Tag Archives: girls

Throwback Thursday: The Twilight of Good Sense

9 Aug

On this Throwback Thursday I wanted to go back to one of my earliest posts. With the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey, I got to thinking about what’s up with the fantasy of having a rich white man controlling you. It’s not like many of our realities are that different. I’m just saying. In any event, here are my thoughts on Twilight and the popularity of similar stories.


Yes, this is a post about Twilight. Well, sort of. If you break out into hives at the mere mention of the series (ahem, “saga”) that has tweens, some of their older sisters, and a lot of their mamas enthralled, keep it moving.  I understand your pain.

I was anti-Twilight from the jump. I remember seeing the cover and thinking it was interesting.  (Whoever designed the eye-catching covers for the series is brilliant). Then I read the jacket flap and saw that it was pure crap. In fact, this happened to me a couple of times; I’d see the cover and think, great design and then when I opened it I saw it was the same crappy book. I know the axiom about not judging a book by its cover (or, in this case, by its jacket flap). In fact, I remember going to a book store and seeing the striking cover for asha bandele’s memoir The Prisoner’s Wife and being immediately intrigued. I read the jacket flap and was like, I don’t know if I’m up for this. Fast forward more than ten years later and it’s one of my favorite books and I’ve taught it several times. But, let’s keep it real, Stephanie Meyer is no asha bandele.

And lest you think I’m a sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal romance hater, I’ll let you know I’m not. I grew up reading all of that, in addition to a healthy dose of Harlequins, Danielle Steele, and V.C. Andrews. I devoured Terry Prachett, Piers Anthony, Anne McCaffrey, random sword and swashbuckling dragon-fighting novels, and anything that was about mythology or folklore. I read X-Men comics (and watched the cartoon), I was addicted to Batman: The Animated Series, and I watched all of the Star Treks. To this day, Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown is one of my favorite books. (How I managed to sneak in some Jane Austen and Toni Morrison is rather surprising, in retrospect).

I mention my sundry literary history to say that I’m what you might call an Afro Nerd. (And that’s Dr. Afro Nerd to you in the back sniggling). Point is, I know my weird. But just as I was spreading my feminist wings in high school, I began pushing away from the sci-fi. I was reading all this stuff about knights and ladies and traveling into space and I was not seeing myself reflected in the pages. Eventually, I stumbled on Parable of the Sower and it changed my life. I still gave sci-fi the side eye for its racism, sexism, and imperialist fantasies, but I was so happy to find a black! woman! writing! in the genre that I loved.

Anyhow, with my nerdtastic credentials I can smell paranormal bullshit (i.e. Twilight) a mile away. But, when Crunkista said, “Watch Twilight, you’ll enjoy it,” I couldn’t just cast her recommendation aside. I mean, Crunkista knows her stuff. So, I rented the movie and you know what? I laughed my tookus off. I know it’s not supposed to be funny, but that’s half of the fun—guffawing at the ridiculous high school angst and the corny lines, all the while admiring RPattz’s blush and eyeliner, not to mention Taylor Lautner’s abs. (He makes me feel like an old dirty lady, but I digress). I have even read the “saga.” (All I can say is I can never get the hours back that were sucked away by thousands of  cringe-worthy pages. They were good for a guffaw or two, I will say that. Anything to not grade papers).

So many others have rightfully lambasted Twilight (see here, for a start), so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, as it were. I do want to give a shout-out to some good fantasy/sci-fi/speculative fiction, works that don’t feature vapid, listless, uninteresting protagonists who cannot live without a man and that don’t feature characters of color as the animal attachés to a set of heroic whites. How about Octavia Butler’s Fledging (a great twist on the vampire novel), or Jewelle Gomez’s The Gilda Stories (black lesbian vampires, ftw!), or if you want to get a little more fluffy, check out the Vampire Huntress series by L.A. Banks, which features fierce vampire hunter Damali and her on-again/off-again vampire beau, Carlos Rivera.

