Archive | April, 2010

Challenging Gender–B. Scott

8 Apr

I ran across this really interesting piece celebrity blogger B. Scott wrote for Global Grind. In it, B. Scott describes his queer gender performance, saying “I believe I fall somewhere in between a number of society’s constructs and,

B. Scott as Vanity and Prince in a Derek Blanks' alter ego photo shoot.

as a result, I challenge the mainstream populace’s notion of what is acceptable for male and female behaviour and expression. I accept, embrace and celebrate my gender non-conforming androgyny.”

Yay for celebrating gender nonconformity! Check him out.


Who’s Really Having Our Say?: Black Women and the Politics of Representation

7 Apr

We thought it would be good to include the proceedings of a panel recently conducted by three Crunk Feminists–Whitney Peoples, Asha French, and Brittney Cooper– at the National Council of Black Studies in March 2010. Click here for some crunk critiques of Tyler Perry’s and T.D. Jakes’ recurring filmic shenanigans at the expense of Black women!!


Dear Patriarchy,

6 Apr

Dear Patriarchy,

This isn’t working. We both know that it hasn’t been working for a very long time.

It’s not you…no actually, it is you. This is an unhealthy, dysfunctional, abusive relationship because of you. You are stifling, controlling, oppressive and you have never had my best interest at heart. You have tricked me into believing that things are the way they are because they have to be, that they have always been that way, that there are no alternatives and that they will never change. Anytime I questioned you or your ways, you found another way to silence me and coerce me back into submission. I can’t do this anymore. I’ve changed and in spite of your shackles, I’ve grown. I have realized that this whole restrictive system is your own fabrication and that the only one that is gaining anything from it is you. You selfish dick.

I will not continue to live like this. I will not continue to settle. I know now that there is a better way.

Before you hear about it from one of your boys, you should know that I have met someone. Her name is Feminism. She is the best thing that has ever happened to me. She validates and respects my opinions. She ALWAYS has my best interest at heart. She thinks that I am beautiful and loves me just the way I am. She has helped me find my voice and she makes me happier than I have ever been. We have made each other stronger. Best of all, we encourage and challenge each other to grow. And the sex…the sex is so much hotter.

I’m leaving you. You’re an asshole. We can never be friends. Don’t call me. Ever.

Never yours,

Why Did I Go to the Movies?

5 Apr

**Spoiler Alert** I’m reviewing a craptacular movie you don’t have any business seeing, so you can thank me later.

Why did I go to the movies? That was the question I asked myself repeatedly as I watched Tyler Perry’s most recent cinematic travesty, Why Did I Get Married Too? I had put a moratorium on Tyler Perry movies in 2008 or so, when watching them had become so offensive, so tired, so boring that I just told myself (and anyone who would listen) that that fool was not getting any more of my hard-earned money.

But there I was on opening night with every other black person in a thirty-mile radius watching a movie with no plot, no character development, and seemingly no point.  I write “seemingly no point,” knowing good and hell well what the point is: TP wants me to know my place, which is either prone or behind some man. That he made clear in every overblown, poorly-acted melodramatic scene in his hot mess of a movie.

Let me back up a bit. Why Did I Get Married Too? is the sequel to Perry’s 2007 film, Why Did I Get Married?, a mediocre dramedy about a group of affluent 30-something college friends who spend a weeklong vacation together pondering the movie’s titular question. Of course, the trip reveals that all the marriages are on rather fragile ground. One couple is dealing with the aftermath of their son’s death. Another marriage is plagued by alcoholism (albeit illustrated as comic relief) and infidelity, and so on. The facades of their upper crust lives come crumbling down only to be rearranged neatly by the movie’s end.

Why Did I Get Married Too? picks up three years after the last film left off. The marriages seem stable, but—uh oh!—things are not what they seem and so we spend the next two hours hurtling at full speed towards the great, vast emptiness that is a TP plot.

I don’t have the time or the energy, quite frankly, to detail all that is wrong with this movie. So, I’ll stick to a couple of my major concerns. Perry, along with T.D. Jakes and the fool that does those Pastor Jones movies, is speaking to a demographic of women—working-class, Christian African Americans who identify as heterosexual—who do not have movies specifically marketed to them. Indeed, vitriol is usually what is directed their way. I get that. However, in film after film after film (which are really the same film repackaged), he simply reinscribes patriarchal notions of marriage, family, and womanhood. TP claims to offer redemptive narratives, but what he really tells black women is that all you need to be happy is a good man (and lots of money, which said dude will provide).  In order to get a man you need to be submissive and focused on your man’s needs. If you are too mouthy, too career-driven, too bossy, well, you are just a ball-busting bitch and you deserve what’s coming to you.

