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microaggressions

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Screenshot 2017-01-29 14.28.33From the Los Angeles Times, a blow-by-blow account of a feminist celebrity struggle session at the Sundance film festival:

Celebration of women filmmakers triggers heated debate among Salma Hayek, Jessica Williams and Shirley MacLaine

Amy Kaufman

… Here at the home of ChefDance CEO and founder Mimi Kim, Woodard, Shirley MacLaine, Elle Fanning and Jill Soloway were just part of a formidable group gathered during the Sundance Festival for a lunch to celebrate women in film. …

Shirley MacLaine, at 82, wearing purple and pink in honor of Saturday’s Women’s Marches, chimed in, saying that Donald Trump presented a challenge to “each of our inner democracy” and urged everyone at the table to explore their “core identity.”

Then Jessica Williams, the former “Daily Show” correspondent who was at Sundance as the star of Jim Strouse’s “The Incredible Jessica James,” spoke up.

“I have a question for you,” Williams, 27, said to MacLaine. “My question is: What if you are a person of color, or a transgendered person who — just from how you look — you already are in a conflict?”

“Right, but change your point of view,” MacLaine offered. “Change your point of view of being victimized. I’m saying: Find the democracy inside.”

What does “democracy inside” mean? That you should give each of the voices in your head an equal vote? Each of your past lives gets a say?

“I’m sorry,” [Salma] Hayek said, jumping in. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Williams answered.

Uh-oh … Microaggression!

I realize Salma is now 50, but it’s probably not a good idea for a 27-year-old actress to call her “ma’am.” Just sayin’ …

“Who are you when you’re not black and you’re not a woman? Who are you and what have you got to give?”

Williams took a deep breath. “A lot. But some days, I’m just black, and I’m just a woman,” she said. “Like, it’s not my choice. I know who I am. I know I’m Jessica, and I’m the hottest bitch on the planet I know.”

It’s generally not advisable to say that to Salma Hayek. The question of who, exactly, is the hottest bitch on the planet has never been one that Salma can ponder, which she does every time she looks in a mirror, with wholly disinterested objectivity.

“No, no, no,” Hayek said. “Take the time to investigate. That’s the trap! …There is so much more.”

“Right,” agreed MacClaine. “The more is inside.”

On the inside, for example, Shirley MacClaine is also, via her famous past lives, an androgyne of the pre-Atlantis Lemurian era, the harem girl of a Turkish pasha, a dancing girl of Old Isfahan, and “I remembered being a Muslim gypsy girl who had migrated from Morocco and was living with the Coptic Christians in the hills of Spain.”

Top that for Intersectional Pokemon Points, Jessica Williams!

Williams, whose speech at the women’s march at Sundance was praised as one of the most powerful and effective last week, looked down and said she was struggling to articulate herself. Peirce [the butch lesbian director of Boys Don't Cry] tried to help her, saying that when she goes out in public looking masculine, she causes discomfort in a way Williams might as a black woman.

Hey, thanks!

​​But that wasn’t quite right.

There’s nothing straight black starlets like Jessica Williams appreciate more than being told that they are about as alluring as white middle-aged butch lesbians.

So a​f​ter a few moments of reflection, Williams returned to Hayek.

“I think what you’re saying is valid, but I also think that what you’re saying doesn’t apply to all women. I think that’s impossible.”

“What part of it is impossible?” Hayek responded. “You’re giving attention to how the other one feels.”

“Because I have to,” Williams said.

”If you have to do that, then do that,” Hayek said. “Then that’s your journey. But I want to inspire other people to know it’s a choice.”

This was when “Mudbound” filmmaker ​Dee Rees — who had moments earlier introduced herself as a black, queer director — jumped in. At this lunch, she said, she didn’t feel like she was posing a threat to anyone. But in line at the bank? Things were different. “I don’t see myself a victim,” she said. “[Jessica] doesn’t see herself as a victim. But it’s how you’re read.”

“I also feel like the word ‘victim’ — I feel like it has bothered me,” Williams replied. “When I talk about feminism, sometimes I feel like being a black woman is cast aside. I always feel like I’m warring with my womanhood and wanting the world to be better, and with my blackness — which is the opposite of whiteness.”

In case you were wondering.

Cora, who had been in the kitchen cooking lamb stew and halibut, wandered over to share that she grew up gay in Mississippi, where she was sexually abused from age 6.

Thanks for sharing.

No matter an individual’s experience, she said, she just wished all women would have one another’s backs.

And maybe more than just backs, but you have to start somewhere.

