednesday, Makerere University hosted a public dialogue between Sylvia Tamale, well-known human rights, women’s rights, sexual minorities rights’ feminist lawyer, and Maj. Rubaramira Ruranga, Executive Director of the National Guidance and Empowerment Network of people living with HIV/Aids in Uganda. Major Ruranga has been living openly with HIV since he announced his HIV status on World Aids Day, 1993. Before his promotion to his current rank, he was known as Captain Condom. There are many courageous people in Uganda.

Tamale opened her remarks with an invocation to dialogue: “I would like to thank the Human Rights and Peace Centre for inviting me here this afternoon to share my views on this bill.  It is great that HURIPEC organized this to be a dialogue and not a debate because debates have a tendency to polarize and divide along irrational gut-level responses.  A dialogue, on the other hand, usefully sets the stage for people to listen to each other with understanding, tolerance and helps build bridges.  I hope that this public dialogue will mark the first stepping stone for all of us to embark on a rewarding journey of mutual respect, simple decency and fairness.”

Stepping stones or stones of violence? It is not enough to put down the stones. Something must be built, an open bridge, an open road, an open and shared journey.

She concluded her remarks with an oblique return to the theme of dialogue: “Do we really in our hearts of hearts want our country to be the first on the continent to demand that mothers spy on their children, that teachers refuse to talk about what is, after all, “out there” and that our gay and lesbian citizens are systematically and legally terrorized into suicide?  Ladies and gentlemen, you may strongly disagree with the phenomenon of same-sex erotics; you may be repulsed by what you imagine homosexuals do behind their bedroom doors; you may think that all homosexuals deserve to burn in hell.  However, it is quite clear that this Bill will cause more problems around the issue of homosexuality than it will solve.  I suggest that Hon. Bahati’s bill be quietly forgotten.  It is no more or less than an embarrassment to our intelligence, our sense of justice and our hearts.”

What is in our hearts? Justice? Love? Who is counting our deaths, who is opening our spaces, who is charting our journey? Who is in our hearts of hearts? Let us live in peace. I am literally begging for our lives. We are …


(Photo Credit: The Sunday Monitor)

Uganda is … Are you now or have you ever been …?

Speciosa Wandira

Speciosa Wandira was Vice-President of Uganda from 1994 to 2003, and was actually the first woman Vice-President on the continent. She is also a physician, and her story provides insight into the Anti-Homosexuality Bill passing through the Ugandan Parliament.

Dr. Wandira was once married to an engineer named Kazibwe. They had been married for some time. In  2002, she publically took on the taboo subject of domestic violence against women in Uganda. She revealed in public that she had been battered.

She was a 48-year-old woman then, a mother of four, speaking before Parliament on International Women’s Day, and she simply told the truth. She had endured abuse for three decades, she had suffered too much and for too long. She filed for divorce, and was finally granted it. The process was so time consuming and exhausting that she stepped down from government in 2003, but she had opened a full debate, in Uganda and on the continent, concerning marital rape, women’s rights in divorce settlements, property rights, and some regulation of polygamy.

On November 11, 2009, some seven years later, the Ugandan Parliament passed a Domestic Violence Bill. Women activists, feminists, civil society have welcomed the passage into law. It is a positive step … that took seven years and actually much longer. Imagine climbing stairs in which each step takes (a) a prominent leader to intervene and (b) seven years.

At the core of the debate concerning the Domestic Violence Bill was masculinity. What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a man in Uganda? What does it mean to be an African man? These were the questions posed. These are the questions that underline the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, a bill that would punish homosexuality, the hint, the aroma, the aura of homosexual anything, by death. Are you now or have you ever been … ?

Speciosa Wandira is also one of the Champions for an HIV-Free Generation.

The Champions for an HIV-Free Generation are a group of African leaders committed to “meeting the challenge of AIDS”. They number ten: Festus Mogae, former president of Botswana; Kenneth Kaunda, former president of Zambia; Joaquim Chissano, former president of Mozambique; Benjamin Mkapa, former president of Tanzania; Desmond Tutu, former Archbishop of Cape Town; Edwin Cameron, currently a Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa; Miriam Were, chairperson of the Kenyan National Aids Control Council; Joyce Mhaville, chairperson of the Steering Committee of the African Broadcast Media Partnership Against HIV/AIDS (ABMP); Liya Kebede, Ethiopian model and Goodwill Ambassador for the World Health Organization’s maternal and child health program; and Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe.

It was reported yesterday, Sunday, November 15, that, at the end of October, Festus Mogae, chairperson of the Champions for an HIV-Free Generation, sent a letter to Uganda’s President Museveni. In that letter, President Mogae charged that “the draft HIV/Aids Prevention and Control Bill 2008 and the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill could have a chilling effect on HIV/Aids prevention efforts.” The problem is the pandemic. Are you now or have you ever been…HIV+?

