Tag Archives: Sexual Assualt

The Game Rewind (and Revise)

3 Mar

Last night, CF Asha and I chatted about BETs The Game. We discussed our overall opinion of the series as a whole and the Tuesday (3/1/11) episode specifically. As Crunk Feminist we pay particular attention to the linkages of race, gender, and popular culture and ask for the writers and producers to do better. We posted the edited transcript of our conversation below.  (Note: It’s a bit long, but its a chat so should be a quick read).

Ashaf: Where should we start?
Chanel: well i think the Meagan Good (Parker) thing is a good place
Ashaf: But the season begins with Parker slapping the hell out of Malik. Sometimes I’m not sure whether I should take umbrage at the violence or accept it as part of kink culture. Are there lines? Am I being provincial?
Chanel: I don’t remember the context of the first slap. Was it sexual?
Ashaf: They were having sex on a toilet I think.
Chanel: lol. But they’re doing a lot of slapping this season. Didn’t Mel slap the shit out of Derwin last night?
Ashaf: Yes. Melanie got her slap on a few times last night
Chanel: That’s some lazy ass kink writing. The way they participated really wasn’t in a way that disrupted any kinds of sex norms, which is what I think is interesting about kink. This kink was on some Usher shit.
Ashaf: On some Usher shit!!! Bwahaha!!!
Chanel: what’s that song where he wants her to be the man for the night? Trading Places. Anyway in that song he does this whole thing about how he wants her to take control and give it to him like he usually gives it to her, but then in the end he takes control back. And some kind of way this kind of kink is similar because it seems to be controlled by male sexual desire.
Ashaf: Male desire definitely controlled Melanie’s attempts to liven things up last night. Did you see her face after the other woman kissed her?
Chanel: That whole thing was a shitty ass mess and did nothing for the overall goal of the season
Ashaf: What is the overall goal of the season? PLEASE clue me in
Chanel: i feel like this season really wasn’t thought of when Mara conceptualized the show.
Ashaf: I think they’re just trying to stay on television by cramming in as many stereotypes, booty shots, and pseudo-dramatic scenes as they can.
Chanel: I think that what we saw at the end of The Game’s run on the CW was supposed to be its ultimate ending that would have taken several seasons to get to. Now that it came back they have to try to create drama. But it would be much more useful if they were highlighting some Other Side of the Game (shoutout to Badu) that we didn’t know about. They are really pulling straight from the ESPN headlines and not even doing anything interesting with what they portray
Ashaf: Yes. The same formula won’t work here– especially when the show picks up two years later…
Chanel: They are using the headlines as a measure of authenticity as opposed to actually being authentically relevant to the lives of the viewers
Ashaf: I read an article that suggested that the Game was ahead of its time because the things that they were portraying eventually actually happened on reality television… Now they are behind those headlines, and it looks a little cheap, not cheeky.
Chanel: That’s so true. But it’s sad because these are the only places we have any form of representation. We are not on regular TV at all
Ashaf: But that’s why I’m so thirsty!
Chanel: i mean i feel like through the realm of cable television we have the power to really take some kind of power in our own hands and control the African American cultural representations. Cable television has a little more freedom than regular television because each channel tries to cater to a particular audience as opposed to a broad audience—so BET to black audiences
Ashaf: Yes!!!! And I thought The Game would be really powerful because it was OUR show– brought back by popular demand, not a major Network’s decision.
Chanel: but then that makes me wonder, what the game is saying to a largely black viewing audience, especially about male/female relationships and about black women. So for me, it’s largely becoming a disciplining project for black women. It’s providing a sort of measuring stick for us to adhere to.
Ashaf: Yes. Another way to tell black women how to get, keep and treat a man. Still, I wonder if the changes were the network’s decision or if they really just had less money and fired the good writers. The show looks like the writers meet in a living room and don’t belong to a union.
Chanel: yes! We totally need to know about the production
Ashaf: what about the rape scene last night?
Chanel: omfg. The rape scene
