Disco and the White Man

I DJ disco music.
I receive criticism for this choice because most people associate disco with “frivolous” femininity and “silly” gayness. Of course, those are the exact reasons I enjoy it, because I enjoy feminine and queer things.
When I DJed with other collaborators, those who were white men were uncomfortable labeling our events as “disco” and preferred “soul”. You won’t walk into many record stores and find a Disco section. What you *will* find is a Soul section, where the disco and funk will be hidden.
The white male DJs were, to a man, unable to stop talking about Northern Soul and Blue-Eyed Soul. I.e. soul/R&B music filtered through whiteness.
A photo of gender non-conforming disco artist Sylvester.


My setlists included lots of Black artists, especially those who are women, femme, trans and queer. I was told by these white men that my music wasn’t “serious” enough, and that advertisement that referenced these artists would give potential attendees “the wrong idea”.
What idea might that be?
Blue-eyed soul was serious enough for them.
Fast-forward 5-8 years. Cultural tastes have inevitably shifted. The warm, glittery synthetic beats of gay disco are again en vogue. One of these white men has the audacity to invite me to a dance night he is hosting. Prominently displayed in his online advertisement is a Black woman who is popular among enthusiasts of gay disco. He is writing about his sudden love for this music with the confident authority of someone who grew up listening to it. An authority I now know is “the confidence of a mediocre white man”. I remember the time he confided that he would never be able to truly believe that women were anything other than “other”. I remember the casual racist jokes that peppered his conversation. I remember his disdain for this same music when *I* played it.
I unfriended.
I now focus my DJ collaborations on mentoring and building up talent among women, POC, trans people, and queers.
I still DJ disco music.

Women as DJs??!!

I posted in a public forum today, asking what the going rate for DJs is in the town I recently moved to.

Several men mistook my post to be a *request for them to DJ* and sent me unsolicited private messages.

Then came Roman.

Roman was just a regular guy who was *very concerned* that I couldn’t possibly be an experienced DJ, as I claimed, and not be Right On Top of current DJ rates in medium-sized midwestern towns.

He assured me he meant no disrespect. He was just VERY CONCERNED that I might be lying about the whole “experienced DJ” thing. And it was very important that he air this concern in a very public manner, being sure to tag me into his comment.

I am COMPLETELY CONVINCED that he had NO INTENTION of publicly humiliating me in front of potential clients. (sarcasm)

Before I could respond, the forum moderators deleted my post and all comments. They did not inform me why.

This is what I needed to say to Roman.

I have been a DJ for 15 years. I have DJed friends’ weddings, parties, cultural events, fundraisers, on the radio, clubs, you name it. I have DJed across the country, but not in a celebrity kind of way… just having fun with friends and the communities I lived in.

Since I started as a teenager, there have always been men who told me I couldn’t do it. I can’t possibly be a DJ. That’s a man’s job.

And men worked to keep it a man’s job. Men have laughed in my face for wanting to be a DJ. Men have insulted me to my face. And behind my back. And online. They have sexually harassed me, groped me, and stalked me. They have posted threats and insults about me online because I was a woman and I was in public and I was getting attention.

Men have collaborated together to push me out and keep me out of certain spaces where they thought I didn’t belong. They have kicked me off of line-ups for being “too gay” and “not serious” (wtf?). They have used their influence at venues to make sure their inexperienced male friends got gigs, while locking myself and other female performers out. They have talked down to me, explaining basic information about equipment to me like I was some kind of child, when I have a top-notch set up at home that I paid for myself, with money made from DJing. They have come up to me while I am DJing, and attempted to physically push me aside while grabbing my records because they assumed it is totally cool to do that…. to a woman.

And yet, I never let any of these men stop me. I kept on doing it. Now I live in Lawrence. And I will keep on doing it.

