Monday, May 22, 2017

RompHim Room & Friends

Let’s talk about RompHims for a minute. It is now all the rage that I have only seen in photos on the internet, not in stores. At the heart of it, they’re just rompers for dudes. They can’t be called “rompers”, though, because then people would associate them with women, and women BAD! I would have come up with a better name than “RompHim”, though. How about Bromper? Was that taken already?
Anyway, the RompHim have been the target of many angry people. I haven’t seen dudes so angry at something on the internet since the rise of all woman pop bands…so like yesterday. Why all this hate for the Jumpshorts? Is it that they’re completely covering, yet really short? Is it the question of how you take a shit when you wear them? Could it be the dumb name? Maybe all three, but I doubt it.
The Bag-o-Man is not a new thing. Men’s swimsuits up to the 1930s were essentially Mompers. Sean Connery wore one in Goldfinger. There are catalogs from the 1970s full of jumpsuits, and some of them were short onesies for men. Just last year, Cam Newton rocked a RompBro. What’s old is new again. As with systematic racism and sexism, people are acting like it’s never existed until now, and unlike systematic sexism and racism, people are reacting with rage and disgust at the idea of a Bronesie.
The hate that it is receiving is likely a disdain for clothing and behavior that infantilize adults. The very name “romper” reminds me of kids running around in onesies, because trying to put more complicated clothes on a little toddler who is just going to get it dirty in 5 minutes is difficult enough. Humans in their grabby larval stage are very wriggly and hard to keep still. More likely, the hate is for all things perceived as feminine being made for men. I know many people who either refuse to wear a RompHim or say that anyone wearing one deserves a beat down. Unless it is a confederate flag laden Hitlomper, I don’t think violence is necessary. We associate adult rompers with women’s fashion, and as with anyone who wishes to bend social gender norms, the makers of the RompHim Kickstarter have been met with violent resistance. Hoteps and right-wingers alike accuse the Sack-o-Mans of eroding the image of the “real man” and “effeminizing” men even more. A few years ago, skinny jeans for men were the thing to hate. Back when I was younger, earrings in men were the target. There was even a “gay” ear and “straight” ear. Back in the 16th Century, men wore heels. Makeup was a mainstay for men from the 17th century all the way back to the first kingdoms of the world. Fashion itself is not a definer of gender or of masculinity and femininity. It is only what people say about a certain product of fashion. The thing is that hoteps and right-wingers just hate women, so anything that reminds them of women will be met with disgust. The problem is that ideas like theirs still permeate throughout society in diluted forms veiled as either genuine concern or just a target for hate; much the way people will spit venom at the mention of certain girl bands or women pulp authors.
Don’t worry: the Momper will not topple Western civilization. It may be a fad for the summer (again), but I’m pretty sure that 100 years from now, the tomes of history that is uploaded into children’s brains will not mark the Bronesie as the catalyst that launched 1000 nuclear warheads. We can chill with the ridiculous hate for them for hate’s sake. All of you know damn well you wouldn’t go up to James Bond or Cam Newton and call them punks for wearing one. Though I doubt I would buy one myself…But I DID just buy a pair of skinny jeans, and if there’s a kente-inspired Afromper, I would wear it just to piss off hoteps…

Friday, May 19, 2017

Who Gave Comey a Copy of the PWSG™?

Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. This comes days after currently unemployed head wiretapper James Comey revealed he recorded in a memo a conversation where #45 tried to coerce him into dropping that Russian interference probe. That was a week after #45 fired Comey for whatever reason you wish to think. First it was that the Attorney Klansman Assistant suggested it. Then it was because he was mean to Hillary Clinton during the election...which would mean that everyone in the executive branch, including #45, should also resign. Then it was that he just “wasn't doing a good job”. Biggest (most likely) rumored reason is that he asked for more funds for the Russian Probe, and #45 didn't like that.
Regardless, the Russian investigation will continue, and Comey is about to make bank on a book deal. Most importantly, though, I want to know who gave Comey a copy of the PoC Workplace Survival Guide™, because HE KEPT THE RECEIPTS!
Every woman, person of color, queer-identified, and/or disabled individual who has worked in a corporate (or any) environment is given a manual for surviving a potentially hostile environment, in order to keep their sanity at their jobs. Everything from low-key micro aggressions to blatant bigoted witch hunts can happen on the job, and a brother needs to maintain for 8 hours for 5 days without choking somebody or getting himself fired. The rules are nuanced. Maybe you don't want to go to your supervisor when Dave mistakes you for the janitor or accidentally calls you Jamal. Did Steven just poo-poo your idea and then repeat it word for word as it was his? How do you deal with Shawn, who keeps saying you look angry, when you're just trying to work? Is a goddamn smile required to do intricate circuit design, Shawn? Someone put watermelon in the break this a fucking trap?
The flippant response to guidelines in that the office has an HR department or that we should go to our bosses with our grievances. That sounds so easy to do, and it’s cute that you didn’t think we thought about that sooner, Trevor. Sometimes, HR can help you, but sometimes going to HR can brand you a troublemaker, and even more subversive adverse consequences can come about. A colleague of mine went to HR regarding a complaint that his immediate supervisor kept making terrorist/suicide bomb jokes at him when he learned he is Iranian. He would even do this in front of customers. When he went to HR, the supervisor was fired on the spot, but life for my colleague got worse. The supervisor had been at the company for quite a while, and besides, he was “just kidding around”. All of a sudden my colleague’s pristine work was not good enough. His new supervisor, and everyone on the team, resented his existence. Then one day, two weeks later, the fired supervisor was re-hired as if nothing had happened. My colleague is no longer my colleague. He moved back with his parents and tried to figure out what to do with his life. Beside that story, if you are the only person of color in the office, and you make even an anonymous complaint to your HR department, it is not difficult to determine who made the complaint.
The PWSG™ is not written in a published book. It’s a collection of anecdotes and suggestions from experience, passed down orally like an old folk legend, eventually distributed in emails and instant messages. Were it not for the PWSG™, I may have had some words for the co-worker who couldn’t fathom that I went to college, and I wouldn’t have had the sense test to see if my previous boss had a negative bias toward me by swapping the name credits of two projects my colleague and I did. I know that I should dress just a little bit nicer than others in my office so that I’m not mistaken for the caterer, a guest, housekeeping, someone’s adopted son, or any other ridiculous thing for which I’ve been mistaken, but it was too hard a leap of logic that a black man with a company ID badge and security credentials is an engineer, on par with everyone else in the office. One of the most important pieces of advice from the PWSG™ is to keep records. Keep the receipts! It’s just like being a teenager in a mall with a nice shirt! You have to keep your receipt on you in case someone claims you stole the shirt, but this time, it’s a matter of employment survival. Keep the emails, document testy interactions, and if you can, keep a recorder handy! Whenever you feel like something is fishy at work, and you might wind up being the target of something based on who you are, you HAVE to keep record of everything you did, because you can’t go straight to HR or anyone saying you have a “hunch”. Quantify that shit!
My guess is that perhaps one of Comey’s black or brown FBI agents gave him a heads up when #45 was elected. Maybe it was both of them. I assume there are only two: one black man and one Arab-American from Jersey whose name is Ahmad, but everyone calls him Admiral Akbar. Between them and Carol in the forensics lab, they hired them so that they can claim that they’re “diverse”, which is why they’re on every EOE brochure photo. Ahmad and Blackman both told Comey to wiretap himself for a change…just in case...and that is what he did, and that is why we are here now.
This will all come out in testimony that I hope will be on C-SPAN, because I can’t wait to find out his receipt-keeping methods. Good on Comey for doing so. I’ll bet he expects his friends to call him Puff Daddy Comey now. Well that’s not happening. We remember how you handled the Clinton case -_-.

Oh, and by the way, the watermelon in the break room is ALWAYS a trap.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

