Coffee Rhetoric: Black Women
Showing posts with label Black Women. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Black Women. Show all posts

August 19, 2012

Taking A Tumbl: Regarding My Nina Simone/Zoe Saldana Post

A couple of days ago, I linked my post: (Mis)Casting Call: The Erasure of Nina Simone's Image to my tumblr page, and it was re-blogged by several people; a couple of whom took issue with the picture I used to accompany the post. To them, the image took precedence over the very valid issues I raised in the blog post. One tumblr-er noted...
"feeling some type of way about that particular picture of Zoe Saldanath that picture is rubbing me the wrong way its like [they] are trying to erase the fact that zoe is black zoe is a black women [sic] nothing is going to change that definitely not an over edited picture and im not feeling this oversexualized picture of zoe being paired with that picture of nina"
*sigh* 

August 17, 2012

(Mis)Casting Call: The Erasure of Nina Simone's Image

Nina Simone: pioneer, influential, volatile, classical music genius, revolutionary, regal and every bit the High Priestess of Soul.

If anybody is worthy of having her story brought to the big screen for posterity, it would, and should, most assuredly be Nina. Despite having to overcome racism and colorism, Nina left a legacy of music and activism that continues to resonate with her fans, lifelong and new.  

When it was announced in 2010 that a Nina Simone biopic—based on a script by TV writer, Cynthia Mort—was in development and that singer, Mary J. Blige was slated to play her, the public's interest was piqued, though some (including myself) were a bit skeptical about whether Mary had the range and right look to portray such a dynamic and complex figure.  And while Mary J. Blige emotes a similar feeling of consciousness about love and heartbreak in her own music, she doesn't necessarily harness the same sense of social awareness Nina did.  Nonetheless, some of us stayed abreast of the project, which was slated to start filming last year. Alas, it was stalled by a series of setbacks that delayed production and Mary J. Blige dropped out of the film, reportedly, due to funding. 

Folks were left to ponder who would play Nina, and bloggers and fans campaigned for the Black actresses they thought were better suited for the role – including Viola Davis, Lauryn Hill, India Arie and Adepero Oduye, who starred in the Dee Rees film, Pariah – so many were left with feelings of confusion and dismay when Afro-Latina actress Zoe Saldana was announced as Mary J. Blige’s replacement. With Saldana on-board to play Nina, suddenly the film’s financial setbacks were resolved and filming picked up momentum.

While Zoe Saldana is undoubtedly a capable actress and has amassed an impressive acting resume, people are understandably agitated and, of course, the ubiquitous online petition started circulating via Change.org, and chief among the petition's grievances:

"Getting light complexioned actors to play the roles of dark complexioned historical figures is not only a sign of blatant disrespect to the persons they are portraying, but it is also disrespectful to their families, to history, to the people who look like the persons being whitewashed, and to the intelligence of the audience. For too long Hollywood has gotten away with this practice of revisionist history."

 And it’s a very valid gripe that raises some important questions...

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June 16, 2012

Conversation with Toni Morrison

"I don't like those either/or scenarios where if you do this, then you can't do that. I think one of the interesting things that certainly, feminine intelligence can bring, is a kind of a look at the world that you can do two things or three things or be ... the personality is more fluid... more receptive; the boundaries are not quite so defined and I think that's part of what modernism is."

June 06, 2012

No Disrespect: In Which Erykah Badu Falls Victim to 'The Male Gaze'

Last week an experimental music video (which has since been yanked from the web, per Erykah's management folk) featuring a collaborative effort from singer/performance artist extraordinaire, Erykah Badu and alternative rock band, The Flaming Lips for their project "Western Esotericism"... was released on the internet.  The video, which featured Erykah’s sister Nayrok in all her full-frontal ‘nakeditity', rubbing various substances— blood-like... stuff and a sticky white mixture that looked like male ejaculate— and glitter all over her body, drizzling the white stuff about her mouth and face, with occasional cut-away shots of Erykah (also naked in a tub of water) singing a staccato rendition of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" while Wayne Coyne waved some… foil thing around.  The visuals stupefying to say the least, and even outdid Erykah’s other naked, controversial video for her song “Window Seat”… which appeared less opaque once she explained the social message she was trying to convey. 

Her latest effort with The Flaming Lips however, left some fans scrambling for an explanation… while others were put off entirely, vowing never to watch it again. Some folks across the Twitter-verse and Facebook commended Erykah for being fearless and waxed poetic about what Nayrok’s sensual expression symbolized. Granted, some folks sounded as if they were blowing hot, putrid air, but boy did they speculate and try to tie it all together into a cohesive meaning.   
Erykah herself, commended her sister Nayrok for being a good sport for sacrificing her body in the name of artistic expression. While I didn’t even attempt to formulate my own interpretation of the video, I did find it interesting and chalked it up to Erykah and Nayrok embracing their bodies on their termsThose with a keener eye, saw it for what it was and didn’t buy it as art; and so refused to whip out their checkbooks to co-sign for the meat that was being sold. The video was deemed another exploitative piece of work showing Black female bodies on display for male profit and for the male gaze (a notion Black feminist Bell Hooks challenges in her essay “The Oppositional Gaze”). I left the video open to interpretation because I assumed Erykah would eventually offer an explanation. 

According to Black cinema blog Shadow and Act, Erykah has since reached out to her fans via Twitter and asked what they thought about the video. After receiving a wide range of responses, Badu then posed another puzzling question: “What if the video has no meaning at all? Now how do u feel?” 

