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That dress! RT @goldenglobes: From @12ye

12 Jan

That dress! RT @goldenglobes: From @12yearsaslave @Lupita_Nyongo! http://t.co/deC81EZK4f

Love Lessons: Musiq Soulchild and Tressie Cottom

11 Feb

When I sat down to write the song that came to mind for me was Musiq Soulchild’s Love.  I thought about this beautiful ballad because it allows for a much bigger vision of love that includes all manner of relationships including the one we have with ourselves.  Soulchild sings…

Love
So many people use your name in vain
Love
Those who have faith in you sometimes go astray
Love
Through all the ups and downs the joys and hurts
Love
For better or worse I still will choose you first

I have been reflecting on the love of my sisters, particularly in feminism.  I have been troubled by the fact that many of my sisters have been struggling for a number of reasons, but there are certain hurts that just should not be.  A few weeks ago I read a blog by my sister-in-scholarship, Tressie Cottom, super-scholar and new friend who lamented on the lack of love demonstrated when a student at the University of Chicago threatened to circulate a mugshot photo of her in an effort criminalize her, attack her character, and denounce her scholarship, simply because he disagreed with her perspective on the importance of grades in graduate school.  REALLY! While for many of you this is old news, I bring this up because I realized that the reason she was even in the Atlanta University Center area near Morehouse College is because she was lost trying to get to me to join my class for a celebration dinner.  But instead of weighing in on the ridiculousness that occurred, both Morehouse police for pulling her over and “booking” her and U of C brotha-student lacking basic decency and manners, I want to focus on how love guides much of the work the feminists in my life do regularly.

Sometime Yes! is a powerful statement.  I teach a Poverty and Social Justice course at Spelman College and I wanted my students to learn to write in ways that encourage them to enter public discussions now.  The five page paper and the research papers have their place, but students should be cultivating their voices as students.  With all their access to the interwebs and simple applications I believe they need to work on a little more production and a lot less consumption.  I called Tressie because she was highly recommended by another sister scholar to do a workshop on Opinion Editorials for my class.  She did not know me.  She said, “Yes!”  In fact, she said, “Yes!” again in the Fall, and again she has said “Yes!” for this Spring.

On the night she was pulled over I had invited her to have dinner with my class to thank her for sharing her time and talent with us, but she did not show up.  I assumed something came up and let it be.  I found out through her blog two months later that she was arrested.  So here is where the challenge comes in.  When my sisters need help all too often too many of them do not call.  They say, “I did not want to bother anyone” or “It wasn’t that big a deal.” And it would not have been if someone did not decide to look for ways to tear her down.

Love
So many people use your name in vain
Love
Those who have faith in you sometimes go astray
Love
Through all the ups and downs the joys and hurts
Love
For better or worse I still will choose you first

One of the most important commitments of the Crunk Feminist Collective is self-care.  We insist on figuring out ways to care for ourselves and one another.  We send care packages to one another and others as we can and we remind each other to take care of ourselves.  What we realize is that working in the academy and advancing feminist politics in a broken nation can be toxic and while we don’t want to be negative one of our goals is to “not die” trying to do this work.  Too many of our feminist foremothers and forefathers have died too soon trying to do this work.  I am thinking of Audre Lorde, June Jordan, and recently Rudolph Byrd.  The way that we move forward and “live” is by caring for one another by saying Yes! and sometimes No!, but also by agreeing to engage one another in love.  To engage one another in love may mean getting crunk when need be, but it also means sending a lifeline (text, email, phone call, lunch) when you know someone needs it.  Instead of getting Crunk online, this time we chose to send life lines to our sister to let her know that while the principles of online engagement are important to figure out, making sure she was okay was our top priority.

I have women in my life right now trying to figure out how to be in community with one another and love sometimes feels like it isn’t enough.  I have to believe that “love in struggle” is enough.  I love Tressie because she gives of her time and talent because she loves working with young scholars-of-color to develop their voice through their writing.  I love Tressie because instead of attacking another scholar she reached out to invite him to participate on a panel to discuss academic engagement and social media.  I love the CFC because in this community I am so much more informed about the people and issues I care about, like Tressie’s situation.  This time she did not call me, but in this community of love I did get the message and was able to respond.