Let me give you an example.  Dr. Patricia Agnew (played by Janet Jackson) and her husband Gavin (played by Malik Yoba—oh how far we have fallen from New York Undercover) seem like the “perfect couple.” At the end of the first film they have seemingly recovered from the death of their only child and have rebuilt their relationship. However, during the second film it is clear that the reconciliation was temporary at best. Patty, as she is called in the film, is a hypocritical health professional, a psychologist who counsels others on relationships, but whose own marriage is crumbling because of her own behavior. Gavin appears as a sensitive, sincere man who wants to spend time with his wife, while Patty is an icy control freak who unceremoniously announces their divorce to all of their friends at dinner. During their divorce proceedings, she intends to withhold $800,000 worth of earnings from her book sales (note to self: write self-help book, stat), a fact Gavin finds unreasonable because he has supported her throughout her career.

Again, as with his previous movies, TP depicts a career woman as cold and unfeeling, one who is undeserving of her virtuous male partner. This characterization is ratcheted up when Patty goes to Gavin’s job and acts a damn fool. Now, she’d already gone Elin Woods on his ass and broken everything up in their house with a golf club. But anyway, she arrives at his architectural firm with this ginormous cake. She prompts his colleagues to sing “Happy Birthday” and they oblige her. Then this man wearing a bedazzled mini-dress jumps out of the cake. Patty, who is dressed in a man’s style suit by the way, starts yelling a variety of homophobic expletives—for example, “If you want to be a bitch, then here’s your bitch!” gesturing to the man in the cake. Gavin storms out of the office, into his car, and then gets hit by a truck and dies. No, I did not make any of that up.

There’s so much going on with that scene, but let me say this. First, TP is a damn fool. Second, he’s a misogynist. Third, he’s a homophobe (although I could’ve sworn I saw him at Traxx one time, must’ve been his twin). And fourth, he’s a fool! Besides his utter failure as a writer and director, this shit is wrong on a whole variety of levels. His films need to be boycotted by and large, and films that have sense, that have feminist sensibilities, and that depict black folk in all of our diversity need to produced and distributed.

I momentarily lifted my ban on TP movies because I remember thinking, “This is bad, but not that bad” while watching Why Did I Get Married? I have even used the film in a course I taught on contemporary depictions of black love and it was great tool to get my students to apply what they had learned from reading bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, and Joan Morgan, because Lord knows if anyone needs a feminist intervention it’s TP. This sequel, however, has no redemption. It is empty and void and cannot be saved while there’s still time.

The scary thing about TP is that he’s got folks hooked and hoodwinked. Why Did I Get Married Too? raked in 29 million dollars this past weekend, coming in second in sales to Clash of the Titans. Somehow, he’s even bamboozled his way into directing Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls–talk about releasing the Kraken. Let me close my rant by saying that I am committed to a crunk feminist takedown of TP. No, not physically. Talk with your dollars. Don’t see his films. Support independent feminist filmmaking. Shoot, be an independent feminist filmmaker. Have conversations with TP groupies about why his shit is wack. This is our world and we can change it. We have to change it.

[Sigh]…I am so tired.

1 Apr

Sometimes there are good days to be a crunk feminist. Sometimes there are bad days to be a crunk feminist – demoralizing, dehumanizing, frustratingly sad…sad…sad…days. Today was one of those days. I sat in on an undergraduate Women’s and Gender Studies course where the topic of the day was gay rights. Sigh. Within an hour, students weighed in on the pros and cons of gay marriage. Some comments were thoughtful, some were insightful, others however…others, however, just broke my heart. Sigh. Students defended upholding civil unions and not gay marriage because and I quote “humans are curious, if we allow people of the same-sex to marry everybody will want to do it, just to try it out.” Really? Is sexual preference a fad, something you can try on like a purple or orange sweater? Really? Sigh. Then there was the, “well I have some friends at [insert women’s college name here] and they say that it is popular for students to date girls in college and then marry men. [insert class laughter here] You know, like lesbians until graduation.” Sigh. What does that have to do with gay rights? Let me break down the subtext of that statement for you – since some young adults “experiment” and date people of the same sex and later grow out of it…gay people can do the same: grow out of it.
As a grown-ass professional woman who has been part of several/different struggles for equal rights (i.e. not limited to sexual choice), I’m over the privileged and entitled notion that it is acceptable for one group to enjoy certain privileges and yet deny them to others. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for a young closeted or questioning student to hear their peers talking about gay issues in such a careless way. Being gay in this and most (deeply heterosexist and homophobic) societies is difficult. Being gay-across cultures, ethnicities, class, religions and geographic locations-is complicated. It’s dangerous. There have been and continue to be countless acts of violent aggression (in all forms) towards LBGTQI identified individuals. I’m so tired of LBGTQI identified folks being forced to defend who they are. I’m so tired of hearing straight people talk about countless/complicated LBGTQI issues in such ignorant and utterly careless ways. I’m so tired of calling them out on their homophobic/biphobic/transphobic/queerphobic (you name it phobic) verbal diarrhea, just to hear them say, “I’m not homophobic, I have gay friends.” No you don’t. NO. YOU. DON’T. If you did, you wouldn’t say stupid shit like the crap I called you out on. If you did, you would understand that at the end of the day it is about love. It’s about cherishing love. It’s about being lucky enough to find love. It’s about doing everything in your power to keep love in your life. IT’S. ABOUT. LOVE.

