Feminist Discussion Post 1: Feminism, the devaluation of the feminine, and men

feminist man - Version 4

(This post is the first in a week long discussion between Lauren and I about feminism. The discussion emerged after Lauren posted a video about why she is not a feminist, to which I wrote an open letter to Lauren in response. Lauren and I then agreed to take part in this call-and-response style discussion, in which we post questions/prompts for one another to reply to. Lauren will post her response on youtube in a day or so, at which time she will also pose a question to me (which I will reply to on this website). You can learn more about the backstory and format of the discussion here, where I also explain my approach to the discussion.)

Hi Lauren,

It was hard to settle on a single question to start with, but I suppose we have a few rounds of this ahead of us, so here goes.

The question I ended up settling on kind of expands on ideas I wrote about in my original reply to you. I’m hoping that you can engage with some of the feminist ideas about masculinity and femininity that I described in my response, and address why you see these ideas as being oppositional to the project of making men’s lives more livable. Before I get to the ultimate question, however, I want to elaborate a little more on what I mean.

One of the main ideas that I tried to convey in my original post is that feminism helps us understand and confront not only the violences and inequalities facing women, but also the problems facing men. I tried to describe this in terms of the ways that gender norms (which feminists challenge), also work to entrench ideas about what it mean to “be a man”. These ideas contribute to some of the deeply harmful conditions in men’s lives, which you raised in your video. Included among these are the expectation of strength, stoicism, and suppression of emotion, which help shape which labor fields men occupy, how men are often taught to respond to emotional distress, and how society responds to them when they fail to fully embody masculine norms (e.g. by being a victim, by being nurturing, by not being the primary breadwinner, etc).

Perhaps another way that I should have described this, is that feminism doesn’t only challenge the way the misogyny devalues women, it also challenges the way that misogyny devalues that which is deemed feminine. (Here is a great article about this from the perspective of a feminist man). Feminists often address the devaluation of the feminine by critiquing, challenging, and breaking open gendered binaries in order to create new possibilities for being and acting in the world. Here is just one example of this:

  • Rational/Emotional: The characterization of women as emotional, and thus irrational, goes back for a long time in history. This discourse has played a role in the medical treatment of women (e.g. the invention of female “hysteria”), the treatment of women in science (see Sandra Harding’s work), the lack of recognition of emotions as a site of knowledge (here you see the operation of another gendered binary: objectivity/subjectivity), the way that women are characterized in the work place and when running for public office (e.g. the focus on whether Hillary’s emotions will make her unfit to lead), the exclusion of women from combat, and more. Many women can attest to the ways their expressions of emotion are used to characterize them as  “crazy”, and to dismiss their voices and valid arguments about their worlds. This discourse, which treats emotions as feminine, irrational, and undesirable, also in turn makes emotions something that men are taught to suppress. This disregard for emotion impacts how men are expected to behave, to deal with emotional, psychological and physical injury, to interact with others, and to labor in their jobs. The fact is, however, that men are emotional, men need emotions, and this feminization and devaluation of emotions hurts men.

There are many more of these binaries that feminists challenge, including: man/woman, productive/reproductive, objectivity/subjectivity, rational/emotional, mind/body, public/private, political/personal, culture/nature, active/passive, perpetrator/victim, protector/protected, and global/local. I could elaborate a lot about this, but for the sake of brevity, hopefully you can go back and see where I already allude to these in my previous post (e.g. productive/reproductive in terms of breadwinning and caregiving; feminists challenging victim/perpetrator narratives). If you want, I’d be happy to elaborate more on this in another post.

The point I’m trying to make is that when feminists fight for the revaluation of the feminine and for the breaking down of these binaries, they are also opening up terrain for men to express emotion, to buck norms of masculinity that route them towards harm, to claim a role in childrearing, and to be treated fairly when they are victimized. Even the very binary of male/female can be broken open when we examine (as feminists like Judith Butler do) how the presumably natural characteristics of sex and gender are in fact deeply social, and thus open to change.

So, all this build-up was to set up this related set of questions:

With so many of the harms you point to in your video being fundamentally shaped by the very gendered binaries that feminists challenge, why don’t you see feminism as a project that improves men’s lives? Don’t you agree that a project that challenges the devaluation of femininity would also help to address many of the harms men face? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to look to feminists as allies rather than opponents?

Now here, I just want to note that the topic of how to be an ally and how to act in solidarity is already really prevalent in feminist activist and scholar communities. The role of white people in on-going Black Lives Matter protests is just one example of the continued need to engage in discussions about solidarity and voice, and feminists (and particularly feminists of color) are active in these debates. Feminists often talk and debate on issues of how to create solidarity across difference and how to hold each other accountable in being better allies. When feminists challenge one another to be better allies, however, it’s usually premised on improving a movement that is already so deeply invested in equality and which already has so many tools to understand and confront the ways that power operates through gender, race, class, and sexuality. In this regard, I’ll agree there is room to talk about improving feminist allyship for men experiencing particular harms (male rape victims being a good example). This is not to say there aren’t feminists doing this work though, because, as I have argued, there are many feminists speaking on issues affecting men. Your assertion that feminists are silent is unfair and inaccurate. There is always room to improve though, and discussion and critique is undoubtedly part of how feminists challenge each other to do so. In fact, talking about this would be deeply in line with existing internal debates about allyship among feminists. In these discussions, feminists may also have some very valid questions about how men’s rights groups act (or don’t act) as allies to them as well, and they might point out the stakes for women when men’s groups dismiss, diminish, deny, and derail real valid struggles to improve women’s lives. So, maybe the real heart of the issue is: How can we improve allyship and build solidarity between feminists and men (who may or may not be feminists themselves)? How can we do this without disregarding or ignoring the real and powerful work feminists are already doing? And, how can we do this without dismissing feminism itself, which (I really hope you see) presents so many tools for addressing the harms done by restrictive gender norms?

I know that’s more than one question, but I hope it makes sense why I place them together. I look forward to hearing your first response.

All the best,


ANNOUNCEMENT: An Upcoming Virtual Discussion with Lauren Southern

Hi all,

So, a couple weeks ago, I wrote a blog post in reply to Lauren Southern’s viral video “Why I’m Not a Feminist”. I initially wrote this thinking it would be read by a few feminist friends, and I was shocked (and grateful!) by how widely it ended up getting circulated. To date, it has had over 75,000 views, which is totally wild. Trust me, it is a rare experience as a graduate student to have so many people read and engage with something I’ve written, so thank you. I have loved hearing from many of you in the comments section of the blog, in emails, and on reddit forums. I have also learned a lot from your replies—about cool feminist projects, about concerns and conceptions people have about feminism, and about some of the challenges of communicating feminist ideas to a mass audience. More than anything, I’ve really appreciated how thoughtfully most people have participated in the discussion, including those who thoroughly disagreed with what I was saying.

Anyway, yesterday I head from Lauren via Twitter.

snapshot lauren tweet

snapshot jenna tweet reply

After we discussed it a little bit, we agreed on the following:

We would do a one-week call-and-response style online discussion, in which we’ll post questions/prompts for one another. The person will have a day or two to offer a response and to post a new question/prompt for the other person. Lauren will use youtube for her replies, and I’ll use my blog.

Now, I’ll confess this is a nerve-wracking for me.

My first, and perhaps most obvious, concern is that feminism is such a huge arena of activism, ideas, and scholarship. It’s incredibly heterogeneous, and I certainly do not want to remotely claim that I am an expert on every arena of feminist thought and action. Moreover, I want to be really, really clear that I do not represent all feminists. Feminists debate and critique each other’s work all the time. It’s part of what keeps the movement changing, and part of how we push each other to improve. Given this breadth, when I write my replies, I will undoubtedly need to turn to other feminists to learn about topics I’m less well versed in. On this note, I’m all for crowd sourcing some help, so feminists who are following the discussion should feel free to send me sources that might help me address Lauren’s questions. I’m grateful for whatever insights you can add. You can email them to me at everydaygeopoliticshouston@gmail.com.

My second concern about doing this discussion is that this will be a debate between two white cis-gender women. Within feminist history, there is a long, problematic, and on-going history of white feminists bogarting the mic, speaking for all women, and focusing on liberal feminist projects that tend to benefit largely white women, while neglecting issues of LGBTQ people and people of color. This concern feels particularly ripe at this current moment given the need to maintain support and momentum for movements like Black Lives Matter. This week, I think it is more important to talk about what happened to Rekia Boyd, who was killed by an off-duty cop while walking, unarmed, with her friends, than it is to talk about the wage-gap. The man who killed her was just acquitted by some truly insane courtroom logic, and too-few people are standing up. I hope Lauren and I will be able to talk about these issues in relation to feminism. Given that she’s Canadian, perhaps we could also put #BlackLivesMatter into conversation with #AmINext and the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. Anyway, I’ll also do my best to keep these issues (and the voices of queer feminists and women of color) front and center here. I do welcome ideas on ways to improve how I do this though, both in terms of formatting (perhaps a way to include more voices in the reply?) and in terms of the content I write and the questions I pose to Lauren. Again, feel free to reach out to me.

My last concern is that the discussion will turn overly adversarial. Both Lauren and I agree we don’t want this, and we hope that those who join in the conversation will try to be respectful to both of us along the way. These can be complicated and difficult conversations to have, all the more so when they’re done in front of thousands of people. So, let’s all try to keep the conversation going productively. That said, we do hope you join in in, and feel free to share thoughts with us in the comment sections of my blog and her video, on Twitter (although, I myself am less of an active Twitter-user), or via email.

I’ll be posting the first question for Lauren tomorrow. So check back soon!

All the best,


A Bibliography of Houston

houston wards

**Thank you to all you have commented or emailed me with resources, books and articles to add to this list!**

As a number of scholars have noted, there is comparatively less scholarship about the Houston compared to other U.S. cities of its size and significance, particularly when it comes to contemporary research (as I’ve come to see there is quite a wealth of historical work that’s been done). Anyway, given that I’m working on research down here, I’ve been collecting whatever I can find about Houston politics, history, and culture. I wanted to share what I’m finding with you so that others also access all these resources in one spot, and in the hopes that others might be able to add to this list. I’ll try to include a blurb about all of the books (not articles though). Feel free to get in touch with me if you know of other things to add to this list. I’ll treat this as a living document and continue to add things to it, so continue to check back!


BazalduaBazaldua, M. (2007). Thanks to Prison: Operation State Boots to Gucci Boots. Houston: Maroon Publishing.

Autobiographical story of Bazaldua, who grew up in Houston, and his experiences in the criminal justice system and beyond.

Black Dixie

Beeth, H. and C.D. Wintz. (1992). Black Dixie: Afro-Texan History and Culture in Houston. College Station, TX: Texas A & M University Press.

An innovative contribution to the growing body of research about urban African-American culture in the South, Black Dixie is the first anthology to track the black experience in a single southern city across the entire slavery/post-slavery continuum. It combines the best previously published scholarship about black Houston and little-known contemporary eyewitness accounts of the city with fresh, unpublished essays by historians and social scientists.

Divided into four sections, the book covers a broad range of both time and subjects. The first section analyzes the development of scholarly consciousness and interest in the history of black Houston; slavery in nineteenth-century Houston is covered in the second section; economic and social development in Houston in the era of segregation are looked at in the third section; and segregation, violence, and civil rights in twentieth-century Houston are dealt with in the final section.

Beste, P., L.S. Walker, J. Kugelberg, Bun B. (2013). Houston Rap. New York: Sinecure.

