Coffee Rhetoric: Womanism
Showing posts with label Womanism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Womanism. Show all posts

April 27, 2013

Documentary, "Reflections Unheard: Black Women in Civil Rights"



This past spring, I had the pleasure of attending a screening of the feature-length documentary Reflections Unheard: Black Women in Civil Rights, directed by up-and-coming filmmaker Nev Nnaji at Smith College. 

Via interviews and compelling archival footage, the film chronicles the marginalization of Black women within the Black Nationalist and predominantly white middle-class feminist movements during the 60s, 70s, and present-day,
Where both movements fail(ed) to acknowledge the intersection of gender oppression and race, the documentary explores the ways in which Black women galvanized to raise awareness about and seek solutions for those issues that often left us out of the overall framework: reproductive rights, dependable daycare for working mothers, government resources, employment and fair wages. That mobilization essentially inspired other women of color to project their voices about the same issues, which were also framed around immigration policies.  


April 05, 2013

My Petition: My Black Feminism is Here to Stay

My womanhood and rights are not up for debate

I've been reading some highly-charged,  racio-misogyny and anti-Black woman rants about how feminism (or Womanism) is supposedly ruining society and the black community, and is to blame for the contentious relationship between black men and women. Some folks seem to think that if (black) women would just shut up and stop speaking out against issues like reproductive rights, sexism, sexual harassment, street harassment, abuse and sexual assault we would all get along swimmingly, because women are meant to be seen and not heard, am I right? 

Contrary to popular (and misinformed) belief, feminists don’t operate as a monolith. The majority of us don't live to emasculate or browbeat men, nor are we opposed to feminine sensibilities, sex, marriage, family, or whatever we supposedly abhor in the linear and limited thinking and misunderstanding about gender equality.

Some people seem to harbor the convoluted, and cartoonish, idea that feminists are fervent misandrists who hate everything and everybody… perhaps because they themselves are averse to evolving beyond the status quo of patriarchy. Believing the “Feminazis are evil, man-hating feminazis!” narrative makes it easy for anti-feminists to continue espousing patriarchal propaganda, and to believe they shouldn’t be held accountable for how they (mis)treat and marginalize women and young girls; so they can have reasons to keep their foot firmly rooted on my neck, enact epistemic violence, and rationalize dangerous arguments in support of “legitimate rape”; so they can continue to uphold gender inequities and maintain a stronghold on women’s vaginas. And while some women are well within their right to not be labeled as a feminist (or Womanist), and will gladly uphold patriarchy as a way to score brownie points, ‘other’ themselves, or seek favor with  misogynists, they conveniently forget that they reap the benefits that feminists fight to secure. Good luck with pandering though, ladies.


February 01, 2013

Black History Month, Hate, & bell hooks

Today is February 1st, which officially marks the beginning of Black History Month. Depending on whom or how you are, this month evokes the myriad of feelings. It will either present a slew of little known but teachable moments in American history that you’ll appreciate; will prompt you to arrogantly refute factual information and espouse the ahistoricism taught to you by your high school history teacher; or it’ll serve as an excuse for you to assuage whatever feelings of white guilt you may (or may not) harbor, emboldening you to employ a series of silencing tactics when Black people share their lived experiences and the historically significant strides of those before them.

Black History Month is one of those commemorative moments that never ceases to heighten whatever feelings of resentment some white people still harbor towards Black people, inducing them to tap into the darkest recesses of ignorance roiling in the pit of their stomach, so they can spew bile across various social media platforms.

If you’re former Saturday Night Live comedienne cum social media jester Victoria Jackson or a prolifically racist Twitter troll, anti-Black sentiment is year-round, and especially vitriolic during BHM. Rage-typing ensues and results in myopic questions such as: “How come there’s no White History Month? It’s not like ‘The Blacks’ had it that bad!“

November 27, 2012

It's Their Party: Suzanne Venker Coddles the Misogynists of the MRM



According to author and FoxNews.com contributor Suzanne Venker, the war on women’s rights is a thing of insignificance, because a subculture of men she’s come across have apparently been pissing and moaning about the evils of the Feminist Movement and how it's prompting them to harbor feelings of inadequacy and resentment.  Venker’s piece does little else than invoke nostalgia for the antiquated social mores that kept women 'in line' and it  propagates heteropatriachal propaganda. In fact, it reads like a pro-MRM manifesto that places blame for male ills and their unwillingness to evolve, on women who've dared to make a decent quality of life for themselves by seeking gender and reproductive rights …
“Women aren’t women anymore. To say gender relations have changed dramatically is an understatement. Ever since the sexual revolution, there has been a profound overhaul in the way men and women interact. Men haven’t changed much – they had no revolution that demanded it – but women have changed dramatically. In a nutshell, women are angry. They’re also defensive, though often unknowingly.” She writes.

April 20, 2012

So I Creep: Men Who Don't Like Being Called Creepy


According to an article at the site Jezebel, men’s rights activists (or MRA); a movement that surfaced in the 1970s to address inequities in reproductive rights, divorce settlements, domestic violence laws, sexual harassment laws, education, fathers’ rights, health care, and genital integrity among other issues-including ensuring that their entitlements stay intact by challenging the tenets of feminism – don’t like us women, hurling the word “creepy” at them in response to what is deemed, (more times than not) legitimately shifty behavior while in our presence and/or space. 
Apparently the ability to“creep shame” is a special power men seem to think women have; used to ostracize them in the worst way, because earth, wind, and fire forbid we have the unmitigated gall to exercise the right to say “no”, “I’m not interested”, shut down in response to elevated levels of unwanted attention, or even change our minds about wanting to date somebody for whatever reason.  