In a far more interesting chain of events, Erykah's professional relationship with The Flaming Lips' lead singer Wayne Coyne, publicly imploded due to what appeared to be a sinister example of exploitation. In an official statement, Coyne more or less admitted to releasing an unfinished and unedited version of the controversial video to the public, before getting the input of Erykah and her sister and before green-screening away the nudity like he allegedly promised to do, according to the singer. Erykah explained her agitation after Wayne aired her grievance on Twitter. He also released the following statement...
The video link that was erroneously posted on Pitchfork by the Flaming Lips of the Music Video 'The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face', which features Erykah Badu, is unedited and unapproved... Sorry!! We, the Flaming Lips, accept full responsibility for prematurely having Pitchfork post it. It has outraged and upset a segment of fans and we apologize if we offended any viewers!!! This is a Flaming Lips video which features Erykah Badu and her sister Nayrok and is not meant to be considered an Erykah Badu or Nayrok statement, creation, or approved version.
Erykah was none too pleased and fired off a litany of angry words of her own, expressing her dismay and regret for not listening to her initial feelings of apprehension about Wayne's idea...
@waynecoyne then... perhaps, next time u get an occasion to work with an artist who respects your mind/art, you should send at least a ROUGh version of the video u PLAN to release b4 u manipulate or compromise the artist's brand by desperately releasing a poor excuse for shock and nudity that sends a convoluted message that passes as art( to some).Even with Window Seat there was a method and thought process involved. I have not one need for publicity . I just love artistic dialogue . And just because an image is shocking does not make it art. You obviously have a misconception of who I am artistically. I don't mind that but...By the way you are an ass. Yu did everything wrong from the on set .  
First: You showed me a concept of beautiful tasteful imagery( by way of vid text messages) .  
I trusted that. I was mistaken. Then u release an unedited, unapproved version within the next few days.  
That all spells 1 thing , Self Serving . When asked what the concept meant after u explained it , u replied ,"it doesn't mean anything , I just want to make a great video that everyone is going to watch. " I understood , because as an artist we all desire that. But we don't all do it at another artist's expense . I attempted to resolve this respectfully by having conversations with u after the release but that too proved to be a poor excuse for art. From jump, You begged me to sit in a tub of that other shit and I said naw. I refused to sit in any liquid that was not water. But Out of RESPECT for you and the artist you 'appear' to be, I Didn't wanna kill your concept , wanted u to at least get it out of your head . After all, u spent your dough on studio , trip to Dallas etc.. Sooo, I invited Nayrok , my lil sis and artist, who is much more liberal ,to be subject of those other disturbing (to me) scenes. (Read the rest here). 
Needless to say, the video went against all the tenets of 'Baduizm': it harbored no real meaning like people wanted it to, it wasn’t Erykah’s full vision like many of us assumed it to be, contrary to the usual proprietary authority Erykah has over her art, it appears as if she (and her sister) got bamboozled and used… which is unfortunate: “As a sociologist I understand your type. As your fellow artist I am uninspired. As a woman I feel violated and underestimated.”

There are many lessons to be gleaned from these sorts of situations, particularly when you're a Black woman trying to maintain ownership and respect over your image and body within the realm of the arts and media. And while Badu seems philosophical about the jarring experience...  "He’s got a record coming out, so you do what you do. But as artists we don’t do it at each other’s expense. I  adore his art. But not at my expense.”  

... I think Maya Angelou's warning very concisely sums it all up: “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

May 30, 2012

Michelle Rodriguez Says Only 'Black and Trashy' Roles Get Oscar Nods


When thinking down the line of Hollywood actresses of color who’ve made an indelible impact on current films, Michelle Rodriguez probably doesn’t register on anybody’s radar; at least not enough so, that she’d be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. So when Vulture caught up with the actress at an amfAR event at Cannes this past week, the actress had just come from a screening of the controversial Lee Daniels-directed film, The Paperboy-- (which has been garnering unfavorable reviews by critics) -- and expressed her appreciation for the film…
“I say fuck them because they don’t get it”, the actress opined. “He’s so good at keeping me entertained. When I don’t like the dialogue, I’m amused by the visuals. And when I don’t like the visuals, I’m amused by the dialogue. It’s always switching up senses. I’m intrigued by his ability to capture me in a theater. It’s not easy to capture me in a theater — I’m ADD like that.” 
When prodded about a scene in which Nicole Kidman apparently pees on actor Zac Efron to soothe a jellyfish sting, Michelle waxed philosophical about the politics surrounding Black actresses and actors who’ve been nominated for and/or won film awards,
"I fucking loved it. One of my friends said, 'She’s going to get nominated for an Oscar for that.' I was like, 'Nah, man. She’s not black!' I laugh, but it’s also very sad. It makes me want to cry. But I really believe. You have to be trashy and black to get nominated. You can’t just be trashy."  (Source)
It didn’t take long for Michelle’s public gaffe to start circulating those Black pockets of the social media realm. Re-tweeted and re-posted on Twitter and Facebook, Black bloggers and pop-culture critics were not amused and immediately took offense; but doesn't Michelle Rodriguez present a very good point about the worth of Black actors and actresses (or anyone in that industry, of color) in Hollywood? As a woman of color, navigating the landscape of the Hollywood machine, Michelle herself has been typecast since making her debut in Girlfight, whether she’d be inclined to agree with that very obvious point or not, so on some level perhaps she speaks a very honest (albeit it an unfiltered and somewhat tactless) truth.

Consider some of the voices of displeasure when Octavia Spencer nabbed an Oscar for 'Best Supporting Actress' for her role playing a sassy domestic worker in The Help. And most of us couldn’t even fathom Viola Davis emphatically defending having played a maid in the same movie.  Some of us still harbor the bitter aftertaste Halle Berry’s 2002 Oscar win for her turn in Monster’s Ball left in our mouths; the same evening Denzel  won for playing a corrupt and unscrupulous police officer in Training Day, to which he quipped, “Two birds in one night, huh?” during his acceptance speech.

In a sometimes tense Black social media sphere, where certain ones us hurl accusatory epithets like Mammy, Ghetto Queen, Sapphire and thug towards entertainers who portray such roles, directors (both Black and non-Black, who help steer actors in those roles), and towards everyday people who don’t convey modes of behavior befitting the ideals and expectations of an upwardly mobile person of color; I get and understand the exasperation and desire to see better images of ourselves on the big screen and to see better behavior modeled by some folks in our community.  So in essence, isn’t Michelle Rodriguez mimicking a truth we often voice out loud about ourselves?  One commenter who actually agreed with Michelle’s assessment wrote on Facebook,
The "black and trashy" are the most recognized and talked about which tends to silence all the valuing nominations into the backdrop or a footnote. What she speaks of are not absolutes but are of the most resonating nominations.”
Is Michelle Rodriguez’s comment about rewards for “Black and trashy” roles a dig at Black actors or a critique of Hollywood’s perpetuation of racial stereotypes?