Beste“The Houston, Texas Neighborhoods of Fifth Ward, Third Ward, and South Park have grown to be hallowed ground for modern rap culture, possessing self-contained celebrities, entrepreneurs, support networks, and a micro-economy of their own…Photographer Peter Beste and writer Lance Scott Walker spent nine years documenting the most influential style in 21st century hip-hop and the vibrant inner city culture from which it stems… Houston Rap, edited by Johan Kugelberg, profiles noted artists such as Bun B of UGK, Z-Ro, Big Mike, K-Rino, Willie D of the Geto Boys, Lil’ Troy, and Paul Wall, alongside reflections of the lives of departed legends such as DJ Screw, Pimp C, and Big Hawk.”

Houston RapWalker, Lance Scott, Johan Kugelberg, Michael Daley, Peter Beste, and Willie D. (2013). Houston Rap Tapes. Los Angeles, CA: Sinecure Books.

Houston Rap Tapes is the companion to Houston Rap, Peter Beste’s intimate photo book on this important hip hop culture.Houston Rap Tapes complements Beste’s photography with a series of oral histories conducted by writer Lance Scott Walker. The book features exclusive interviews with legendary producers and MCs such as Bun B, Willie D, Paul Wall, Z-Ro, Big Mike, DJ DMD, K-Rino, Salih Williams and Lil’ Troy, alongside stories from old school masters like MC Wickett Crickett and Rick Royal. The life stories of the Houston rap scene are also represented by an assortment of radio and club personalities, impresarios, ex-pimps, former drug dealers and members of the community. Lance Scott Walker and Peter Beste spent nine years documenting the most influential style in twenty-first-century hip hop and the vibrant inner-city culture from which it stems.


Bullard, R. (1987). Invisible Houston: The Black Experience in Boom and Bust. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.

In this book, Robert Bullard, when of the foremost scholars of environmental racism, “systematically explores the demographic, social, economic, and political factors that helped make Houston the “golden buckle” of the Sunbelt. He then chronicles the rise of Houston’s black neighborhoods, the first of these being the settlement of emancipated slaves in Freedmen’s Town, an area which is the site of the present-day Forth Ward. Bullard analyzes the boom era of the 1970s and the dwindling economy and government commitment to affirmative action in the 1980s. Using case studies conducted in Houston’s Third Ward, the city’s most diverse black neighborhood and a microcosm of the larger black Houston community, he presents data on and discusses housing patterns, discrimination, pollution, law enforcement, and leadership, relating these issues to the larger ones of institutional racism, poverty, and politics.” Still so relevant to Houston today.

Banks of Bayou City

Center for Land Use Interpretation in Houston(2009). On the Banks of Bayou City. Blaffer Gallery, Art Museum of the University of Houston.

Since 1994, The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI)–a research organization based in Culver City, California–has studied the U.S. landscape, using multidisciplinary research, information processing and interpretive tools to stimulate thought and discussion around contemporary land-use issues. During a residency at the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, the CLUI established a field station on the banks of the Buffalo Bayou, revealing aspects of the relationship between oil and the landscape in Houston that are often overlooked–even by the city’s residents. The CLUI’s findings are presented in this volume and a concurrent exhibition at the Blaffer Gallery, titled Texas Oil: Landscape of an Industry. The book documents the CLUI’s methodology in a series of interviews and includes a photographic essay on land use in Houston featuring a panoramic, foldout section and a comprehensive chronology of the CLUI’s projects and publications over the past 14 years.

no colorCole, Thomas R. (1997). No Color Is My Kind: The Life of Eldrewey Stearns and the Integration of Houston. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

“No Color Is My Kind is an uncommon chronicle of identity, fate, and compassion as two men—one Jewish and one African American—set out to rediscover a life lost to manic depression and alcoholism. In 1984, Thomas Cole discovered Eldrewey Stearns in a Galveston psychiatric hospital. Stearns, a fifty-two-year-old black man, complained that although he felt very important, no one understood him. Over the course of the next decade, Cole and Stearns, in a tumultuous and often painful collaboration, recovered Stearns’ life before his slide into madness—as a young boy in Galveston and San Augustine and as a civil rights leader and lawyer who sparked Houston’s desegregation movement between 1959 and 1963.

While other southern cities rocked with violence, Houston integrated its public accommodations peacefully. In these pages appear figures such as Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Jr., Leon Jaworski, and Dan Rather, all of whom—along with Stearns—maneuvered and conspired to integrate the city quickly and calmly. Weaving the tragic story of a charismatic and deeply troubled leader into the record of a major historic event, Cole also explores his emotionally charged collaboration with Stearns. Their poignant relationship sheds powerful and healing light on contemporary race relations in America, and especially on issues of power, authority, and mental illness.

EthnicityDe León, Arnoldo (2001). Ethnicity in the Sunbelt: Mexican Americans in Houston. Houston, Texas: University of Houston, Center for Mexican American Studies.

A century after the first wave of Hispanic settlement in Houston, the city has come to be known as the “Hispanic mecca of Texas.” Arnoldo De León’s classic study of Hispanic Houston, now updated to cover recent developments and encompass a decade of additional scholarship, showcases the urban experience for Sunbelt Mexican Americans.

De León focuses on the development of the barrios in Texas’ largest city from the 1920s to the present. Following the generational model, he explores issues of acculturation and identity formation across political and social eras. This contribution to community studies, urban history, and ethnic studies was originally published in 1989 by the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Houston. With the Center’s cooperation, it is now available again for a new generation of scholars.unprecedented power

 Fenberg, S. (2013). Unprecedented Power: Jesse Jones, Capitalism, and the Common Good. College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press.

Unprecedented Power shows how Jesse Jones and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation restored the economy during the Great Depression, built massive, cutting-edge industries in time for the Allied Forces to fight and win World War II and made money for the federal government at the same time. No wonder Kirkus Reviews said Unprecedented Power “holds enormous relevance today.” Next to President Roosevelt, Jesse Jones was considered to be the most powerful person in the nation throughout the Great Depression and World War II. Largely forgotten today, he helped define Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency as one that in many instances provided positive, profound and enduring results for the nation in a financially astute and responsible manner. Jesse Jones’s successful efforts and methods to preserve capitalism and democracy during two of the most tumultuous and dangerous periods in United States history deserve attention today. According to author Steven Fenberg, Jones understood he would prosper only if his community thrived, a belief that directed him to combine capitalism and public service to develop his hometown of Houston, to rescue his country and to save nations. As we grapple with the role of government, unemployment, financial insecurity for many, crumbling infrastructure and reliance on other nations for vital resources, Unprecedented Power offers models for today by looking at successes from the past.”

war on slums

Fairbanks, R.B. (2014). The War on Slums in the Southwest: Public Housing and Slum Clearance in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, 1935-1965. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

In The War on Slums in the Southwest, Robert Fairbanks provides compelling and probing case studies of economic problems and public housing plights in Albuquerque, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix and San Antonio. He provides brief histories of each city–all of which expanded dynamically between 1935 and 1965–and how they responded to slums under the Housing Acts of 1937, 1949, and 1954.

Despite being a region where conservative politics has ruled, these Southwestern cities often handled population growth, urban planning, and economic development in ways that closely followed the national account of efforts to eliminate slums and provide public housing for the needy.  The War on Slums in the Southwest therefore corrects some misconceptions about the role of slum clearance and public housing in this region as Fairbanks integrates urban policy into the larger understanding of federal and state-based housing policies.

FanielFaniel, M.L. (2013). Hip-Hop in Houston: The Origin & The Legacy. Charleston: The History Press.

“Rap-A-Lot Records, U.G.K (Pimp C and Bun B), Paul Wall, Beyonce, Chamillionaire and Scarface are all names synonymous with contemporary hip-hop. And they have one thing in common: Houston. Long before the country came to know the chopped and screwed style of rape from the Bayou Country in the late 1990s, hip-hop in Houston grew steadily and produced some of the most prolific independent artists in the industry. With early roots in jazz, blues, R&B and zydeco, Houston hip-hop evolved not only as a musical form but also as a cultural movement. Join Maco L. Faniel as he uncovers the early years of Houston hip-hop from the music to the culture it inspired.”


Feagin, J. (1998). Free Enterprise City. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

“The mission of this book is to attack the idea that Houston is a conservative role model, a city that succeeds due to its boundless devotion to free enterprise….One thing Feagin does right: he points out that Houston is hardly a laissez-faire paradise, in that government has consistently subsidized its business elite through spending on roads, port facilities, convention centers, etc.”


Hyonchu Kwon, V. (1997). Entrepreneurship and Religion: Korean Immigrants in Houston, Texas.

Don’t know too much about this one…

Check back…Or better yet, maybe one of you can fill this in…


scarfaceJordan, Brad “Scarface” and Benjamin Meadows Ingram. (2015). Diary of a Madman: The Geto Boys, Life, Death, and the Roots of Southern Rap. New York: Harper Collins.

From Geto Boys legend and renowned storyteller Scarface, comes a passionate memoir about how hip-hop changed the life of a kid from the south side of Houston, and how he rose to the top-and ushered in a new generation of rap dominance. 
Scarface is the celebrated rapper whose hits include “On My Block,” “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” and “Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangsta” (made famous in the cult film Office Space). The former president of Def Jam South, he’s collaborated with everyone from Kanye West, Ice Cube and Nas, and had many solo hits such as “Guess Who’s Back” feat. Jay-Z and “Smile” feat. Tupac. But before that, he was a kid from Houston in love with rock-and-roll, listening to AC/DC and KISS.

In Diary of a Madman, Scarface shares how his world changed when he heard Run DMC for the first time; how he dropped out of school in the ninth grade and started selling crack; and how he began rapping as the new form of music made its way out of New York and across the country. It is the account of his rise to the heights of the rap world, as well as his battles with his own demons and depression. Passionately exploring and explaining the roots and influences of rap culture, Diary of a Madman is the story of hip-hop-the music, the business, the streets, and life on the south side Houston, Texas.

make hasteKellar, William Henry. (1999). Make Haste Slowly: Moderates, Conservatives, and School Desegregation in Houston, Texas. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.

“In Make Haste Slowly, William Henry Kellar provides the first extensive examination of the development of Houston’s racially segregated public school system, the long fight for school desegregation, and the roles played by various community groups, including the HISD Board of Education, in one of the most significant stories of the civil rights era…Kellar shows that, while Houston desegregated its public school system peacefully, the limited integration that originally occurred served only to delay equal access to HISD schools. Houstonians shifted from a strategy “massive resistance” to one of “massive retreat.” White flight and resegregation transformed both the community and its public schools…Kellar concludes that forty years after the Brown decision, many of the aspirations that landmark ruling inspired have proven elusive, but the impact of the ruling on Houston has changed the face of that city and the nature of its public education dramatically and in unanticipated ways.”

Marquez, J.D. (2013). Black-Brown Solidarity: Racial Politics in the New Gulf South.Austin: University of Texas Press.


“Houston is the largest city in the Gulf South, a region sometimes referred to as the “black belt” because of its sizeable African American population. Yet, over the last thirty years, Latinos have become the largest ethnic minority in Houston, which is surpassed only by Los Angeles and New York in the number of Latino residents. Examining the history and effects of this phenomenon, Black-Brown Solidarity describes the outcomes of unexpected coalitions that have formed between the rapidly growing Latino populations and the long-held black enclaves in the region.

Together, minority residents have put the spotlight on prominent Old South issues such as racial profiling and police brutality. Expressions of solidarity, John D. Márquez argues, have manifested themselves in expressive forms such as hip-hop music, youth gang cultural traits, and the storytelling of ordinary residents in working-class communities. Contrary to a growing discourse regarding black-brown conflict across the United States, the blurring of racial boundaries reflects broader arguments regarding hybrid cultures that unsettle the orders established by centuries-old colonial formations. Accentuating what the author defines as a racial state of expendability—the lynchpin of vigilante violence and police brutality—the new hybridization has resulted in shared wariness of a linked fate.Black-Brown Solidarity also explores the ways in which the significance of African American history in the South has influenced the structures through which Latinos have endured and responded to expendability. Mining data from historical archives, oral histories, legal documents, popular media, and other sources, this work is a major contribution to urban studies, ethnic studies, and critical race theory.”