Writer Jeremy Paul Gordon wrote of creepiness in a 2010 article for The Hairpin;  
“Without a doubt, creepy is the worst casual insult that can be tossed at a guy. A guy can publicly scoff at something you say and be a “douchebag;" sleep with your best friend, never call her back and become an “asshole;" cry while listening to Neutral Milk Hotel and forever be a “pussy.” But creepy is not that simple. It doesn’t relate to someone’s appearance, actions, or behavior. More accurately, creepy is a vibe. You can’t define it — you just know it. It’s when a guy looks at a girl for a little too long, when he friends her on Facebook a little too quickly, when he doesn’t understand that no actually means no, not “Try harder.” It’s a tag that isn’t easily dispelled.” 
In any event, the Anti-Creep Shaming Brigade’s shoddy attempts at advocating against women who use their instincts to protect themselves against douche-like behavior, is an exercise in futility. And it's an unfair demand, to expect women to pacify the male id, particularly if she's protecting herself. But at least allows me the opportunity to share this excerpt from novelist, Phaedra Starling’s 2009 guest blog post, originally featured on the (now defunct) site"Shapely Prose", Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced. (Which I was fortunate enough to come across via writer and cultural critic, Son of Baldwin's  Facebook page).
You want to say Hi to the cute girl on the subway. How will she react? Fortunately, I can tell you with some certainty, because she’s already sending messages to you. Looking out the window, reading a book, working on a computer, arms folded across chest, body away from you = do not disturb. So, y’know, don’t disturb her. Really. Even to say that you like her hair, shoes, or book. A compliment is not always a reason for women to smile and say thank you. You are a threat, remember? You are Schrödinger’s Rapist. Don’t assume that whatever you have to say will win her over with charm or flattery. Believe what she’s signaling, and back off.

If you speak, and she responds in a monosyllabic way without looking at you, she’s saying, “I don’t want to be rude, but please leave me alone.” You don’t know why. It could be “Please leave me alone because I am trying to memorize Beowulf.” It could be “Please leave me alone because you are a scary, scary man with breath like a water buffalo.” It could be “Please leave me alone because I am planning my assassination of a major geopolitical figure and I will have to kill you if you are able to recognize me and blow my cover.”

On the other hand, if she is turned towards you, making eye contact, and she responds in a friendly and talkative manner when you speak to her, you are getting a green light. You can continue the conversation until you start getting signals to back off.


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...

August 08, 2011

If You're Black, Get Back!

No rap lyric has incited Black women to chorus the way the beginning of Lil Wayne's verse in Every Girl In The World, in which he expresses his desire for "a long-haired, thick Redbone, who opens up her legs to filet mignon" has. 
Hair and skin-color continue to haunt my sistren. Deeply rooted issues of Colorism are extensively blogged and written about by mostly Black female bloggers and writers, who take rappers to task for preferring racially ambiguous looking, seemingly non-Black women to frolic with on and off the sets of their videos. 
Recently controversial novelist, Kola Boof sounded off at Wale via Twitter, in a long, sometimes expletive-filled tirade about his video Pretty Girls not featuring enough Black women... that eventually culminated in a feud of sorts. Kola berated Wale (whose parents are Nigerian)- accusing him of prompting young Black women in Nigeria to want to bleach their skin in order to compete: "Wale is doing more than just dig light women. He [sic] selling AFRICAN CHILDREN on skin bleaching ... making them feel BLACK is ugly..." 
Read the rest over at The Intersection of Madness & Reality! ... 
Recommended Reading: Don't Play in the Sun by Marita Golden 






July 25, 2011

Hands Off! -- In Which I Rant About Natural Hair... Again.


Today, CNN.com featured an interesting article about Black women who wear their hair in its natural state and their displeasure with having it touched by stranger-hands. Of course, as with anything in the media featuring Black women voicing their opinion or personal stories about anything having to do with their being, it incited people to chorus. "Can I touch it?" recounted an incident as told by Tamara Winfrey Harris, who runs the blog What Tami Said, in which a woman standing nearby reached out to touch her natural hair as she and her husband made their way to their table at a restaurant, much to Tami's chagrin: “I turned around and she said, 'Oh, your hair is neat.' It just floored me because who does that, just reaches out and touches strangers?"  
The article also referenced blog posts which delve into the issue of Black women with natural hair who disdain having their hair petted by curious people who they have no type of rapport or relationship with, which can be read here and here. The article prompted people to trivialize the subjects' personal experiences by claiming how keen us Black folk are on playing the race card, before going tit for tat about how they as white people suffer the same indignities and suggesting that we should feel flattered about being petted like a goat at a petting zoo by strangers: "Someone wants to touch your hair. So what? I have blond hair, and I've stood in line at a convenience store and have had my hair touched by blacks."  And it empowered them to fan the flames of their bigotry:  "No matter what you say or do, black people are going to get offended and remind you of their enslaved history, as if NOOOO other race was ever enslaved.  Get over it... black pubic-like hair is not the only type of hair that summons curiosity."
Subsequent blog posts followed- (Many written by the Black blogging community) - either further explaining why it's not cool to violate someone's personal space and sensibilities or also wondering; What's the big deal? Accusing the Black natural hair community of being "pretentious" and "uppity."
See, here's the thing… whether people think the article featured a segment of women who're overreacting, the fact of the matter is it's simply not cool to violate someone's personal space and touch any parts of their person uninvited. I've had experiences where I've been asked by curious people, if they could touch my hair so they  can "see how it feels" or have had people reach out to grab or touch... growing annoyed when I denied them access or ducked out of the way. There were moments when I was caught off-guard and have had folks actually grab and disturb my neatly piled puff or pinned bun. For me, the issue of having my hair touched is political and a matter of intimacy as well as vanity. Are people that presumptuous and arrogant that they think it's okay to violate someone's personal space, particularly when someone has expressed their discomfort with it? And of course a few hissers from the be-weaved/relaxed peanut gallery turned it into an anti-natural hair manifesto, knowing damned well if someone ran their hands through their neatly laid tracks or freshly relaxed hair, they'd throw a fit of epic proportions, despite proclamations to the contrary. Why am I pretentious because I don't want some stranger mussing up my 'fro? I can't imagine walking up to some pregnant woman and rubbing her belly or squeezing her breast implants... nor can I fathom ever approaching an attractive man in fitted jeans and softly reaching out to caress his bulge because I think it "looks cool" nestled behind the taut denim fabric. Expressing genuine interest in someone's hair because you're curious about it... asking them reasonable questions and reaching out to touch or tousle it, are two very different things. And the latter is simply ill-mannered. 
Regardless of the reasons why Black women with natural hair don't want their hair touched and whether people agree with them, people should respect the wishes of others and pipe down. No one has the right to demand that someone "just deal" with having their hair touched and their boundaries crossed. How I express myself as a woman who happens to be Black and the way I extend or present my personal aesthetic is my business and no one (in this day and age especially) has authority over or is allowed to commandeer that right. That's my word. 