For me the love lessons are many; brotha Soulchild teaches us that sometime folks ain’t gone act right, Tressie teaches us that we can choose to let love guide our engagement both online and off-line.  The love lesson I want to leave you with is this…

Sometimes our folks need our support and love but don’t know how to ask for it or don’t think it is important enough, so we have to tell them regularly that they can call on us.  Sometimes people who give love need invitations to be loved back.  After scolding Tressie for not calling on me, I let her know that I love her and that next time she has to give me the opportunity to say, “Yes!.”

(Un)Clutching My Mother’s Pearls, or Ratchetness and the Residue of Respectability

31 Dec

shawty-lo-photos-extralarge_1209751862690

The recent news that ATL rapper Shawty Lo (of Laffy Taffy fame) may be the potential star of a new reality show featuring him, his 11 children, and his 10 baby mamas had this feminist searching for somebody’s pearls to clutch,  seeing as how even the First Lady’s love of pearls has not inspired me to cop a strand of my own.

I watched the trailer for this latest train wreck out of Atlanta in mild disgust and mega internal conflict. On the one hand, I felt compelled to embrace this potential portrayal of what one friend called an “alternate family.” I mean, my family, composed of my single mom, my only-child self, my cousins who were stand-ins for big brothers, and more recently my step-family is certainly “alternate.” At least I felt that way as a kid when I was asked to fill out those old-school ditto sheets with the members of my family, which curiously left absent slots for cousins and aunties and grandparents. 

And when I see the “rabid” nature of respectability politics that makes grown-ass women feel justified in referring to other sisters hustling trying to make it as “brood mares” I am reminded that I don’t ever wanna be down with the myopia and pathology of the respectability racket either! It is so absolutely clear that this respectability shit IS.NOT. working, no matter how much we remix it. The refusal to see that requires what I like to call indignant ignorance, and frankly ain’t nobody got time for that!

sweet-brown_o_GIFSoup.com

On the other hand: this Shawty-Lo biznass is utterly ratchet! And ratchetness gives me pause, every single time! It’s meant to. Ratchet acts are meant to be so over-the-top and outrageous that they catch your attention and exceed the bounds of acceptable saying.

This is the manner and mode of ratchetness that Bey seems to be invoking (successfully or not, you be the judge) in this pic which had the internets all ablaze over the weekend. 

Let's Get Ratchet! Let'sGetRatchet!

Let’s Get Ratchet! Let’sGetRatchet!

Bey’s ratchetness is about flamboyance, about doing the most, and “Bey-ing the most.”

Shawty-Lo’s brand is “ghetto” “hood” ish on steroids.

In this regard,his show is certainly poised to succeed. (And it ain’t even aired yet.)

 So my initial thought to my friend on FB was: “When there’s a show about a woman and her ten baby daddies then we can have a discussion about alternate families. Until then, this just sounds like women with few options capitulating to Black male patriarchy.”

By-and-large, I believe this is true. But it is also true that I find something fundamentally off-putting about a brother with 11 kids by 10 different women, even though it appears that he supports them all, claims them all, and works to have some level of relationship with their moms. I’m tired of brothers not having to be emotionally accountable for their relational choices. I’m tired of the way patriarchy’s love affair with capitalism sets men up to think that manhood and fatherhood are tied to one’s bank account.

 Patriarchy exempts men from having to emotionally grow the fuck up.

 I mean, it’s great that Shawty Lo knows and claims all his children.  But um, WHEN did that become the standard?!

Men don’t want superficial relationships, but they have little motivation to cultivate the habits of character—emotional generosity and maturity, selflessness, self-confidence (not EGO) – that are necessary for good relationships. Intuitively most men reject women who want them only for what they have, and rightfully so. But these same men are rarely challenged to cultivate the kind of emotional consideration that they seek in others.  They want these things from women, benefit from the time we spend cultivating these attributes in our friendships with other women, but are so ill-equipped to provide them themselves.