McComb, D.G. (1981). Houston: A History. Austin: University of Texas Press.

A bit old now, this is the second edition in which McComb examines “Houston politics, its economic and business growth, and the evolution of its social and cultural institutions. New Material traces the role of blacks, Hispanics, and women in the development of the nation’s fifth-largest city. The author offers insights into the character of Houstonians and evaluates the sources of Houston’s wealth, power, and vitality which contribute to its ongoing urban renaissance–that rare moment in human history when the forces of urban life coincide to produce greatness.”

religion and hiphop

Miller, Monica R., Anthony B. Pinn, and Bernard ‘Bun B’ Freeman. (Eds). (2015). Religion in Hip Hop Mapping the New Terrain. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

This edited volume “provides an important step in advancing and mapping this new field of Religion and Hip Hop Studies. The volume features 14 original contributions representative of this new terrain within three sections representing major thematic issues over the past two decades. The Preface is written by one of the most prolific and founding scholars of this area of study, Michael Eric Dyson, and the inclusion of and collaboration with Bernard ‘Bun B’ Freeman fosters a perspective internal to Hip Hop and encourages conversation between artists and academics.”

Some chapters focus specifically on Houston, such as Maco Faniel’s chapter “Mapping Space and Place in the Analysis of Hip Hop and Religion: Houston As An Example”.

struggle again jim crowPitre, M. (1999). In Struggle against Jim Crow: Lulu B. White and the NAACP, 1900-1957. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press.

African American women have played significant roles in the ongoing struggle for freedom and equality, but relatively little is known about many of these leaders and activists. Most accounts of the civil rights movement focus on male leaders and the organizations they led, leaving a dearth of information about the countless black women who were the backbone of the struggle in local communities across the country. At the local level women helped mold and shape the direction the movement would take. Lulu B. White was one of those women in the civil rights movement in Texas.

Executive secretary of the Houston branch of the NAACP and state director of branches, White was a significant force in the struggle against Jim Crow during the 1940s and 1950s. She was at the helm of the Houston chapter when the Supreme Court struck down the white primary in Smith v. Allbright, and she led the fight to get more blacks elected to public office, to gain economic parity for African Americans, and to integrate the University of Texas. Author Merline Pitre places White in her proper perspective in Texas, Southern, African American, women’s, and general American history; points to White’s successes and achievements, as well as the problems and conflicts she faced in efforts to eradicate segregation; and looks at the strategies and techniques White used in her leadership roles. Pitre effectively places White within the context of twentieth-century Houston and the civil rights movement that was gripping the state. In Struggle Against Jim Crow is pertinent to the understanding of race, gender, interest group politics, and social reform during this turbulent era.

PrattPratt, Joseph: (Multiple published works)

Pratt is a recently retired historian from the University of Houston. He has written multiple books that focus primarily on energy history and the history of the Houston region:

“The most recent of these are Voice of the Marketplace (2002), a history of the National Petroleum Council, and Prelude to Merger (2000), a history of the Amoco Corporation from 1973-1998. Other oil and gas related books include Offshore Pioneers (1997), a history of the offshore construction work of Brown & Root, From Texas to the East (1993), a strategic history of Texas Eastern Corporation, and The Growth of a Refining Region (1980), an overview of the impact of the refining industry on the Texas-Louisiana Gulf coast. I have also written histories of several other Houston-area organizations (Texas Commerce banks and Baker & Botts law firm), a history of Consolidated Edison of New York City, a dual biography of Houston businessmen Herman and George R. Brown (Builders), and a general history of U.S. business and public policy (The Rise of the Corporate Commonwealth). Click here for the Japanese version.
My current research is on the history of the offshore petroleum industry.”

PhelpsPhelps, W. G. (2014). A People’s War on Poverty: Urban Politics and Grassroots Activists in Houston. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

“In A People’s War on Poverty, Wesley G. Phelps investigates the on-the-ground implementation of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty during the 1960s and 1970s. He argues that the fluid interaction between federal policies, urban politics, and grassroots activists created a significant site of conflict over the meaning of American democracy and the rights of citizenship that historians have largely overlooked. In Houston in particular, the War on Poverty spawned fierce political battles that revealed fundamental disagreements over what democracy meant, how far it should extend, and who should benefit from it. Many of the program’s implementers took seriously the federal mandate to empower the poor as they pushed for a more participatory form of democracy that would include more citizens in the political, cultural, and economic life of the city.

At the center of this book are the vitally important but virtually forgotten grassroots activists who administered federal War on Poverty programs, including church ministers, federal program volunteers, students, local administrators, civil rights activists, and the poor themselves. The moderate Great Society liberalism that motivated the architects of the federal programs certainly galvanized local antipoverty activists in Houston. However, their antipoverty philosophy was driven further by prophetic religious traditions and visions of participatory democracy and community organizing championed by the New Left and iconoclastic figures like Saul Alinsky. By focusing on these local actors, Phelps shows that grassroots activists in Houston were influenced by a much more diverse set of intellectual and political traditions, fueling their efforts to expand the meaning of democracy. Ultimately, this episode in Houston’s history reveals both the possibilities and the limits of urban democracy in the twentieth century.”

the other great migrationPruitt, B. (2013). The Other Great Migration: The Movement of Rural African Americans to Houston, 1900-1941.

“The twentieth century has seen two great waves of African American migration from rural areas into the city, changing not only the country’s demographics but also black culture. In her thorough study of migration to Houston, Bernadette Pruitt portrays the move from rural to urban homes in Jim Crow Houston as a form of black activism and resistance to racism.

Between 1900 and 1950 nearly fifty thousand blacks left their rural communities and small towns in Texas and Louisiana for Houston. Jim Crow proscription, disfranchisement, acts of violence and brutality, and rural poverty pushed them from their homes; the lure of social advancement and prosperity based on urban-industrial development drew them. Houston’s close proximity to basic minerals, innovations in transportation, increased trade, augmented economic revenue, and industrial development prompted white families, commercial businesses, and industries near the Houston Ship Channel to recruit blacks and other immigrants to the city as domestic laborers and wage earners.

Using census data, manuscript collections, government records, and oral history interviews, Pruitt details who the migrants were, why they embarked on their journeys to Houston, the migration networks on which they relied, the jobs they held, the neighborhoods into which they settled, the culture and institutions they transplanted into the city, and the communities and people they transformed in Houston.”

Houston blue

Roth, M. and T. Kennedy. (2012). Houston Blue: The Story of the Houston Police Department. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press.

Houston Blue offers the first comprehensive history of one of the nation’s largest police forces, the Houston Police Department. Through extensive archival research and more than one hundred interviews with prominent Houston police figures, politicians, news reporters, attorneys, and others, authors Mitchel P. Roth and Tom Kennedy chronicle the development of policing in the Bayou City from its days as a grimy trading post in the 1830s to its current status as the nation’s fourth largest city. Combining the skills of historian, criminologist, and journalist, Roth and Kennedy reconstruct the history of a police force that has been both innovative and controversial.”

San Miguel

San Miguel, G. (2001). Brown, Not White: School Integration and the Chicano Movement in Houston. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.

“Strikes, boycotts, rallies, negotiations, and litigation marked the efforts of Mexican-origin community members to achieve educational opportunity and oppose discrimination in Houston schools in the early 1970s. These responses were sparked by the effort of the Houston Independent School District to circumvent a court order for desegregation by classifying Mexican American children as “white” and integrating them with African American children—leaving Anglos in segregated schools. Gaining legal recognition for Mexican Americans as a minority group became the only means for fighting this kind of discrimination…The struggle for legal recognition not only reflected an upsurge in organizing within the community but also generated a shift in consciousness and identity. In Brown, Not White Guadalupe San Miguel, Jr., astutely traces the evolution of the community’s political activism in education during the Chicano Movement era of the early 1970s.

San Miguel also identifies the important implications of this struggle for Mexican Americans and for public education. First, he demonstrates, the political mobilization in Houston underscored the emergence of a new type of grassroots ethnic leadership committed to community empowerment and to inclusiveness of diverse ideological interests within the minority community. Second, it signaled a shift in the activist community’s identity from the assimilationist “Mexican American Generation” to the rising Chicano Movement with its “nationalist” ideology. Finally, it introduced Mexican American interests into educational policy making in general and into the national desegregation struggles in particular. This important study will engage those interested in public school policy, as well as scholars of Mexican American history and the history of desegregation in America.”

ephemeral city

Scardino, B. W. Stern, B.C. Webb, and P.G. Rowe (Eds). (2003). Ephemeral City: Cite Looks at Houston.

This book has fantastic photos of the city architecture.

“Built around characteristic features of modern life such as rapid change, built-in obsolescence, indeterminacy, media orientation, a culture of style, and instant gratification, Houston is an ephemeral city, hard to pin down and understand. Its lack of zoning (Houston is the only major city in America without it) and a burgeoning population that doubles every generation have created a new urban paradigm, where displacements of traditional patterns of stability and urban ritual are now the norm. Since 1982, “Cite: The Architectural and Design Review of Houston” has explored the nature of Houston’s evolution as an urban place by publishing commissioned articles by nationally known writers and architectural historians and high quality photography. This volume brings together twenty-five exceptional articles from Cite’s first twenty years, along with 224 black-and-white photographs, maps, and plans.The book is divided into three sections: ‘Idea of the City’, edited by Bruce C. Webb, ‘Places of the City’, edited by Barrie Scardino, and ‘Buildings of the City’, edited by William F. Stern. The sections are introduced with new essays written by the editors to provide cohesion for the anthology and commentary on where Houston might be going in the twenty-first century. Most articles are followed by a brief update and bibliography of related articles published in Cite. The editors chose these articles to explore the developmental history and architecture of a flat, sprawling, free-spirited city that is impossible to capture through any one episode or explain through any one place. With a diversity of voices and a selection that includes both narrow and broad topics, the volume constitutes a collage that captures the essence of a remarkable place – inchoate, patchwork, full of youthful vigor, favorable to private enterprise, and one of the world’s most fascinating cities.”


Steptoe, T.L. (2016). Houston Bound: Culture and Color in a Jim Crow City. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 

Beginning after World War I, Houston was transformed from a black-and-white frontier town into one of the most ethnically and racially diverse urban areas in the United States. Houston Bound draws on social and cultural history to show how, despite Anglo attempts to fix racial categories through Jim Crow laws, converging migrations—particularly those of Mexicans and Creoles—complicated ideas of blackness and whiteness and introduced different understandings about race. This migration history also uses music and sound to examine these racial complexities, tracing the emergence of Houston’s blues and jazz scenes in the 1920s as well as the hybrid forms of these genres that arose when migrants forged shared social space and carved out new communities and politics. This interdisciplinary book provides both an innovative historiography about migration and immigration in the twentieth century and a critical examination of a city located in the former Confederacy.

literary houston

Thesis, D. (2011). Literary Houston. TCU Press.

“The fifth in the “Literary Cities” series, Literary Houston gathers together historical and contemporary writing about this Texas city that everyone loves to hate. Rather than organize the pieces chronologically, Editor David Theis has assembled works according to themes such as biography and memoir; visitors; the city itself; events; poetry; and fiction. From Cabeza de Vaca’s early experiences to the Enron debacle, Theis presents Houston in a new, critical light.”



Valenzuela, A. (1999). Substractive Schooling: U.S.-Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring. Albany: SUNY University Press.