Here I am, in my mid-30s. What has changed? I can still be publicly humiliated by a strange man named Roman who believes I cannot possibly be a DJ. Because I am a woman, and I spoke up in a public forum. And that forum chose to erase my voice and presence instead of let me be a woman, and a DJ, in public.

Tacky Christmas Decor Bingo

Photo of someone's house decorated with a light-up Sanda on the chimney, and a string of Christmas lights coming down to make it appear as if he is pissing.

Here is a little something to take with you if you happen to be driving around looking at Christmas lights and decor.

The bingo card is blank, followed by a list of potential bingo items. This is so you can fill in the blanks with random items from the list, creating a variety of different bingo cards so that you can effectively compete against others. This one is a Word document.

Tacky Christmas Decor BINGO (Word)

Here are four bingo cards in PDF format, filled out with four different combinations.

Tacky Christmas Decor BINGO (PDF)

How Do You Do It?

People sometimes ask me this question. As in, How do you maintain your sanity whilst steeped in the most troubling elements of our society? How do you live your values in a racist, capitalist, misogynist heterosexist homophobic, etc world? How do you keep resisting? I wonder this about a lot of people myself… there are some really amazing human beings out there fighting the good fight against enormous odds. I do what I can where I am. For awhile there my full-time (overnight) job was at a homeless shelter for youth, and my part-time job was giving anti-rape teach-ins. Plus being active online and IRL for various other causes that I care about. People seemed to find this combination overwhelming to consider, and wanted to know how I survive and keep going. They want some ideas about how THEY can survive and keep going.

I don’t have a fancy answer for myself. I drink a lot and I take a lot of mental health days.

Yet I recognize many people have to work under such circumstances where they can’t even TAKE a sick day. So there’s that. Also, I’m depressed a lot.

I mean, how do YOU do it?

Czech-Approved News Sources!

I just set up a new feature on The Czech. I have been getting many requests for quality news sources, and I’m tired of hand-writing the same list over and over. So now you can get them all in one place! Just cast your eyes to the left-hand column and scroll down until you see the section Czech-Approved News Sources.

I included a link to listings of African-American newspapers because I have found in many cities that I’ve visited the best independent print news can be found in the African-American newspapers. Shout out to Amsterdam News, The San Francisco Bay View, and The Chicago Defender!

Please add anything you think I missed in comments. My list is especially low on non-US sources of independent and alternative news, so help a sister out.

Find Your Own Calcutta

I don’t agree with everything Mother Teresa ever said, but her response to a young person’s request to come work with her in Calcutta was pretty good:

Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering and the lonely right there where you are — in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools. … You can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have the eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society — completely forgotten, completely left alone.

Financial Security and Social Justice

As a person who holds her values dear, I often run into difficulty trying to sustain my lifestyle in an unequal and capitalistic society. It has been extremely hard to establish financial security for myself while living my values fully. I believe that basic human needs are human rights. I believe that any government or society should not prevent access to any person’s basic needs, i.e. should not abuse the human rights of it’s population. Shorter version: First, do no harm. I also believe that all governments and societies have a positive imperative to ensure that the human needs and human rights of each member are met. Shorter version: Second, do good.

I have similar values regarding individual conduct. First, do no harm. Second, do good. If you cannot meet the first imperative, there is almost no point to the second. You are simply exerting effort in two opposite directions, in the end negating yourself.

I want to focus this discussion on individual conduct, and how to do no harm within the reality of the American context. The reality is that only a tiny minority of people in America can secure their future without money. The vast majority of people cannot lead a stable, safe and secure life without financial security, and so money must be discussed. But how do you achieve financial security for yourself without harming that of others, or more commonly, helping a large institution perpetuate human rights abuses against others?

For the principled person, this question is extremely difficult to answer honestly. As a matter of fact, I have no answer myself.