But what if the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is linked instead to the Domestic Violence Bill? According to some, “40% of crimes committed in 2008 were crimes of passion or related to domestic violence”. Others suggest that 68% of Ugandans have suffered domestic violence. When it comes to domestic and sexual violence, it’s women and children first.

The stew of discrimination, state persecution and execution of human beings provided by the Bahati Bill is an all too familiar one, especially to those who live and struggle with domestic and sexual violence. It’s part of a continuum. Here’s an example.

On Wednesday morning, a radio call-in show in Kampala had birth spacing and family planning as its theme. According to one report, the topic in fact was man: “Let no one confuse us, we want many children. Every man should not consider himself done until they have got 80 children,” said a caller into Impact FM’s morning show on Wednesday. “How can you a Muganda man, say that you have only two children, it is a shame. You have become a mzungu (white man),” said another…. Though women bear the brunt of big families and frequent pregnancies, the callers were mainly men and almost all of them were calling for large families. Listening in, I wished children grew on trees so that whoever wanted many could go and pluck them. Sadly, that is not the case. A woman, somewhere, has to risk her life to bear children in Uganda. According to statistics, a Ugandan woman has a one in 27 lifetime chance of dying during the process of getting a baby. This is compared to a one in 8,000 chance in the developed world — yet the men were calling for 60 or 80 children per man. At an average of seven children per woman in Uganda, this means each man would need at least 10 women to achieve this feat. Uganda is an agricultural country and 80% of the production is by women. If these same women are going to be pregnant seven times in their lives, when will they get time to look after their babies and also contribute to their family development?”

You want only two kids, are you a mzungu?” Are you gay? Are you a lesbian? Are you a woman? Are you a wife? Are you a mother? Are you a man? Are you a man? Are you a man? Are you now or have you ever been …?


(Photo Credit: The Daily Monitor)

Kenya Imagine Women: Why Justice Must Be Served

Ruth Njeri

Ruth Njeri

Thanks to the reminders of the violence that was meted on thousands of innocent Kenyans in the period that is now known as Post Election Violence I am unlikely to sleep tonight. Two years ago seated in my Minnesota living room I listened in horror (emails and phone calls) to stories about women being raped. The reports on rape first started with the attacks that followed soon after the election results were announced — and continued as displaced women moved into camps away from their homes.

I was thousands of miles away, but so grossly affected by the unnecessary violence that that year I did not celebrate New Year’s Day. In fact, I was very angry with Kenyans who went out to celebrate the New Year that night.

A high school friend had just graduated from medical school and was now a doctor in a Kenyan hospital. Her voice broke every time she told me of the people she saw at the local hospitals. Thus began my email conversations with the wonderful women at the Gender Violence Recovery Centre  of the Nairobi Women’s Hospital. I learned that in just a little over two weeks (December 27th 2007 to 13th January 2008) the hospital had seen 100 victims of sexual violence: 40 of them were under 18. Children. The youngest of these was only four. A baby.

It is these true stories that inspired me to write about this violence that was largely unspoken off: to give a voice in these women’s words. This violence against women that is time and time again used in time of conflict.

So it is with renewed horror that I read in yesterday’s Daily Nation about Ruth Njeri whose husband was killed during the PEV. What’s more, she was raped several times, scalded with hot water and left for dead. As if this defilement of her person were not enough, Njeri discovered she was pregnant. That her counselors kept her pregnancy a secret from her is a subject for a different discussion:

She was tested, but the medical staff were evasive about the results although they continued counselling her.  After six months, Njeri wanted to terminate the pregnancy but was not allowed to.

Before all that Njeri and her husband were working-class Kenyans: business people

Here she describes how they raided her home. From her account it is obvious that their only interest was to kill her and her family; adding to the growing evidence that most of the PEV incidents were planned.  It is also curious that they were all dressed similarly.

“They were howling like dogs and were dressed in white T-shirts and red shorts,” she recalls. “I stood rooted to the ground with fear, knowing that these were the men my husband had referred to earlier. About seven of the men entered the compound and began kicking and pushing me into the house while the rest went away.”

Once inside the house, they took the little boy from Njeri’s husband and flung him against the wall. They then attacked her husband. “They were prepared and well-armed,” recalls Njeri. “They had machetes, rungus, arrows and whips. I cried for mercy, then pleaded, but they would not listen. I ran to the bedroom and got them Sh40,000.  I begged them to take the money and leave us but they just laughed.

“One of them snatched the money from me, smelt it and threw it in my face. He reached into his pockets and pulled out many Sh1,000 notes, ‘We don’t need your money, we have been paid well to do our job,’” he said.