Chanel: that shit pissed me off on so many levels
Ashaf: Level one: Did she really “cry rape”- as in take a saying literally? Is that what people do? I wish that somebody came knocking on the door every time a woman cried rape…
Chanel: As if that what’s rape looks like though- screaming and throwing things. Sometimes sure. But that stereotyping of the reaction to rape is deeply troubling and leads a lot of women to blame themselves or wonder if it even happened because that wasn’t their reaction
Ashaf: Even if we give that horrible performance by Parker a pass and believe that she coerced Malik into sex with that move, what does it mean that the coercion was glossed over? He cried a few tears on a naked model before the show ended. But that was all. Coercion and rape were both jokes last night.
Chanel: Because certain bodies are unrapeable. Men and black women- these bodies can never be raped. So Malik wasn’t raped because men can’t be
Ashaf: Yes yes yes
Chanel: and for Parker, that just perpetuates the idea that black women cannot be raped because they either asked for it or are lying.
Ashaf: Especially those who claim to be raped by those with a great deal of power. We all know that powerful men have hearts– just like Malik. And golddiggers will try anything to make them fall.
Chanel: and speaking of the connection to the headlines, was that not that whole Kobe thing?
Ashaf: Yes, it was the Kobe thing. Recycling some questions from the public about Kobe’s rape trial: Why would Malik have to rape her when women throw themselves at him all the time?
Chanel: [difference being on the body of a black woman. and that connects to the history of the jezebel. the black female slave couldn’t be raped because she was hypersexual and was always already desiring and wanting some dick. Parker wanted sex so bad that she threatened rape to get it. I wonder if they’ll ever show that on the show. A football player actually raping
Ashaf: They lightweight showed one form of sexual exploitation last season when Malik revealed that he had a room full of videos of women, and that some of them didn’t know he was taping.
Chanel: oooooh yeah. I remember that shit. Surveillance at its finest
Chanel: i just worry about the implications of such representations. We’ve been blogging about this in the way that first black women’s experiences of sexual violence are never talked about and second when they are talked about they are deeply problematic. So in this case, she uses rape as a tool of manipulation and unlike a golddigger that wants his money she is hypersexual and only wants sex. But it’s still contributing to these archetypes of black womanhood that keep getting reinscribed and fed back to us (shout to Patricia Hill Collins)
Ashaf: It is strange that violence against women has never been addressed in this show that is all about athletes and their wives and fans… So why is it Malik’s character that gets used for all the “deep” stuff– absent fathers, tolerance of homosexuality, now coercion, rehab…? Is he supposed to be the most hypermasculine?
Chanel: He is supposed to be the representation of stereotypical black male athletes. The problem is they don’t really problematize this representation. Like it could be done really differently and good by pointing more closely to the structures that create such a representation. But instead they just drop that shit in and it sounds so familiar (single mom, drugs…) that it doesn’t call us to be critical. I’m thinking of a show like The Wire that did that particular well (though still left women and girls invisible and marginalized at best)
Ashaf: Right! I was going there. Earlier, they were doing some interesting things with his character… The Michael Eric Dyson guest appearance, the big girls episode… even the (hastily written) homosexuality episode. Now there’s no snark left.
Chanel: yes. That episode was good. It was one of the only times we saw black gay men on TV that weren’t there for comedic fodder
Ashaf: But even the gay episode was kinda comedic, right? Like is that really how gay men get down? They just read some signs then rub up on somebody from behind? That was kinda about heterosexist phobia that all gay men really want is to sleep with straight men…
Chanel: o yeah. I didn’t really remember the details of the episode. But you’re right. It was very flat representation. Even the model saving him provides a binary opposition for Parker and we get another good girl/bad girl thing happening where we are told to view one as evil and one as good. They ain’t slick with their constructions.