I’ve been thinking a lot about CF Chanel’s post about meeting girls where they are. Like other crunk feminists, I see the efficacy of using what girls are watching, listening to, and reading as a way to engage them. And as Chanel and others have suggested,  we need to show them (and ourselves) that there are choices. And if they haven’t read a novel or story that features the world as they (would like to) see it, they should, as crunk foremother Toni M. suggests, write it. I wonder if when we see our sisters, cousins, daughters, and/or friends reading New Moon or what have you, if we can’t also just slip them a copy of The Gilda Stories (or a blank notebook and a pen) and see what happens. I’m just saying.

Feminism 101 for Girls: A Report Back

17 Nov


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Dear CFC Community,

Sunday November 14th was a day I had dreamed about for sixteen years.  I took my first Women’s Studies courses second semester senior year at Spelman College with the formidable feminist scholars and teachers Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Dr. Johnetta B. Cole, and Dr. Kim Wallace-Sanders. The entire semester I thought why am I learning about this “feminism” now when I needed it in high school.  Well, this past Sunday we were able to introduce “feminism” to ten black teenage girls from Atlanta and it was more amazing than I could have ever dreamed. Image

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Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall was there to see a generation of scholars, some of whom she trained in black feminism, share the way we view the world with the next generation of girls.  Even more important, these young ladies shared their ideas and perspectives with us on a range of issues and then thanked us for letting them speak their minds.  How great is that!

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Thank you, all the supporters who contributed financially, reposted the blog, and sent kind words and well wishes.  I want to thank the facilitators: Mashadi Matabane, Chanel Craft, and Asha French for your fantastic patient thoughtful facilitation.  Thank you Nicole Franklin and Lorraine McCall for making arrangements for the participants to come and for the continuous work that you do with young black girls in your work and spare time.  Shout out to Dr. Ruth Nicole Brown and SolHot for modeling good pedagogy and your ongoing commitment to girls.

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I want to thank NWSA for allowing us to bring young girls into this powerful space.  I am not certain, but I think this may have been the first time there were girls included in the schedule of the National Women’s Studies Association conference. Thank you CFs and allies for participating and providing much needed support prior to, during, and after the workshop. Everything was fabulous, especially the dance circle close-out.

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I feel so blessed and I can’t wait to do it again.  Next up–Feminist Saturday School for Girls!

Sheri Davis-Faulkner

A Daughter Named Beautiful

by Asha French

It doesn’t take long to return to your mother-tongue. I learned that when, after a long journey through academia (read: lessons of the white fathers), Professor Beverly Guy Sheftall opened the door to black feminism for me.

ImageFrom this ideological stance, I was able to more clearly articulate the way that my mother had taught me to survive as a grown up black woman and the ways that the academy had tried to make me forget. I believe that when we teach feminism to young girls and women, we affirm and encourage the very best of the mother-wit they already own.
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On Saturday, we tried to open the doors. In a small period of time, girls went from spouting Moynihanisms to writing messages of encouragement to Amber Cole as members of her “crew.” Many of the girls sounded like our mothers. They said things like, “We are all fully human, no matter our skin color” and “It’s okay to have a voice” and “You think I ain’t smart because of the way I talk, but I AM” and “I only have a mother and I am VERY loved.” One girl had a daughter named Beautiful, and I believe that says it all.

All the Single Ladies… are 7

16 May

I don’t really watch mainstream news so it took a friend to bring the 7 year old single ladies to my attention. Have you heard? A pack of surprisingly skilled Orange County 7-9 year olds shaking what they don’t have to Beyonce’s unrelenting anthem Single Ladies at a dance competition went viral on the interwebs.

CNN, ABC, MTV, E!, have all been talking about how far is too far as they play the video of the girls in nearly nothing on a loop, in between reporting on Miley Cyrus’ lecherous lap dance, the latest drama on The Hills, Teen Cribs, and commercials for age defying skin cream. Not to mention, one too many bloggers said the routine made them feel dirty and uncomfortable. Needless to say, not one of these entities takes any responsibility for contributing to our youth and sex obsessed culture, nor the inevitable merger of these two larger than life forces in media. Can we really feign surprise at the hypersexualization of seven year olds when just a few years later they are used to sell any and everything in ads and on runways around the world?