Also read: Barbara Jordan: Trailblazer, Leader, ... Common Asexual Mammy?  


May 28, 2012

These and Those: My Petition or In Which Coffee Rhetoric Vents


I’ve been blocked for the past two weeks or so and have been dying to spill open. I’ve stopped-and-started several different blog posts but couldn’t quite streamline my thoughts enough to compose them separately.  I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone and vent them all in one post via a series of mini-posts.

On Fat:  Very rarely do I feel the need to explain why I do what I do and am what I am, about me and mine, because folks who have no direct impact on me or who know nothing about me don’t deserve an explanation or to have their foolery placated however, allow me to wax poetic about the thunder in my thighs.  I’ve noticed whenever the topic of Black women’s bodies and/or images (especially when weight is the topic of discussion) come up, folks… men and women…  seem to get particularly up-in-arms about Black and their personal struggles with weight.  When Alice Randall wrote her controversial article in the New York Times’ op-ed  section, suggesting that most Black women were fat because they wanted to be so, there were a fair number of blog posts challenging her sweeping generalizations about Black women and weight (most of which she framed using her own, random experiences).  There were also the ubiquitous comments from the concern-troll chorus who opined “Black women are fat, because they eat too much and don’t exercise! You’re in denial about your fat, fatty!!” Cut-and-dry, because anybody can be a pretend licensed physician when rage-typing about fat, non?  

Full disclosure about yours truly (and this is the last time I’ll broach the topic of weight); First and foremost, I am a full-figured Black woman.  

My weight has always fluctuated and I’m prone to bloat, some of which I hold in water, apparently, and can pee right on out if I drink enough fluids or eat enough produce.  I’ve been smaller than I am and I’ve been much bigger (which I don't wish to be again). Contrary to popular anti-fat belief; I am active, I’m not diabetic, and I’ve dated actively… and no not as a “jump-off” for fat fetishists or chubby chasers.  I’m not a fucking “Mammy” or the "Sassy Black chubby friend" to anybody, so those of you who like to toss those ridiculous phrases around freely when describing women with my body type, can stop... especially when it doesn’t always apply.

Up until about four years ago, I was a vegetarian for more than a decade. I’ve walked two marathons so far, in my adult life; one for Breast Cancer, another for Obesity. I’ve also grappled with an eating disorder and put my health at risk trying to force myself thinner.  I subsisted off a diet of Saltine Crackers and Extra-strength Dexatrim.  Sometimes I’d chew my food and discretely spit it out in a napkin… never swallowing.  I put my health at risk; my nail-beds turned an odd orange color and my skin, an took on an odd grey pallor… but, but my face was so angular! And while I wasn't necessarily skinny, I was a lot thinner than I was.  Then I made (what I considered to be) the "mistake" of masticating and swallowing my food... and I gained back all of my weight and then some.  I eventually lost it having spent an entire summer exercising along with a plus-size aerobics instructor named Idrea on a VHS tape I'd found and maintaining a mostly vegetarian diet.  

Once I started eating meat again and I gained back a few pounds. Would I mind being thinner? No. Do I loathe myself because I’m not thin? Nope (and folks are apparently upset about it, because they think I should be wallowing in a sea of shame and self-loathing). Do I sit around stuffing my face with cake, pie, and ice cream? No. Sounds delectable, but no.  Do I believe that Black people need to take their health and overall well-being (both physical and mental) seriously? Yes.  While I’m not a gym rat, I am active and try my best to stay as such.  I am not diabetic, but I do have a fat rear, big thighs, and wide hips.  This doesn’t bode well for the fat police and quite frankly, I don't care.  I’m not a pro-fat advocate, but hearing the word “fat” stopped making me wince ages ago. Because while I realize there's room for improvement (as far as my body goes), I've grown comfortable in my skin. And most people will read that as me being "in denial". Fortunately I'm not here to placate most people, so feel no need to try and convince or prove anything. 

What I do endorse, is Black women maintaining their best selves.  And to people who are prone to fat-shaming or accusing Black women of being proud fatties who’re in denial, I implore you not to worry or get so incited to wrath about it, because fat isn’t contagious… it won’t rub-off on you like the plague… you can’t get fat via osmosis, so you can stop taking the struggles of someone else and their road towards body acceptance, so personally; as if it’s impacting your lives.  Those of you who don’t struggle with weight, get incited to wrath on social media forums and it makes me… well… chuckle.  If someone is grappling with weight, chances are they’ve already discussed it with their physician (and, um you’re not him or her) and are probably working towards being healthier; so keep that in mind when some of you whine, “Why can’t we be open about discussing how fat Black women are?” Having a frank discussion about the health of our community versus waging an all-out attack on a group of women, using nasty rhetoric isn’t having an “open discussion.”  And spare me the argument about semantics... "fat" vs "thick". That's a futile disagreement and it doesn't interest me.


Black women in my sphere are taking their health seriously… they’re full-figured, in-between, and/or thin and/or have lost a great deal of weight (and still fight the good fight to keep it off). None of them are in any state of denial. If someone is fat, they know it and don't need to be clubbed over the head by angry masses about it. As someone pointed out in the comments section of my Alice Randall post, there’s a distinct difference between wanting to be fat and accepting being fat... and body acceptance isn't about denial or advocating for fat, as much as it's about not wallowing in self-loathing and doing the absolute best to work with and maintain the body and health you have now... which sometimes results in lost poundage, inches, and good overall well-being.