Ashaf: Yes– definitely the good girl/ bad girl shit going on. And what does a good girl want? To help the suffering man– even if it means jeopardizing her own sobriety by messing with another addict. What does the bad girl want? To satiate her own desires by any means necessary– cheating on her husband, crying rape-literally-, and coercing Malik into sex and cunnilingus. What was that “cat got your tongue AGAIN?” shit?
Chanel: I also want to touch on the threesome thing. I think it really showed (while not problematizing) the way that we as women continue to see ourselves as projects to be worked on. So even when our partner isn’t expressing dissatisfaction we go off and work on ourselves. Derwin didn’t ask for any of that, but she felt that she had to be better to keep her man. I feel like she’s having to do a lot of changing to keep him in ways that she didn’t have to before.
Ashaf: Yes. Harveyism. The message is that the marriage’s upkeep is up to the woman. I mean she literally dropped everything to “take care of” her husband. What does it look like to take care of a millionaire?
Chanel: how the hell he gon make her go to church?
Ashaf: Right! And when did he become the “head” of the household? He was so corny for all those seasons, but they were more like equals… both focused on doing their own thing and trying to figure out how to love and coexist.
Chanel: yes! How to love and coexist. I hate that Mel lost a part of herself to become one with him. I don’t believe that marriage is about two halves becoming whole. It is about 1+1=2
Ashaf: That is good addition, but in popular culture, love begins with subtraction. Black women need to take away a lot of things before they find “the one”– their attitude, their independence, their high standards and aspirations…
Ashaf: Last night, the women in competition trope was so loud!
Chanel: yes. Too loud. Where is the sisterhood?
Ashaf: Melanie’s competing with unknown groupies, with Derwin’s former lover, with the random woman at the club… She didn’t go through with the threesome because she felt jealous.
Chanel: *snaps*
Chanel: seriously. Melanie’s character has changed drastically
Chanel: she was always messing things up but i feel like before she was searching for self
Chanel: I’m not sure what she’s doing now
Chanel: it’s all out of fear of losing him. So really you’ll do ANYTHING to keep your man?
Chanel: you can miss me with all that. Seriously
Ashaf: I wish the producers would figure it out. The Janae thing is old (more competition!), Mel should have got used to it by now, and should even love Derwin’s son. Med school was a space for tension in the previous seasons– now she’s done. Her hair was sassy before. Now she looks like Weavonce.
Chanel: I feel like she’s become Kelly Pitts’ former character. The way she conducts that Sunbeam stuff is so unlike her. I also didn’t like that Melanie’s measure of progressiveness was tied to having a threesome. She told the woman something like “i thought i was the progressive woman but I’m not.” sooooo [not having a threesome] discounts your progressive politics?
Ashaf: Progressive is following your own desires, sweetheart, not fashioning your desires after what you imagine men will like.
Chanel: i mean i don’t think she’s progressive (well the show hasn’t shown that) but what does that have to do with that scene? And i feel like in some way it ties sexual activity to feminism. I mean they didn’t say feminism but i know they were lumping us in to that
Ashaf: I think it has to do with boiling down discussions of sexualities to discussions of tolerance. I am all for the no-bullying campaigns, but discussions of sexuality have the potential to queer lines… when we only talk about tolerance we are really talking about being politically correct (I don’t see sexuality. We’re all the same)
Chanel: but i know I’ll keep watching and hoping for it to get better
Ashaf: So what do you say to the person who asks why we don’t just change the channel? Why is it worth writing about? I gotta have something to tell my parents:)
Chanel: because we believe in it its potential and we have previous seasons to back up our beliefs. If we really felt that it was too far gone, we wouldn’t write about it. There is so much power and necessity in talking about sports
Ashaf: I think it’s also because pop culture is a form of education. People don’t want to criticize what they enjoy, but they are learning all along. This show will educate the jurors on future rape trials and that’s scary to me.
Chanel: so true! Pop culture matters in so many ways. I just really want complex representations of blackness in all its forms
Ashaf: Yes… crying for complexity
Chanel: depending on how this is received we can think about briefly talking about The Game every Tuesday