Immediately, we can eliminate the option of buying stocks or other such traded financial commodities. Some would argue that we can invest in “green” stocks or “social justice” funds. No. Such ideas work in one of two ways, and both are grossly insufficient to meet the standard of “do no harm”. The first way these financial products work is by only including companies which meet certain basic issue-oriented criteria. For example, a green fund might only include investments in companies that have met certain emission or environmental standards. Or an LGBT fund might only include companies that have LGBT-friendly policies. But the flaws become clear immediately. First, the minimum standards may be very basic and insufficient to preclude all harmful activities. Additionally, it is extremely hard to ascertain whether companies are really even following these standards. Third, each fund can only focus on so many issues. It would be impossible to create a fund for investment that included only companies that exhibited absolutely zero harmful practices. Any firm competing on the national or international level, large enough to sell stocks, must ipso facto create harm. Where does surplus profit, necessary to sell and trade stocks, come from, if not from harm: to the environment, to the government, to the worker, or to the consumer?

The second type of “social justice” fund operates on almost the opposite principle. Instead of singling out the “least bad” companies for inclusion, it targets the worst. The theory is that if enough principled people invest in the worst offenders, some of the good guys can attend board meetings and advocate for change. This theory is a bit quixotic considering that large companies are strong and powerful, and efforts to create change from within by a handful of non-rich, non-powerful people do not have a great effect. Real change would mean an end to the kind of profits that allow the selling and trading of financial products, because such profits are based on abuses, and the majority of people who purchase financial products do so specifically to make a profit, and so would be incredibly adverse to any change that decreases profit. Also, as you are trying to “effect change”, your money is still being used to perpetrate abuses. There is a reason that the stock exchange has long been characterized as “a wild den where the treasure of the state and the fortune of families are stolen with impunity”. (La Ruche populaire, November 1842)

More common than investments is simpler banking. This includes everything from trust funds to CDs to savings accounts and loans. The idealized purpose of a bank is to supply community members with financial management tools that allow families to save for large and important purchases, or to lend money so that a purchase can be made now and slowly paid off according to the family’s ability.

I find nothing wrong with this ideal. My problem is with the reality.

Continue reading

What Mumsy Said

Thanks to the dominance of the machine, to books and bayonets, to printed calicos and missionary pocket-handkerchiefs, to brummagem jewelry and cutlery and beads, a layer of this civilization began to spread like a film of oil over the planet at large: machine textiles supplanted hand-woven ones, aniline dyes eventually took the place of vegetable dyes locally made, and even in distant Polynesia calico dresses and stove-pipe hats and shame covered up the proud bodies of the natives, while syphilis and rum, introduced at the same time as the Bible, added a special physical horror to their degradation.

That was all only one sentence! Just saying.

Wherever this film of oil spread, the living fish were poisoned and their bloated bodies rose to the surface of the water, adding their own decay to the stench of the oil itself.

-Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization, 1934

Fish dead on the shore from an oil spill.

Millennial Hate

Every generation seems inclined to feel superior to the previous one. Everyone looks back with nostalgia to the mythical “good old days” because “young people these days” fucked everything up. Of course, we forget that the “good old days” were the days when we were children, and didn’t have any responsibilities. Or that, if we are members of older generations, and if we think the world is fucked up, it’s probably us that did it, seeing as how we’ve been around longer and helped shape the present. Let alone acknowledging that it was our sexual activity that brought about the younger generation we despise so much.

No, it’s so much easier to blame “the kids these days” than accept responsibility for our own fucked up world, and our own difficulty adjusting to its changes. I suppose that’s why magazines and newspapers are wont to publish the occasional hit piece on young generations. In the 80s and 90s they trashed “Generation X”. Well, now they’ve moved on to whining about “millennials” (aka Gen Y).

Here’s a typical youth hit job, grâce à l’Australie: Gen Y too lazy and unfocused to hire – bosses

Here’s some more:

10 surefire ways to rein in millennials

Study Confirms: Millennials Are Apathetic

College students today: overconfident or just assured?