A canonical book in education: “Subtractive Schooling provides a framework for understanding the patterns of immigrant achievement and U.S.-born underachievement frequently noted in the literature and observed by the author in her ethnographic account of regular-track youth attending a comprehensive, virtually all-Mexican, inner-city high school in Houston. Valenzuela argues that schools subtract resources from youth in two major ways: firstly by dismissing their definition of education and secondly, through assimilationist policies and practices that minimize their culture and language. A key consequence is the erosion of students’ social capital evident in the absence of academically-oriented networks among acculturated, U.S.-born youth.”


Watson, D. (2005). Race and the Houston Police Department, 1930-1990: A Change Did Come. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.

“Dwight Watson traces how the Houston Police Department reacted to social, political, and institutional change over a fifty-year period—and specifically, how it responded to and in turn influenced racial change. Using police records as well as contemporary accounts, Watson astutely analyzes the escalating strains between the police and segments of the city’s black population in the 1967 police riot at Texas Southern University and the 1971 violence that became known as the Dowling Street Shoot-Out. The police reacted to these events and to daily challenges by hardening its resolve to impose its will on the minority community. Watson’s study demonstrates vividly how race complicated the internal impulses for change and gave way through time to external pressures—including the Civil Rights Movement, modernization, annexations, and court-ordered redistricting—for institutional changes within the department. His work illuminates not only the role of a southern police department in racial change but also the internal dynamics of change in an organization designed to protect the status quo.”

WoodWood, R. and J. Fraher (2003). Down in Houston: Bayou City Blues. Austin: University of Texas Press.

“In the clubs, ballrooms, and barbecue joints of neighborhoods such as Third Ward, Frenchtown, Sunnyside, and Double Bayou, Houston’s African American community birthed a vibrant and unique slice of the blues. Ranging from the down-home sounds of Lightnin’ Hopkins to the more refined orchestrations of the Duke-Peacock recording empire and beyond, Houston blues was and is the voice of a working-class community, an ongoing conversation about good times and hard times, smokin’ Saturday nights and Blue Mondays. Since 1995, Roger Wood and James Fraher have been gathering the story of the blues in Houston. In this book, they draw on dozens of interviews with blues musicians, club owners, audience members, and music producers, as well as dramatic black-and-white photographs of performers and venues, to present a lovingly detailed portrait of the Houston blues scene, past and present. Going back to the early days with Lightnin’ Hopkins, they follow the blues from the streets of Houston’s third and fifth wards to its impact on the wider American blues scene. Along the way, they remember the vigorous blues community that sprang up after World War II, mourn its decline in the Civil Rights era, and celebrate the lively, if sometimes overlooked, blues culture that still calls Houston home. Wood and Fraher conclude the book with an unforgettable reunion of Houston blues legends that they held on January 3, 1998.”

Houston a complete history cover Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Texas. (1942). Houston: A History and Guide.

An older history of Houston from the WPA. Available for free online here. Referred to me by Jim Parsons in the comment section, who wrote: “A favorite Houston book of mine is “Houston: A Complete History,” the 1942 WPA guide to the city. It is definitely a period piece in some ways, but as a readable history of the city and a snapshot of life at a particular time, it’s fantastic. Even better, it’s available for free online.”


Graphic Novels:

los tejanosJack Jackson’s American History: Los Tejanos and Lost Cause

Los Tejanos is the story of the Texas-Mexican conflict between 1835 and 1875 as seen through the eyes of tejano (literally Texan of Mexican, as distinct from anglo, heritage) Juan Seguín. It is through Seguín, a pivotal and tragic figure, that Jackson humanizes Texas’ fight for independence and provides a human scale for this vast and complex story. Lost Cause documents the violent reaction to Reconstruction by Texans. As Jackson wrote, “Texas reaped a bitter harvest from the War Between the States. Part of this dark legacy was the great unrest that plagued the beaten but unbowed populace.” The tensions caused by Reconstruction are told through the Taylor-Sutton feud, which raged across South Texas, embracing two generations and causing untold grief, and the gunslinger John Wesley Hardin, who swept across Texas killing Carpetbaggers, Federal soldiers, and Indians. Jackson’s work is as known for its rigorous research — he became as good an historian as he was a cartoonist — as well as its chiseled, raw-boned visual approach, reproducing the time and place with an uncanny verisimilitude. This edition includes an essay by and interview with Jackson about the controversy Lost Cause generated, and an introduction by the novelist Ron Hansen.”

silence of friends

Long, M., J. Demonakos, N. Powell. (2012). The Silence of Our Friends. New York: First Second.

“As the civil rights struggle heats up in Texas, two [Houston] families-one white, one black-find common ground. This semi-autobiographical tale is set in 1967 Texas, against the backdrop of the fight for civil rights. A white family from a notoriously racist neighborhood in the suburbs and a black family from its poorest ward cross Houston’s color line, overcoming humiliation, degradation, and violence to win the freedom of five black college students unjustly charged with the murder of a policeman. The Silence of Our Friends follows events through the point of view of young Mark Long, whose father is a reporter covering the story. Semi-fictionalized, this story has its roots solidly in very real events. With art from the brilliant Nate Powell (Swallow Me Whole) bringing the tale to heart-wrenching life,The Silence of Our Friends is a new and important entry in the body of civil rights literature.



Vice TV’s “Screwed in Houston” focuses on the city’s hip hop culture. (Part 1 below, other parts also available on Youtube though.)

Frontline’s “Dropout Nation” offers a portrait of Sharpstown High School students, the problem with dropout, and the work of educators to try and help them graduate. Trailer below, but you can watch the full documentary and access their extra resources about it here.

Houston “Waterfront City”: Pretty standard Discovery Channel documentary about the city

“Third Ward Texas”… Documentary about Project Row Houses (Trailer Below, Learn more here)

Drugs Inc “High in Houston” (National Geographic Program about Drugs in the Fifth Ward)

“This is Our Home and It Is Not For Sale”(1987, Directed by Jon Schwartz) “This Is Our Home, It Is Not For Sale is the 60-year history of an archetypal American neighborhood, Riverside in Houston, Texas, which experienced the classic syndrome of integration, real estate blockbusting, white flight, and regentrification common to virtually every American city.
The film’s title comes from that era of racial transition when whites, pressed by real estate agents to sell to blacks, prominently displayed signs proclaiming: “This Is Our Home, It Is Not For Sale”–words that would be swallowed in almost every case as white owners stampeded and property values collapsed. Years later, that dictum remained just as timely and relevant to Riverside’s affluent black community as they continued to protest various social and institutional encroachments into the area.”

Berman, David, Thomas R Cole, and California Newsreel (Film). The Strange Demise of Jim Crow How Houston Desegregated Its Public Accommodations, 1959-1963. San Francisco, CA: California Newsreel, 1997.

Houston-based Resources and Archives:

African-American Library at the Gregory School: “The African American Library at the Gregory School officially opened its doors on Saturday, November 14, 2009. Located in the historic Freeman’s Town at 1300 Victor St., Houston, TX 77019, the library is housed in the Edgar M. Gregory School, which served as the first public school for African Americans in Houston. The first library of its kind in Houston and one of the few African American libraries in the country, the Gregory School serves as a resource to preserve, promote, and celebrate the rich history and culture of African Americans in Houston, the surrounding region, and the African Diaspora. This historic building was reconditioned to serve as a repository for use by historians, researchers, and general public. The African American Library at the Gregory School is the newest of three special collections operated by the Houston Public library. The library provides incomparable collections of multi-type resources including reference books, rare books, archival materials, exhibits, artifacts, oral histories, and innovative programs. With community participation, this facility is expected to become one-of-a-kind research and cultural center, providing valuable information to the Houston community and the entire world.”

Houston History (Journal): The Center of Public History program at University of Houston also has a journal on Houston History that has published a lot of work on Houston. In fact they have just celebrated their 30th anniversary.

Houston Public Library-Downtown: The Public Library has a significant archive of Houston materials.

 Hip Hop Collections (University of Houston Library): The Houston Hip Hop collections document the unique music and culture of Houston hip hop. Among their riches are approximately 1500 vinyl records owned by DJ Screw, originator of the “chopped and screwed” genre, as well as related photographs and artifacts. Other materials include lyrics and photographs of the rapper HAWK, audio and promotional materials from other Houston artists, and the creative products of Pen & Pixel Graphics, Inc. and Samplified Digital Recording Studios.

Center for Public History (UH): As a commenter alerted me, the Center did a lot of oral histories of movers and shakers in Houston before they died. The should be archived at the University of Houston library.

Texas Southern University Library: TSU’s library should also have archival material about Houston’s black community.

Smith, C. S. Race Riot, Houston, Texas, August 23, 1917. [Detroit, Mich.]: [Smith], 1917.: My sense is that this is a personal blog, but it has a useful list of resources about race riots in 1917.


Academic Journal Articles:

**(if you don’t have access to academic journals, feel free to get in touch with me and I will try to share a copy of the article when possible)

Baker, Andrew C. (July 2014). From Rural South to Metropolitan Sunbelt: Creating a Cowboy Identity in the Shadow of Houston. Southwestern Historical Quarterly. 118 (1): 1–22.

Banta, R.Mm, C.J. Senff, J. Nielsen-Gammon, L.S. Darby, T.B. Ryerson, R.J. Alvarez, S.P. Sandberg, E.J. Williams, and M. Trainer. (2005). A Bad Air Day In Houston: A case study from the Texas Air Quality Study 2000 field campaign in Houston illustrates the role of small-scale meteorological processes in producing high-pollution events.

Bell, D.C., JW. Carlson, and A.J. Richard. (1998). The Social Ecology of Drug Use: A Factor Analysis of an Urban Environment. 33(11): 2201-2217.

Block, Robinson. (2010). Afro-Americans for Black Liberation and the Fight for Civil Rights at the University of Houston. Houston History. 8(1): 24–28.

Bright, S.B. (YEAR). The Failure to Achieve Fairness: Race and Poverty Continue to Influence Who Dies. Journal of Constitutional Law.11(1): 23-38).

Bullard, R. (2007). Solid Waste Sites and the Black Houston Community. Sociological Inquiry. 53(2-3): 273-288.

Bullard, R. (1991). Housing problems and prospects for blacks in Houston. The Review of Black Political Economy. 19(3-4): 175-194.

Bush, W.S. (2004). (DISSERTATION). Representing the Juvenile Delinquent: Reform, Social Science, and Teenage Troubles in Postwar Texas.

Calbillo, Carlos. (2011). The Chicano Movement in Houston and Texas: A Personal Memory.” Houston History. 9(1): 25–29.

Calhoun, Claudia. (2015). Where Houston Met Hollywood: Giant, Glenn McCarthy, and the Construction of a Modern City. Journal of Urban History. 41(3): 404–19.

Cano, G. (2004). The Virgin, the Priest, and the Flag: Political Mobilization of Mexican Immigrants in Chicago, Houston, and New York.

Carrasco, C.L. (2003). (MASTERS THESIS) Urban Ethnic Mosaics: An Analysis of Community Perspectives in Third Ward, Houston, Texas.

Cepeda, A., A. Valdez, C. Kaplan, and L. Hill. (2010). Patterns of Substance use among Hurrican Katrina evacuees in Houston, Texas. Disasters. 34(2): 426-446.

Derossett, D.L. (2014). Free markets and foreclosures: An examination of contradictions in neoliberal urbanization in Houston, Texas. Cities.

Esparza, Jesus Jesse. ( 2011). La Colonia Mexicana: A History of Mexican Americans in Houston. Houston History. 9(1): 2–8.

Feagin, J.R. (2009). The secondary circuit of capital: office construction in Houston, Texas. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. 11(2): 172-192.

Feagin, J.R. (2009). The secondary circuit of capital: office construction in Houston, Texas. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. 11(2): 172-192.

Feagin, J.R. (1984). The role of the state in urban development: the case of Houston, Texas. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. 2(4): 447-460.