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More of my natural hair diatribes... 

January 11, 2011

Monstrous

Urged on by friends who seemed overly excited by Nicki Minaj's fervid verse, I listened to Kanye West's all-star collaboration on the track, "Monster." Notoriously particular about the music and artists I listen and pay attention to,  I found myself nodding along in spite of my reluctance.  I'm not a hardcore Kanye West fan (I'll never forgive him for bestowing fame and fortune on the mute femme-bot known as Amber Rose)- or detractor (I think he's talented, enjoy some of his work, and even defended him during Taylor Swift-gate, when he Mic-snatched the annoying and saccharine country singer and did the infamous shrug seen 'round the world, elevating his douchery to epic proportions)- but in keeping with his current Avant-garde projects, controversial album art for his latest (and awesome) offering, My Dark Twisted Fantasy, and modernistic fashion choices, I found the dark, macabre lyrical quips right on track in keeping with this re-branded,  douchier more artistic than usual version of Kanye. I also found myself more impressed by Nicki Minaj's contribution to the song as well. She proved to be more than a one-trick pony with a dubiously luscious ass. She held her own, and then some, on an all-male track, and seemed to deviate from her whole "Harajuku Barbie" schtick, showing the breadth of her lyrical skills. Plus Jay-Z helped bring up the rear with his talk of vanquishing bitter vampires, ungrateful interlopers and such. In fact, Monster is heavy with horror movie tropes. I was in. I couldn't wait see the video... 
Um, so then I saw the video... *insert blank stare here* ... While I'm not sure what the inspiration was, I was a bit taken aback by the visuals. The video begins with a dead-eyed, limp model hanging by her neck, from a chain... Then the subsequent wide shot shows several other dead models hanging from chains in little else but their underwear, flanking rapper Rick Ross as he casually sits amongst their dead carcasses, puffing on a cigar... Next up? Kanye West... lying in bed... next to two dead models with broken necks, their eyes open but vacantly staring off... The video just goes downhill for me from that point on... 

Listen, I'm no prude. I'm known for seeking out obscure, off the cuff Art House/Experimental films that would cause the vast majority of the population to doubt my mental stability. I'm a fan of Richard Kern and Catherine Breillat. I've watched and grimaced my way through several films from the Torture Porn genre, so this is not a holier-than-thou rant arguing about the perverse nature of pop-art and rap videos. I'm all for seeing a little cutting edge perversion in art, and any rumblings disclaiming that admission would be b.s. because I suspect we all harbor curiosities when it comes to exploring perverse behaviors that're within some semblance of reason. However, there's imagery and ideas that are even twisted enough to make me squirm... which is a difficult feat...
During many aspects of the video, there seemed to be no discernible message connecting the dead, decapitated women with the crux of the song other than for shock value... and therein lies my issue. While I still enjoy listening to Monster, watching Kanye West lying in bed with two dead, broken necked models, as he re-positions them to touch one another reeks of necrophilia and it just makes it difficult for me to remember that I enjoy the song. There is a LOT going on in this video and none of it is particularly enjoyable to watch... including Jay-Z rapping his verse as yet another dead model lays splayed on a leather couch behind him. The visions of decapitated model heads and entrails offered no further hope or high expectations for the duration of the music video. I was over it by the time the Nicki Minaj, Dominatrix vs Nicki Minaj, Barbie (tied up in a chair) scene came up. 
Duncan Quinn ad
This video expounds on this disturbing trend of women featured in compromising situations... namely dead and dismembered ... or as zombies. It sort of reminded me of this movie I wrote about a while ago, that shook my core and prompted me to make haste and return it to Netflix. And in likening Monster's video to Dead Girl, perhaps the most chilling aspect or the one thing that bothers me about it rather, is the apathetic way in which Kanye, Jay-Z, & Rick Ross drift amongst the carnage of limp and dismembered female parts. While I understand the nature of the song itself and perhaps the video is a metaphor for... for... something... It always unnerves me when the female aesthetic goes beyond the usual titillating pictorial of T & A (which can also become problematic when done horribly wrong) - and manifests into something way more sinister and malevolent. And so enter the birth of films like this, this, and videos like this to counteract that victimization, much to the chagrin of many men, who are quick to deem it man-hating propaganda ... I'm just speculating.  Seeing women as tortured, mutilated corpses within the context of a music video is unusual and dare I say trumps the disturbing nature of Eminem's Stan video, where its antagonist places his pregnant girlfriend in the trunk of his car. Are women, hanging by their broken necks from a ceiling not hateful, misogynistic visuals? I suppose dousing some video vixen with a bottle of high-end champagne or swiping a credit card down the crack of her gyrating ass isn't humiliating enough.  Please weigh in.

