Skip to content

The curious case of Reeva Steenkamp’s boyfriend

The media and the Internet are abuzz with the shooting death of law graduate and anti-domestic violence advocate Reeva Steenkamp in South Africa last week, an event made all the more prurient to many media consumers by the fact that the accused, her boyfriend, is a Paralympic and Olympic athlete with an international reputation. As the commentary spews on, over and over again I see the statement that he was a role model, icon, or hero, and I am driven to ask this: whose hero was he?

I am told he was a hero to the disability community before his ‘fall from grace,’ as though shooting your girlfriend multiple times in the head and neck after a history of domestic violence with her and other women is a ‘fall,’ rather than a ghastly crime for which you should be severely punished. This presumes that the disability community is a collective entity that thinks and moves in lockstep, which isn’t the case; for some disabled people, Reeva Steenkamp’s boyfriend undoubtedly was a role model, but to others, he was just an athlete. A very talented athlete performing at the peak of his game, because very few people qualify for the Olympics and Paralympics, but just an athlete. Full social integration to me means that disabled people are measured by their accomplishments and deeds, not their disabilities.


#NOTBUYINGIT: The Problem Is Far Bigger Than Audi’s #BraveryWins

[Trigger Warning: Discussion of rape and the motivations/tactics of rapists.]

If you missed the Beyoncé Bowl (alternatively: The Super Knowles) it was perfect. Beyoncé used her extensive catalog of hits, her once-in-a-generation talent, and her staggering genius to put on a show none of us deserved. Her opening and closing act was a little bizarre and elaborate, with two groups of men adorned in ostentatious masculine costumes squabbling over scalar dominance, ultimately abandoning the struggle once time had run out, which I think symbolized the futility of all human endeavors in the face of death? I don’t know, I don’t have the strongest background in modern dance.

At some point during the evening, the German company Audi debuted a PSA arguing against bodily autonomy, with some pretty transparent product placement snuck in. You may view it below:


Uh, yes, Franca Sozzani, racism is a problem in fashion

The cover of “Vogue Italia” has an important face on it this month: Chinese model Fei Fei Sun, who is the first Asian model to appear on the cover of the magazine. I’d note that US and British editions have yet to feature an Asian woman on their covers, although US “Vogue” did do a spread featuring Asian models in 2010.

Fei Fei Sun on the cover of Vogue Italia

Writing on the “Asia Major” spread that ran in the US, Samantha V. Chang said: “How I wish I could have seen the Asian models of today staring back at me from magazine pages or television screens when I was a Korean-American teenager in the Midwest, wrestling with foundation shades of ‘bisque,’ ‘honey,’ and ‘sand’ in my local Walgreens.” Diverse representation in fashion is important, folks.


So sorry your disability tragedy porn isn’t sad enough, Ian Buckwalter

So, meet Ian Buckwalter of The Atlantic. Ian has a bone to pick with the slew of feel-good films about disability that have come out this year in a naked grab for Oscars, and so do I, but the bones we’re picking are, uh, radically different. I’m concerned about the trope of the feel-good disability movie, in which disability-as-tragedy is used as a humbling object lesson for the viewer, all presented through the nondisabled lens and with the assumption that of course nondisabled people are the only ones doing the viewing. And I’m perennially angered by the use of cripface in Hollywood, where playing disabled gets you a fast track to an Oscar nomination while talented disabled actors go unemployed because, you know, what would they have to bring to roles as disabled characters.

Buckwalter, though, is mad because these movies don’t make him feel sad enough in the heartspace. You see, movies about disability intended to make nondisabled viewers feel great about how nondisabled they are, how lucky they are that they don’t experience disability, how great it is, really, to not be a cripple, ‘need to also make you feel bad.’ Because how can you really understand the tragedy, the misery, the pathos of disability unless you feel brought down low by the narrative? (Continued)

Make Your Vote Count, and Look Out for Others While You’re At It

I’m hoping all our US readers who are eligible to vote are planning to hit the polls tomorrow (or have already voted absentee or via early voting) to participate in the election. If you’re in a battleground state, obviously your vote is especially important, but even if you’re not, there are a lot of important local, regional, and statewide races that you should be participating in so you can have a say in the process of politics in your state. As many of you are also no doubt aware, this has been a year of unprecedented (in recent memory) voter suppression efforts, which means that there may be some pitfalls on the way to the polls, if not for you, than for those around you.

The President holds up his early voting receipt

Barack did it!

I don’t think I need to lecture you on the candidates and the issues at this point, since y’all are extremely well-informed, but if you’re doing last-minute research, Project Vote Smart, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the League of Women Voters are great places to start. For those of you tackling ballot measures, Ballotpedia is a handy resource as well.

Make sure your vote gets counted this year, and please, while you’re at it? Look out for the interests of the people voting alongside you.


There’s still time to not be racist for Halloween!

With Halloween only two days away, I know some of our US-based readers may be scrambling for costumes, and this is really something that should go without saying, but I’m gonna say it anyway: Please don’t be racist for Halloween, okay? We here at Tiger Beatdown want you to have fun and be safe, but we also want the people around you to have fun and be safe too, and if you wear some redonkulous racist costume, you’re going to be contributing to a larger culture of racism, appropriation, and structural oppression.

And that’s not just a party buzzkill, it’s also just a life buzzkill. People live with enough reminders as it is that they’re marginalised and considered lesser-than. It’s structured into everything in our society from voter suppression through legislation and intimidation at the polls to the acute awareness that people of colour and nonwhite people are more likely to experience violent crime and less likely to receive justice. Donning a culture for a night isn’t just offensive; it also speaks to larger issues surrounding white supremacy and dominance.