And then like savages her attackers molested her. In turns.

Njeri was barely conscious when they began raping her in turns. But she remembers that each one would finish with her then help himself to some of the food she had cooked. Her last memory of that night is of the men pouring hot water on her naked body before leaving her for dead.

Perhaps, at the end of the day when we are done debating politics and laughing at the idiocy of the political elite, perhaps then we will think of Njeri and thousands of internally displaced persons whose only wish is that their lives might return to some normalcy and that those who masterminded the PEV would pay.

And for Njeri and her children the struggle continues.

Njeri finds herself swinging between depression and the will to rebuild her life.  “At times I look at our condition and wonder whether it will ever end, or what kind of punishment this is,” she cries. “Then I look at others who are worse off… for women who were raped and contracted Aids, it is a sure death sentence. Then I count my blessings and console myself that although I lost my husband and my property, I still have the son of the man I loved, and I consider Wanjiru a blessing and another reason for me to live.” 

This post appeared originally at Kenya Imagine: http://www.kenyaimagine.coedim/23-Fresh-Content/Politics-and-Governance/Why-Justice-Must-Be-Served.html/

(Photo Credit: Daily Nation)

Critical: Women learn to use mousetraps: species/gender intersectionality in the US

Thirty-five years ago, Sherry Ortner argued that women’s universal oppression could be explained by their seeming closeness to nature and humanity’s tendency to devalue nature in favor of culture. Today, most feminist anthropologists have recognized the flaws in that nature/culture binary and in searching for a single, universal explanation of women’s subordination. Yet, much of Ortner’s work still resonates with the hegemonic construction of femininity in the United States. For sure, there are some significant changes in Americans’ relationship to nature: it is more popular than ever to value the natural world and we are saturated with environmental campaigns and discourse about the need for clean energy legislation. Yet, concern for the actual animals that we share that natural world with is still highly gendered as feminine, while masculinity is often constructed as dominance over (and violence towards) nonhuman animals. Interrogating cultural references to nonhuman species in the United States may reveal something about the ways we construct hierarchies within our own species.

Take, for instance, this Fox 5 News broadcast (which was covered by Jon Stewart this fall): an athletic-looking, confident sounding newscaster Ernie Anastos says to a less confident sounding weatherman Nick Gregory: “It takes a tough man to make a tender forecast Nick”. The weatherman replies awkwardly “I guess that’s me”, to which Anastos says, “Keep f**king that chicken”. As John Stewart points out, Dari Alexander, the female newscaster sitting next to Anastos, looked horrified after that comment, while Anastos was glowing with satisfaction. This has engendered a great deal of internet gossip and, from what I can tell, no one really knows for sure what that phrase meant. I am guessing Anastos meant something along the lines of “keep up the good work”. What no one else seems to be talking about though is how this line came up in the context of Anastos’ previous comment about the weatherman’s “tender forecast”. Anastos first de-masculinized his coworker by referencing Gregory’s feminine behavior, and then constructed himself as hyper-masculine with his second remark. Assuming it meant “keep up the good work”, then the good work here is the violent sexual domination of another creature. In the video clip, it seems as though this is precisely what Anastos has accomplished (albeit discursively) through how he positions himself in relation to Gregory and Alexander.

While men’s domination over the natural world is used to establish their masculinity, women’s concern for other species is often portrayed in popular culture as an example of feminine weakness, irrationality, and emotionality. In one current commercial for an Ortho mousetrap, a high-income, Caucasian, heterosexual (presumably married) couple is discussing the benefits of this convenient device (“nothing to see, nothing to touch, you just throw it away!”). The wife shocks her husband by saying she took care of it herself, a scene best described by one blogger on as being “said stupidly as if she just learned how to tie her shoe”. At the end of the commercial, the wife says “no mess, no drama” and her husband looks at her as he replies, “we could do without drama”. She says “excuse me?” and the scene closes with the audience sympathizing with the husband as he realizes he has inadvertently upset his temperamental wife. In true capitalist form, the commercial ends with a narrator declaring “Defend What’s Yours!”, with this written in bold red caps across the screen. One of the messages here is that women’s concern with murdering innocent creatures is reflective of their melodramatic nature in general.

Such gendered messages are commonplace in marketing campaigns. Dawn is currently advertising their dish soap by showing images of baby animals covered in oil and saying that they will donate a dollar to wildlife organizations with every purchase. Jim Bean advertises its bourbon by showing men renting puppies to attract women. The commercial ends with a narrator saying, “Guys never change. Neither do we”. Femininity (at least of the white, upper-middle class, heterosexual variety) is depicted as closeness to other species and compassion for their young, while hegemonic masculinity involves skillfully using another species to manipulate women for sex. This is certainly the image of manhood that Anastos invoked when he told his coworker to “keep f**king that chicken”. In an interesting play on this species/gender system, the National Geographic Channel has a new show this season—Rescue Ink—that follows big tattooed biker men as they go around saving abused companion animals (dogs and cats). The main appeal of this show obviously lies in the play on gendered assumptions of human-nonhuman relations.