Fifer McIntosh, M. (2008). Measuring the Labor Market Impacts of Hurricane Katrina Migration: Evidence from Houston, Texas. The American Economic Review. 98(2): 54-57.

Fisher, R. (1989). Urban Policy in Houston, Texas. Urban Studies. 26: 144-154.

Frey, W.H. and K. Liaw. (1998). Immigrant Concentration and Domestic Migrant Dispersal: Is Movement to Nonmetropolitan Areas “White Flight”? Professional Geographer.50(2): 215-232.

Garrison Marks, John. (2014). Community Bonds in the Bayou City: Free Blacks and Local Reputation in Early Houston. Southwestern Historical Quarterly. 117(3): 266–82.

Henthorn, T. C. (2015). Building a Moral Metropolis: Philanthropy and City Building in Houston, Texas. Journal of Urban History.

Holmes, A. and J.F. James. (1995). Discrimination, Lending Practices and Housing Values: Preliminary Evidence from the Houston Market. The Journal of Real Estate Research.

Jackson, Chuck. “What Blooms: The Jailhouse, Inside Out,” in Studies in Law, Politics, and Society (Spec. Issue on The Beautiful Prison). Ed. Austin Sarat. Intro. Doran Larson. 64 (April/May 2014), 87-96.

Jackson, Chuck. “What Looms: The University, the Jailhouse, and Pedagogy,” Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture, 9.2 (Spring 2009), 315-324.

Kirby, A. and A.K. Lynch. (1987). A ghost in the growth machine: the aftermath of rapid population growth in Houston. Urban Studies.24: 587-596.

Lang, N.G. (1989). AIDS, gays and the ballot box: The politics of disease in Houston, Texas. Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural Studies in Health and Illness. 10(2-3): 203-209.

La Vigne, N., L.E. Brooks, T.L. Shollenberger. (2009). Women on the Outside: Understanding the Experiences of Female Prisoners Returning to Houston, Texas. Urban Institute Justice Policy Center.

Lee, E. B., L. A. Browne, and J.W. Ward. Local Newspapers and the Houston Public School Desegregation, 1954-1984. S.l.: s.n.] ;, 2010.

Lin, J. (2005). Ethnic places, postmodernism, and urban change in Houston. The Sociological Quarterly.36(4): 629-647.

Longoria, R. and S. Rogers. (2013). Exodus within an expanding city: The case of Houston’s historic African-American communities. Urban Design International.18: 24-42.

Malone, C.K. (2007). Unannounced and Unexpected: The Desegregation of Houston Public Library in the Early 1950s. Library Trends. 55(3): 665-674.

Marquez, J.D. (1011). The browning of Black politics: Foundational Blackness and new Latino subjectivities. Subjectivity.4: 47-67.

McDavid, C. (2011). When is “Gone” Gone? Archaeology, Gentrification, and Competing Narratives about Freedman’s Town, Houston. Historical Archaeologies of Poverty.45(3): 74-88.

McDavid, C. (2006). The Power of a Name: Reclaiming Heritage in Freedmen’s Town, Houston, Texas. African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter.9(1).

McDavid, C., D. Bruner, and R. Marcom. (2008). Urban Archeology and the Pressures of Gentrification: Claiming, Naming, and Negotiating “Freedom” in Freedmen’s Town, Houston. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society.79: 37-52.

McNeil, L. and A. Valenzuela. The Harmful Impact of the TAAS System of Testing in Texas: Beneath the Accountability Rhetoric.

McWhorter, T. (2011). Trailblazers in Houston’s East End: The Impact of Ripley House and the Settlement Association on Houston’s Hispanic Population. Houston History. 9(1): 9-13.

McWhorter, T. (2010). From Das Zweiter to El Segundo: A Brief History of Houston’s Second Ward. Houston History. 8(1): 38-42.

Mieszkowski, P. and B. Smith. (1991). Analyzing urban decentralization: The case of Houston. Regional Science and Urban Economic. 21(2): 183-199.

Montz, Z.A. (2013). (DISSERTATION). “Negro Laborers to the Crossroads:” Organized Labor and the Traditions of Black Unionism in Houston, Texas, 1935-1964.

Nicholson-Preuss, M.L. (2010). (DISSERTATION). Down and Out in Old J D: Urban Public Hospitals, Institutional Stigma and Medical Indigence in the Twentieth Century. (Focused on indigent healthcare and public hospitals in Houston, specifically Jefferson Davis Hospital and the controversies surrounding its funding. There is a hard copy at the Metropolitan Research Center at the Houston Library and its available from the University of Houston via ProQuest.

Norris, D. (2009-2010). Houston Gentrification: Options for Current Residents of Third Ward. T. Marshall L. Review.

Oliver Rogers, G. and S. SukoIratanametee. (2009). Neighborhood design and sense of community: Comparing suburban neighborhoods in Houston Texas. Landscape and Urban Planning. 92: 325-334.

Olson, F. (THESIS). Social Constructionism in Community Development in the Spring Branch, Memorial Community of Houston, Texas.

Pando, P. (Summer 2011). When There Were Wards: A Series IN THE NICKEL, HOUSTON’S FIFTH WARD.” Houston History 8, no. 3 (Summer 2011): 33–37.

Pegoda, A. J. (2010). The University of Houston and Texas Southern University: Perpetuating ‘Separate but Equal’ in the Face of Brown v. Board of Education. Houston History. 8(1): 19-23.

Peiser, R.B. (2003). Land Development Regulation: A Case Study of Dallas and Houston, Texas. Real Estate Economics. 9(4): 397-417.

Pit, C. (2011). (DISSERTATION). Deal with us: The business of Mexican culture in post-World-War II Houston.

Pitre, M. “Texas and the Master Civil Rights Narrative: A Case Study of Black Females in Houston.” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, no. 116 (October 2012): 124–37.

Podagrosi, A. (YEAR). Gentrification and the Influence of Local Government in the Physical and Social Upgrading of Houston.

Podagrosi, A., I. Vojnovic, and B. Pigozzi. (2011). The diversity of gentrification in Houston’s urban renaissance: from cleansing the urban poor to supergentrification. Environment and Planning A. 43: 1910-1929.

Podagrosi, A. and I. Vojnovic. (2008). Tearing Down Freeman’s Town and African American Displacement in Houston: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Urban Revival. Urban Geography.29(4): 371-401.

Pruitt, B. (1991). The Urban Transformation of the MacGregor Area in Houston, Texas, 1950-70.

Qian, Z. (2011). Shaping Urban Form without Zoning: Investigating Three Neighbourhoods in Houston. Planning Practice and Research. 26(1): 21-42.

Qian, Z. (2010). Without zoning: Urban development and land use controls in Houston. Cities.27(1): 31-41.

Quraishi, U. (2013). (DISSERTATION). Multiple Mobilities: Race, Capital, and South Asian Migrations to and Through Houston.

Raymond, M., S.H. Fletcher, J. Luque. (2001). Teach for America: An Evaluation of Teacher Differences and Student Outcomes in Houston, Texas.

Rose, L.S., H. Akbrai, and H. Taha. (2003). Characterizing the Fabric of the Urban Environment: A Case Study of Greater Houston, Texas.

Rosin, Jan Swellander. (Fall 2005). “The New Latinos and Houston’s Global Pueblo.” Houston History Magazine. 20.

Ross-Nazzal, J. (2008). The Right Place Houston Makes History. Houston History. 6(1): 4-11.

Selley, M.G. (2011). House Special: Mexican Food & Houston Politics. Houston History. 9(1): 30-35.

Shelton, J.E. and M.N. Coleman. (2009). After the Storm: How Race, Class, and Immigration Concerns Influenced Beliefs About the Katrina Evacuees. Social Science Quarterly.90(3): 480-496.

Shelton, K. (2012). Culture War in Downtown Houston: Jones Hall and the Postwar Battle over Exclusive Space. Southwestern Historical Quarterly. 116(1): 1-24.

Sheridan, J.T. (YEAR). Invisible Houston: Recording Oral Histories with Middle School Students.

SoRelle, J.M. (1980). (DISSERTATION). The darker side of ‘Heaven’: the black community in Houston, Texas, 1917-1945.

Steptoe, Tyina L. (2008). (DISSERTATION). Dixie West: Race, Migration, and the Color Lines in Jim Crow Houston.

Vojnovic, I. (2003). Governance in Houston: Growth Theories and Urban Pressures. Journal of Urban Affairs.25(5): 589-624.

Vu, R. (2013). ‘Natives of a Ghost Country: The Vietnamese in Houston and Their Construction of a Postwar Community’ in J. Desai and K.Y. Joshi (Eds.), Asian Americans in Dixie: Race and Migration in the South. 165-189.

Yandle, T. and D. Burton. (1996). Reexamining Environmental Justice: A Statistical Analysis of Historical Hazardous Waste Landfil Siting Patterns in Metropolitan Texas. Social Science Quarterly. 77(3): 477-492.


Non-peer reviewed articles that are good/useful (ordered from most recent):

Steptoe, T. (December 14, 2015). ‘Creole’ in Houston: Not Black, Not White, Different than ‘Mixed’. Houston Chronicle.

Swartz, M. (October 2015). Green Acres. Texas Monthly. (Offers a good description of Houston’s “green makeover” and the development of city parks).

Hinchliffe, E. and B. Rogers. (October 8, 2015). Judge orders closure of troubled Crestmont Village apartments. Houston Chronicle.

Lomax, J.N. (October 1, 2015). Houston’s Real Estate Market Feeling the Effects of Oil’s Price Drop. Texas Monthly. (“Don’t be fooled by claims of economic diversification–the city still runs on oil.”)

Holeywell, R. (September 16, 2015). What maps reveal about Houston’s health problems. Urban Edge. 

Holeywell, R. (September 11, 2015). Why Residents Have Nuanced Views of Gentrification. Urban Edge.

Holeywell, R. (September 8, 2015). Forget What You’ve Heard, Houston Really Does Have Zoning (Sort Of). The Urban Edge.

Klineberg, S. (August 26, 2015). Four Myths About Katrina’s Impact on Houston. Urban Edge.

Holeywell, R. (August 25, 2015). No, Katrina Evacuees Didn’t Cause a Houston Crime Wave. Urban Edge.

Tatke, S. (August 13, 2015). Carless in Houston. Texas Monthly. (“The heretical choice to not own a vehicle in a city that worships the automobile”.)

Holeywell, R. (July 30, 2015). The troubling ways wealthy parents pick schools. Urban Edge.

Lomax, J.N. (July 27, 2015). From Texas to Cuba: An Epic Road Trip, Castro’s Trip to Houston, and How It’s Changed. Texas Monthly. (“As the doors to Cuban travel slowly re-open, the author’s dad recalls his epic road/cruise ship trip to Havana just before Castro’s take-over, and we remember Castro’s hero’s welcome in Houston a few months later.”)

Graham, D. (July 21, 2015). Sandra Bland and the Long History of Racism in Waller County, Texas. The Atlantic.

Lane, C. (June 29, 2015). Gentrification in Houston: Does it Ruin Neighborhoods? Houston Press.

Shelton, K., K. Douds, and J. Wu. (June 29, 2015). Surveys show Houstonians’ long-running love-hate relationship with transit. Urban Edge.

Cramptom, Liz. (June 25, 2015). “Supreme Court: Texas Reinforced Segregated Housing.” The Texas Tribune.

Llamas, J. (June 25, 2015). A closer look at criticism of Houston’s “transit deserts”. Urban Edge. 

Holeywell, R. (June 24, 2015). Houston’s office boom is just about over. Urban Edge.

KTRK. (May 7, 2016). “ABC13 Archive: Newscast from Moody Park Riot of 1978.” ABC13 Houston.