And If it still bothers you to see fat bodies (even when fat bodies are at the gym, walking around your local track, in the produce section of your local Whole Foods, or hyuking it up enjoying herself at your favorite wine bar)… then I’m sure there’s a nice cave you can sequester yourselves in. Cheers. In the meantime, for fatties who like to stay healthy and active, For Harriet (a blog that legitimately aims to help elevate the state of Black women and our health and wellness), compiled a helpful list of online communities to aid Black women in staying healthy and fit. Additionally, fashion blogger and size-acceptance advocate, Gabi Fresh also encourages active and healthy full-figured women to head to the beach and enjoy themselves, as she did on a recent trip to Las Vegas with her boyfriend. Gabi showed off pics of herself clad in a striped bikini on her blog, titling her post, Fatkini 2012


On Having My Very Own Pinterest Troll:  I recently contended with a prolific Internet bully and Pinterest troll named Kelli Romero, who wrote “EWW YUKK!” among other obnoxious comments, when I pinned my op-ed post about Alice Randall’s article to my “Women’s Issues” board. She also wrote, “Sorry, but you look gross” mistaking a nude photo of Anansa Sims for me… and much to my delight actually… after I told her to keep her negative, trollish comments (which I likened to defacing private property) to herself and to stay off my boards.
Upon checking her activity, I discovered she made trolling various body acceptance boards and many others featuring plus-size models or bodies, a full-time job.  She also made sure to spew a bunch of racist and homophobic rhetoric in the comments section underneath other people’s boards and seemed to delight in going out of her way to look for those with pornographic material, just so she could type “Gross, I’m reporting this page!” in the comments section.  Needless to say, Kelli (who appears to be the mother of two adult women and a grandmother and therefore, too old to be a bullish, racist, homophobic internet troll) lost the battle when she was challenged head-on, by a fed up Pinterest user, who beat her at her own game, or at least shut her up. When confronted, she deleted her comments, some were flagged (since Pinterest has yet to employ a "block" option), Kelli seemingly cleaned up her hateful activity, changed her Pinterest avi (from a picture of herself) and name, and she hasn’t done any trolling since… at least for now. But like most online (or real life) bullies tend to do; she insinuated herself into the role of victim, but not before cleaning up her own filth, so her Pinterest defender(s) couldn’t see the trail that led to someone creating a Pinterest board in her dark-sided honor, emblazoned with some of her favorite troll-rhetoric. 


On Intra-racial Stereotyping:  Improving the quality of one’s life is something Black women… and anyone really… should aspire to do.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Often, Black women are relegated to the bottom of the totem pole. We’re told that we’re too fat, not attractive enough, to angry to be considered as marriage material, unattractive, too dark, too light, too awkward, too... well you get the hint. And often, a lot of those hurtful tropes are perpetuated by Black men. So imagine my disappointment upon noticing a pattern of intra-racial stereotyping on different New Media platforms, being perpetuated by a subgroup of so-called Black Women Empowerment collectives (or at least they attach themselves to the movement), targeting other Black women.  The rhetoric is a nasty and divisive way of thinking and it does absolutely nothing to “uplift” Black women, as alleged. 

So far I’ve read comments accusing darker-skinned actresses who don’t play sexpot roles described as Mammies, Black women who pursue intra-racial dating preferences labeled as “Black male identified” or as not being feminine enough, Single Black mothers brushed off as “Ghetto Queens”, a call for Black women to divest from Black communities entirely, so on and so forth.  When did we start extolling the tenets of White Supremacy to denigrate one another?   

Perhaps I’m confused or was hopeful, but how can we honestly build as Black women, when some of us seem intent on condescending to those we perceive to be lesser-than or spiteful towards those who hold opinions that are contrary to the rhetoric that's being put down?  
To say you’re building a movement to help empower Black women, while seemingly putting your foot on and mocking those who’re poor, uneducated, or already downtrodden seems counterproductive. Moreover, why can’t we accept people’s dating choices without resorting to petty name-calling? Haven’t we already realized by now, that none of us are a monolith? Shouldn't we be past that tired interracial vs intra-racial dating argument at this juncture? Who cares? We are probably the only group of women who put so much painstaking emphasis on it.
Being empowered, is being free to make choices that suit your lifestyle... without fear of being chastised for it. If a young Black woman is making destructive lifestyle choices... then let's either figure out why and offer solutions to help her as opposed to calling her a "ghetto queen"... or simply, shut up and be happy you aren't unfortunate enough to have to navigate those particular trials and tribulations.

As was pointed out to me during an email discussion with another hyper-aware Black woman I love building with online, it seems Black women are so desperate to be loved and accepted, we’ve resorted to turning on one another and breaking off into factions. And if that works for you, then fine... godspeed. We won’t always thrust our hips in accordance with the djembe beat. Perhaps Zora Neale Hurston was onto something when she opined, “All my skinfolk ain’t kinfolk.”  


On being an Angry Black Woman:  I am a Black woman. And I reserve the right to express anger when and where it’s warranted. I take issue with the term "Angry Black Woman", because it robs me of the right to be human. Often, Black women are considered to be nothing more than mules … unemotional Super Women, unfairly saddled with carrying heavy loads without the capacity or right to become exasperated. I've always wondered why I have to be an "Angry Black Woman" and guilt-tripped about expressing a very real and human emotion. I rarely hear White women described as "Angry White Women" or Asian women described as "Angry Asian Women", etc. when they express their dismay over an indignity. 

In many instances, a Black woman's displeasure about certain situations is justified. To rob me of the right to emote as any other woman does, then stereotype me by comparing me to folks on TV, who're getting a check to act over-the-top foolish (aka Nene Leakes, Tami Roman, and the rest of the Basketball Wives) is ridiculous. And I'm tired of the comparisons, especially since no Black women I interact with in actual life, act out in that way. 

Black women have the right to emote and express righteous indignation when and where it's warranted and should exercise that right without having to worry over trying to placate the self-righteousness, ego, or ignorance of someone else.

I'm over seeing us at war with one another. Just... live and relish your lives in the ways in which it works for you, and allow other people to do the same with theirs. We don't have to agree and you don't even have to like how other people go about choose to live. In fact, we don't have to build or be bothered with one another in order to live and let live. Seems simple enough. 


On Race and Oppression: If you're a non-Black person or not a person of color who doesn't believe that racism still exists or who rolls your eyes whenever you come across conversations that deconstruct White privilege and supremacy, homophobia, or patriarchy that is definitely your right however, bum-rushing online communities where people of color or marginalized groups build with one another, deconstruct racism, and do anti-racism/anti-oppression work to derail conversations to suit your own interests, is not the way. You may not want to believe or even hear that marginalized groups still experience discrimination, but it's not your place to dictate to people how you think they should navigate being discriminated against or even how to address these issues. You don't get to demand that people "just get over it", and grow defensive and try to paint yourself as a victim when you're taken to task for your ignorance. If you're truly an ally of anti-oppression work and are interested in participating in the discourse, the first rule of thumb is to listen... LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN and read carefully. 