 Even still, in the crevices of my wrinkled forehead are the residues of my own respectability politics, my ambivalence about the limits of our alter(n)ations, and our excessive celebrations of alterity.  Even as our generation works hard to stop clutching the pearls and with it the respectability that we think is held in tact by the thin tie that binds, we are confronted with the challenges that led our foremothers to embrace respectability in the first place. We might not be striving for big R-type Respectability, but we are all over little-R respectability. 

Why?

Well, “ask me what I do and who I do it for.” For the future kids, for my mama, my grandmama, my aunties, all those people, for whom I am the embodiment of hope.

When I was growing up, watching way too many girls become mothers before they had the resources to make sustainable lives for themselves and watching my mother hustling to make ends meet, I caught the cautionary tale real quickly. Whatever you do, don’t do this. 

Not justifying. More like confessing. And inviting us–respectable, supereducated brown girls, the ones who “did it the right way,” whatever the hell that is– to tell the truth about our continued investments in respectability, and about all the ways that our love for all things ratchet is as much about getting free as it is about reminding ourselves of all the reasons why we made the choices we made. So we wouldn’t end up like that. Like them.

I mean it could be good ole fashioned “Chickenhead Envy” on my part.  Cuz damn. It definitely feels like “Hoes be winning.”

But are they really? Are any of us of winning in a scenario where respectable and ratchet are the only two options? 

Yes, the alternate family that Shawty Lo and the Baby Moms have built may be subversive, transgressive, and even admirable in its insistence on creating meaningful kinship bonds despite the dictates of respectability. Alternate families are incredibly difficult to create and structurally discouraged at every turn. And in some ways our affective lives (our emotional selves) have not caught up to the space, time, and resource demands of this neoliberal moment.

Ratchetness emerges under these conditions as a kind of habitus through which (some) working-class folks and folks with working class roots interact with every aspect of their lives from entertainment to family to government.

(Hurricane Chris performs “Halle Berry”–one of the first songs to popularize the term “ratchet” in front of the Louisiana Legislature, watch around the 6min mark.)

 More and more though, I am coming to understand that subversive and transgressive politics do not a revolution make.  I mean how exactly does the subversion and transgression represented here undercut patriarchy?

Just because it’s alternate and non-normative–and thus even potentially queer– should I as a feminist embrace it?

From what I see, this radical reimagining of family works primarily to balance the public portrayals of Black men as oversexed deadbeats against the reality that “as long as he takes care of his kids,” we can’t really have anything to say, because ultimately “he ain’t that bad.”

 What do we do with a man that sleeps around unprotected with all these women given the alarming rates of HIV infection in ATL? (And how many people will come to this post and remind me that the women also chose to have unprotected sex with him?!)

As I watch the mothers of Shawty Lo’s children form strategic alliances all in the name of parenting their children and getting what they need from this ONE man, I think about the continued imbalance of power that Black men have over Black women despite all the ways white capitalist supremacist patriarchy conspires to keep Black men locked into a form of subordinate masculinity.

 I know that should this show become a full fledged series, everyone will focus on the Mamas, on how stupid they all were to take up with dude, who has a reputation for foolishness. Their maturity and the wisdom of their choices will surely be discussed. 

His? Not so much.

As I’ve said before, reality (television) frequently makes Black women the victims of persistent acts of disrespectability.

So even as I unhand my (mother’s) pearls, I think this show among others can invite us to think about Black women’s deployment of ratchetness as part of a kind of disrespectability politics.

Or in Bey’s case, as a kind of joy and celebration, that the rush to respectability simply doesn’t allow.

Elsewhere I have written about ratchet feminism, primarily as a kind of female friendship forged in the midst of complicated relationships among men, their mothers, and their many women.  I think this show will place this concept on the table again, as it demands we think about all of the creative ways women negotiate patriarchy.

At the same time, we have to think about how the embrace of ratchetness is simultaneously a dismissal of respectability, a kind of intuitive understanding of all the ways that respectability as a political project has failed Black women and continues to disallow the access that we have been taught to think it will give. #AskSusanRice

We must ask what ratchetness itself makes possible, even as the gratuitous and exploitative display of it attempts to foreclose possibility. What does ratchetness do for the ratchet and non-ratchet (and sometimes ratchet) alike?