January 04, 2011

Hair Raising Tale: The Beauty Supply Store


Warning: Gratuitous use of personal pics showing the versatility of my natural hair. Deal.
Anyone who reads Coffee Rhetoric or who knows me personally, understands that I am vigorously passionate about issues having to do with women of the African diaspora; Especially how we're portrayed, exploited, "fetishized", oppressed, suppressed, trivialized, marginalized, and perceived. Image, body types, and of course hair. The struggle will never get old with me. I won't ever stop negating the stereotypes and foolery continuously projected onto Black women. Whether media pundits sans a clue (with Steve Harvey's help) continuously resurrect a dead corpse, struggling to analyze the reasons why they think we're ALL hopelessly single to being told our brand of beauty doesn't suffice unless a bunch of prerequisites come before it, or it be someone staring at us with their mouth agape when they realize our features are in fact diverse and not as homogeneous as they think... And so this story goes... 
About a month 1/2 ago, my best friend The Notorious C.A.T. came for a long overdue visit. Of course lots of fun and foolishness ensued. Anything less wouldn't make sense. I introduced her to haunts new to her since her last foray into Hartford... we visited some old, familiar ones. Per usual, Cat insisted on making her annual pilgrimage to a certain beauty supply store downtown to stock up on the must-haves lacking in her adopted northern New York town of Plattsburgh. 
As the Korean woman behind the counter rang her purchases, I noticed her animatedly speaking in Korean to her daughter, who was also behind the counter reading. The conversation seemed to be directed toward Cat, whose unrelaxed, curly hair was pulled back at the nape of her neck, in a puffy ponytail. We both looked at the woman and her daughter quizzically. 
"Oh, we were just talking about your hair." The daughter said to Cat. "It looks really nice. Is is real?" She asked. 
While I struggled to not express a serious case of WTF-face, Cat, in an amused voice, answered, "Oh! Yes. It's real!" 
"Oh wow! Okay." The girl answered incredulously as she and her mother nodded their shocked approval. 
Cat and I exchanged looks, smirked, and thanked the inquisitive Korean woman for ringing our purchases and went back out into the cold... laughing that all-knowing laugh. We reflected for a brief moment outside the store... 
I told Cat what'd just transpired reminded me of the scene from Chris Rock's eponymous documentary 'Good Hair,' where he visits several Korean-owned beauty supply stores, afro-textured wigs in-tow in a humorous attempt to sell it to them and measure its worth against the more popular and preferred 100% Indian Remy brand, beloved by Black women who get their hair weaved. "They don't wanna look... Africa... like this! They wanna look the style!" one heavily accented Korean store owner exclaimed, stretching his hands out on each side of his head for emphasis. "Nobody walks around with nappy hair nomore!" his Black employee sneered. Other beauty supply stores had similar reactions. Alas, Chris Rock concluded that our afro-textured hair wasn't worth a damn, apparently. 
I presume to think that Korean-owned beauty supply owners are probably so accustomed to seeing Black women walk in, with their need-to-be-done hair wrapped up in scarves, to purchase Indian Remy- (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that)- that the mere idea that one or two would walk in with derring-do, their natural, neatly styled kinky/curly hair on display on a mission to buy Cholesterol conditioner to lovingly maintain and care for it, came as a complete shock to them. 
Perhaps the store owner (and many other shocked and awed of the like) couldn't ever fathom soft, healthy, thick hair sprouting from the scalp of a Black woman scalp or grasp the fact that many of us would rather wear it instead of what's sprung from an Indian woman's... or that, quite possibly, a head of healthy hair lay protected underneath the weaved heads of many Black women, who're merely giving their own hair a breather from styling and maintenance. 
On a few occasions, I've been asked if my own pulled back, 70's inspired natural hair was a textured ponytail piece or bun pinned atop my head. 
While I maintain that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a Black woman experimenting with her hair and wearing it however she sees fit, our hair and bodies along with our dating and sex lives seem to pique the curiosity of many and becomes a topic of debate amongst those not in the know or who think they do. However, I'm left to wonder if the minority of us who aren't merely just trying a different look and who do truly despise our features and resent the texture and depth of our hair, don't shoulder some of the responsibility for the reactions of those outside our community.
The hair issue is a perpetually complicated one.. and there are a number of beleaguered Black women who are downright indignant about the texture of their hair, as illustrated by the beauty supply clerk in the 'Good Hair' clip, who co-signed her employer's disdain for "Africa hair."  I'd be remiss if I also didn't call out so-called natural hair wearers who follow rigid, multi-layered hair regimens and live by that blasted hair typing chart popularized by Oprah Winfrey's long-time hairdresser, Andre Walker, in an attempt to monitor and alter the texture of their natural hair... perhaps to mimic a Bi/Multi-racial woman's hair type
Black women undoubtedly seem to be under a constant microscope. Other people outside our community pick up on the conflict that rages within the minority of my sistren who dislike themselves, and they run long-distance marathons with it... formulating these grandiose ideas about our appearance, particularly that somehow we all want to mimic a uniform look based on a euro centric aesthetic
I'm often quite dumbfounded and somewhat disgusted when other Black women, who aren't attuned to the actual texture of their own hair, express the same type of surprise at the versatility of my natural hair. As if they, themselves came out of the womb relaxed or be-weaved. It's akin to a clear case of mental conditioning (read: brainwashing).  
Listen, there is absolutely nothing wrong with experimenting with hair as a personal form of expression, but once Black women become that far removed from themselves that it extends beyond a personal aesthetic and simple vanity in a way that causes them to disconnect from what and who they really are, then it's damaging and it perpetuates the growing list of ignorant rhetoric about us. 
Be mindful. Why on earth would you co-sign someone else's virtual (read: distorted) sketch of your image and allow them to wage a totalitarian ideology of how they think you should look? 
That is all. 