Bey’s video is pretty tame compared to what some (white) choreographer taught these white girls to do. Her video is built on the 1960′s Bob Fosse choreographed, Gwen Verdon danced Mexican Breakfast; middle aged white women prancing around a studio does not exactly equal risque. The parents claim that Sasha is just too fierce for their girls and that they got the moves from Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel. You be the judge (I’m giving serious side eye to the parents). And how is it possible that Bey & Co’s outfits are less revealing than the 7 year olds? Which soccer mom stitched those costumes together? And if perhaps in their lust for a trophy, in their craze for victory, they hired a black choreographer or had a brown person sew those tiny nymphet outfits by hand, its still connected to the white privilege of parents who employ people of color to sex up their seven year olds.

I mean lets be honest, part of the reason white folks are upset is because its white girls killing those suggestive dance moves. I did some youtube research and found numerous videos of little black and brown girls doing their best to put a ring on it but none of them quite compare to the tour de force that is this routine. They didn’t invoke a public outrage or garner CNN coverage.  When a group of equally young brown boys and girls, spurred on by cheering adults,  do some dancing of their own it didn’t make the evening news. So why is the nation up and arms suddenly about children being sexualized? It begs the question, whose children?

This pattern is visible with more serious things like missing children, childhood sexual abuse and child murders. White children are eagerly searched for and black children may not even make the evening news. This disparity in dance however has been marked by other bloggers before without interest from mainstream media.

In addition to the way whiteness is operating in this story, the technical skill of the girls is part of the reason this story has captured the national imagination. Little kids trying to do grown up things is one thing but little girls successful execution of straight up stripper dance moves is something else.

Unlike their brown and black contemporaries on youtube, little Jamie and Allison aren’t doing it for love, they have to win. In an age where upper and middle class helicopter parents are paying Olympic coaches to train their children in team sports, a 7 year old’s reproduction of Annie at the school talent show just doesn’t cut it. If winning means more sex in the routine, fewer clothes, no mistakes, parents are willing to teach their kids to do whatever it takes to make it happen. Good to know you’ve got them learning the important life lessons so early; win at all costs.

I think what one of the father’s says is true. I think the girls don’t know what they are doing, aren’t particularly clear on how their dance moves are being interpreted by the masses. I think they are having fun, excited that they can mimic the movements of adult women. Unfortunately, in this world we live in, its really hard for their accomplishments to be celebrated because of how their movements and outfits are so sexualized.

But I’m not surprised. American culture sexualizes children just as it infantilizes women every day. Bieber Fever is professed by women of all ages, male bloggers created a countdown clock to when the Olsen Twins turned 18, and as soon as girls get body hair they are learning how to remove it. We say we don’t want children to be sexualized too early but we allow advertisers and media to use sex to sell EVERYTHING and then act shocked when children pick it up or parents use sex to give their kids a competitive edge in a dance competition.

This has everything to do with consumption. Who is consuming these 7 year old sexualized bodies and for what ends? We say we don’t want our kids sexualized but we love to tease pre-schoolers about having boyfriends and girlfriends when they can barely talk, we make bikinis for babies, sexify children’s cartoon characters and yet we still refuse to talk to our children about sex. All of this and we still feed children the myth that sexual predators are out there somewhere and not in our neighborhoods, intimate relationships, and families. All of this as we pretend that people who abuse children are “sick individuals” as opposed to people we know shaped by the world we created. All of this and we teach children that its their responsibility to defend themselves from “bad touches” from strangers as we dangle sexuality in their faces, or have them dance in ways that are overtly sexual. All of this and we have the audacity to pretend that none of it is connected.

What will it take for us as a society to say that we care more about people than profits? Children than competition? Where will we draw the line and begin the serious work of examining culture and the way it informs the way we behave?

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