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Gabourey Sidibe is My New Heroine! (Commentary on Diversity in Hollywood)

I do not think I have ever chosen anyone who is younger than I am as a hero(ine) in my life, but Gabourey Sidibe, best known for playing the title character in “Precious,” is my new heroine for how she responded to trolls who insulted her physical appearance because (to alter the text below to more show my POV) she has the nerve to be famous without looking like the skinny, blonde actresses she shares entertainment award stages with.

I do not find myself hideous, but I, also, do not think anyone has ever helped me with something because he/she liked my looks, given me a job because they want to have sex with me. Whatever I have accomplished in life or will accomplish, whatever traits I have that ascended me towards those accomplishments — talent, tenacity or whatever else, what I look like has never helped me with any of it.

And, as many of my readers know, I live in Los Angeles, which provides only a more opaque view to what all of the Anglosphere seems to use as a measure of attractiveness — that to be attractive means to look like Ken and Barbie Dolls. Of course, there are exceptions to  this rule, with people who do not look like them being allowed to feel attractive to a small demographic, those who have something about them that is fetishized. The fetishes people have come up with include everything from one’s ethnic heritage to playing a guitar to gang membership and urban crime sprees to an obese, unhealthy level of body fat. (There are chubby chasers out there, like gays were in the ’80s, hiding their true desires.)  Through fetishization, more people have a chance to feel attractive, specifically people who do not fit the mold of Mattel products.

Far too often, those in minority groups, including the physically-challenged, or just people who do not look like girls’ dolls, are not included in our films and TV show, as if the culture we see reflected back to us in scenes on screens, they have been erased. Or, perhaps, a better way of looking at it would be they have been marginalized so far from sight, they seem to not exist. 

I do not care how many Oscar-nominated films have female producers (about 2/3 of them) or the ratio of men to women in the writing room of “The Daily Show” or what goes on between Michael Bey and Megan Fox. I want to see more non-white people in my films and TV shows. And fat people. And people with wheelchairs. And dwarfs, who are just playing real people who happen to have dwarfism, not Hobbits or characters in surreal dreams. And Wiccans and Orthodox Jews and Satanists and Fundamentalist Christians and Buddhists and Hindus and Muslims, who do not want to destroy America or blow up buildings, but who take limousines to night clubs where they order expensive champagne and throw parties in their mansions and have sex with porn models and actresses, like the real Muslims you meet in L.A. 

WEDNESDAY, JAN 15, 2014 07:49 AM PST

Gabourey Sidibe shuts down the trolls

A flawless response to the haters wins Twitter


Gabourey Sidibe shuts down the trollsGabourey Sidibe (Credit: AP/Steffi Loos)

Take that, haters! Gabourey Sidibe would like you to know she’s doing just fine.

The 30-year-old costar of “American Horror Story: Coven” received a typical amount of crap on Twitter after her Sunday appearance at the Golden Globes, for committing the crime of appearing in public while not being thin. But after the brilliant wits of the Internet were done riffing on how she “looked like the GLOBE at the Golden Globes” and “ate the Golden Globes,”Sidibe got in a comment of her own. “To people making mean comments about my GG pics,”she tweeted, “I mos def cried about it on that private jet on my way to my dream job last night. #JK” And, nearly 27,000 retweets later, game point Sidibe.

Us magazine promptly called Sidibe’s response “amazing,” while CNN declared her the winner of the “best comeback” award. And she was. She fully acknowledged the utter meanness of the commenters’ body snarking on her appearance, but she didn’t turn it into a pity party. Instead, she simply got the last laugh. She later added on Twitter, “Yay! Everyone is so wonderful and supportive of my shade! This might be a problem down the line. Thank you! #notmyjetthough #imnotthatfancy”

Sidibe has had a long time to prepare for just such a cool reaction. She’s never been just a talented actress. She’s been an overweight, dark-skinned actress – exactly the sort of person, asthis year’s blond-tastic Golden Globes oh so conspicuously proved, who does not fit comfortably in the public perception of what a star looks like. More shockingly, as Kate Harding noted four years ago, when Sidibe’s stardom was on the ascent for her breakthrough role in “Precious,” she is a woman openly not struggling “with debilitating body-related shame and anxiety.” How infuriating for those who believe fat equals misery.