Our Sketchy Future: Millennials

Survey Shows Teens, Young Adults Believe They Are Healthy Despite Bad Habits

Your kids: Dumb, difficult and dispensable

The rise of the Moralistic Therapeutic Deists

Leadership wake-up: The Millennials are coming

The Wall Street Journal piece that really got these stereotypes rolling: The ‘Trophy Kids’ Go to Work

You think the titles are bad? Take a look at the language in the articles. Lotta nasty words. Though I dimly remember similar nastiness as Gen X hit the workforce. So maybe this is simply cyclical. But in the workplace, hatin on and avoiding millennials is something else: ageist, aka discrimination. Just sayin.

So, HALLELUJAH, can you imagine the relief when I read the summary of Pew’s recent study: The Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change.

Millennials are into social justice! The environment! Ending racism! They’re open minded! Diverse! Highly educated! Less fundamentalist! My god, what am I going to do with all the time I previously spent hating myself for the year of my birth?

Are you a millennial? Regardless that this generation is defined as those born between 1980 and 2001, perhaps you are a millennial at heart. Find out with this helpful quiz! Put together by the Pew Research Center, for some reason.

PS. Per ush, the articles all focus on middle class and affluent millennials. It’s as though the writers believe that all millennials had “helicopter parents”, loads of extracurricular activities, and went to college. Really, these experiences were only common among middle class and affluent families, and working class and poor millennials probably don’t feel very connected with the media portrayal of “their” generation.

Quotes of the Day

“The rich, giving part of their enormous earnings [to create universities], became known as philanthropists. These educational institutions did not encourage dissent; they trained the middlemen in the American system—the teachers, doctors, lawyers, administrators, engineers, technicians, politicians—those who would be paid to keep the system going, to be loyal buffers against trouble.”

-Howard Zinn
A People’s History of the United States

“Just a reminder that the year is 2009, and white people talking to black people is still a controversial issue in the Republican party.”


Apparently, I Am Part of This Protest

Apparently, I was part of a protest earlier this year against the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Dance Program, for poor treatment of their students of color.

The protest and the anonymous group who staged it like a guerilla art installation are called THIS. I was posting as idyllicmollusk at the time.

I don’t know what words they chose or why, but it is very powerful to hear that they chose a bit of my writing in their fight. Read through their blog. THIS created some waves. It sounds like they are pretty powerful.


A photo from a THIS guerilla installation in February.

My Crime Is Biking While Female (and living in a classist, racist nation)

Last night, I rode my bike home from an event a couple miles from my house.

It was nearly 2 am and I had some concerns about drunk drivers. I turned down a driveway passage that leads between some public housing complexes near my house to avoid the cars racing up and down the major roads.

As I was riding through the central courtyard, I noticed a group of rather large men, dressed all in black, standing together at one end.

As I passed them, they took note of my presence and started shouting at me. They yelled out “HEY!” several times and demanded that I stop and talk with them.

It took me zero seconds to decide that would be a piss poor idea and to peddle all the faster. Usually ignoring such attention from men and leaving the area quickly is enough.

Not this time. I realized one of the men was literally chasing me. I was overwhelmed with fear. I didn’t even want to imagine what a cluster of five men hanging out in a dark corner at 2 am and shouting at women would want with me. My whole body went cold and I peddled as fast as I could, aiming for the bright lights of the nearest busy street.

I heard one of the men shout “Police!” and thought maybe a police officer was coming to the rescue.

Oh how wrong I was.

Because these men were the police.

That realization did not make me feel any better. I quickly assessed my options and decided to stop before any guns were drawn. Though I experience white skin privilege, the police in my neighborhood are so accustomed to abusing the marginalized communities here that I believed white privilege wouldn’t overcome their “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality.