October 02, 2010

A Double-Standard Situation

Preface: I watch the foolery known as Jersey Shore. That is all. 
MTV's Jersey Shore... my emotions run the gamut... I laugh, I yell, I throw major shade, I cry (but not really). While most of the general populace (read: those people who refuse to admit they've indulged in an episode or two) - might respectfully disagree, the reality show chronicling the tom foolery of a group of mostly Italian American adults- (I must admit, I'm glad to see Black folks get some sort of reprieve after Flavor of Love and Frankie & Neffe) -  fist pumping, fighting, GTL'ing, and screwing their way towards instant fame and fortune, is a lesson in sociology. This second season alone (which kicked off on Miami's South Beach), presented some rather uncomfortable scenarios that had social media outlets buzzing with furor. Most notably, the dysfunctional on/off/on, co-dependent, and dare I say abusive relationship between Ronnie Ortiz-Magro and Sammie "Sweetheart" Giancola in which Ronnie lovingly calls his beloved a bitch and a cunt, sloppily hooks up with women and then drunkenly returns to the beach house to climb in bed and spoon with Sammi... but not before cockily bragging about his intentions to do so.
Watching that volatile segment unfold was most disturbing. Couple that with the way the other male roommates round up eager women at the club, as if they're cattle... judging them on a scale of DTF to Grenades... and then running on the opposite side of the club to round up another half dozen, in the event the fugs don't suffice, and you have yourself a formula that'd make you vomit. Which brings me to my primary analysis... 
The male roommates in question: Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino (a 30 year old muscled Alpha-male type, who's gelled and overly spray-tanned to perfection, with chiseled abdominal muscles that distracts from a visage only suitable for drunken, lights-off loving) leads the cattle call as his cohorts (DJ Pauly D and Vinny) eagerly follow suit. Collectively, the triumvirate of trick-masters refer to themselves as MVP (to reflect the first initials of their respective names), and giddily bring a seemingly endless supply of women by the cab-load in and out of the house... dismissing them aloofly when they've had their fill, and then later pow-wowing to giggle and reflect on their conquests.
Enter tortured roommate Angelina... a slovenly, obnoxious, insecure young woman who espouses a false sense of bravado by proclaiming to be the "Kim Kardashian of Staten Island" (no comment), and who is also an outcast amongst the roommates for a number of different reasons. Angelina gets major flack for having "hooked up" with all but one of the male roommates in the house. She's perceived as being passed around, called fat, and crucified for bringing men back home to lounge with. In essence, for essentially mimicking the behavior of the male roommates who bring women in and out like it's Grand Central Station. "Staten Island Dump" she's christened. The Situation, the most non-discerning (despite rumblings to the contrary) and promiscuous roommate in the house derisively opines, "Angelina is like the Staten Island ferry. It's free and everybody gets a ride." 
Angelina also decides to keep time with a lovestruck chap named Jose. Jose buys Angelina a Fossil watch, despite not having slept with her. The house is incited to raucous chorus. They chide Angelina for refusing to sleep with Jose, despite being the owner of a new Fossil watch... they ridicule her for having sex with roommate Vinny after a drunken night out and despite having argued heatedly with him a day or two prior (can't ever be sure of chronology with editing). Damned if she does, burned at the stake if she doesn't, Angelina lies and says she did in fact, have sex with Jose when she's accused of ruining his birthday because she refused to put out. The chorus bellows!
Angelina is further embarrassed her in front of friends and prospective lovers; Mike "Situation" calls her a "dirty little hamster" after loudly belittling her in front of her bff and a newly acquired guy picked up at the beach, for leaving a dirty sanitary napkin on the bathroom floor... 
"Hey Angelina, how's Jose? How many men have you slept with in 24 hours??"
Mike presses on in front of Angelina's male companion... who is growing visibly uncomfortable during the altercation. Situation calls her a whore, so forth and so on... not withstanding the fact he had drunken, loud sex the night before with one of his club conquests, who he adoringly made an egg sandwich for the next morning. 
Another scene that got under my skin is when the male roommates (3 of whom have had relations with her), pontificate about Angelina's sex life. "She's a whore..." they mutter and grunt... "I never met such a dirty woman like that..." grunt ...then this -> "Men do that... that's what we do. Women aren't supposed to do that..." grunt... grunt. And Why not? Why can't a woman explore her options and sexuality without being labeled a bottom feeder? Why Angelina and not the women they drunkenly carry home from the club? Why are egg sandwiches a lounge lizard's due but  not Angelina's? It's because anytime a woman dictates the terms of her own sex life, she is seen as wanton, dirty, or whorish... that's why. Perhaps the women who agree to bed the likes of Situation aren't considered sluts because they're feeding his (and men with his belief system), ego. When a man is not at the helm... coercing a woman to have sex, if she goes out and dates freely... not necessarily even sleeping with whatever man of the moment she engages, she's held in low-esteem. 
An after-show follow up finds Vinny explaining that there're certain women a man sleeps with and disrespects and another type you wine and dine. He argues that he used his penis "as a sacrificial lamb" to sex The Staten Island Dump with, so he could brag "you didn't say that last night" in the event they had any future arguments where she further accuses him of lacking game and looks... *blank stare*
On the flip side of the coin, does a woman not have a right to desire to settle down with a quality man of means rather than a jerk with no discernible accomplishments other than his kissing abilities, six-pack, and skills in bed? What's good for the goose is good for the gander, no? 
I honestly don't see how a woman who obliges a man's request to go home with him for a one night romp is any better than a woman who determines who she will have sex with, on her own terms, without being prompted by a man to do so. Promiscuity has its pros and cons whether you're a man or a woman. It can be both disturbingly empty, vile, and irresponsible... or it can be liberating, mature, and ... responsible... depending on what one's reasons are and their mental/emotional state. This revelation is not exclusive to just women. 
One shouldn't get the green light, while the other is expected to yield when it comes to matters of sex. In this day and age, that is not how it should work. Jersey Shore definitely offers interesting insight on the dynamic between men and women co-habiting with one another. The result is a sloppy amalgamation of today's sexuality and yesteryear's antiquated expectations/treatment of women mixed with male privilege. The male cast of Jersey Shore are definitely awash in the whole Madonna/Whore complex. Do I only get a pass and an egg sandwich if I'm DTF as opposed to my LTF also known as a "zipless fuck"?