Trivializing people's experiences and suggesting that they're exaggerating or that it's all in their head is not listening. Moreover, it's obnoxious. If you're a racist, misogynist, or bigot, then I suppose it's par for the course; in which case, perhaps you shouldn't try to participate in the discussion and steer clear of those forums, lest you just paint yourself as an internet troll. 

Unless you can morph into a person of color, a woman, a woman of color, a gay person, a gay person of color, a Transgender person, a sex worker, a person who has been sexually assaulted and/or harassed, a person who has been denied basic human and civil rights, etc... you don't have even an inkling of what it's like to navigate their world. These stories are bitter pills to swallow, because they aren't meant to soothe your ego, make you feel better about yourself, placate your privilege, or comfort your sensibilities.

May 11, 2012

NY Times Writer, "Black Women Want to be Fat"


In case you’ve been napping from the fatigue beating a dead horse induces and haven't heard, brace yourselves, because yet another article has surfaced, throwing Black women under the bus. Black women are not only the Face(s) of Spinster-hood apparently. Now this country's obesity problem is being framed to be an affliction suffered solely by that demographic.  In a growing list of articles and blog posts seemingly aimed at acquiring a paycheck and garnering blog hits as opposed to informing, thinking critically, and helping resolve; writer Alice Randall penned a “Black Women are Proud Fatties; Proud Fatties are Black Women” piece that ran in this past Sunday’s New York Times op-ed section. Through a couple of personal anecdotes and random stories about acquaintances, Randall surmised that most Black women are fat, because they want to be that way. And you do know that Black women are a monolith sans the capability of acting and thinking singly, right? (This is asked with the utmost sarcasm, of course).
“What we need is a body-culture revolution in black America. Why? Because too many experts who are involved in the discussion of obesity don’t understand something crucial about black women and fat: many black women are fat because we want to be."  Randall writes in her op-ed piece.
She goes on to opine…
“How many white girls in the ’60s grew up praying for fat thighs? I know I did. I asked God to give me big thighs like my dancing teacher, Diane. There was no way I wanted to look like Twiggy, the white model whose boy-like build was the dream of white girls. Not with Joe Tex ringing in my ears.”
Needless to say, Randall’s article sparked a flood of rebuttals via New Media, mostly penned by Black women, fed up with being publicly dissected and made to shoulder a burden that should be shared by Black men and actually a good portion of this country.  Go ahead and add this post to the 'exasperated' list of folks who eye-rolled at Randall's article.

While I've gleaned that Randall is attempting to advocate for health and wellness, I can’t help but take her to task for using her own personal experiences to speak for and judge everyone else. Across my social media platforms and/or timelines, I read nothing but updates by Black women (including and especially women of size) checking-in at the gym and touting the benefits of “cleaner eating”. A lot of us are in fact, taking our health seriously. As a relatively healthy, fuller-figured Black woman myself-- (full-disclosure, I did have a brief stint with an eating disorder when I was a teen and again as a young adult, in an attempt to will my body slimmer) --  and contrary to what Randall suggests; I don’t walk around fist-pumping in the name of fat nor do I have an aversion to healthy eating habits-- (up until about five years ago, I’d been a long-time vegetarian)-- or being active. More importantly, I’m not fuller-figured via some man’s request and my experiences don't mirror every other plus size woman's. While I admittedly grapple with my body's fluctuating weight, I don't wrestle with the idea of being mostly comfortable with myself like many people would prefer... at least not beyond the norm of any woman who fusses over her looks. And it took a bit of work to learn to accept maintaining my body in its fullness, while shirking the opinions and judgement of others who haven't a clue about my well-being or social life. 

Randall also makes the foolish (and common) mistake of generalizing the preferences of Black men (once again, due to her own personal experiences), suggesting that most of them prefer a woman with a fuller-figure and will express dismay at their partner’s weight loss…
“How many middle-aged white women fear their husbands will find them less attractive if their weight drops to less than 200 pounds? I have yet to meet one.
But I know many black women whose sane, handsome, successful husbands worry when their women start losing weight.”
The backlash from Randall's article has been palpable, and she has felt the impact and responded to it:
“My statement was that many black women are fat because they want to be. I said the word, “many,” there was no “all.” When I talk about, “want to be,” I use an example of husbands. Let me use an example that’s even more profound to me—grandmothers. My grandmother was big as three houses. She was a brilliant, strong woman who ended up having grandchildren and great-grandchildren that went to Harvard and MIT and the like, to do big things.

When I think of what it is to be powerful and beautiful, I think of her. That’s something I wanted to be. In the heart of my hearts, when I think of strength and beauty, the first thought I have is of her. I am acknowledging her influence on me. I wrote and published four novels in 10 years. That’s doing a lot of work. The way I get that work done is not sleeping much or taking time to exercise and take care of myself. Those are choices I’ve made.

I haven’t gotten fat because of eating horrible foods, but by overwork. That’s a choice that most blacks make—going out and working the job as a domestic servant."  (source)
And there she goes once more... Alice Randall has made a blanket assumption about Black men, based on her experiences. Even when she attempts to personalize the article in her follow-up statement by asserting her own internal issues with her body, she seemingly projects it onto other Black woman.

This brand of writing, which analyzes Black women’s bodies, rarely ever features anything particularly revelatory we aren't already aware of or haven't read lately. The emphasis is always put on Black women and is often written by other women (who are just as culpable for trying to police female bodies).
Living our best lives is important. Indulging a sedentary and excessive lifestyle is detrimental to anyone's health, so enough with the "Fat Black Women Represent Obesity in America" trope; last year it was "Single, Educated but Sad and Unattractive Black Women” -- and that one gets resurrected every now and again.  When it comes to Black female bodies and obesity,  there’s an amalgamation of factors at play and it’s not as cut-and-dry as Alice Randall -- (who has a agenda book to promote, apparently) -- and other people would like it to be, whether you like and/or agree with it, or not.