Really Regis?!

30 Nov

Dear Regis Philbin,

Please watch this video of YOU, Regis Philbin, co-host of Regis and Kelly, SMACKING NICKI MINAJ’S ASS! I’ll wait…

No I won’t, min 3:40

Other Crunk women of color have waxed poetic about this so I won’t belabour the point.

It doesn’t matter that her last name is Minaj or that she’s black and a “she” so you thought it would be ok, that her ass is awesome, rumored to be fake, that she talks about sex explicity in her music. That’s not an invitation to sexual harassment on national television.

You don’t get a pass because you’re an elder and white and like Lil Wayne.

You don’t put your hands on people!!!

And Kelly, I see you with your not at all innocuous “How BIG is your…waist?”

My friend Cee-Lo Green has some choice words for both of you.

Sincerely,

MB

Antoine Dodson’s Sister: On Invisibility as Violence

20 Aug

(Click here for original news story)

We are in the midst of Antoine Dodson Mania! For those that don’t know him, he’s the now famous man who fought off the intruder that climbed into his sister’s second story window in the middle of the night and tried to attack her with her daughter present. Remember his reaction? Hilarious right? I mean pissed off that his sister was attacked! LMFAO! So hilarious that now there is this song that has remixed the news clip and turned it into the new summertime hit.  It has even made the iTunes Top 20 and we can purchase sexual assualt for $1.99 and jam all day!  And the star of all this is of course was Antoine Dodson for his “comedic” reaction to violence and the Gregory Brothers for their creative innovation of putting it to song. Sarcasm aside, I must admit that to remix a news story like that is pretty amazing.  But what does it mean to remix violence against black women when our stories are already left behind?

See usually when a black woman is attacked we find some way of making it her fault. We ask questions like what was she wearing? What does she do for a living? How many sexual partners has she had in the past? You know, the typical stuff that removes accountability from her attacker.  But in this case, where a black woman minding her damn business awoke to an attacker in her second story apartment, normal victim-blaming would not work. So now what do we do, because we obviously can’t take a black woman’s story of violence seriously? Well, that’s simple.  We marginalize the attack and focus the story on her brother, whose anger we can exploit because it fits into stereotypes of queer masculinity that provide comic relief. The producers used the footage to lock Antoine in a frame, to capture him in place, in order to tell a story that fits their truths—black women’s confrontations with sexual violence are either not real or unimportant.  Framed under the guise of “news” this masquerades as a story about a woman awaking to an intruder in her bed but is really a story about a funny black man, hilarious in his anger. It was never about her.

I think we have to talk about the power of invisibility. As a child, I participated in the normal debates about what superpowers were the most desirable. For me, invisibility won hands down!  To be able to be invisible was the most super of all the powers.  See, I was nosey so being invisible would allow me to know exactly what my mother and her sisters talked about when I was shooed out of the room.  It would allow me to see what the forbidden boy’s bathroom looked like.  And those moments of being in a new place wouldn’t have felt nearly as terrifying if I could turn on the power of invisibility. Invisibility also afforded protection. Remember Violet from The Incredibles? Invisibility not only protects her from being noticed by the young man she has a crush on, it keeps her safe as she travels though the evil lab in search of her father.  Or Harry Potter and that banging invisibility cloak. It not only allowed him to freely explore the campus, but also often saved his life.

But as invisibility oscillates between power and protection, the ways in which it can be used as a tool of oppression become, well invisible.  For women of color, invisibility is often forced and along with hypervisibility, it is used to as means to discredit and oppress. This is indeed the case with Kelly Dodson, made invisible through the hypervisibility of her brother.  Her invisibility is highlighted by the numerous Antoine Dodson for President T-shirts and paraphernalia that exists in the same space that doesn’t even remember Kelly’s name. (In fact, I had to go back and watch the video to even remember her name; a video I found by merely typing in “Antoine Dodson”).