Other interesting and related links to consider:
College Girl's PowerPoint "Fuck List" Goes Viral
Free Herself
Slut-Shaming
Promiscuity: Educated Women vs. Hood Girls

Rent: She's Gotta Have It, Romance, The Last Mistress, & Anatomy of Hell

June 08, 2010

LOL Cat

It's a wonderful, sunny morning. The air is dry (humidity and rain be damned) and comfortable, and I'm sitting here sipping on coffee mulling over what to do, checking my email, reading the news and chuckling at the latest and greatest in popular culture. Things seem par for the course as usual, lately; The Marginalization of Black Women.To further drive the point on home that we're the LEAST favored- especially (it seems as of late) considering all of the media coverage and news specials about why we can't find love- is a rapper who calls himself Slim Thug; - (insert smirk here)- who poked his head from behind the cloak of irrelevancy- (Read: from underneath a moist rock)- to eloquently offer his two cents on the plight of The Black Woman's Love to Vibe.com, because nothing feels as uplifting as a Black man stepping on our throats to keep us down, never mind the fact that the majority has and does already. I wasn't going to dignify this foolatry with a blog post, but I'm far too amused and tickled not to weigh-in: 
"I have a brother that dates a White woman and he always be fucking with me about it saying, “Y’all gotta go through all that shit [but] my White woman is fine. She don’t give me no problems, she do whatever I say and y’all gotta do all that arguing and fighting and worry about all this other shit.”
My girl is Black and White. I guess the half White in her is where she still cooks and do all the shit that I say, so we make it."...
are amongst some of the sparkling gems of wisdom Slim Thug shares with Vibe online. Quite honestly, I'm not offended; particularly when one considers the source. I think I was more taken aback by his un-cited comment about successful Black men being "extinct."  Since I don't have a "White side" like Slim Thug's current girlfriend or choose to cater to a man's every whim just because he thinks I should, I can only opine from a solely Black side and say that I am getting bored with this growing divide between Black men and women. Many Black men have been espousing Slim Thug's antiquated rhetoric for the past 50 years or so.  Slim Thug outlined a lot of what he wants done for him, but didn't outline how he'd reciprocate those gestures to his biracial girlfriend's "White side." (I didn't mind mentioning her "Black side" because he doesn't seem all that keen on that half). I'd like to think that relationships are a little deeper than merely cooking, cleaning, and catering to someone who feels self-entitled, can't stand a woman who does more than nod or blink, and doesn't think he should do something to nourish his partner. Slim Thug also presumes to think that EVERY White woman is a passive doormat with no aspirations other than to wait on someone hand and foot, as if they're 2 dollar concubines.
His ramblings about Black women being nothing more than gold-diggers with no drive (has he noticed the media attention on infidelity and the rise of the groupie lately?? None of them are Black women) - speaks volumes about his own pathology. As a rapper living the lifestyle it entails, I'm sure he runs amongst a certain circle, undoubtedly meeting a specific brand of woman on a consistent basis. Notwithstanding the fact that Slim Thug and his ilk perpetuate that type of behavior, braggartly promising to take women on shopping sprees and lavish trips, while having genital spasms over how much money they make from hustling  ... but will be angry when they're held to that particular standard.
I don't knock anyone's right to fumble towards affluence or a comfortable life or to date who they're attracted to for that matter, but his obvious issues with American African have nothing to do with me or most other Black women for that matter. He chose to engage a certain type of bird... that's his problem and his demon to slay. He should upgrade his intelligence and think outside his box... because any woman who graduated from Columbia University and chooses to nourish this man's ego and allow him to dictate to her, may have some soul searching  to do herself.  
While the latter part of his interview had some valid points about where our community's priorities are based, the bulk of what Slim Thug outlined in his interview spans a wide spectrum and is not behavior exclusive to just Black women. ALL women and men have the capacity to hurt someone or be jerks. The energy you put out is what you get back; bottom line. If you go looking for drama or looking to find flaws or pick a fight with someone, then guess what? ... the relation-SHIP will sink faster than the Titanic.
The same way his brother relates to his White wife, is probably different than how he tried to get on with a Black woman. Respect is a two way street. It's not rocket science. Slim Thug seems to be scarred from a prior relationship, so I'll forgive his irrational generalizations and ignorance. As long as Black men like Slim Thug continue to have a laundry list of ridiculous demands written on the palm of their hands like the next groupie's phone number, Black women will and should continue to have a list of reasonable ones folded neatly into a small square, at the bed of our purses. Otherwise, the word is COMPROMISE. That is all. 


 

May 03, 2010

Here I Go... Again...