For once I’d like to read an analysis about the issue of Black people's (not just women) health and wellness, which advocates healthful lifestyles, but is supportive in its exploration while presenting carefully documented reasons and solutions. I’d like to read more commentary from licensed experts, who’ve done the field work and painstaking research. Because honestly, these Bloggers, quasi-social scientists, and journalists playing couch-Physician while wagging their fingers at Black women for not “fitting-in” or to try to shame them into submission, is not the way.

March 06, 2012

The Disintegration of Black Sexy Times


As a young girl, I’ve always been a bit curious about porn, and while it never prompted any deep desire in me to sneak and watch anything particularly hardcore; I did develop an affinity for the erotica shown on Cinemax after 11pm as well as, finding and then reading Jackie Collins's titillating plots, Erica Jong's Fear of Flying, and the illustrated wonderment of The Joy of Sex. I found adult literature and cable erotica far more compelling.

I didn't watch hardcore porn until I was in college, with my best friend. We watched out of sheer boredom and because we wanted to know what it’d be like (as two young women) to blatantly walk into an adult video store, rent a porn DVD, and watch the puzzled look on the cashier's face. We walked down to the college town's local video store and picked something from the late seventies/early eighties, much to the store cashier's amusement,  as expected.

The flick we chose and brought back to the dorms featured an interracial raunch-fest; Basic man-on-woman boning, nothing too shocking or sexy, and void of anything particularly depraved and disgusting. It was the usual cheesy porn fare, in fact. Neither of us found the antics sexy or arousing. We laughed raucously and critiqued the clownery the scenarios and uncompromising positions. Other than an art house flick there and here- (like the movie Short Bus, Romance, and 9 Songs; which featured un-simulated sex)- I haven’t felt any pressing interest or need to rent an actual DVD.

Over the years... after having watched and read a great deal of behind-the-scenes documentary style films and books, I came to realize that most mainstream porn that’s distributed, directed, and produced by men, isn’t erotic or very female-audience friendly. It features distorted visions of how women should look and the ridiculous sexual positions we should be bent and twisted in. I've never been one of the detractors screaming for the industry to be wiped from the face of the earth. That being said, a lot has changed with the porn industry. The ever increasing advances in technology, the internet, video cameras, webcams, and the like have made porn more accessible and more achievable for aspiring porn mongers. Any amateur can film their sexual exploits and upload them onto Xtube or Pornotube with relative ease. In turn, the industry has become a virtual free for all. College fraternity houses host parties where group sex and orgies abound, while their peers (men and women spectators) stand off to the side, cheering the guerrilla fuck-fests... clutching beers, fists pumping in the air.

These "gonzo"  films have raised-- (or lowered, depending on how you look at it) the stakes... and the stakes have become even more disturbing in their delivery. The acts women subject themselves to is enough to make the most hardened, difficult to offend person cringe. And it takes a lot to make me want to gag (no pun).

I recall watching a compelling documentary some time ago called, Sex: The Annabel Chong Story, which documents- Grace Quek's (Porn name, Annabel Chong) - rise, exploitation, and eventual fall from the porn industry. Annabel allegedly pioneered the whole "gang bang" trend in the industry. Nothing was too graphic or hardcore for her. She performed a diverse array of hardcore sex acts, including "triple penetration." Annabel's motives for starring in The World's Biggest Gangbang were troubling as the documentary delved into her past. Needless to say, in some respects the current wave of pornography breeds misogyny and perpetuates racial stereotypes about women, particularly the gonzo films featuring Black, Asian, and Latino women and mostly White mal antagonists who take trips to urban areas or under developed countries, in search of "Black ghetto sluts" or African prostitutes willing to oil up, shake, and then spread their cheeks in a seedy looking hotel room, on film. The perpetuation of sexual stereotypes is what frustrates me the most. I believe in people having the right to engage in whatever consensual sexual act they desire, but I would love to see more sex positive images in porn, especially those depicting Black women, which is why I’ve been so intrigued by the history of Black pin-up/adult models and our image in the adult industry and overall media. And why I love and appreciate the photography work of Carnalas Vidal and what Scottie Lowe of Afroerotik is doing and whose company exists to provide people of African descent a place to escape the narrow-mined, stereotypical, limiting and oft-times degrading beliefs that abound about our sexuality.  No, not all Black men are driven by lust by white flesh or to create babies and walk away.  No, not all Black women are promiscuous welfare queens or willing to do any sexual favor for money. “

www.tinynibbles.com
While I don’t expect porn to be riddled with deep, complex plots and soft, romantic interludes; I wouldn't mind seeing a shift in the very limited images featuring women (and even men) of color, rather than the racist portrayals that continue to pervade the industry. To my knowledge, I don’t know that there are any Black porn producers and distributors… or any Black female porn producers, directors, or distributors who aren’t perpetuating these stereotypes.  

This criticism of the porn industry isn’t about being a prude or even about taking an anti-porn stance. I'm merely challenging the habitually crude images portraying women (and men) of color. It makes me wonder why people continue to frame my folk within this type of based sexual, "ghetto gagger"context. And while I'm sure Black women in the industry don't think folks should be ringing the alarm, it doesn't negate the fact that the racist elements presented in porn definitely sexualize Black women in a negative way and sometimes those ideas spill outside the confines of porn. Porn aficionados, please weigh-in...

Also read: 

February 25, 2012

Secret History of the Black Pin-up: Dan Burley

I'm no connoisseur of vintage adult publications, but do consider the elements that went into creating them during their time, quite interesting; specifically the role Black artists, photographers, models, and distributors (if any) played in the world of vintage adult periodicals and magazine publishing, as we don't often see information charting the history and are hard pressed to find rare materials from their era, which seems to have been wiped from the annals of publishing history in some cases, and costs an arm and a leg if you do track something down on eBay or sites of the like. 