Kelly Dodson’s experience of violence gets reduced to a fragment of the news segment and even further condensed to one line in the song: “I was attacked by some idiot in the projects.” And while Antoine is central, that too is nothing to be celebrated. He is hypervisible as a caricature for public amusement. We all know Antoine’s name thanks to but the “Bed Intruder Song” the Gregory Brothers have taken his voice chopped it up, synthesized it, and put it to a beat so that they are no longer recognizable as his own.  He wasn’t looking for fame.  He was angry that he had to save his sister from being attacked! Antoine has been hypervisiblized in order to invisibilize Kelly. This is not the invisibility of Harry Potter, free to put it on and take it off, this is an act of erasure.

There is a difference between choosing invisibility and being made invisible.  See the choice of being invisible also comes with the recognition that you’re missing.  When Harry and the crew would return from their invisible outings people often asked where they were.  When you are made invisible through processes of erasure, people don’t even acknowledge that you’re gone.  It’s like you never existed.  So in a story that begins with the headline “a woman awakes” we don’t even acknowledge that the entire segment focused on a man—her brother.  We don’t even acknowledge that the moment she is the most upset and telling us that her young daughter was in the bed with her, the news reporter is talking over her, so this reality exists as background fodder.

As women of color, we have long yearned for black women’s experiences with oppression to be paid attention to.  Our stories of sexual assault, inside and outside of our communities never make the evening news.  And now, when we finally are awarded a few minutes of attention, we are  simultaneously erased.  We are further erased through the music that has increasingly been used to enslave rather than liberate us.  It is the music that has put us in a trance and even we are singing along to a black woman being attacked.  Singing along until we agree with her erasure.  Until her erasure becomes more of a reality than the attack.  Every note we sing erases Kelly Dodson.

I demand a remix to this remix!  One who’s beat doesn’t influence your body to sway and your lips to smile as you sing the words.  One that instead causes your body to curl over in pain and your eyes to water.  One that makes you feel sad, or better yet angry that this happened! Can we remix this remix into a story that centers the black woman who was attacked?

So here is my letter to Kelly Dodson.

Dear Kelly,

We know that in these conversations about this internet sensation, YOU are missing.  We know that when they’re jamming to the music they aren’t thinking about YOU.  We know that you were never central, not in the original news story, not in the song, and not now.  All of this has been about its about trivializing your brother’s anger (characterizing as “emotions running high” instead of emotions running normal for someone whose family member was attacked), the creativity of these white boys (a group who has always profited off the abuse of black women), and the power and creative force of technology.  Well the Crunk Feminist Collective says it’s all about you!  We are sorry that this happened to you.  We are sorry that when you should be at peace in your home you were attacked.  We are sorry and angry that your little girl had to be present for that. We are sorry that you no longer feel safe in your own home.  We are grateful that you had someone home to help you and we are sorry that this is happening to your story.  We want to center you. We want this moment to be used to talk about the realities of our communities as spaces of vulnerability and danger for women of color.  We want to remember you as we work to build the communities we want to see, because lets be real, we have learned to make due but for us are neighborhoods are often scary as shit. We live in a state of violence that is so common that people can sing along to it.

We understand that you live in a community like many of us, one that is so far lacking in social safety nets that that you’re brother had to envision mechanism of accountability that would hold up regardless of a response from a police state that more often than not disregards violence done on the bodies of black women.  We completely understand the realities that would make your brother tell your attacker “you don’t have to confess we’re looking for you we’re gonna find you” and when he does that he’s “gonna beat his ass and then call the police while I beat his ass because I want you to feel what you made my sister feel.” And we don’t think his or your anger is comedic and we keep his statements in mind as we attempt to build an anti-violence movement that doesn’t combat violence with violence while recognizing the difficulty of doing so.

From this point on when we hear the “Bed Intruder Song” we will force ourselves to center you, and we will think about where we stand in our anti-violence movement.  We will dedicate a moment of silence to making a safe world for women and girls like you and your daughter.  We want to let you know that this is not okay and we are fed the fuck up!  Now Run Tell Dat Homeboy!

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