It was a somewhat of an abrupt turn, and “Transparent” creator [Jill] Soloway returned to Williams to ask her to continue speaking.

“With intersectional feminism, it’s our responsibility as white women to recognize that when there are people of color or people who are queer — we need to prioritize your voices and let you speak the loudest and learn from your experience, because we haven’t been listening. So please, Jessica, finish your thoughts.”

You know, Jill, maybe Jessica Williams was starting to realize that while nice, she isn’t quite in Salma Hayek’s league and would rather you change the subject to something like having Elle Fanning give her opinion on Shirley MacClaine’s most awesome past life.

Williams, visibly uncomfortable, said she also wanted to encourage all of the women in the room to pay special attention to women of color and LGBT women.

In other words, I’m definitely better looking than most LGBT women, but can we get off the subject of me vs. Salma Hayek, please?

“I think we need to not speak over black women,” she said, “not assign them labels.”

It’s nothing personal, Jessica, it’s just racial.

“What does this mean, ‘speak over?’” Hayek asked.

Oh boy, Jessica, you shouldn’t have provoked the alpha uber-female.

“To project your ideas on me,” Williams said. “I think there is a fear that if we present an idea that, ‘Hey, maybe [black women] have it a little bit harder in this country’ — because we do; black women and trans women do — if we’re having it a little bit harder, it doesn’t invalidate your experience. I really am begging you to not take it personally.” …

Lots of luck with that … The more actresses you gather together the more rapidly the chance of things being taken personally approaches infinity.

“So when you say women of color,” Hayek began. Then she noticed that Williams was not making eye contact with her. “Jessica, do you mind if I look at your eyes?”

Salma discovered at about age 13 that the only way interpersonal exchanges didn’t go in her favor is if the other person didn’t look at her. For example, it’s harder for Salma to get her way with blind people than with deaf people.

Williams barely looked up.

This is like Donald Trump meets Stuart Smalley.

Still, the back-and-forth continued, with Hayek questioning whether or not she was considered a woman of color in Williams’ estimation.

The Flight From White.

Nearly everyone in the room responded that Hayek was.

Who would dare insult Salma Hayek by saying she is white?

Granted, Salma is a Conquistador-American on her mother’s side and a Crusader-American on her father’s side. In 2017, that ancestry makes her a Woman of Color.

Next week, I’d like to see Salma Hayek, Cameron Diaz, Sofia Vergara, and Alicia Machado debate who is more Woman of Colorish.

“Wouldn’t it solve it if women just all had each other’s backs in general?” Cora [the lesbian chef] asked suddenly.

The solution, obviously, is for hot women to stop competing for the attention of the enemy, men, and have each other’s backs, like with my famously relaxing back massages. I’m an expert chef so you know, Salma and/or Jessica, I have really good hands. And if that doesn’t fully relieve the stress …

“Sure,” Peirce said. “The thing is this, yes, all women can work together, but we have to acknowledge that black women have a different experience. She’s here struggling and we keep shutting her down.”

“I don’t think anybody here shut her down,” Cora said, fighting back.

“Can I interrupt, because I feel misunderstood,” Hayek agreed.

I’m not sure I’d call that agreeing, but it’s best not to disagree with Salma if you know what’s good for you.

“It’s not shutting you up. I feel misunderstood on one point: We should be also curious about our brain.

Tell Salma you are curious about her brain.

“By being the best that you can be. That’s what I was trying to say to you. Let’s not just spend all the time in the anger, but in the investigation.”

“Baby, I’m Mexican and Arab,” she went on, addressing Williams.

After all, who has ever heard of a Mexican Arab getting ahead in this world?

“I’m from another generation, baby, when this was not even a possibility. My generation, they said, ‘Go back to Mexico. You’ll never be anything other than a maid in this country.’ By the head​s ​of studios! There was no movement. Latino women were not even anywhere near where you guys are. I was the first one. I’m 50 years old.

Parts of me are less than 50 years old, but, overall, I’m 50.

“So I understand.”

“You don’t understand,” Williams said, shaking her head quietly.

To be fair, almost everybody sounds like an incoherent idiot when reporters publish verbatim conversations. It would have to be a conversation between, say, Steven Pinker and Charles Murray to look impressive on paper when unpolished by the reporter.

For example, when I was captain of the Rice U. College Bowl quiz team, the Houston Chronicle published a front page article ostensibly on the subject of what geniuses we were. But the reporter published quotes from me verbatim, which made me sound like a dope. I was a little mad at the time, but it mostly struck me as adding an extra layer of entertainment — Quiz Kid Talks Like Bozo –to the article, and thus was funny while being fair enough: I really did say exactly what the newspaper said I said.

