If there was ever a marginalized male group directly and powerfully affected by the masculinity construct, it’s jail and prison inmates. No, I didn’t just finish up an Oz marathon (honestly, I haven’t seen a single episode of the prison drama, so there will be no show references dropped in this post henceforth), but I did stumble across a series of studies dissecting the insidious, damaging culture of hypermasculinity in jails and prisons. Considering that there are roughly 1.4 million men behind bars in the United States, it’s a relevant issue directly impacting a sizable population.
One might have hoped that, by this hour, the very sight of chains on black flesh, or the very sight of chains, would be so intolerable a sight for the American people, and so unbearable a memory, that they would themselves spontaneously rise up and strike off the manacles. But no, they appear to glory in their chains; now, more than ever, they appear to measure their safety in chains and corpses. -James Baldwin to Angela Davis.*
Despite the dodgy politics of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, Lisbeth Salander is an interesting character from a feminist perspective because she is a rare detective on the outside, with no faith in the system to produce a just result.
Since this series is about detective narratives in pop culture, this post was originally going to be about CSI. But at time of writing (Tuesday afternoon) everyone in our office in London came home early because of fears of another night of riots and looting, and so it's just too hard right now to set aside real-life relations between the police and the people to talk about fiction. Likewise, I don't want to risk framing what's going on in reality in terms of detective fiction.
I've come to the half-way point of the Murder, She Blogged series, and half way through my time guest blogging here at Bitch, so I just wanted to take a brief pause to address the question: Why detectives?
If there’s a silver lining to the bizarre arrest of prominent Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, it’s his newly-inspired interest in exploring and exposing the racism that exists in our nation’s prison system. Police arrested Gates this past Thursday after a neighbor saw him trying to push open his jammed front door, assumed (ostensibly because of his skin color) that he was an intruder and reported him accordingly. The event was a reminder of our justice system’s tendency to disappear minorities, which is one of the unfortunate consequences of advanced corporate capitalism that deserves to be examined under a microscope by as many brilliant minds as possible (Angela Davis can’t do it alone, people!)
Gates says that his arrest was a huge eye opener for him, and he has declared his intent to research and film a documentary that deals with racial profiling. He told the Washington Post that the project will ask, "How are people treated when they are arrested? How does the criminal justice system work? How many black and brown men and poor white men are the victims of police officers who are carrying racist thoughts?" I personally can’t wait to see it, but if I could make one small request to Professor Gates, I would ask him to not forget about the women.