Enter the late Dan Burley; who was a Black-American polymath-- musician, poetry writer, actor, editor, and noted journalist-- who created, edited and wrote for several prominent African-American publications including: Ebony, Jet (an idea he sold to the Johnson family), New York Age, the wildly popular Harlem Handbook of Jive, and Amsterdam News. Burley, who also collaborated creatively with several famous jazz greats, wrote the forward for Elijah Muhammad's book, Message to the Black Man in America and was commissioned to edit Muhammad Speaks (now known as the Muslim Journal) for print in the Pittsburgh Courier (which was owned by Black American entrepreneur and Republican, S.B. Fuller)-- despite not being an American Muslim or member of the Nation of Islam.
Dan Burley's political connections, friendships, and work in the fields of music, journalism, and publishing is an extensive and impressive one indeed, but it is his foray into the world of adult magazines that intrigues me the most; and my interest in and fascination with the history of Black pin-up heavy periodicals and vintage ads featuring Black models is no secret as evidenced here, here, and most notably here; so it was with great interest, while visiting one of my favorite sites and resources for this type of information, that I read about Dan Burley serving on the editorial staff for Playboy-esque periodical, Duke Magazine; which filled a niche for upwardly mobile Black male readers and only produced about six issues featuring comely Black women, a Duchess of the Month centerfold, work from noted writers, as well as comics drawn by freelance artist, Bill Ward.  

According to Vintage Sleaze, Bill Ward (purveyor of Good Girl Art and creator of risqué female characters), did a series of drawings for Duke Magazine featuring Black versions of his ample-breasted female gag-comic sirens, under a pen name.The publication also presented reprinted works by Langston Hughes, Ray Bradbury and one of my favorite Black expatriate novelists, Chester Himes -- who penned the controversial book The End of a Primitive

Much like my initial search for vintage photography featuring Black female pin-up models, a Google search of Duke Magazine didn't garner too much information beyond the sparse footnotes I found on a couple of websites and of course Vintage Sleaze, which notes,
If you search Dan Burley, you'll find him identified as a sports writer. A Journalist. A Jazz Musician. A Poet. And yet he only lived 54 years. His Wiki Biography (which also omits his smut magazine) is HERE.
Researching the rare history of Black pin up models has definitely led me to uncover some compelling other information regarding publishing and the history of vintage adult periodicals featuring the Black female aesthetic, I'd never heard of. As a writer who's interested in the Black female image in media and pop-culture, it's always great to uncover any lost or rarely discussed aspect of Black History. Stay tuned... 


**Additional Reading: 


January 14, 2012

Pearl Noire (The Black Pearl)

Well... since I have an affinity for Black pinup model history, Josephine B., and Black burlesque, here's some Saturday sultriness; Contemporary burlesque performer, Pearl Noir the Black Pearl...






January 13, 2012

Blogging Elsewhere: When Sh*t Hits The Fan


It all started with the video Shit Girls Say and then spiraled (and has since disintegrated) into a barrage of Shit (insert ethnic/gender group) Say… spoof videos. Shit Girls Say morphed into Shit Black Girls Say, which prompted Shit Black Guys Say, which encouraged Shit Latinas Say. And you know the natural and relaxed haired sistren had to create a spoof of their own: Shit Naturals Hair Girls Say /Shit Relaxed Girls Say to Natural Girls… until many of us implored, Enough!
The series has definitely run its course, yet people won’t let it die a quiet death until they’ve squeezed the last vestige out of the joke… adding Shit to an already heaping pile. Amongst the wreckage of daft Shit Whoever, Everybody, & Their Mama Say videos, popular YouTube vlogger Franchesca Leigh Ramsay, better known as Chescaleigh to the rest of us, managed to stand out and prompt an interesting discourse on race relations. In her spoof video Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls; Chescaleigh dons a blond wig and an affected Valleyspeak accent, as she cleverly lampoons the ways in which some White women may try to relate to Black women (or any woman of color).
As a Black woman who went to a predominantly White liberal arts college in the Midwest and who has interacted with White women from all walks of life during college and throughout my everyday life, Chescaleigh presents circumstances that are very familiar to me and many of my friends. The: “Come on! Lemme just touch your hair this one time, really quick!” and the “Look at my tan, I’m almost as Black as you!” comments or bizarre questions I’d get from White women, initially flummoxed and then frustrated me. Once during my first year at college, questions about my otherness from a floor (and dormitory) of mostly White women, ran the gamut. “How often do you wash your hair?” and “Do Black people get the chicken pox?” were popular ones. Whenever I divulged where I was from, I’d get asked, “Oh, do you know someone named Tyrone Jones? He’s Black and from Connecticut too.” I know Connecticut’s a small state, but umm…

December 30, 2011

R.I.P., Officially

As a Black woman who happens to be single, was once exasperated but is now bored to tears with the: Tragic Successful But Still Single Black Woman Who Can't Find A Husband and Isn't Light Enough To Be In A Rap Video or Measure Up to Kim Kardashian And So Should Find Solace in Advice Dispensed by Steve Harvey/Tyler Perry/(insert ill-equipped pseudo-Relationship expert here) meme, I endorse this message. I'm sick of reading about it and I'm tired of sites whose purpose is to supposedly uplift Black women, pandering to the foolio information and quasi-sociological studies about my dating life. Especially since my current purpose (as I see it), is to continue trying to be the best at what I love doing and exploring making a full-time career of it, as well as to ensure that my rights as a woman  (to do, say, believe in what I choose to believe in, and to maintain control over my body) aren't threatened. So without further ado, I bid this meme adieu.



December 21, 2011

Blogging Elsewhere: Dutch Magazine Labels Rihanna "De Ultimate NiggaBitch"