From Wikipedia:

Hayek was born Salma Hayek Jiménez in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico. Her younger brother, Sami (born 1972), is a furniture designer. Her mother, Diana Jiménez Medina, is an opera singer and talent scout. Her father, Sami Hayek, is an oil company executive and owner of an industrial-equipment firm, who once ran for mayor of Coatzacoalcos. Her father is of Lebanese descent, with his family being from the city Baabdat, Lebanon, a city Salma and her father visited in 2015 to promote her movie Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. Her mother is Mexican, with her grandmother/maternal great-grandparents being from Spain. Raised in a wealthy, devout Roman Catholic family, she was sent to the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, USA, at the age of twelve. …

On March 9, 2007, Hayek confirmed her engagement to French billionaire and Kering CEO, François-Henri Pinault, as well as her pregnancy. She gave birth to daughter, Valentina Paloma Pinault, in September 2007 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. They were married on Valentine’s Day 2009 in Paris.

 
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From JSTOR Daily (a website that popularizes research from JSTOR’s trove of academic papers):

VERY BRITISH VILLAINS (AND OTHER ANGLO-SAXON ATTITUDES TO ACCENTS)

CHI LUU JANUARY 18, 2017

It’s a linguistic truth universally acknowledged that any story worth telling must be in want of a very British villain. It’s a familiar trope, as evidenced by this US-made Jaguar ad in which Ben Kingsley, Mark Strong, and a tea-sipping Tom Hiddleston embrace the inevitable dark side of their national identity.

Whether it’s Nazis, Romans, countrymen, or other bad guys of yesteryear (regardless of actual country of origin), it seems the prestige accent of villainy (unless it’s a terrible death whinny) has typically had something in common with the Queen: namely, the Queen’s English, a dialect that is at the same time both terribly posh and deliciously evil. As Julia R. Dobrow and Calvin L. Gidney point out in a study of villains in children’s animation, American programming in particular seems to have a general ambivalence about British English, as “speakers of British English are portrayed dichotomously as either the epitome of refinement and elegance or as the embodiment of effete evil.” …

Why is this so? Is there something inherently villainous about British-inflected speech (at least to Americans)? Are they just more capable of dastardly deeds than the rest of us, through the magic of their plummy accents alone? Who would have thought mere accents could be so powerful? It’s actually a curious fact, according to Davis and Houck, that speakers of the prestige Received Pronunciation (RP) accent (otherwise known as the Queen’s English or BBC English) are regularly evaluated by non-RP speakers as more educated, intelligent, competent, physically attractive, and generally of a higher socioeconomic class.

The English public school accent was socially constructed over a few centuries to knit together the elites from across the country; to make them sound like what they were: the Ruling Class; and to provide them with an excellent tool for communicating complex thoughts rapidly in speech. For example, if you try to say word “portraiture” fast and clear, you’ll probably sound like a toff.

Or try saying “Would that it were so simple” in a cowpuncher accent:

The Shakespearean stage actor accent is also ideal for communicating microaggressions. In contrast, a Joe Pesci accent is good for communicating macroaggressions.

At the same time, in terms of social attractiveness, those same posh RP speakers are consistently rated less trustworthy, kind, sincere, and friendly than speakers of non-RP accents. Sounds like a good start for a villain.

Meanwhile across the pond, there’s also a different prestige accent at work in many forms of popular music. The desirable accents of pop, rock, country, R&B, hip-hop and so on, as many have noted, are almost always some flavor of American English. …

Many who consider accent as a marker of authenticity and personal identity may wonder why some would “fake” an accent, but many performers may not even realize they’re code-switching, as they unconsciously adopt the language stylings of the modern song—it’s just the way you’re supposed to sing in that particular genre. (Similarly, consider the early pseudo-British vocal work of American pop punk bands, such as Green Day, following the lead set by the Sex Pistols or the Clash). So is it weird to change your authentic accent to fit in with your day job? …

British villainy as an amusing stereotype for entertainment is one thing. How about your regular, everyday criminal? Can we, Minority Report style, predict and weed out the criminals in our midst as soon as they open their mouths? What about detecting other personal characteristics, such as how often someone bathes or brushes their teeth, from the way they talk? Can you tell how physically attractive they are, how tall, how smart, how funny or how friendly, just by their accent alone?

