Monday, August 31, 2009

On racism, potty training, and "Dykes to Watch Out For"

So, this has been on my mind for several weeks.
Recently, Sonia Sotomayor was finally allowed to be in the Supreme Court. And there was much rejoicing. The same can be said for when President Barack Obama was voted into office. And while many people had the right idea of their adulation, I still found myself hearing over and over again the phrases "first Hispanic Justice" and "first African-American President".
Um... okay... get over it? No, I'm not being racist saying that. You're being racist, not even knowing it, and undermining the true achievements these individuals obtained. You make it sound like this is some sort of equal opportunity position being filled, and boy aren't we so progressive to have a Latino in the Judicial branch and an African-American in the White House.
Please people! If your child came out of the bathroom to let you know they "used the potty" for the first time, you'd praise them. Unless your child was fourteen. That's what this is. Our "firsts", and all the praise that goes with it, should have been passed more than a century ago, and we, AMERICA, have been the fourteen year old that's been shitting his pants until now.
These people are people, American, who obtained their position not because of their ethnicity, but because of their MERIT. A crazy concept in America these days, I'm sure. Now, I'm all for people celebrating their heritage and ethnicity, it's who they are. But this bigotry, this subtle, surreptitious racism that has been instilled in us so slowly that we don't even realize we're being that way, is a cancer in Americans, one that can't be gently dealt with, but must be cut at it's core.
And while we're on the topic of bigotry, it was brought to my attention recently by some friends that there exists a test known as the "Bechdel Test". It is named after the creator of the comic "Dykes to Watch Out For", Alison Bechdel. In it, one of her characters creates a test for mainstream movies. So, let's have some fun and try this out, see which movies YOU like, pass.
#1) Think of a mainstream movie, or one of your favorite movies.
#2) Does this movie have TWO NAMED female characters? If yes, go on. If no, start over at #1, the movie failed.
#3) Do these women TALK to each other? If yes, go on. If no, start over at #1, the movie failed.
#4) When they talk, is it about something OTHER than a man? If yes, congratulations, your movie passes! If not, start back over at #1, your movie failed.

This is amazingly eye opening. I thank Genevieve who gave me this fun link that has a list of movies that have been tested and if they test, or where along the line they fail, as well as this fascinating article about a female film student who was being taught in school to specifically fail the Bechdel test.
As a fun side game, see if you can think of something in the mainstream media that FAILS the reversal of the Bechdel test, that is, doesn't have two named male characters, or they don't talk to each other, or they only talk about a woman. It's also fun to see if your favorite movie passes variations of the Bechdel test in which "women" is replaced with any minority group (for #4, they pass only if they are not talking about the white, male, lead character).

I think America crapped it's pants again. Who's gonna change it?