Anyone who knows me... personally or via this virtual insanity... know that I am a Womanist and a staunch defender of Black women; and that I advocate us taking back control of our image and schooling the masses about what we are and what we aren't.
This year alone, there have been numerous "studies" ... articles and TV specials that obsessively try to get to the bottom of why I'm single. And having the resilient and tenacious personalities we do, many of us fought back... Sister Toldja's and Fungke Blak Chik's rebuttals being amongst those, rallying against the noise that undermines our femininity, our desirability, and our right to express our sexuality however we see fit. Their arguments were powerfully eloquent and spot-on. Everyone from White men to Black comedians; Russians to White women, seem obsessed with the mating habits of Black women. And Yemaya be damned if when we rear up and defend ourselves, for then we're labeled as bitter, angry, and hateful... with taunts of, "See?? See what we mean? See why Black women are single??!"
So why am I holding this seance, resurrecting this dead corpse again?  A little perspective on my frame of mind; I just finished reading Chester Himes' 'The End of a Primitive', then followed it up with a revisit of Charlotte Carter's 'Walking Bones,' and now have the nerve to be reading 'Wench' by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, so I don't mind going toe-to-toe right now. Observe...
While catching up with the goings-on of a favorite blogger's life, I was somewhat surprised, dismayed, and then pissed when I read about a conversation she had with her significant other- (they're both White with white collar careers).  The author of the blog didn't say anything offensive and usually logs very insightful, politically aware, and evolved posts... but her paramour... a captain of industry type who seems used to getting his way... didn't seem so progressive when he ranted against the (mostly) Black nursing staff (she's in the hospital) working the night-shift wherever she was recovering. It appears the nurses weren't keen on him staying overnight on a mostly female floor and reminded him that visiting hours were over. Annoyed, he opined that their sudden or perceived resentment toward his presence was due to them being angry, Black, and essentially bitter because they aren't the blondest or the fairest ones of all. And so they were jealous of said sick blogger... because she's white, blond, pretty, and well... because she has him to wrap her in his big masculine arms while she convalesces. And they'll never have that type of male sustenance in their lifetime. I won't offer a link to the post in question because I actually like her. She seems like a highly intelligent, honest, and nice woman. I enjoy her writing voice and I'd hate to be the catalyst who incites angry readers to chorus on her comments section. She seemed reluctant about feeding into her paramour's hype but, was equally as reluctant to question his rhetoric and obvious bigotry against and stereotyping about Black women... almost doing so halfheartedly so as not to upset him any further... which probably would've exacerbated the situation. She seemed - (an impression I got based on what she wrote) - willing to buy the rancid meat he was selling. I am not surprised nor did I expect her to jump to the defense of Black women or jump down his throat (since it is a relatively fresh relationship) and so am not disappointed in her hesitancy; particularly when you consider that her White female femininity was being elevated on a pedestal, which isn't uncommon- especially when being juxtaposed with that of a Black woman's. Here are some of the gems she shared when relaying the details of his angry rant- “Listen. I was married to a black woman for years.  I’ve spent a lot of time in many different communities. I’ve coached for years as well.  I lived and worked in and around D.C. for 10 of those years.  Outside the inner city it’s not so bad, but the black people in downtown D.C. are not fond white people. “
and --
"... I used to be come on to all the time when I was working in Northern Virginia you wouldn’t not believe it, sometimes I’d run across the street to get away from them.” 
and my personal favorite-- 
“I wasn’t going to say anything but a few of the nurses tried to catch my eye this afternoon. Two of them, at least. One of them even came on to me, and I mean she was BLATANT about it.  I just blew her off and kept walking. I couldn’t believe it”  ... 
"They all HAVE to know I’m with you, because I’ve been in bed with you since morning! I’m obviously devoted to you but they don’t care. They’ll just steal each other’s men, they won’t even hesitate. They.Just.Don’t.Care. Blows my mind.”
worst even-- “Trust me on this: With black women it’s all about the hair.  Believe me I know.”  <--(Um no son, you don't). 
So forth and so on. The entry left me speechless and angry. White (male) supremacy and propaganda at its arrogant worst. So now not only are Black women hopelessly single... but we're Jezebels without any scruples, who relentlessly chase men who're spoken for - (notwithstanding the high-profile mistresses who've been in the news lately) - have lost all hope in all Black men, and secretly lust for White men and all the riches they could shower us with, and apparently all of our self-worth is tied up in our hair. Such strong words from someone who was obviously upset because the head nurse opted to enforce hospital policy... much to his chagrin. 
As those two move forward in their relationship, it is my hope that my blogger buddy will encourage her lover to change some of his antiquated ideas about Black women. Stereotyping is a detrimental and hurtful process and it robs people of the right to share their truth.  It would be wrong of me to surmise, solely based on my own personal experiences, that all White men are pushy, psychotic, self-entitled, and racist. 
What his behavior within the context of that situation demonstrates is how the American White Male Privilege paradigm (which operates  to suit its own needs) is so easily projected when someone of his stature can't get his way and particularly when that privilege is challenged by a Black woman. I can't count how many times I've gotten grief from this type of White male, because I've either turned him down by refusing to play the Jezebel role he's accustomed to seeing in rap videos and reality shows or because I dared to challenge some ignoramus statement he made and that I didn't agree with. 
I like this blogger, but since she relayed the story on a public forum, with all due respect I, felt compelled just as publicly to challenge what I read in hopes that she can help her man get his mind right and hope she doesn't take this as a personal and malicious affront. Sans dialogue there can be no progress.
That is all. 

March 14, 2010

Push. Kick.