Just like the old school, pseudoscientific methods of phrenology and graphology (feeling the bumps on a head or the flow of a person’s penmanship and tying these to their personal or mental traits), it starts to sound pretty farfetched. How on earth can you tell whether someone’s dirty or clean or tall or short or itching to be a criminal from the sound waves they make? A person’s accent can’t possibly predict all these attributes. And yet, we act as though this is entirely possible—and even reasonable.

It turns out many of us believe, often without realizing it, we can predict social and personal traits about a person, simply by the accent they use. We may be wrong, but we do it anyway. What’s more, we frequently make prejudicial judgements and decisions based on these underlying beliefs and stereotypes about a person and the way they speak regardless of the reality. It’s the “last acceptable prejudice” in part because people are generally not even aware they’re doing it. …

Since accents are social constructed, they ought to be a good topic for contemporary social constructionist ideology, but, no, not really.

Similarly, in another well-known example, a university lecturer gave exactly the same talk in a Received Pronunciation (RP) accent (otherwise known as the Queen’s English or BBC English) and again in a Birmingham accent. Students rated his intelligence and his talk more highly in his guise as a posh RP-accented lecturer than the students in the exact same talk he gave using a Birmingham accent.

In fact the poor Brummie accent has been rated as even less attractive and less intelligent for British speakers than just some random person staying completely silent. Even worse, a study has shown that matched guise “suspects” were rated as significantly more guilty of a crime when they spoke with Brummie accents than when those same suspects used their RP voices. So obviously some listeners believe they can predict the criminal element through accent alone. It’s a tough life being from Birmingham, clearly. Yet American listeners, not having access to the same common social stereotypes, often rate the Brummie accent as pleasant-sounding.

Once again, we find that in the 21st Century, Ignorance Is Good while Knowledge Is Prejudice.

I’ve always wanted to see social scientists do experiments with the cooperation of talented actors. For example, is Received Pronunciation a higher bandwidth accent? Get a Shakespearean actor to perform Hamlet soliloquies in different accents he has mastered and time them. It would make a decent Nova documentary.

So it’s nothing innate in the sounds of these stigmatized accents themselves that make them so despised by certain listeners but simply a shared social attitude that as a non-standard accent, they’re somehow less worthy than the prestige accent.

One of the polarizing aspects about Donald Trump is that he doesn’t codeswitch much, the way Obama spoke to black preachers in his black preacher accent while he spoke to whites in his flat Kansas accent (a state he barely has visited, but whom he claims to be from due to his mother having been born there and Kansas seeming particularly non-foreign) rather than in his prep school accent. Hillary has used many accents as well.

Trump talks like a guy from Queens, which he is. Many people, often ones not normally fond of New Yorkers, find Trump’s accent reassuringly authentic. Other people find it alarming. Does his failure to upgrade the class associations of his accent demonstrate that he is defective? Or does it imply that he rejects much of America’s class system? If he doesn’t have the decency to modulate his accent properly, what other social conventions might he not value? Clearly, many people with classier accents find Trump’s accent highly unsettling.

 
• Tags: microaggressions 
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Around 1819, Lady Croom is having her orderly Enlightenment-era English estate redone in the new, more picturesque Romantic style. But she is not pleased with what Noakes, her landscape contractor, has so far achieved:

LADY CROOM: ….My lake is drained to a ditch for no purpose I can understand, unless it be that snipe and curlew have deserted three counties so that they may be shot in our swamp. What you painted as forest is a mean plantation, your greenery is mud, your waterfall is wet mud, and your mount is an opencast mine for the mud that was lacking in the dell. (Pointing through the window) What is that cowshed?

NOAKES: The hermitage, my lady?

LADY CROOM: It is a cowshed.

NOAKES: It is, I assure you, a very habitable cottage, properly founded and drained, two rooms and a closet under a slate roof and a stone chimney –

LADY CROOM: And who is to live in it?

NOAKES: Why, the hermit.

LADY CROOM: Where is he?

NOAKES: Madam?

LADY CROOM: You surely do not supply an hermitage without a hermit?

NOAKES: Indeed, madam –

LADY CROOM: Come, come, Mr Noakes. If I am promised a fountain I expect it to come with water. What hermits do you have?

NOAKES: I have no hermits, my lady.

LADY CROOM: Not one? I am speechless.

NOAKES: I am sure a hermit can be found. One could advertise.

LADY CROOM: Advertise?

NOAKES: In the newspapers.

LADY CROOM: But surely a hermit who takes a newspaper is not a hermit in whom one can have complete confidence.

― Tom Stoppard, Arcadia

 
• Tags: microaggressions 
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Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, VDARE.com columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.


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