Not long after the diagnosis [of ALS], my wife at the time and I were discussing my future with the neurologist. He began going over the disease progression in a matter of fact way. He said your breathing muscles will become paralyzed and you will go to sleep and die. He quickly added that some patients decide to go on a ventilator, but there is no quality of life living that way. I shook my head in agreement.
It is extremely easy for a healthy individual to say how they would not live. I am guilty myself. If someone had told me prior to the diagnosis that I would be totally paralyzed, fed by a feeding tube, communicate via computer with a voice synthesizer and tethered to a ventilator that I would find more meaning in life and living I am certain that person telling me such a tale was insane.
Yes, my life is very difficult and requires a lot of resources to keep me alive, human and financial. I have considered disconnecting from the ventilator several times, but the reason is never because I had lost my appreciation for life and living.
I was admitted into the hospital and scheduled for tracheotomy surgery the next morning. That night my now ex-wife told me how selfish I was for wanting to live. That my young children had suffered enough and it would cause them only more pain. It was a sickening sense of abandonment. I have absolutely no doubt if I did not have the ability to communicate my desires the surgery would have not taken place."
See? The pressure to die is fucking everywhere. My experiences aren’t unique. Medical professionals tell you there’s no quality of life. Your own family calls you selfish. It’s everywhere. And for some reason feeding tubes are right about the first step along the way where you really start getting pressured to die rather than accept a medical device into your life. My experiences are the norm not the exception and disabled people are pressured into death constantly when otherwise we might choose to live.
Let’s imagine that instead of sending a handful of investigators from the ATF and the Chemical Safety Board to West, Texas, we marshaled every local, state and federal resource available to discover the exact sequence of events that led to the explosion. Let’s imagine that the question—Why?—became so urgent that the nation simply could not rest until it had overdetermined the answers. We’d discover that OSHA hadn’t inspected the plant in 28 years—did this play a role in the disaster? If it’s found that the company that owns the plant, Adair Grain, violated safety regulations, as it had last year at another facility, we might call it criminal negligence and attribute culpability. But would we ascribe ideology? And which ideology would we indict? Deregulation? Austerity? Capitalism? Would we write headlines that say—Officials Seek Motive in Texas Fertilizer Explosion? And could we name “profit” as that motive in the same way that we might name, say, “Islam” as the motive for terrorism? Would we arrest the plant’s owners, deny them their Miranda rights and seek to try them in an extra-legal tribunal outside the Constitution, as Senator Lindsey Graham has suggested we treat US citizen Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? Would we call for a ban on the production of ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia? Would we say that “gaps and loopholes” in our nation’s agricultural policies were responsible for the tragedy, as Senator Chuck Grassley has suggested about immigration in the Boston bombing case?
No, we won’t. We won’t do any of these things, because even if the West fertilizer plant disaster is ultimately understood as something more than “just an accident,” it will still be taken as the presumed cost of living in a modern, industrialized economy."
A hypothetical narration of a drone targeting the Boston Marathon bombing suspect in Watertown by an American Facebook user based in San Francisco, has gone viral amongst Pakistani Facebook users. Within 24 hours the post was shared more than 5000 times and generated hundreds of comments.
However, our dialogue about twerking reflects a larger system of cultural appropriation, commodification, and sometimes exploitation that has resulted in the birth of “ratchet culture.” Ratchet has become the umbrella term for all things associated with the linguistic, stylistic, and cultural practices, witnessed or otherwise, of poor people; specifically poor people of color, and more specifically poor women of color. (Yes, ratchet is a very feminine gendered term. See: Ratchet Girl Anthem). Remember when people who weren’t actually from the ghetto started to use the word “ghetto” to describe everything from their friend’s booty to a broken blender (real life examples)? The same phenomenon is happening with ratchet, even for those who do not use the word itself. It is super easy to borrow from the experiences of others as a way to be “fun,” or stretch boundaries on what is “acceptable,” without any acknowledgement of context or framework.
But being ratchet is only cool when you do it for fun, not if those are valid practices from your lived experiences. We watch shows like Basketball Wives, Real Housewives (of all the cities), and Bad Girls Club where women act ratchet as hell all the time. But they do so in designer clothes and at 5-star restaurants, and this paradox acts as a buffer for the ratchet that is the real reason for the shows’ success. Internet sensations like Sweet Brown are the perfect example of how “ratchet culture” is appropriated and commodified. “Aint nobody got time for that” has made its way to memes all over the internet and is used by folks from different backgrounds as punchlines and witty retorts. Sweet Brown has been contracted to sell everything from real estate to dental services. We witnessed the same trend with Antoine Dodson. It is becoming more and more common for folks to use “ratchet” to sell their not-at-all-ratchet products.
On an (inter)personal level, ratchet works to simultaneously police and defy gender, class, sexuality, and respectability norms. Folks with certain privilege are willing and able to float in and out of ratchet at will. The term ratchet became popular for me when I was still in undergrad about three years ago. All of us young, black scholars (constantly trying to justify the black side of the coin or the scholar side, as if they are polar opposites) were enamored with this term as a way to distinguish when we were or were not on the “right side” of the respectability table. When it was time to party we would say, “Let’s get ratchet!” But when I would go check my mail with my hair still wrapped in a scarf or was overheard talking to my friends from “back home” in our local dialect, I was just ratchet. Another example of the fluidity of ratchet was playing double dutch on the quad. At our predominantly white institution we were presenting a form of community building and fellowship that fell outside the boundaries of “appropriate” and “acceptable.” But our privilege as collegiate scholars allowed us to present ourselves in that way without the same push back we may have received if we were just black girls playing double dutch in a predominantly white community park.
