Archive | April, 2010

A Crunk Take on the Latest Anti-Choice Legislation

16 Apr

Check out CFC member Eesha on GRITtv. She’s dropping knowledge on some of the latest anti-choice tactics.

more about “A Crunk Take on the Latest Anti-Choic…“, posted with vodpod

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The Future is Now

12 Apr

Last week, on the CNN show Amanpour, I heard a discussion between the host of the show (and long-time anchor-crush of mine. Anderson who?) Christiane Amanpour talking with Louise Vance and Marie Wilson (founder of The White House Project) about feminism today. While I can’t track down a video clip of the conversation, the transcript is here. Filmmaker, Louise Vance has just created a film which will show on PBS called “Seneca Falls.”  She says,

“I think what’s common is that women of all ages, but particularly young women, have no idea that the condition of women 150 years ago in this country was really akin to slavery. Women had no rights. They were banned from college. They didn’t own their wages. They couldn’t sit on a jury. They couldn’t hold public office. They were really in a condition that is hard to describe or even conceive of today.”

First, a comment: to compare gender discrimination to slavery is particularly ridiculous, considering that it makes women of color invisible and tries to create a hierarchy of suffering that is not only futile but also wrong. White women were not slaves. Their possibilities were limited, certainly, but they were not legal property. Their options were often constrained and their lives proscribed, but they were not bought and sold on the open market. This comparison is egregious, and serves no real purpose in building a movement for social justice because many women, especially poor women and women of color have very limited access to the rights Vance mentions as though they exist equally for all women today.

Also, if I ever hear another person say that young people, young women in particular, are not engaged in the political process, I’ll scream. Likely, at them. Crunk is as crunk does, after all. Over the past few years, like Vance did on CNN, I’ve heard more and more people say that young people just don’t care, or they just don’t know the history of feminism.

I heard it from the pundits during the presidential election. Will the young people come out to vote?

I hear it time and again from others, often older  second wave feminists (but sometimes younger, as well) that young feminists don’t know their histories. That they don’t know what’s at stake.

I hear it time and again, but what I see is something else entirely.

This past weekend I was confronted again, like I frequently am with beautiful evidence to the contrary. At the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program (full disclosure: I used to work at CLPP) there were hundreds of young people gathered to learn and discuss the trajectory of the movement for reproductive justice. (Here’s some great content coverage from our friends over at Feministing.)

Lots of students, from high schools and colleges. Lots of young people who know the importance of building a movement committed to knowing history and looking to the future. A movement that includes young people expressing their deepest longings for a just world.  They have a vast and expansive view of gender justice, that goes beyond sex to include gender expression. They link race, class, gender, ability, nationality and other identities with marvelous ease and brilliance. So don’t tell me young people don’t care.

They do. I know them. I work with them. I see it every day.

At the conference, I moderated a panel on “Working in the Movement” and was struck by the passion and dedication of the young people who came. It was attended by young people who go to conferences to learn about repro justice and then want to passionately participate in the creation of a world that meets their needs and the needs of the communities they live in. To make it their life’s work.

They do participate. They come to the meetings and events I organize on health reform. They intern in my office. They challenge me and make me a better activist. At 29, I’m pushing the edge of the category “young activist” but it’s cool with me, because there are so many young, engaged people to work with and learn from.

So to those who say that young people aren’t paying attention, I say: look around. They are. They are leading campaigns for change in their communities. They are continuing to work for healthcare access and reproductive justice. We’ll always need more of them, but the ones I meet and work with are working as hard as anyone and deserve recognition, not dismissal.

So to those who say that we need young people because they are the future, I say: look around, the future is now.

Dear Kiely

11 Apr

Dear Kiely,

A friend of mine was really upset about your video (I think a lot of people were) and has reached out asking folks to write an open letter to you as she did. I wanted to talk about your videos and say my peace (intentional spelling) so this seemed like a great invitation.

First, I’m not trying to lecture you about what you should be doing. I get that women are sandwiched between this virgin/whore rock and hard place and that you in particular are marked with your girlhood empowered Cheetahdom that you hoped “Spectacular” would help you shed.  I just find it disturbing that the mature womanly reincarnation of your image involves the glorification of date rape.

I know that you say that the song isn’t about date rape, that sometimes a song is just a song. Sometimes you kiss a girl and you like it (that song is f*cked up too by the way and yet not at all on the level of insinuating as you do in your song that date rape is just another wild night on the town) but the flippant nature of these remarks belie the messages in the video. By suggesting in your song that you were so drunk the evening comes in pictures, you blacked out, feel like you are on drugs, that you don’t remember dude’s name or if he used a condom its unclear how you remember that the sex was spectacular or that you were able to give consent. It also makes it seem, as did your response video, that women are being irresponsible and it’s their fault that they get into these situations. The problem is them, their wild drinking and their out of control behavior as opposed to questioning a situation in which a woman isn’t even present enough to say yes or no to sex, let alone the use of a condom.

And how come when you are trying to convince us that the sex was spectacular, it’s only through violent metaphor i.e. blowing one’s back out? And though I’ve never worn tracks myself, I have it on good authority that it would be pretty painful if one was torn out of your hair. Is the sex not good if you’re not in pain the next day?  Mad love to the kink community but this song and many others on R&B airwaves lack a level of intentionality and consent that puts them in a different category for me.

Kiely, I know that this isn’t just about you; it’s a systemic problem that will take more than a youtube video defense of yourself to undo. There is probably a lot of pressure for you to make a splash and distance yourself from the safe, girl power image of your teen years, but I wonder if you couldn’t have thought about that distancing as maturation. How dope would it have been to have seen an empowered totally consensual one night stand play out on screen and imagined in your lyrics? Why does it have to be a walk of shame the morning after? Also, what’s with the scene of the white guy trailing you for a few feet even as he’s with another partner? Why is the video set up to cash in on overplayed stereotypes about sex workers and working class neighborhoods? It seems that all of these decisions could have been different and could have really opened a dialog about the culture of hooking up and how women can do so in a safer and ultimately more pleasing way for them.

With fierce love,

Moya B.

P.S. I totally still bump Cinderella all the time!

* Update*

Check out this video response to Spectacular, with more information about how to get involved!

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.

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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!!

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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,
Crunkista

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.

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