Don’t be fooled, the ignorant comments don’t stay within the world of heterosexist privilege, they happen everywhere. The LBGTQI community is no exception. Why? Because, no one is perfect. Because, we have all been socialized to label and put people in categories. We all need to be checked from time to time. Sometimes the biggest dykes willingly sleep with men; sometimes the most flaming gay men sleep with women (gasp!-for pleasure). It doesn’t make them any less gay. People are too often judged, then asked to prove their level of “gayness” as if it could be measured. Furthermore, many within the same community are quick to silence and deny transfolks their rights. I’m so tired. The bullshit has to stop. Sexuality is fluid. If you can’t understand that, it is not appropriate to attack it/question it. Most people don’t know just how airplanes work, and yet they get on those flights fully trusting that the magic contraption will get them to their destination. Most people don’t really understand how all those little people can fit in those flat screens everyday, and yet they still turn them on. If you still don’t understand it…maybe you don’t have to, maybe you just never will.

Don’t put me in a box. I’ll only crush it.

Don’t question my sexual preferences. They are mine.

Labels are restrictive, exploring and expressing your true self is liberating.

If you can’t understand that, go read a book. Figure it out. I’m tired today and just don’t have the time. But, please don’t get it twisted…I’ll be extra crunk tomorrow.

“You are pretty for a dark-skinned girl”

1 Apr

I have heard this statement many times in my life from well-meaning black women, surprised black boys and peers, family members and perfect strangers who usually make the statement in response or reply to not having seen me in a while or in genuine wonder and fascination.  The words come as somewhat of a shock in the moment, somewhat of a criticism, somewhat of an offense.  I don’t know if I should be flattered or insulted…

The words, which come to me softly, sometimes hard, but mostly behind smiling eyes and perfectly thick lips, insinuate that one is either pretty or dark-skinned (not both)…and the tendency to be both simultaneously, is possible, but not likely.  So, at best, I am an anomaly.

I believed the either/or myth long enough to be

surprised at lyrics that praised “boricua morenas”

and confused at Lauryn Hill’s sweet lyrics of

the sweetest thing she has ever known

being wrapped in “a precious dark skin tone”

and India Arie’s fascination with “brown skin.” 

 My skin left me feeling like if it weren’t for the fact that I was dark-skinned (or simply just a calm shade of brown), perhaps I could be beautiful/loveable/wanted.  The internal conflict came at a problematic time because I already often feel like the merge of two impossibilities (undeniably black and possibly beautiful). Those insecurities sometimes continue with me being a black woman academic… something right (smart and successful) coupled with something wrong (black). What does that make me?

The backwards compliments (“You are pretty…to be dark-skinned”) have often fed my colorism, color complex issues and low self esteem as a child and my curiosities as an adult about my attraction to men who pass the paper bag test… caramel, cake battered skinned men with hazel-dipped eyes have always been much preferred. 

My homegirl and I talked about how these color-issues translate to our lives, how we see ourselves (as beautiful or not) and how we are seen (desired or not).  In movies, we (dark skinned black girls) are (usually) not the love interest.  My friend sighed in surrender as she shared with me that “dark skinned women were never in style.”  This, of course, doesn’t mean that men don’t notice that we are “pretty” (I mean chocolate is sweet)…but their temporary short term longings transition to long term sensibilities that tend to send them on quests to find the most exotic, racially ambiguous female to take home to mama or make babies with.  Regardless of my qualities, I often(times) hear a man’s words merge with others telling me, I am pretty for a dark-skinned girl, but…

And those words remind me of how many nights I fell asleep on tear-soaked pillows praying to wake up a different me, a light-skinned, good-haired me, thinking and believing that that would somehow make me more…loveable.  It was easy to believe that when everyone from my elders to my peers were constantly commenting on my lighter than ebony but darker than chestnut colored exterior and demeaning me (whether they meant to or not and whether they knew it or not) because I was not “white” enough…or “light” enough. 

Women of color, black women especially, often struggle with seeing ourselves as beautiful when the epitome of beauty is something like white…

I am far from a Barbie doll—but loving the skin I’m in.  Learning to love yourself is a lifelong process and endeavor and I am committed to it and fully aware that in a culture that privileges red bones over big bones I am not sure how beautiful I seem…but I am embracing the mocha in my skin and the mahogany behind my eyes. Even though I have often been told that I am beautiful in spite of, not because of, my “dark-skin” I am dreaming dark and deep.

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