Are Black women not always already perceived as “ratchet” anyway? As over-the-top, excessive, doing the most and achieving the least, unable to be contained, except through wholly insufficient discourses, like ghetto, and hood, and ratchet. AND respectable. 

Are Black men “ratchet”? Can white women be ratchet? Is  this ratchet? 

Kanye and Baby Mom (to be) Kim Kardashian

Kanye and Baby Mom (to be) Kim Kardashian

I don’t have the answers. And I’m not knocking these moms. The best I can do here is own my contradictions and then let go of these damn pearls, because despite my desire to hold on, this ain’t our mothers’ feminism. 

Only Odd*: the Holiday Edition

27 Dec

“Only Odd” is borrowed from tumblr-speak, as in, “I can’t even… I can only odd.”  Bloggers are often expected to react to major events. And though we often comply, the energy expended for such argumentation could also be used to finish manuscripts, start novels, knit sweaters or make passionate love as if the world wasn’t crumbling under the weight of imperialism. Sometimes we can’t. And that’s ok. Here’s a list of things this holiday that made me say, “I can’t even… I can only odd.”

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

If your nose never helped another soul but yourself, you would still be alright with me.

  1. Sandy Hook, Santa Clause, the NRA and the commodity of innocence. A man killed 28 people. Twenty eight. Himself. His mother. Six school employees. Twenty children. We created hierarchies of these deaths based on notions of innocence, notions exploited by various industries.  “Innocent” gets at our pockets. We buy toys in pastels to protect innocence; we lie to children about a classist, red-clad man who visits them but not their friends, a man who will prepare them to believe in a God who rewards the faithful (read rich) with material things. And when faced with a right-before-the-holidays massacre of innocents, we propose buying more guns to protect innocence. All our hands drip blood.
  2. Django. I can’t. I really can’t. Like, I can’t even post links from people who went to see the movie. Would you like to see a movie about slavery? See Sankofa.
  3. Guess who’s (not) coming to dinner? I can’t with the holiday blues. For those who must explain/ defend their singleness to (sometimes) well-wishing elders who grew up in different times. For those who weren’t able to spend holidays with their chosen (read queer) families because of the biases of their kin. For those who weren’t able to spend the holidays with their kin because of their disapproval of their chosen families (read homophobia). I’ve been in 2/3 of those boxes and I can’t. Even.
  4. Catfish marathons over the holiday. From the introduction to the last frame, American conceptions of beauty are unquestioned and reified. Those who manipulate these conceptions to connect with (shallow) others are portrayed as desperate, deviant and ultimately pitiful. Fat hatred, homophobia and ageism are just a few of the things that go unquestioned in this show  that joins the other MTV train wrecks that track on shame.
  5. Heretical holiday characters—like Rudolph. Rudolph stands for everything that our Lorde deplores. Rudolph was only accepted when his difference was valuable to the colonizer of his folks. If the catchy song seems benign, see The Help, Twilight, “Flipping Out” and every other movie, novel or show where the other helps others get they life their lives together.

2012: It’s the End of the World & Our Hearts Are Broken

17 Dec

The Mayans had it right

A world came to an end

Ask any parent of six or seven year old children

But there is however a conflict

About the date of this major event

This world ended December 14th in Newtown Connecticut

Our hearts are broken

Our hearts are broken

In what world does this happen?

Our hearts are so tragically broken

For the loss of 27 women and children

Our hearts are irreparably broken

This kind of a world has got to end

2012 marks a record for the worst year of U.S. mass shootings

Georgia

Ohio

Pittsburgh

California

Oklahoma

Washington

Colorado

Wisconsin

Texas

Minnesota

Missouri

Oregon

Connecticut

From a Newtown a renewed world will begin

In this our new world love shall prevail

Violence and terrorism are of worlds past

Our hearts are so deeply broken

Sandy Hook Elementary must be the last

Image

Charlotte

Daniel

Olivia

Josephine

Ana

Dylan

Madeleine

Catherine

Chase

Jesse

James

Grace

Emilie

Jack

Noah

Caroline

Jessica

Avielle

Benjamin

Allison

Rachel

Dawn

Anne Marie

Mary

Victoria

Lauren

Nancy

I’m mourning for the dead

I’m calling out to the living

Let love guide our actions for renewal

And peace be our everlasting world tradition

How Do You Get Crunk?