Ever since Barack Obama was voted into office as President of The United States, liberal types have been dropping constant memos stating: Obama’s presidency is proof positive that we’re living in a post-racial society!  In fact, they’ve been virtually imploring  people of color to stop griping about racism and to get a sense of humor about the piss-poor comedic stylings showcasing their hipster racism.
Barack’s presidency is considered the ultimate triumph over White supremacy.  Once the First (Black) Family settled into the White House, Black citizens suddenly felt comfortable enough to enjoy a slice of delicious, refreshing watermelon and that piece of chicken at the company BBQ without reproach or side-eyes from their co-workers.  People of the African Diaspora the world over (especially Afro-Europeans) rejoiced and seemed compelled to action as they re-evaluated their place among European society. Despite protests to the contrary, America is still grappling with racist agitators and questionable images portrayed in the media, even as we’re right on the cusp of 2012.  And while offenders in this country are often taken to task for fanning the flames of ignorance, Europe and European media outlets continue to have a complacent, laissez faire attitude or seem to harbor a lack of education when it comes to global race relations… particularly how it functions here in the United States. For instance, Vogue Italia came under fire this past summer for referring to hoop earrings commonly worn by women of color as “slave earrings” and made sure to amend their gaffe since the backlash.
This latest and flagrant act of ignorance came courtesy of a Dutch magazine called Jackie. Applying the wit of a hipster telling a racially insensitive joke, a writer for Jackie advised its readers on how to dress like super Popstar, Rihanna, without looking like “De Niggabitch”  …   …  Yes you read correctly. Someone from a legitimate fashion publication actually wrote an article touting the attributes that make a true “niggabitch”and titled it as such. See, a post-racial society prompts media types to use precarious language and reinforce stereotypes when referencing Black women…
“She has street cred, she has a ghetto ass and she has a golden throat. Rihanna, the good girl gone bad, is the ultimate niggabitch and displays that gladly, and for her that means: what’s on can come off. If that means she’ll be on stage half naked, then so be it. But Dutch winters aren’t like Jamaican ones, so pick a clothing style in which your daughter can resist minus ten. No to the big sunglasses and the pornheels, and yes to the tiger print, pink shizzle and everything that glitters. Now let’s hope she won’t beat anybody up at daycare.”  The journalist wrote… adding insult to injury by getting the Bajan singer’s country of origin wrong.
Jackie Editor in Chief Eva Hoeke issued a half-hearted and seemingly forced apology via the magazine’s Facebook page…
Dear readers,
First: thanks for all your responses. We are of course very fed up over this and especially very shocked. However I’m glad that we’re engaging in a dialogue on this page — not everybody does that. Thanks for this. Other than that I can be brief about this: this should have never happened. Period. While the author meant no harm — the title of the article was intended as a joke — it was a bad joke, to say the least...

December 06, 2011

Love Rain...


I fancy myself a pop-culture pundit of sorts and so am not ashamed to admit that this includes my succumbing to the Reality TV/Celebreality machine. Likewise, I also try to stay abreast of social media buzz and peep what blogs, cyber-mags, and social networking forums are on about. The two mediums seem to go hand-in-hand, particularly when the "Black Twitter" collective is concerned. Black tweeters bring the LOLz and they come, guns blazing, when skewering Black celebrities for some foolish infraction. Black politicians, especially of the Conservative-Republican variety, aren't above Twitter reproach either... (Herman Cain-kabob anyone?).

Perhaps the best, below-the-belt barbs and Twitter hash-tags come during the hours reality shows such as Real Housewives of Atlanta, The Braxtons, Basketbell Wives, Love & Hip Hop and shows of that ilk are on. Some of the more snarky Black tweeters hit their mark with their quips during some of the more ridiculous, off-the-cuff scenes. Then there're those who incite the rest of us to chorus and ask "Huh?" after they’ve tweeted something... well... dumb or misguided.
Per usual, folks did not disappoint during Love & Hip Hop, which was followed up by the premiere of T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle, VH-1's latest reality offering, which documents the lives of rapper T.I. (fresh from a second prison stint) and his long suffering girlfriend-turned-wife Tiny, of Xscape and BET's Tiny & Toya fame.

Surprisingly, Black women on Twitter seemed to saturate their chonies with crème-de-la-lady leche and began espousing the virtues of  true  love during some of the more pivotal scenes on Love & Hip Hop (when rapper Jim Jones finally implored his  mother to stop antagonizing his embattled and always battling lady-in-waiting, Chrissy Lampkin. Jones later pledged his undying affection for Chrissy by placating her o’er top of a roof for a Moroccan inspired dinner with all the decorative fixings). T.I's - (who makes it known under no uncertain terms, that he wears the pants and bankrolls day-to-day operations in his relationship with Tiny) - obvious loyalty to his blended family and wife is undeniable. In fact, seeing it played out on TV caused a collective genital quake across Twitter however; the relationship has been fraught with well-documented legal troubles and alleged cheating. But this did not stop some women from christening Jim and T.I.'s dysfunctional relationships with their women as the blueprint for Black love. I’d be willing to wager that some of these admirers of dysfunctional love, were some of the same detractors of single-motherhood who suggested single moms should aspire to be like Beyonce and Jay Z, shortly after her pregnancy announcement. They lashed out, calling all Snarky McSnarksteins jealous haters who can't get a man or sustain a relationship ...  ...  ...  OK.

One writer for the popular online publication, Clutch Magazine, posted a whole article citing these two televised relationships as heartfelt and wrote:

"Say what you will about Tiny and T.I.’s hoodrich love, but theirs is the type of relationship many long for: Loving, affectionate, fun, respectful, and supportive. Just like Jim and Chrissy, watching T.I. and Tiny interact on screen made it clear that they are genuinely in love and they want the world to know."  

Much to the chagrin of some commenters, who cyber side-eyed the piece... 

"T.I and Jim Jones… you have to be kidding!  What I don’t understand is this constant need to look to celelbrities [sic] as role models. I mean I really don’t understand it. I would like to hope these old a$$ men would want to settle down. T.I with all those d@mn kids! Jim jones and Dipset with the way the [sic] talk about women…"

Listen, while no one deserves to be crucified for their past and everyone has the right to err, love, and be loved; Why is it that some in our community put these dysfunctional "ride or die" relationships on a pedestal (especially when a man of questionable character is at the helm, trying to overcompensate for having put  his paramour or wife through years of hell), yet will belittle others (usually when a woman *read unwed baby mama* is the crux of the conversation)? While it's undoubtedly love that they're feeling, it just isn't the standard for Black Love like some people are trying to suggest. Relationships riddled with drama may work for some, but doesn't for everyone else, and if that makes me sound like a bitter, single, jealous hag then... that's the ignoramus, narrow view of a naysayer. 

This comment from the aforementioned online magazine sums it up: “You can’t turn a hoe into a housewife, but you can turn a drug dealer into a husband?” Well, I guess you should ask Beyonce and Tiny.  Apparently thugs can grow into men, probably an exception and not a rule though. While it’s cute, sweet, and seems genuine, don’t get wrapped up in the love and hip-hop thinking it could be you."