I know that for me and many of my friends, the use of the term ratchet was a constant navigation of our identities as young, sexual, inner city hood Chicago-raised, black girls and privileged, college educated, Western women. I can’t stress enough that pop culture trends like twerking, “aint nobody got time for that,” or even just using the word ratchet to define the wild things that happened at last night’s party are all rooted in someone’s lived experience. Sometimes it’s your lived experience, but if it’s not, please stop for a moment to consider your privilege and what role you may be playing in the appropriation of someone else’s exploitation."
We demonize them left and right from the birthing situation to breast feeding to them daring to bring their children in public places.
This is some serious misogynistic shit that needs to STOP.
I’ve seen this growing disdain coming from the natural birth section who lambast women for wanting epidurals and c-secitons. Not every woman is okay with bearing that pain, and to shame them for not wanting to deal with that shit is utter crap.
Then it goes on to the breastfeeding camp. I’ve seen a whole lot of folks come down hard on mothers who bottle feed, calling them lazy and citing all these damn reports to essentially say “Well your baby is going to be a fucking dumb ass cuz you didn’t breastfeed them!”
As if it’s fucking easy to do so, with all the damn trials and tribulations that come with it, infected mammary glands, cracked nipples, and some babies just CANNOT latch on due to breast size or what have you. Not to mention the fact that we don’t fucking have paid maternity leave, and a good number of women just can’t pop out to pump because the jobs they have don’t give them ample space and time to do so.
And the other camp is the whole “You need to sequester yourself to some private corner/cover your breasts to breastfeed.” Bitch, you don’t eat with a goddamn blanket over your head, and you sure as hell don’t take your fucking steak dinner in the bathroom. Breasts serve the purpose of feeding the infant. Y’all had no fuckin problem starin at breasts all willy nilly in Maxim and Victoria Secret ads, but all of a sudden, when they aren’t there to service you, you got a problem.
And finally, the ‘children shouldn’t be outside in public places’ camp that demonizes women for having shit to do and not having a choice but to take their kids with them. Yeah, the baby is crying in aisle 7. You giving mom a dirty look because you don’t like that sound is NOT going to fucking help her one bit. Quit acting like children are some damn robots that should be able to be turned on and off on a whim. They are PEOPLE. DEVELOPING PEOPLE who have every right to take up the space they take.
What the fuck are you trying to say, Mary? I didn’t have enough of an emotional, mental and spiritual experience because I wasn’t screaming in pain anymore? SO glad you can tell me what the fuck kind of experience I had.
Yeah, fuck you.
I feel like I was able to have a BETTER experience because I got an epidural & wasn’t in pain anymore. If I wouldn’t have gotten it I wouldn’t have ENJOYED giving birth like I did.
I pushed a 7+lb human out my vag & I still feel hella empowered.
EXACTLY!!!!!! What I did was amazing regardless of the fact I got pain medication.
Woah now, Mary has said NOTHING that anyone should find offensive. I don’t think a “fuck you” is really appropriate in this case. Her point is that medicated births can remove empowerment from women. When you had your epidural, you were at the mercy of everyone around you. Your partner to hold up your leg, and the nurse to hold up your other. The doctor to remind you when you were having a contraction. Some of your power was removed in the birthing process. A woman who has a cesarean has NO control in her child’s birth. She is resting all of her faith in a doctor. Her arms are strapped down. How is she empowered in the process? These women are typically still blessed with the end reward, a wonderful newborn. All births are beautiful in their own right, none having more or less worth than others. But the point of this quote is that medication during labor in delivery can stifle a woman’s ability to be in charge of her labor. This is a pro-birth quote. Not an anti-this or anti-that. It’s pro-woman, pro-baby and pro-birth.
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters over darker people in the world. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.” - 1967
I can’t detach race and gender from my identity politics. There’s absolutely no conceivable way I can accomplish that. The racism I face is gendered, while the sexism I face is racialized. Islamophobia and neocolonialism why I had to flee my native Somalia, but sexism is why I had to do it disguised as a man for most of the way, so I wouldn’t be targeted by Al-Shabaab militants. What sensible person would ask me to distinguish such poignant politics regarding my personhood? It’s essentially asking me what evil I’d rather let destroy me. It’s the burning question Afghan, Yemeni and Pakistani women are faced with everyday when they’re asked to take racist (and misogynistic, admittedly) military intervention over being burned with acid, forced into burqas and exploited as political props by these sexist extremist organizations. It’s being pigeonholed and utilized only for the strategical gains of others, never for us.
But even is women of color and third world women could hypothetically package their experience into race and gender dichotomies, why should they? Why should women and our livelihoods, experiences and survival stories be presented as a monolith? For the benefit of who? Give me one feminist who’s accompanied this question with a sufficient answer. One that didn’t belligerently dismiss and erase our identities. You can’t find them, because ultimately the story of western feminism is “once white women and our precious lives are taken care of, once we get our birth control (from the same pharmaceutical companies that have used women of color as human guinea pigs of centuries on end) our glittery GRRRRL POWER~ t-shirts (manufactured by cheap, exploitative third world labor) and once we get our 20 extra cents to the white man’s dollar (while we deliberately leave out that you and your men make significantly less) we’ll worry about the rest of you and your pesky, tangential issues” and that is not a movement I want my name on or that thinks it represents me in the slightest."