10 Dec

Somehow I doubt this is what she had in mind.

 

For us, Crunk Feminism has always been about showcasing the possibilities of existing productively with our contradictions, about embracing our tensions,  about avoiding easy answers, about not preaching to the choir, about struggling and making-meaning in community, and about having side-spliting fun, whenever possible. In short, we believe in getting CRUNK, in all the expansive ways we can imagine that term,  whether that has meant telling it like it is to whomever needs to hear it, rolling hard for the crew, giving the forceful side eye (and a few well-chosen words) to rappers who’ve gotten out of pocket, or conversely  shaking our asses with a little drank in hand on occasion…

But mostly it has meant reveling in the joy that is a part of a life lived in the most intentionally feminist of ways.

And you, Dear Readers, are a part of that joy. This work  has not been possible without you, who keep challenging us to grow, to stay true, to not compromise, to keep it CRUNK.

I’m not much on Apocalypse talk — too much ish to do (and as Crunkadelic would say, too few f*cks left to give) — but there is the sense as we come to the close of 2012 that we are fast approaching the end of the world as we know it. Heck, we may already be there.  And the best way to respond to rupture is with connection. Dance. Laughter. Creativity.

So come hangout with us!!!! 

The Google Hangout that we are hosting TOMORROW, December 11th is in honor of you! Join us live on our own YouTube channel, where we will be talking about all the ways we have been getting, are getting, and will be getting CRUNK (past, present, and future).  You don’t need a Google Account to participate.

So in the words of this song just “bring yourself.”

The Hangout starts at 8pm and will run about 20mins, so take a study break, all y’all hard working academics and activists, and come join us.

And if there’s anything you’ve been dying to ask a CF, here’s your chance; there is still time to submit questions to us in the comments section, via Facebook, or on twitter @crunkfeminists. 

So come let us know how YOU get CRUNK!

 

 

What: Google Hangout

When: Tuesday, December 11th, 8pm EST

Where: Crunk Feminist YouTube Channel

Topic: How Do You Get Crunk?

 

Sex on Screen: An Intro to the Hella Brown Series (NSFW)

6 Dec

Photo of producer and store owner Nenna J

Porn is what’s hot in the streets (aka halls of the academy) now.

There are brilliant scholars who historicize and build upon black feminist participation in conversations about pornography. And there are others who simplify the argument into a false then vs. now paradigm that presents our foremothers as prudes, not as the women who made it possible for us to talk about sexuality in the ways that we do today. I believe these others wish for the day when black women can talk about sex as if they were white men, with no cloud of controlling images over their heads.

But perhaps I am falling into the pit of false binaries that is the porn war, which keeps popping up in any conversation about filmed sex involving brown bodies:

Good Bad
Sexual freedom Politics of respectability
Wild women Controlling images (mammy, jezebel, sapphire, tragic mulatto)
Fresh scholarship Foundational scholarship
Erotica Pornography
“Cultural producer” Deconstructionist
Avant-garde  erotica Mainstream porn

This polarization misses the nuances of arguments about the ethics and function of pornography, and it also produces a too-narrow site of investigation: mainstream, heterosexual porn.

In short, other folks are working. The (Silicone) Valley isn’t the only place where pornography is being produced and free internet porn often proves the adage about getting what you pay for.

Nenna Joiner, an Oakland-based director and producer, is working.  Nenna J’s films center black women with body types that aren’t affirmed in popular porn, she imagines the gaze of queer black women, and she resists the hackneyed scene endings of normative pornography.  If you want to see women of color perform a giggling, cooing ecstasy, you might want to go to Redtube. But if you are interested in embodied performances that respect the real of the reel, Nenna J’s Hella Brown: Real Sex in the City won’t disappoint. This is a link you don’t want to visit at work, but it’s a good trailer for what was, in my opinion, an awesome movie.


On Tuesday, we’ll talk more about Hella Brown with “Nenna J” herself. Please stay tuned.

** If you have any progressive porn/ erotica that you’d like to see reviewed, please write crunkfeminists@gmail.com.

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