"The Handmaid's Tale" and Dystopian Futures That Are Brown Peoples' Pasts

I can’t express how much I love Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale. I read the book, then I listened to Claire Danes read it to me via Audible, and now I’m watching the series on Hulu. I am riveted. The story is narrated by Offred, the captive “handmaid” whose only purpose in her new world is to be the repository for his sperm in hopes that she’ll provide a child for him in lieu of his infertile wife. The process is as horrifying read as it is heard as it is visualized. Women in this grey future are not people. They are workers with no rights or property. The commanders’ wives are trophy wives, treated like delicate flowers and placed on a pedestal, even though they really have no real power. That doesn’t stop them for lording what little power they have over the women working in the households. Their real role is to make their husbands look good and pump out babies if they can. They proudly wear blue. The brown-clad Aunts get to keep their names, but they also are in charge of “educating” (programming) the handmaids. They also seem to enjoy abusing their power over both Marthas and handmaids. Handmaids are essentially sex slaves who always don red. They are named “Of[NAME]”, as in, “I am owned by this commander, and my original name does not matter”. So if a woman has the misfortune of being a handmaid to some guy named Chaz, her name would be Ofchaz, which is humiliating enough, but she also has to fuck a guy named Chaz. The only respite of Ofchaz is that if she can’t provide a child to Chaz, she can be transferred to another commander’s household, and she would relinquish the embarrassing moniker. The bad thing is what if she is transferred and finds that out her new name is Ofthesituation?...also, she is still a sex slave. Marthas are the cooks and cleaners of the houses. I don’t recall any of them having individual names. I assume calling them Marthas is a reference to Mary’s sister. They aren’t handmaids because they are infertile either naturally or surgically. Marthas wear green. Outside the commanders’ households, there are “econowives”. They are the wives of the men who cannot afford to keep a manor with women to serve separate roles…so basically your average working class guy. These women take on the roles of the commanders’ wives, Marthas, and handmaids, and they wear all aforementioned colors together so that you know that their husband couldn’t afford a big manor. They are seen as lowly, even by handmaids and Marthas, which is ironic since everyone is kind of fucked. Jezebels are sex workers. Though only a few pages in the book, they escape the trapping the manors by being reluctant entertainment for the commanders and their foreign guests. Finally, unwomen are women who either rebelled against the government’s stronghold, did not adhere to whatever cherry-picked scripture that the government chose, or are former handmaids who were unable to produce children. They are sent away to assumedly grotesquely polluted regions to farm. The task sounds pretty terrible, as the pollution is radioactive fallout from a world war. Being deemed an unwoman means a slow death, all for the crime of being gay or old or infertile or not hot enough to be scooped up by a commander. On top of all this, Handmaids, Marthas, and below are not allowed to read or write. They are forever tasked to spy on each other, in order to keep each other in line. Any deviation from normal protocol can be seen as an act at resistance or a hint of attempt to escape. Distrust runs wild in this world.
The Handmaid’s Tale is horrifying. It is everything for which you could wish in a dystopian futuristic story. There is an upended society, there is uncertainty around the corner of each chapter, and all of this is on the charred rubble of a former comfortable if not flawed established government. What makes it even more suspenseful is that Offred is narrating the whole thing, and the way she narrates, you can’t tell until the end if she documented her survival or if she’s just rambling thoughts inside her head or if she survived any of this at all. I look forward to the continuing series on Hulu. Atwood knows how to make a dystopian novel. I wonder if she realizes that she essentially told a Negro slave narrative with white people as the stars.
Nearly every dystopian sci-fi is supposed that actions in the present can generate unfathomable consequences. The thing is that most of those unfathomable consequences have already been fathomed years prior. The women in Handmaids are treated like slaves, and there is plenty of historical evidence that American slaves were treated precisely like that. Slaves would be traded from family to mansion, often as punishment for underperformance or “misconduct”. Women were vulnerable to both physical and sexual abuse. A slave woman who caught the roaming eye of a master would be regularly assaulted. They would even have children, all under the eye of the master’s wife. Women already didn’t have much power back then, but the master’s wife would intentionally make the slave mistress’s life a living hell. Her children would be taken away from her. Those slave mistresses would be sent to the fields because they perhaps got older or the master got bored with them. Slave women also held the role of “breed sows”, as the best way get more free labor is to make it yourself. It was a lot cheaper than importing, after all. Women who were not breed sows would work in all aspects of the house, cooking, cleaning, serving, even nursing. A lot of times, slave women in the house were given JUST enough power over newer slaves to be trained that they would abuse it a little bit, so the slaves were policing themselves while they were all being subjected to an umbrella of abuse. Trust was a scarcity. No slave woman, no matter how much she thought, had any autonomy. If you don’t think it was “that” bad, look up the narratives of former slaves like Harriet Jacobs, Bethany Veney, Hannah Bond, Mary Prince, Mattie J. Jackson, Annie L. Burton, or Old Elizabeth. Some of these women dictated their stories to writers, and some of them wrote them on their own. This was at a time when a black person reading and writing was often punishable by torture and death.
Beyond the plight of the women in the story, a number of other people were deemed illegal in the Handmaid world. Catholics, Quakers, and Jews were not permitted. Quakers and Catholics were hanged, and though it was claimed that Jews were permitted to get on a boat and leave the country to a destination unknown, we all know historically what can happen when a bunch of people pack onto a boat of unknown destination. Plus the very idea of packing Jews into any vessel of mass transportation gives readers doubts that their destination was a Jewish paradise. Gay and trans people were labeled “gender traitors” and punished by hanging. Even adulterers, fornicators, and rapists were subject to capital punishment. The former seems excessive, since people who divorced and remarried were considered adulterers. It is hard to feel sorry for rapists, but in this world, it is hard to know if the accusation of rape against a man is true when levied by an Aunt, who claimed that he accosted a handmaid wantonly, and the punishment was to allow a mob of handmaids to literally tear him apart. It sounds a lot like the many times white southerners would find a reason to torture and kill a black man or boy, but then there would be evidence that the “victim” never existed in the first place.
With all these historical similarities, I wonder how much of it came from Atwood’s head, and how much was due to thorough research she did to make the book more horrifying and realistic. I can’t find any acknowledgement from Margaret Atwood that many, if not all, of the plights of women and “non-conformers” in The Handmaid’s Tale seem to be pulled straight from slave narratives and historical accounts of post-Civil War segregation. I’m not sure if she’d pay homage, as the only mention of people of color in the original book was a background newscast stating that the “children of Ham” were being “resettled” in the Dakotas and mention of some foreign diplomats from Japan and Saudi Arabia in the brothel of Jezebels. This almost seemed like an afterthought, like when a college makes a brochure but forgot to invite some brown kids to the photo shoot, so they Photo shopped them in.
This isn’t snide criticism of The Handmaid’s Tale. Margaret Atwood is a brilliant author, and I plan to read more of her work. I just find it interesting the way it plays out like other dystopian narratives, and how appealing they are to people. I think that a lot of white people read them out of fear of what could be, and a lot of people of color read them out of fear of what could happen again.

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