Thursday, December 5, 2013

Racist Movember

I used to joke that Movember was racially discriminatory, since as a person of East Asian ancestry it's just too hard for me to grow a moustache that is even remotely convincing.

But someone has actually written an article like that and apparently they are not joking. Arianne Shahvisi writes in the New Statesman that "The slogan is as misguided as its campaign: Movember is divisive, gender normative, racist and ineffective against some very real health issues."

Yep you heard right. To go into further detail:

For the most part, sponsored activities (day-long silences, sponge-throwing, public waxing) depend on the extreme, the outrageous, the ridiculous. Friends and family are, apparently, only willing to part with money to witness something odd, humorous or downright unpleasant. So what message does Movember convey to those whose moustaches are more-or-less permanent features? With large numbers of minority-ethnic men—for instance Kurds, Indians, Mexicans—sporting moustaches as a cultural or religious signifier, Movember reinforces the “othering” of “foreigners” by the generally clean-shaven, white majority. Imagine a charity event that required its participants to wear dreadlocks or a sari for one month to raise funds—it would rightly be seen as unforgivably racist. What is the difference here? We are not simply considering an arbitrary configuration of facial hair, but one that had particular, imperial connotation to British men of our grandfathers' generation and currently has a separate cultural valence for men from certain ethnic groups. Moustaches, whether or not “mo-bros” mean theirs to be, are loaded with symbolism. We often wonder how our fathers (both life-long moustached men) must feel each November, when their colleagues' faces temporarily resemble theirs, and are summarily met with giggles and sponsor-money. No doubt they draw the obvious conclusion, that dovetails with many other experiences of life as an immigrant: there are different rules for white faces.

One of the major weaknesses in the cultural Left is giving any shrift at all to articles like these; that focus on grasping at any possible reason to find some aspect of popular culture guilty of racism or other -isms. The "First World Problems" of anti-racism. And it takes something most everybody agrees is a positive thing - a movement that raises awareness and funding for prostate cancer - and tells us all how it is actually quite hateful.

Indeed, if you were a conservative and wanted to write a parody article highlighting Left-wing ridiculousness, you would probably write something like this.


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