The world is chock-full of pathetic bullies whose chief pastime is picking apart people who are different. You can be Miss America – literally, one of the most conventionally beautiful women in the world – and they will tear you down because of the color of your skin. So Sidibe is a whole trifecta of opportunity for trolls – overweight, black and female.

Very few people who are mercilessly picked on the way Sidibe routinely is have her clout. Most people who are bullied, unfortunately, don’t have a snappy comeback about how awesome their lives are. I may be wrong, but the list of Oscar-nominated overweight African-American women who are on hit TV shows is, by my count, one. That’s why her comment went viral. That’s why it was perfection. Because while Sidibe’s happy circumstances are unique, she was making a statement for all the other picked on and put down out there. She was saying, “You are mean and hurtful and I am better than you.” And while it’s nice to have a private jet and a dream job to back that statement up, sometimes it’s enough for someone to call out the haters, to acknowledge their existence and to make them look as small and stupid as they truly are. Sidibe did just that, with wit and class. She told the world, that if you want to fat-shame a lady, don’t be surprised if she shames you right back, flawlessly.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of “Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream.” Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.MORE MARY ELIZABETH WILLIAMS.


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The Adopted Child Cost Caste System: The Shocking Truths Behind U.S. Adoption’s Economic Racial Hierarchy

The issue is virtually unknown to those other than adoptive parents and those who are close to them. Conversely, it touches on a myriad of other issues involving adopting children and the minefield of racial politics of this culture.

In the United States, there are different costs for adopting children of different races, with white children costing the most to adopt. Explanations vary as to both why this situation exists and what it means for adoptive parents and children. While age and gender are more common factors than ethnicity or race for parents interested in adopting children, with infants and girls being the most popular preferences, some parents state that they would rather adopt white children.

Their reasons vary. Most parents interested in adopting children are white, and the appeal to some is to have children that look more “like them.” To others, there is the understandable desire to avoid the challenges of transracial adoption, which parents who choose to adopt children of different races face, in addition to the other challenges faced by both other adoptive parents and faced by all parents, biological and by choice. A third reason is the past controversy regarding and opposition to white parents adopting black children that resulted in high-profile cases and the 1995 film, “Losing Isaiah,” based on the novel of the same title, in which Halle Berry portrays a black recovering drug addict who contests the adoption by a white woman of the baby she lost due to her habit. The yearning to adopt white children and the high cost and excessive regulation of adoption in this country lead many parents to adopt children from Eastern Europe, who are more likely than their American counterparts to have problems with adapting to a new family and a new life and other psychological problems.

“In the context of placement, what we see is the preferred child is the healthy, white infant,” said Beth Hall, founder of Pact, An Adoption Alliance. “And, there’s a racial hierarchy that moves away from there for children of color.”

The fees associated with adopting an African-American child typically range from $5,000 to $15,000. For Latino children, fees typically range from $7,000 and $20,000. To adopt a white child can cost as much as $35,000, said Hall in the documentary, “Adopted: The Movie.”

Quite obviously, this is problematic in the slight it inflicts on children that others are valued more than they are. A less obvious problem is one of discrimination, with the children who present a greater expense to adopt being discriminated against compared to those who cost less due to the adoption fee system worsening their chances at adoption compared to other children due to their race.

While many find this racial caste system for children in need of parents shocking, offensive and abhorrent, it does have its defenders. The justification for it rests on three main points. The first is supply-and-demand, with some children being judged as having more or less potential “buyers” than others, and this leading to their differing “prices.” A related argument is that having a lesser “price tag” encourages parents to consider adopting children of another race. Another justification is that the higher fees to adopt white children can then be put to use in making other children cheaper to adopt.

Therefore, apologists for the current system argue, that it actually helps the children others see it as slighting.


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