 To be able to reach the heights of purity you have to suffer through deprivation and humiliations. And what could have been a descent into hell becomes liberation.
-Catherine Breillat

<- ("Inner Peace" by Monica Stewart )
Being wanton, needy, and susceptible to dubious dating advice from so-called "experts" does not equate to being comfortable in one's skin and with one's sexuality. It's the minutest of details that illustrate that feeling of true liberation from the trials and tribulations of man/woman relationships, sex, and dating in general. A certain level of genuine aloofness... where you take sour lemons and make yourself a stiff (generous with the vodka) Lemon Drop martini, and rejoice.  Suddenly, the dead cow being sold to you gets a one-way ticket to the abattoir, providing you with delicious steaks to grill (medium rare), masticate slowly, swallow and then shit out in the bog pan later... relief and then flush, thank you very much.
 ("Contemplation" by Lee Ransaw) ->
The wishy-washy personality, inconsistent explanations about his state-of-affairs, knack for wasting your time, seeming comfort in being mediocre, inability to stick to a plan and see it to fruition, and bizarre extracurricular activities... none of it matters. Suddenly, not feeling obligated to return phone calls and texts in response to foolishness feels nothing short of... well... good, for what's good for the goose is definitely (without question) good for the gander. Closure is not seeking ... closure. Giving as much as you're receiving... in the form of not giving a shit... it's second nature now. Being on hiatus... succumbing to the frenzy of intimacy when *you* see fit to do so at your discretion, and being OK with it... never lamenting over what you aren't experiencing at that moment in space and time, because you're preoccupied with more pressing issues ... True freedom. Truth! Some might cry "CYNICISM!" ... but I chalk it up to being there, having done that, learning how to give the side-eye and moving on, and not projecting... because bitterness only increases one's self-imposed prison sentence. 
It's all about not caring, and meaning it. Learn it. Live it. A supple skin to wear for sure. *sips Lemon Drop martini*




March 10, 2010

Fat and Greasy

Bastion of all things lewd, crude, sexist, and sophomoric, Howard Stern- (with the approval of his trusty dick wart, Robin Quivers)- has managed to make his ramblings relevant again by attacking up-and-coming actor and recent Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe for her appearance. Gabourey, who was up for an academy award for her debut performance in the film 'Precious' -(adapted from the book 'Push'  by author and performance poet, Sapphire)- is witty, college educated, articulate, comfortable in her skin, and did a hell of a job interpreting the title character in her very first film role. I read the book twice and saw the film an equal number of times. The film and book offer a bitter, gut wrenching pill to swallow and is glaring with the delivery. It could not have been an easy role for an actor just getting her feet wet in the industry, to perform, and so Gabourey was lauded for the strength of her debut by Oprah Winfrey, with a heartfelt tribute... but none of that matters... 
According to Howard Stern- (whose own physical appearance is a few notches under average at best, which makes his career in radio that much more fitting)- and Robin Quivers, Oprah is a "filthy liar," for Gabourey will never work in the industry again due to how she looks...  overweight, darker complected, and apparently offending to Howard's personal aesthetic and views on what he considers to be attractive and worthy. I won't bother linking to the offending diatribe available on YouTube, but I will relay some of the more notable quotes:
"There's the most enormous, fat Black chick I've ever seen. Everyone's pretending she's a part of show business,  and she's never going to be in another movie," he opined.  
"She should have gotten the Best Actress award because she's never going to have another shot. What movie is she gonna be in?" Stern continued to quip. 
He and Robin- (who has struggled with her own weight via questionable diet methods)- also said Gabby would die in about three years and should basically just shrink away into the abyss because she didn't resemble any of the other Oscar nominees. They suggested that she may have a shot starring in a sequel to 'The Blind Side,' though. There you have it. It's just that simple, despite the fact that Gabourey actually has several projects lined up beyond her role in 'Precious.'
Some Black people, in fact, refused to support 'Precious' while it was in theaters, simply because they were turned off by the fact that Gabourey didn't fit some hegemonic beauty standard. I can't even begin to count the reasons relayed to me, why people weren't interested in it... not even knowing the movie's premise. Someone complained to me, "Why do they have that big, fat, DARK-skinned girl in the movie??? She's a bad representative for Black people! I'm not going to see that mess!" Needless to say, I blinked at her incredulously. I've also read the hateful jokes on Black entertainment blogs... hyucking over Sidibe's complexion and weight.
Once again, a Black woman's body and overall look has been codified and reduced to a thing of repulsion... othered... her personality and creative gifts gently placed down her throat for her to swallow and perhaps spit back up, so that she'll pare down her substantial size to a body that's more palatable. Much of the unofficial jury seem to agree that Howard's biting remarks has some merit, because Gabourey just looks so... so, unhealthy. Suddenly folks are speculating and ticking off a list of issues she could potentially, but may not even suffer from! I am in awe that merely looking at a person automatically determines their vitals. Since it's that easy, to hell with Sidibe's doctor, because anybody not skinny automatically has health problems and live sedentary lives steeped in deep-fried Twinkies, while every skinny person is automatically healthy and fit sans any issues to speak of. It's official... everyone's an expert... medical licenses for all!  *insert side-eye here.* 
Dictating who's healthy and who isn't... who's beautiful enough to be on film and who's not, undermines what is essentially wrong with how this cult of personalty rate and judge people ... and it's also indicative of how often we don't mind our own business. Essentially, we all have room for self-improvement... Howard Stern especially.
In the grand scheme of things, who cares if Gabourey does have health problems? Those are between she and her doctor. So what if in addition to being overweight, she has the unmitigated gall to be darker-skinned than most people are comfortable with seeing on their American screens? The contempt that people like Howard Stern display when body-snarking and in determining whether Sidibe's race and figure will guarantee her continued fame and success, is indicative of their own self-loathing. Gabourey's health is no more at risk than actors' who smoke, binge and purge, get excessive amounts of plastic surgery, or snort coke.
I'm still enraptured by her spirit, the outstanding performance she gave in 'Precious,' and how infectious her personality is during interviews. Sidibe seems to be above the nonsense, as she  stated that suddenly one day, she woke up and determined for herself, that she was beautiful.

That is all.