Payne, M. (June 22, 2015). Houston cyclists keep getting killed and they don’t have to. Urban Edge.

Shelton, K. (June 9, 2015). Demand, supply, gap: Transit deserts in Houston. Urban Edge.

Levin, M. (May 1, 2015). Houston is both one of the most diverse and most segregated US cities. Houston Chronicle.

Shelton, K. (March 31, 2015). Should Minority Houstonians be Moving to Newer Suburbs? Urban Edge.

Shelton, K., K. Douds, and J. Wu. (JuThompson, D. (March 26, 2015). Americans Love Big Hot Suburbs. The Atlantic. (Describes population growth in Houston, Austin, Dallas).

O’Connell, H. (March 24, 2015). Connecting Job Proximity and Gentrificaiton: What’s going on Houston? Urban Edge.

Shelton, K. (March 17, 2015). So there’s good news and bad news about income inequality in Houston. Urban Edge.

Lomax, J.N. (March 12, 2015). Three Pies in the Houston Skies. Texas Monthly. (The author discusses why Houston Redditors ideas for changing Houston are cool but unrealistic.)

Solomon, D. (February 25, 2015). Houston and Austin Had Two of the Biggest Rent Hikes in the Past Year of Any City in the Country. Texas Monthly.

Smothers, H. (January 21, 2015). Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, Explained. Texas Monthly.

Solomon, D. (July 23, 2014). Do Millennials Prefer Houston and San Antonio to Dallas and Austin? Texas Monthly.

Holeywell, R. (May 13, 2015). HISD opens massive school district data sets to researchers. Urban Edge.

Hlavaty, C. (June 8, 2014). Beltway 8 vs. Huge Land Formations: Mapping Tool Lets You Realize Its Enormity.” Houston Chronicle. Solomon, D. (April 30, 2014). As If You Needed It, Further Proof That Houston Is So Much Bigger Than Most Cities. Texas Monthly. (The article overlays maps of other cities and Houston to compare).

Florida, R. (October, 2013). The Boom Towns and Ghost Towns of the New Economy. The Atlantic. (“New York, Houston, Washington, D.C.–plus college towns and the energy belt–are all up, while much of the Sun Belt is (still) down. Mapping the winners and losers since the crash.”)

Holeywell, R. (October, 2013). Houston: The Surprising Contenter in America’s Urban Revival. Governing. (“Even the country’s most sprawling, least dense, most automobile-dependent city in America is trying to adapt to people’s preference for urban living.”)

Thompson, D. (May 28, 2013). Houston is Unstoppable: Why Texas’ Juggernaut Is America’s #1 Job Creator. The Atlantic.

Swartz, M. (February, 2009). Downsizing Houston. Texas Monthly. (“If the crash that followed the boom hasn’t exactly been our fault, the result has been the same sad sense that maybe we’ll never have fun again.”

Burka, P. (November 16, 2007). The Future of Houston. Texas Monthly. (The article sums up research presented by a sociologist and J.P. Morgan Chase chairman about changes in Houston.)

Other Texas Books (Some have sections about Houston specifically):

Clayson, W.S. (2010). Freedom is Not Enough: The War on Poverty and the Civil Rights Movement in Texas. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Cullen, D.O. and K.G. Wilkinson (Eds.). (2010). The Texas Left: The Radical Roots of Lone Star Liberalism. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.

Foley, D., C. Mota, D. Post, and I. Lozano. (1977). From Peones to Politics: Ethnic Relations in a South Texas Town 1900-1977. Austin: University of Texas Center for Mexican American Studies.

Hubner, J. (2005). Last Chance in Texas: The Redemption of Criminal Youth. New York: Random House.

Leon, A. (1999). Mexican Americans in Texas: A Brief History (Second Edition). Wheeling: Harlan Davidson.

Macleish, K.T. (2013). Making War at Fort Hood: Life and Uncertainty in a Military Community. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Miller, C. and H. Sanders (Eds.). (1990). Urban Texas: Politics and Development. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.

Perkinson, R. (2010). Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire. New York: Metropolitan Books.

Valencia, R. (2008). Chicano Students and the Courts: The Mexican American Legal Struggle for Educational Equality. New York: New York University Press.

A Reply to Lauren Southern’s “Why I’m Not a Feminist”

Dear Lauren,

In the last couple days, I have seen your video “Why I’m Not a Feminist” pop up a few times. In the video, you describe why you are not a feminist. At the heart of your message is the assertion, “I am not a feminist because I believe both genders should be treated equally.” Setting aside for a moment the problems with your assumption that gender can be reduced to a binary of male/female (here’s a decent introduction to that if you want), I want to talk about the misinformation you offer in your video: misinformation about feminist activism and scholarship, and misinformation about domestic violence and rape. I don’t often find engaging in these types debates online to be the most fruitful use of my energies, since people that produce anti-feminist content generally are not very open to meaningful engagement with feminist thought, however I’ve been stewing over your particular video for a day. I think it’ll be under my skin until actually take the time to I address it.

So, let’s tackle some of your claims one by one. I will try to offer some specific references to actual feminist work so that you can see where my assertions actually come from. Hopefully this might also help you go out and check up on some of your claims, since it appears you haven’t taken the time to engage much feminist work before forming your argument and lambasting feminism to your wide viewership. Alright, onto your assertions…

1. You ask: “Why don’t we see equal representation [by feminists] of both gender’s issues?”

Lauren, I think if you look at the history of feminism, the answer to this question is pretty clear…Feminism emerged out of women’s rights movements. Thus, the roots of feminist scholarship and activism come from a challenge to the inequality of women. Feminism today exists as an agglomeration of past and present efforts to address forms of inequality facing women, including: the inability of women to be recognized as full citizens; women’s lack of rights over their own bodies; women’s lack of protection from violence in the homes and on the streets, and their unique experiences of violence in times of war; the restriction on women’s ability to pursue the same opportunities as men; the gendered norms that constrain women’s ability to freely express their gender, personalities and their bodies; the lack of attention and respect given to women’s voices and experiences; the devaluation of women’s labor; the lack of freedom to love who they wish and the assumption of their heterosexuality; the absence of women in the arenas of power where decisions are made about their lives; and, the pervasive inequalities shaped by race, ethnicity, colonialism, citizenship, gender identity, sexuality, ability, and language that work alongside gender. As you hopefully know, all of these issues remain deeply persistent sources of women’s inequality, and therefore addressing how they operate in the lives women remains at the heart of the feminism.

This does not mean that feminists hate men or that they do not care when men are harmed, nor does it mean that feminists themselves are somehow sexist. There are real and serious inequalities that continue to face women, and it is not unreasonable or sexist for a movement for gender equality to focus primarily on those problems. Would you tell those working to address racial inequality that they are racist unless they also work to address all of the problems facing white people? Maybe you would, Lauren, but I really hope not.

Now, that being said, I actually think that feminists do focus quite a lot on issues impacting men. As I describe in #2 below, the gender regimes that impact women also impact men, and feminists offers many tools to challenge them alongside one another. Don’t get me wrong though, this doesn’t mean that feminism is only important and legitimate when it is also useful to men. There are serious issues of security, freedom, and equality uniquely facing women, and if you are only willing support movements to confront these problems when they also benefit men, then you are missing the point.

2. You say: “Feminists remain silent” on the issues of male suicide, male workplace deaths, male combat deaths, and male homicide death.

Actually, Lauren, a long history feminist analysis of gender does give us some pretty profound insight into a lot of these male deaths. In particular, feminists demonstrate how norms of femininity and masculinity entrench ideas about appropriate male and appropriate female behavior, which deeply shape the conditions of these banana beachesmale deaths. Take the issue of combat deaths, for example. Feminists have written extensively about gender and war pointing to how norms of masculinity are deeply implicated in producing a society in which men are expected to embody sacrificial stoicism, masculine physical virility and strength, while women are expected to be weak, passive, and in need of (male) protection. To engage with a fraction of this literature, check out: Cockburn 2007; Cowen 2008; Daniels 2006; Dowler 2001, 2011, 2012; Eisenstein 2008; Enloe 1983, 1989, 2010, 2014; Fluri 2008, 2011; Goldstein 2001; Jacobs et al 2000; Mohanty et al 2008; Moser and Clark 2005; Puar 2007; Sjoberg 2013; Tickner 2001; Yuval-Davis 1997.

As a means of illustration though, feminist Iris Marion Young (2003) has written about this as “the logic of masculine protection”. She writes, “In this patriarchal logic, exposing menthe role of the masculine protector puts those protected, paradigmatically women and children, in a subordinate position of dependence and obedience” (2). Feminists have challenged this logic of protection in multiple contexts, pointing both to how this robs women of agency, and to how it shapes male participation in war, and subsequent injury and death. Cynthia Daniel’s (2006) book Exposing Men deals extensively with the way that male soldiers–and specifically, their reproductive health–are injured, and how ideas of masculinity (like that “a man should be verile, not weak”) also contribute to the lack of medical help men seek for these injuries. Trust me, Lauren, feminists are writing about this.

I’ll just add on the note of male combat deaths, though: part of the reason it’s disproportionately men is because sexist policies in the U.S. military have historically barred women soldiers from combat roles. If you want equality in solidering, you might want to check out some feminists, like Cynthia Cohn or Megan MacKenzie (among others), who have both written persuasively about the myth that women can’t fight and challenged the exclusion of women from combat positions.

To your other examples (workplace death, suicide, and murder), there are also feminists who illuminate how notions of masculinity shape labor forces and the willingness of workers to use safety equipment, such as my college Arielle Hesse who examines masculinity and worker safety in the (largely male) natural gas workforce of Pennsylvania. Or Miles Groth, whose book “Boys to Men: The Science of Masculinity and Manhood” describes how stereotypes about what it means to “be a man” impacts high suicide rates among young men. Groth argues that feminist efforts to abolish restrictive gender norms offer vital pathways to address the problem. (There are others who discuss this connection too—just google it. You can also google masculinity and crime/gangs to help think through the ways feminism could be a helpful way understand the male murder statistics. I also recommend Melissa Wright (2011), who has written about murder of both men and women in Mexico through a feminist lens).

3. You say: “Almost half of all domestic violence victims in the U.S. and Canada are men.”

Given that you do not cite your source here, Lauren, I do not know where you found this statistic. However, depending on where you look, you may find dramatically different numbers. Some will show what you describe (a relative gender symmetry) while others show that it is largely women experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV). So, why are there such different numbers? Actually, Michael Johnson (2011) has a pretty good article that will respond directly to most of your claims–it’s called Gender and types of intimate partner violence: A response to an anti-feminist literature review, but I’ll try to lay some of it out here. Since other people have already done this work for me, I’ll quote Kelly and Johnson (2008) on the topic:

“For over two decades, considerable controversy has centered on whether it is primarily men who are violent in intimate relationships or whether there is gender symmetry in perpetuating violence. Proponents of both viewpoints cite multiple empirical studies to support their views… These two viewpoints can be reconciled largely by an examination of the samples and measures used to collect the contradictory data and the recognition that different types of intimate partner violence exist in our society and are represented in these samples… Based on hundreds of studies, it is quite apparent that both men and women are violent in intimate partner relationships. There is gender symmetry in some types of intimate partner violence…”

So, then we break down the data! What you’ll find is there are a few important, but different, types of IPV (which are differently documented in the statistics you find):

  • Coercive Controlling Violence: This is what most people think of when they envision domestic violence. This type of IPV is routine and used to control the partner through multiple forms of coercion (economic threats, leveraging children, blaming, isolation, sexual violence, emotional abuse, intimidation, and physical violence.) This type of violence is more likely to result in serious physical injury or death. While men can be victims of this type of violence, on the whole it is overwhelmingly perpetrated by heterosexual men against their female partners. This type of DV is rooted in patriarchy and misogyny. As Johnson and Kelly describe, data obtained from women’s shelters, court-mandated treatment programs, police reports, and emergency rooms are more likely to report this type of violence.
  • Violent Resistance: This type of IPV accounts for the fact that some people respond to coercive controlling violence with violent resistance (akin to “self-defense” but that has a specific legal meaning). The vast majority of violent resistance is done by women against male coercive controlling partners, but charges are sometimes filed in these cases and they contribute to the patterns in the statistics. Unlike the coercive controlling partner, violent resistance is reactive and the intention is not to control.
  • Situational Couple Violence: This is by far the most common type of IPV, and is perpetrated by both men and women close to gender symmetry (although men still slightly higher). This generally results from the escalation of an argument between partners, but is not representative of chronic violence, intimidation, or stalking. Although it is serious and can be lethal, on the whole it tends to involve more minor forms of violence (pushing, shoving, grabbing), and is much less likely to result in serious injury. Fear of the partner is also not a characteristic of men or women in this form of IPV. Large-scale survey research, using community and national samples, account more for this type of violence and therefore report greater gender symmetry in the initiation and participation of men and women in partner violence.