The five police officers approached and surrounded me. Up close I could see that their dark clothing was black or navy uniforms with policey-decorations on them. They were all white, which I thought was odd for this majority-POC neighborhood. They demanded to know what I was doing in “the projects”. I responded that I was riding my bike home, and that the complexes were between my starting point and destination. They told me that this is a “high crime area” and that I “shouldn’t be around here”. I informed them that that was unreasonable because I live “around here”. That sounding deeply implausible, the leader demanded my ID and accused me of fleeing the police. He and three officers went a few paces away and huddled, speaking in low tones, for the next 15 minutes. One officer was left to monitor me.

I was thoroughly frightened and confused. I had only planned on a quick 10-minute bikeride from hanging out with friends to my home. Being shouted at, chased, and surrounded by a group of five big-bodied men… it hadn’t really occurred to me as a possibility. I expressed my confusion at this turn of the events and questioned my detention. They told me to wait.

Eventually, the leader of the group stalked up to me and in a raised, aggressive voice informed me that I was charged with disorderly conduct and riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. He informed me that I had known all along they were police, that I had shouted insults at them, and that I had deliberately tried to flee them.

This was, of course, news to me. I explained that when I pass noisy groups of men who shout at me in dark passages in the wee hours, it is simply a matter of survival that I get out of the situation, and that any woman in my place would do the same. He repeated that I had known they were police and had intentionally committed this crime.

He handed me the tickets and I got out of there fast. I have never felt so unsafe in my own neighborhood. I have never been harassed in this manner in my neighborhood before. I feel thankful that I came out of the situation with my life. That may be my white privilege. Around here, as around the country, police have a reputation for murdering black people. They murdered one man earlier this summer for the crime of being on his porch and telling a disguised under-cover cop to stop loitering on his property. He was killed in his own front doorway.

Some other reflections:

1. All this shouting and chasing and harassing was in the courtyard of a large housing complex full of families. I am talking hundreds of people. How safe can they feel when police officers are loitering outside of their homes screaming at the top of their lungs at every passer-by? Especially when this community, being low income and of color and partly immigrant, is already subject to excessive amounts of police harassment?

2. My own white privilege was revealed to me as I came to realize that this is what my neighbors experience every day, and that I usually escape it. It’s possible that the same darkness that prevented me from seeing the police uniforms prevented them from seeing my skin tone. They may have planned on harassing a public housing resident of color, and I just blundered into the situation by assuming that I can go wherever I want without police harassment. The fact that I never realized how police interactions interlace the daily lives of my neighbors is a wake up call for me.

3. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THOSE OFFICERS? How dare they harass a woman who is traveling alone at night in an isolated location away from any busy roads (where there would be witnesses and the potential to call for help)? Are they out of their minds? How can they be so blind to their male privilege and the legitimacy privilege of possessing state power? Could they really not see why the situation they chose to create was a terrifying nightmare-scenario for their victim? How in the world is public safety achieved by men shouting at and chasing women in the night? I have never felt so unsafe in my neighborhood as I do now. My neighbors haven’t ever done anything to make me feel unsafe, and so until now I had no fears. The behavior of these men was so egregious that I believe it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find similar instances perpetrated by the supposedly dangerous inhabitants of the public housing buildings.

4. Essentially, my crime here is that I was biking while female. I acted as any rational women would react in this situation. For my natural behaviors of simply trying to survive on the street, I actually have to be a defendant in court.

5. I want to state clearly that this is an intersection of institutional and state classism and racism, and that I will not be accepting comments to the effect of “Oh you’re so naive to live near public housing and/or to think good on your neighbors.” Those comments would be classist and racist and that’s not what this post is here to talk about. Why would I be the “naive white girl” to live near these apartments, but the residents are “hardened black criminals” simply for residing inside the same apartments I live next to? The location of your home does not define you as a criminal or not, nor does your skin color nor your poverty. I guess I should say “should not” instead of “does not”. We all know that people of color, public housing residents, immigrants, and poor people are criminalized simply for existing as such.


Share your stories of police harassment if you like. NO RACISM & NO POOR-BASHING.