If you have to ask whether a costume is racist, it’s probably racist. If you’re wondering whether it’s appropriate to dress up as a member of a different race or culture, the answer is: probably not. If your costume involves Blacking up, yellowing up, browning up (or for that matter cripping up), it’s appropriative. If it involves traditional dress or the use of coded garments, language, and accessories to represent a cultural group to which you do not belong, whether for homage or mockery, it’s offensive.


A gentle reminder…

There are only a few days left in the voting for the Women’s Media Center’s Social Media Award 2012 (our own Sady won last year!), so if you haven’t voted yet, I strongly encourage you to do so, and to spread the word through your networks. There are a lot of fabulous nominees on the list doing some fantastic work, but obviously I’d love it if you’d vote for me specifically, because, well, I’m awesome.

Five good reasons beyond my awesomeness to consider casting your ballot for me:

1. Increasing genderqueer and nonbinary visibility in the media. I don’t just focus on women and girls, but people of other genders who experience gender-based oppression, and a big part of my work examines gender and society beyond binary constraints. Even as a (relatively) high profile nonbinary person in the media, I’m routinely misgendered as a woman, despite the fact that information about my gender is readily available. While being recognised with an award might seem like a relatively small thing in the bigger picture, it would be an important step for nonbinary people, noting that we do exist and our voices are important.

2. Advancing intersectional models of media and justice. There are a number of nominees doing very important and highly intersectional work, obviously, but I cover a wide range of subjects and firmly believe that interconnected systems of oppression must be viewed in context, rather than being separated out and tackled individually. To name just a few of the things I talk about on a regular basis: rural issues; veterans/military issues; gender; queerness; environmental issues; politics; class; food policy reform; prison reform; body image; race; voting rights; disability (I’m one of the few nominees who covers disability issues at all); and trans topics. Liberation for some is justice for none and all of these issues must be considered holistically in the media to create a better world.

3. The media needs a place for sharp voices. People don’t always like what I have to say. Many of you don’t always like what I have to say. Probing deeply into issues, forcing people to think, and challenging social attitudes is hard, grueling work that’s often thankless, especially when members of your own movement are attacking you for pushing them beyond their comfort zones. The media needs more people like me, and it needs to receive a signal that people, like you, want more people like me.

4. Disability matters. Representation of disability in mass media and independent progressive media continues to be woeful. Only a handful of journalists openly identify with disabilities and cover disability issues, and disability coverage in both journalism and social media tends to be irresponsible, unhelpful, and sometimes actively hateful. We need more and better disability coverage from disabled people ourselves; casting your vote for me is a reminder that the best people to talk about disability issues are disabled people ourselves. We don’t need people to speak for us, we need a platform to speak for ourselves.

5. You know I’ll deliver a kickass acceptance speech.

So please, go vote, and tell your friends.

Thank you.

I’ve got your binder right here

The ‘binder full of women’ line seemed destined to be a meme almost before it finished coming out of Romney’s mouth; no surprise that a Tumblr dedicated to it was created before the debate was even over, that Twitter promptly exploded with binder jokes during and after, that they lingered on for days, that people speculated whether ‘binders full of women’ would have the staying power of ‘internets.’ Media attempting to be hip tried to work it into their headlines; NPR even snuck in a binder comment or two. This was the moment from the debate that we’d remember, binders full of women in response to a question about inequality and discrimination in the workplace.

I laughed at some of the jokes. Let’s face it, they were funny. I follow a lot of incisive, sharp, snappy, funny, smart people, and they were in rare form, and they amplified the best of the best from other people they followed. For a while, my feed was all binders, all the time, right down to meta jokes playing with the dual meaning of binder. In the flood of jokes, though, something was missing.


Tiger Beats: What We’re Up To

It’s been a while since we did a roundup updating y’all on our fabulous doings, so, here we go!

Emily just made an international move and she’s settling in, but she still had time to write a great piece about the turn towards austerity in Australia.

Flavia co-founded Space Invaders, ‘a collective that seeks to explore power, discourse, belonging, the politics of emotion and identity in Europe with a focus on the intersections of race, class, gender, ability and sexualities.’ You will want to bookmark it if you haven’t already.

She also collaborated on a play, ‘Goat in a Can,’ which is part of ‘West Words,’ a new series of interdisciplinary artworks sponsored by Amsterdam’s Foundation of Literary Activities and Podium Mozaiek. You can catch it on 30 October at Podium Mozaiek Amsterdam, more details here.

Garland Grey’s ‘The Whitest Show On TV’ was crossposted on Racialicious and there’s a great discussion in comments going on there!

Sady’s been writing up a storm at In These Times, and especially loves her summer pieces on vulnerability and our collective fetish for female trainwrecks.

s.e. has been nominated for a Women’s Media Center Social Media Award, and you should go vote. Also, tell your friends. Please and thank you.

What are YOU all up to, gentle readers?

Rape and selective outrage in the feminist community

Content note: This post discusses sexual assault committed against disabled people.

People have repeatedly asked me to write about a case from Connecticut involving a rape conviction that was overturned on the grounds that ‘No reasonable jury could have concluded that [the victim] was physically helpless.’ And I get why you want me to write about this post. I do. It seems like something that should be right up my alley, right? Disability, sexual assault, horrible legal outcomes.

The thing is that I have opened a new document repeatedly to try and write about it and I just haven’t been able to. Is the case infuriating? Yes. Are cases like this at all rare? No. Does this case make me feel like I’ve been punched directly in the gut, reminding me of my status and the status of other disabled people in society? Yes.  (Continued)