So, yes, Lauren, you’re right that men are victims of intimate partner violence too. Both men and women commit violence in both heterosexual and same sex relationships. All of this violence does matter. But when you’re talking about systemic violence, violence rooted in fear and control, and violence that results in serious injury, the vast majority of assailants are men and the vast majority of victims are women. At least a third of all female homicide victims in the U.S. are killed by male intimate partners (compared to 2.5% for men). On the whole, gender symmetry in IPV tends to be clustered at the lower levels of violence, as the statistics you quote do not distinguish based on severity, frequency, whether an attack was in self-defense, or if it was part of a pattern of fear and coercive behavior. Also add to this that men are more likely to call the police on their partner, more likely to press charges, and less likely to drop charges.

This does not mean that feminists don’t care when violence happens to men, or that they don’t want to see men protected from this violence, cause they do. However, given the realities taking place when you examine the numbers closely, it’s not surprising that most feminist energy addressing IPV is focused on women facing (coercive controlling) violence. Plus, consider the ways that IPV is still shaped by systemic, legally-enshrined patriarchy in this country. Until recently men had the legal right to beat their wives. In fact, as recently as the 1980s, police would delay responding to domestic violence calls, and often wives had no legal recourse to demand protection from the state. This logic about male dominance over women is not wiped from our history yet, Lauren, and it continues to shape the treatment of women by partners and by the state which is supposed to protect them.

It is also very important to add that your claim that men don’t have access to victims services is also incorrect. The Violence Against Women Act, which feminists championed in 1994, legally protects both women and men (in both heterosexual and same sex relationships) who are victims of domestic violence. And, the VAWA does offer male victims all the same services and protections that are available to women.

While there are many feminists who work on the issue of intimate partner violence, if you want to check out some more I particularly recommend the work of Rachel Pain and Dana Cuomo (both links will direct you to some of their work).

4. You say: There are more men raped in prison than women, but “feminists remain silent on the issue”.

The claim that feminists have remained silent on this is just plain false. First of all, feminists fought front and center to change the federal definition of rape to include male victims (and to include other forms of rape, like statutory rape), which it previously hadn’t. It was the Feminist Majority Foundation and Ms. magazine that launched a campaign called “Rape is Rape”, culminating in changes to the old definition that didn’t include men. Second, feminists led the broad coalition advocating for the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, which works to protect all prisoners from sexual assault (the majority of whom are men). (Relatedly, you may also note that women and feminists have been at the forefront of challenging rape in the military, which also affects many men.) Prison rape remains a really serious issue that affects thousands, and is certainly something that deserves more attention than it currently receives, including among feminists. However, among those who are fighting on this issue, feminists are there and they are not silent. For more feminists working on issues of incarceration or detention (some specifically dealing with rape), try Angela Davis (2003, 2005), Dillon (2012), Gilmore and Loyd (2013), Jackson (2013), Lamble (2013), Puar (2007), Sabo and Kupers (2001), Sundbury (2005), and others.

5. You say: “Feminists place a blanket statement on all men that they are all privileged, and that all women are oppressed.”

This is a warped characterization of what feminists argue. Yes, feminists argue that being a male in a male-dominated society has particular privileges—whether it’s being paid more, having greater representation in seats of power, having your voice privileged in many spaces, or so on. But, feminists do NOT assume that all men equally benefit from these systems of privilege, nor to they assume that all women are equally marginalized. The complexity of privilege and oppression underscores why feminist turn to the notion of intersectionality (Hey! It is “Feminism 101”!). Intersectionality notably emerged from critiques of white feminism by women of color and Third World women, who called for a feminism that was more attentive to the way the race, class, colonialism, and other systems of power worked alongside gender. Again, not all women are marginalized in the same ways, and the privileges that come, say, with being wealthy or being white can play a large role in how or whether someone might feel oppressed due to their gender.

Feminists do NOT claim universal oppression among women. In fact, the assertion that all women are oppressed is one of the very issues that galvanized postcolonial feminists and feminists of color in their critique of second wave feminism. There had been (and to some extent still is) a tendency by white feminists to characterize women of color and Third World Women as universally oppressed by their cultures and their men, and thus in need of others (white feminists) to rescue them or to speak about them, or for them. This is what Spivak meant when she argued that brown women do not need white men (or women) to save them from brown men. If you want to learn more about this discussion about feminism and oppression, try checking out Gayatri Spivak’s article “Can the Subaltern Speak” or Chandra Mohanty’s “Under Western Eyes”. These insights are a cornerstone of what is generally understood as Third Wave Feminism, which you claim is about universal oppression.

So, yes, feminists do talk about the way that patriarchy and sexism overlap with other structures of race, class, sexuality, nationality to produce unique violences in women’s lives. But, as you can hopefully see, it is a much more nuanced argument than your characterization. (On the issue of privilege/oppression, you may also be interested in the wide writing of feminists who challenge the idea that men are natural perpetrators or aggressors and women natural victims. Here is one example. Another good source would be Clark and Moser’s (2001) book Victims, Perpetrators or Actors, as well as many of the others I mentioned earlier who write about gender and war.)

6. You say: “As a woman, I will almost always win custody in a divorce case.”

Again, you might look to the extensive feminist literature about gender to craft a meaningful analysis of why this occurs. Undoubtedly, the issue of women being more likely to be granted custody cannot be understood separately from the gender norms that assume that women (not men) are natural caregivers and naturally nurturing, or that assert their primary and most important role is motherhood. In contrast, in our society men have historically been thought of as the breadwinners and the productive citizens. Feminist have challenged these ideas for decades, since they profoundly restrict the options available to women, and contribute to the devaluation of women’s labor both in and out of the home (Mitchell et al 2003). Just a few examples of the impacts of this assumption (of women’s natural role is as the office party planningmothers) include: stigma toward women who don’t want to or cannot have children; the devaluation of work in the home such that it need not be paid or treated as productive; lower pay for women working outside the home (“her income is just to supplement that of her husband”); the characterization of women who don’t fully embody the motherly norms of nurturing caretakers as “pushy”, “overly assertive” or “bitchy”; or even the assumption within workplaces that women will be naturally good at domestic responsibilities, and are therefore are disproportionately expected to do domestic labor in the office, such as cooking, party planning, decorating, and cleaning. (We all remember Phillis, Pam, Angela and Meredith doing that work!) I could go on, but I’ll stop with the examples there.

Anyway, men who are invested in reshaping ideas about their male parental rights may be surprised to find that gendered assumptions about women’s inherent motherliness (which feminist critique) also carry over into how society perceives them as parents (think of the attitudes towards men who are stay at home dads). They may actually find that feminist goals align closely with their own, in terms of changing the gendered expectations about child rearing. Further, in terms of family policy, feminists have actually advocated for many policy changes that benefit men, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act and paternal leave policies.

7. You say: As a woman, I will “actually have my rape and assault claims taken seriously.”

Lauren, how often do you read about rape cases in the United States? Do you really think that it’s fair to say that women have their rape and assault claims taken seriously? Really? Seriously, really? Women are consistently blamed for their own rapes (“she must have led him on”, “she shouldn’t have been dressed provocatively”, “she shouldn’t have been with him in the first place”, “she shouldn’t have drank so much” and so on). There is SO much documentation of women not being believed for their rapes that your claim here is actually really disturbing. This is particularly true for women of color, who are even less likely to be taken seriously. Here are just a few articles to reinforce what I’m saying: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. In terms of feminist efforts to address rape in the U.S., Title IX legislation which feminists have fought for on college campuses offers protection from sexual harassment and assault for all students, including men.

8. You say: As a woman, “I won’t be laughed at for not being manly enough.”

i need feminismYou’re right, in most instances, you probably won’t be laughed at for not being manly enough. But as a woman, you may be laughed at for being too manly. Crossing borders of accepted gender behavior (a man expressing femininity or a woman expressing masculinity) can be difficult for both men and women, and again, there are a LOT of feminist resources that will help give you the language, strategies, and support needed to confront and challenge the harms experienced by both men and women due to gender norms.

As a related caveat, however, if you’re a woman in a male dominated field like the military, policing, firefighting, etc then you likely will come up against the standards of “not being manly enough”. Again, turn to feminists to help understand this (e.g. women in firefighting, women in the military).


Anyway, Lauren, I hope that helps clear up some of your issues with feminism. I also hope it will encourage you will do a bit more research on the work that feminists do and reconsider your position. If you want to learn a little more about ways feminism has helped men, here are one and two more sources on that for you. You might also find it useful to talk to some feminist men sometime about why they are feminists.

All the best,

A feminist


FOLLOW UP MAY 4, 2015: Lauren ended up replying to me after I wrote this letter, and asked if I wanted to do an online debate about feminism. We decided to do a call-and-response style discussion where we post questions and replies to one another. My contributions are posted on this blog, and hers are on her youtube account. The discussion is currently on-going. If you would like to follow alone, here is the progression of the conversation: 1) the announcement of the format for our discussion, 2) my first prompt for her, 3) her first video reply, and 4) my second post for her. We hope the conversation continues to be fruitful, and we both welcome you to follow along and participate in the discussion!



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Disrupting Consumption: Why Are Protesters at the Mall?


Last Saturday, December 6, hundreds of protesters gathered outside of Houston’s largest mall, the Galleria. Standing on all four corners of the busy intersection of Westheimer and Post Oak, the protesters held signs decrying the systemic devaluation of black lives and the lack of accountability when police kill unarmed black men. While the cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Houston’s own Jordan Baker may have served as the most recent catalysts, their cases are not isolated incidents and protesters demanded (and continue to demand) long-overdue attention to widespread patterns of state violence against people of color.

Amid a tidal wave of demonstrations across the country, the decision of Houston organizers to locate their demonstration at a shopping mall was not unique. All around the U.S., protesters responding to the events in Ferguson and beyond have located their demonstrations, rallies, and die-ins in commercial space. With the November 24th Grand Jury decision in the Michal Brown case happening just days before Thanksgiving and the biggest shopping day of the year, activists rallied around the hashtags #NotOneDime, #HandsUpDontSpend and #BlackoutBlackFriday, which encouraged people to boycott the shopping day. In St. Louis, Boston, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and elsewhere, Black Friday demonstrators marched through malls, in front of Target stores, and outside department stores. Alongside the chants that “Black Lives Matter” were calls to move “Out of the store, into the streets.” As the activist group Blackout for Human Rights describes, the Black Friday shopping boycott aimed to raise awareness about the issue, demand an end to the violence, and maintain pressure on those in power. The trend didn’t wane after Black Friday, however, as rallies around the country continued in malls and other spaces of consumption. In Durham, North Carolina, protesters held a march in a shopping center that culminated in a “die-in” in remembrance of Michael Brown at a Nordstrom. In Seattle, demonstrators entered a pair of shopping malls during a tree-lighting ceremony. Similar events took place in Pittsburgh, Northern Virginia, Quaker Bridge (New Jersey), Winston-Salem, and even London.