Not surprisingly, these representations of femininity as concern for animals (and masculinity as domination over animals) have a tangible impact on the behaviors and values of real women and men. For instance, at the Humane Animal Treatment Society (HATS) meetings here at George Washington University, over 90 percent of the participants are female, as is the entire executive board. And women certainly do have self-motivated reasons to be concerned with the treatment of animals in their homes, given the strong correlation between cruelty to animals and domestic violence.

Although I have focused on gender hierarchies, an analysis of cultural references to nonhuman animals also reveals evidence about how we construct racial, regional, ableist, ethnic, and other social hierarchies by associating disadvantaged groups with other species. In my next piece, I will look at how Western stereotypes of gender/species intersectionality shape transnational representations of poor women of color who live in developing countries. If we are to challenge this intersecting system of domination successfully, we should expand our intellectual and activist projects to include human-nonhuman interactions/representations. While I believe that fighting against the oppression of nonhuman animals is a worthy goal in its own right, I am equally confident that so long as dominant notions of masculinity are constructed through symbolically (and literally) controlling, exploiting, and violating other species, it is unlikely that equal and caring relationships between people will become the norm.


Uganda is … “under attack”

Uganda is under attack and, as always, it’s the mothers of the nation who are to blame.

An Anti-homosexuality Bill has been tabled before the Parliament of Uganda. Many have risen to denounce and oppose it, both within the country and from across the globe.  Many others have risen to support it. Some in the Church have argued in favor of the capital punishment in the Bill, others have argued for life imprisonment. The ones arguing for life imprisonment are actually considered to be in opposition to the Bill. After all, in Uganda “homosexuality is already an offence under the Penal Code of Uganda as is same-sex marriage, which is prohibited by the Constitution.”

This is the logic of being-under-attack. As Michel Foucault put it, “Society must be defended”, and you, sir, madam, are not of society. You are a threat. Equally, you as a threat are a race, or better a sub-race. LGBTI people are being described as a public health threat, a moral threat, a national security threat, a spiritual threat, a pathogen. When, for example, the Archbishop of Uganda rallied his flock last year to protect him from the threat of the gay community, what did he say? ““The team of homosexuals is very rich, Archbishop  Henry Luke Orombi said, “They have money and will do whatever it takes to make sure that this vice penetrates Africa. We have to stand out and say no to them.” Sound familiar? If not, go to Nazi propaganda, especially in its early and middle years,  and see how the Jews, the Roma, the homosexuals and the disabled were described. Wealthy, a penetrating vice, infectious and infesting. Vermin.

The Bill was put forth and its campaign is spearheaded by Ugandan MP David Bahati. Some describe this whole situation as a convenient distraction for the government. Others see this as yet another sign that the government is filled with “purveyors of hate, who have no qualms about killing those who disagree with them or are unlike themselves. No doubt, they are more dangerous to the people of Uganda, than gays and lesbians.”

Not the good MP Bahati, however. He explains, in an interview published Sunday, November 1, that Uganda is under attack from the evil of homosexuality, that the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill is a nice piece of legislation. It is a consolidation of values of Ugandans and the country at large. It aims at holding the integrity of Ugandans high in the sky.” The nation is under attack, and now, so is Bahati: “ever since we tabled this Bill, we have come under attack. People have argued that we are promoting a hate campaign against homosexuals. And these attacks are coming mostly from civil society members who claim that homosexuality is a human right.

“These same groups have persistently continued to place this evil in the category of human rights. They have rallied people to resist the Bill. They argue that we are targeting homosexuals, we hate them. But some of the people behind these messages are mothers and respectable people in our country.

“Can you imagine mothers who are supposed to protect their children from abuses like sodomy are the very people protesting this Bill? Instead of protecting their children they are up in arms supporting abusers of these children! People who support this evil have endlessly started to threaten us.”

This is the logic of national-being-under-attack. What is at stake here? Motherhood. Mr. Bahati simply wants to save the mothers of Uganda … from themselves.

This is the all too familiar logic of being-under-attack, of protection and security. Hate is called love, violence is called peace, victims are called perpetrators, and love itself is called evil.

Remember the Call to Action: “Denounce this bill through a protest at a Ugandan Diplomatic Mission in your country on November 9th 2009, where applicable. Urge the Government of Uganda to reject this Bill in its entirety.” Uganda is…not under attack.


(Photo Credit: Uganda Beat)