Like the protests elsewhere, last week Houston demonstrators also ventured into the mall, where they peacefully chanted as they walked through the Galleria, periodically laying down in remembrance of those who have died at the hands of police. Some shoppers even joined the demonstrators. While the protesters did not (and never had any intention to) damage property or loot, several stores closed their doors while they were inside. Meanwhile, outside the mall, protesters walked along the sidewalks outside of nearby stores, including The Container Store, Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack, Old Navy and others. They chanted for “No Justice, No Peace.” And they also chanted “No Justice, No profit.”

In Houston, the responses to the demonstration in and around the Galleria were mixed. During the protest, some honked and waved in support, many took video or photos of the demonstration on their phones, and still others shouted angrily and flipped off demonstrators. As the newspapers (e.g. Houston Chronicle) posted their reports about the demonstration that evening, the news articles prompted a disheartening number of deeply racist comments. Others comments, however, revealed a frustration, confusion and profound lack of understanding about why a demonstration on this particular issue would be held at a mall. It is this latter set of responses that I want to try to address in this article. Let’s start by taking a look at some of their comments:

“Why don’t they go protest out in front of the Police Academy?”

“Protesting at the Galleria in Houston will really show those cops in Ferguson what is up.”

“I’m so mad at the airline industry. I think I’ll go protest in front of a train station.”

“Don’t these people care about those who work at these stores to provide for their families?”

“And the shop owners and businesses have what to do with this issue?…Protest in front of police stations, courts, your congressperson’s office, but geeze, be smart about it.”

[In a reply to another post about the protest being at the mall] “They’ve been accused of many things including lazy and unemployable, but never smart.”

There is spatial question evident in all of these comments: Why are protesters at the mall? Or more specifically, why would a protest about state violence be held in commercial space? Do these protesters know what they’re doing? What does a shopping mall in Houston have to do with any of these issues? These questions merit a deeper exploration and explanation, and I want to propose some answers (although there are surely many more). While I cannot and do not speak for the organizers of the protest, the choice to hold the protest at the mall is certainly not an indication of unintelligent protesters who have confused their message by gathering in the wrong space. There are incredibly significant reasons why commercial space is an important, and strategic, site for protests about injustice. Although the reasons I will offer arguably overlap, let’s tackle them separately. Folks these days do love lists, right?

1. When the injury, disappearance, and death of people of color is made invisible, a busy shopping mall is a good place to make them visible. Media bias in both the amount and quality of coverage offered to violence against people of color has been well-documented. Most people are familiar with the “Missing White Girl Syndrome”, a term applied to “a tendency by the news media to cover the murders and abductions of affluent or middle class white girls far more than those of boys, poor kids and kids of color, especially African-Americans.” This pattern, however, can be extended much further. According one investigation of extrajudicial killings, a black man is killed every 28 hours in this country. Most of these deaths get little coverage. In part, this is because only 4% of American law enforcement agencies even report police-involved shootings, leaving not only the nature of these shootings opaque, but their very occurrence largely erased. Further, in addition to being largely invisible in public records, these deaths are often relegated to the back pages of the newspaper, if they are covered at all. When they are covered, the media treats white suspects and killers better than black victims. Media coverage is more likely to suggest that black victims are criminal, dangerous, or otherwise to blame for their own deaths, thus their death is seen as normal, expected, deserved, and unworthy of attention and outrage. Given that so many disappearances, kidnappings, injuries, and deaths of black and brown bodies are made invisible (or treated as normal), an obvious and inevitable strategy is to bring the message to a space where it will be seen. With 35 million annual visitors, particularly in the month leading up to Christmas, the Galleria exemplifies such a space. It is one of the most visited attractions in Houston and has the highest sales of any mall in the Houston area. As a protester at a New Jersey mall highlighted, these types of commercial spaces allow demonstrators to get their message to a wider and more diverse audience: “It doesn’t do us any good to preach to the choir.” Those who have not already seen (or are unwilling to see) the fear and the loss experienced by people of color need to see this.

2. When the state privileges business interests over the interests of citizens, disrupting consumption is a strategic way get the state to care. I know it’s old news to say that business interests have a tremendous influence in politics. But it merits saying again. This is particularly true in light of the 2010 case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which eliminated the ban on corporate and union funding of elections, and gave corporations “the green light to spend unlimited sums on ads and other political tools.” As the New York Times writes, “Citizens United unleashed a torrent of money from businesses and the multimillionaires who run them, and as a result we are now seeing the corporate takeover of American politics.” The patterns in big money spending have also been shown to exacerbate racial inequalities as elections are funded primarily by wealthy, white donors. Further, the centrality of business interests in the daily operation of our city, state, and federal government goes much deeper than just campaign finance. The aftermath of the economic crises of the 1970s ushered in the start of a new era of economic and political policy, which is generally referred to as neoliberalism. Neoliberalism can be simplified as “the desirability of the market as the central plank for the organization of social, economic and political life” (this definition comes from the 2010 Dictionary of Human Geography). Neoliberalism has contributed to a number of erosive policies, including but not limited to: 1) the privatization of public space (parks, sidewalks, etc.) and of public services (e.g. city utilities run as businesses, social services run by NGOs, prisons run for profit) to place them under corporate control, 2) the deregulation of various industries (e.g. less regulation on pollution, industry oversight, labor practices, or Wall Street), 3) the implementation of business models in public education exemplified by high stakes testing, and 4) the increase in social/economic inequality due to both the retreat of the welfare state and the systemic benefits given to corporate interests.

Needless to say, none of these foster a state that will be responsive to citizens, particularly when citizen demands are emerging from more economically and socially marginalized populations. With this in mind, disrupting business and consumption are one way to gain political leverage. As one protester on Black Friday told Forbes, “What we’re saying is that economic boycotts have not only worked in the past but they’re often the only thing that a hyper-capitalist economy like ours responds to.” While certainly there are many among the protesters who are deeply critical of the ways our capitalist system produces inequality, it’s important to note that this method of disrupting consumption is not a tactic reserved for those on the left or far-left who critique captialism. In fact, leveraging consumer power is one of the most tried and true methods of political persuasion, and is practiced by groups across the full spectrum of political leanings. Those protesting Israeli state practices in Palestine boycott Israeli products. Many protested the South African policy of apartheid by boycotting all South African products. Even U.S. Republicans–the vanguard of protecting business interests–have led boycotts, including boycotts of Target, Starbucks, and General Mills over their support of marriage equality, and more recently the boycott of the Affordable Care Act’s health care exchange. The disruption of consumption in the protests at the Galleria are just another in a long line of movements leveraging consumer power to influence the state.

3. Protesters do not need to protest at the police station in order to get their message to cops, because the police show up in force to guard sites of consumption.


For those concerned that the message of protesters would not reach the most pertinent audience, the police, they can rest assured that the police were certainly present in large numbers (including many on horseback) during the protests at the Galleria. The Houston Police Department’s (one could argue, excessive) response to the peaceful protesters at the Galleria is indicative of a further aspect of the government’s protection of corporate interests: spaces of consumption are physically guarded and protected with great effort to keep out those who might threaten consumption. An article by a couple geography colleagues/friends helps to illustrate this practice. In their research, Massaro and Mullaney (2011) trace “a recent, aggressive state crackdown on public gatherings of African American youth in the streets of Philadelphia’s commercial districts.”  The mere presence of groups of black teens (which were dubbed “flash mobs” despite there being no choreographed dance or organized action) in shopping areas was characterized as “terrorizing.” But Massaro and Mullaney argue that it was not a result of any aggressive actions on the part of the youth that prompted the crack-down; rather “it [was] seemingly their non-consumerist behavior that mark[ed] these gatherings as out-of-place in a city structured and protected as a node of capitalist development.” The city’s narrative of dangerous black teens was nonetheless used to justify the aggressive policing of these young people, forcing their removal from commercial spaces. Mapping this example onto Houston, we might ask whether the demonstration of police force that was seen at last week’s protest would have taken place if the protest had been held elsewhere or if it had not disrupted consumption.

4. Protesting in commercial space exposes just how destructive contemporary ideals of citizenship are. We should all be disturbed by the vitriolic reactions to protesters at the Galleria, particularly when they are juxtaposed against the celebration of the consumer-citizen. Here are just three examples of responses to the Galleria demonstration: 1) “Just a bunch of numb nuts who can’t afford to shop at the Galleria.” 2) “All this does is cause a disruption and inconvenience for [the people inside the stores]…Every one of them should be arrested for causing a public disruption.” 3) “I wish I had nothing better to do than go to the mall and lay down…good grief you idiots! Add some value to society versus leaching off the gubment.” In a sense, these commenters are chastising the demonstrators, not for the content of the protest itself, by rather because they were presumed to be bad consumers. Take another very different example: in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush called for citizens to go shopping–to be good consumers. “Get down to Disney World,” he said. This typifies contemporary consumer nationalism (or, in social theorist Jaspir Puar’s words “market citizenship”), in which consumption is characterized as a more patriotic and meaningful act of citizenship than the public exercise of free speech against pervasive patterns of state violence. This is a corrosive model of citizenship, which diminishes the value of public speech and amounts to money serving as the signifier for membership in the nation-state. It has been made visible through these protests and it needs to be called out directly.

5. Inconveniencing and annoying some people is virtually unavoidable. This isn’t really an issue confined to protests at malls, but I just wanted to raise this point since it has been a complaint of many in response to protests not only in Houston, but all over. Disrupting the status quo and jolting people out of their normal routines is a normal aspect of protest. Think of basically any social movement (the U.S. women’s suffrage and women’s rights movements,  the U.S. Civil Rights movement, anti-colonial movements around the word, labor protests), and the demonstrators likely caused discomfort and inconvenience for those who wanted to maintain the status quo. If protesters waited for everyone to be comfortable, the issued would never be addressed. The slight inconvenience you face at a stop light near the mall may briefly disrupt your routine, but imagine the inconvenience you’d feel if the color of your skin meant you were 31% more likely to be pulled over by a cop on your way to work. Then add onto that, the potential fear or insecurity you might feel knowing that you have to be particularly careful of your movements because your actions are more likely to be interpreted at threatening. Then consider the loss of loved ones that many have experienced, and reconsider your irritation.

6. State violence against certain populations (people of color, poor people and the homeless, transgender people, immigrants/migrants) is deeply connected to our economic system. Finally, as protesters have continued to eloquently argue across the country, this isn’t about one or two individuals, it’s about a system that treats some lives as less valuable. This inequity is reflected in much more than just police brutality. It’s evident in the number of people who don’t have access to health care. It’s evident in the inequity of school systems, where uneven access to pre-k, insufficient school resources, and patterns of educational tracking (and policing) make it possible to predict how many small children will need prison beds when they reach adulthood. It’s evident in the number of people who are homeless or living in poverty and don’t know where their next meal will come from or who have to physically withstand all the pains of changing seasons. The examples go on and on. The point is that these too are violent. They also produce injury and premature death. In geography, some theorists talk about these in terms of they way they treat people as disposable, or as human waste. These issues are reflections the structural violences that link together racial injustice with gender, class, sexuality, nationality, and ability in people’s lives. Calling out the role of the economic system–embodied and symbolized by economic centers like the Galleria–is part of a larger project for justice that asserts that “all lives should matter” and that exposes the ways they currently are treated as if they do not. Alright, that’s all for now. There will be another protest at the Galleria TODAY (Saturday, December 13 at noon).