Archive | July, 2011

Confessions of a Backslider…

28 Jul

I’ve been backsliding y’all. I mean really backsliding. I act like I forgot how feminism saved me, way back when. The way it taught me how to listen more closely to the music that moved me.  The way it stopped me from saying things like “I don’t really hang out with girls because they’re too catty” and appreciate sisterhood.  The way it showed me the intersections of my black face, my gendered body, and my poor status.  The way it beautifully awakened my consciousness. I forgot about my feminist rebirth.

In the beginning, my new born-again identity caused me to scream it from the rooftops. I was suggesting that everyone I ran across read Angela Davis’ autobiography and read Patricia Hill Collins Black Feminist Thought. Studying the good books was everything to me. I was alive and engaged during discussions. Eager to hear the testimonies of others who have been saved and excited by the potential of a world on fire with a feminist politic. I was that feminist. Yes, the one that pointed to the sexism in every single rap song and music video. The one people hated to go to the movies with because I was going to destroy all the fun. The one that wanted to live in a totally feminist world and wouldn’t stop preaching the glories of the mothers!

I became a feminist scholar so I could continue to learn more and do more. I worked with non-profit organizations on a tangible, on the ground feminism that blends theory and practice. I’ll never forget the excitement I felt participating in the First US Social Forum in Atlanta. I was beyond hyped! This is what it was all about. Saving the unsaved!

There was even a point where I would completely write off anti-feminists as ignorant patriarchy worshippers. I didn’t even have the desire to save their minds. Why, when I could just surround myself with like-minded people and just be in complete feminist circles? (That’s super easy in Atlanta). And those days were amazing! Sitting over wine and spaghetti talking about sexism in hip-hop and constructing conference panels.  I was on it!

And then things happened in my personal life where I had to be around the heathens more often. And at first, while difficult, I enjoyed the challenge of imparting feminist knowledge into their conversations about phat asses and the difference between a good woman and a slut. (You know the whole Jay-Z “Sisters vs Bitches thing). I enjoyed the opportunity to be around a small male child on a consistent basis and balance his male socialization with feminist contradictions that allowed him to play more with his identity.

But somewhere in between dealing with reading feminist theories that didn’t look like the foremothers I knew, and being situated in the academy that was never designed for my black female self, constantly being around sexist voices, and mothering a child I didn’t birth,  I got tired of fighting feminist fights. So I stopped, and let a few things slide. Then a few more things slid by. Then before you know it I was finding more problems with feminism than with the world. And I was critiquing the uptight feminists of yesteryear. And I became quite skilled at theorizing why certain behavior can actually be read as feminists if you looked at it in a different light.

Then I caught myself laughing at something that would have pissed me the fuck off before and in the middle of my laughter something didn’t feel quite right. And I realized, I liked my life better when feminism was more present. It had more meaning and I had more purpose and was much more hopeful.  And for some reason I forgot that.

But I’m back! And I’m coming down the aisle today ready to get Crunk for the Lorde once again! I’m excited to spread the word in my intro course this fall and ready to renew my faith in feminism. I have Borderlands open and ready to read. I have my notes from Methodology of the Oppressed pulled up and color-coded. And I have my Erykah Badu on repeat. I am slowly coming back and looking forward to some intentional feminist fellowship soon and reminding myself of the power of feminism for my personal and political life. Pray for me!

Atlanta Music Scene Coming Back: The Chronicle Reunion

26 Jul

Please understand that before there was crunk there was The Chronicle; before there was Bone Crusher there was Lyrical Giants; before there was India Arie there was Donnie and Joi, before Janelle Monae there was Edith’s Wish. Atlanta was bursting with musical creativity and at the center of the live music scene was a band called The Chronicle.

I have been privileged to grow up in Atlanta with the National Black Arts Festival for what seems like a lifetime. If you have not experienced it you need to make arrangements immediately for 2012 because the visual arts exhibits, the dance performances, the theater, the parties, the markets, the films, the people, and the concerts ohh the concerts are not to be missed in Hotlanta in July.

But this year was special. This year there were two events that transported me back to Atlanta, circa 1994, the summer leading to my sophomore year in college. For nearly a decade Jason Orr brought Black Atlanta together to vibe through every sensory outlet of our collective bodies through the Funk Jazz Cafe. People came from all over sprawled out “Atlanta” and stood in line for hours without knowing who was going to perform. It was electric. Orr, a creative genius, developed a phenomenal documentary about the state of black music over the last two decades called Diary of a Decade. He premiered his documentary at the NBAF film festival to sold out audiences who not only watched the two hour flic, but stayed for the post-film discussion. We left the film like we had been to a Funk Jazz Cafe event, drenched with nostalgia for an era we have been trying to explain since it ended.
The film chronicles amazing performances by Jill Scott, Dionne Farris, Omar, Me’shell N’degeocello, Goodie Mob, Bilal, Doug E Fresh, Janelle Monae, and sooo many more folk who in the early days jammed to the legendary house band, The Chronicle.

In the late 1990’s Yin Yang Cafe was the place to get your true caffeine every Thursday night via The Chronicle. It was an open mic night, there was no rehearsal…all improvisation…live music flow…dancer’s heaven. And we danced like we might fall out if the music stopped. Bone Crusher and, comedian, Zooman were the hosts and they didn’t let just anyone get on stage.

This year the NBAF featured The Chronicle Reunion after nearly a decade. The original members Billy Odum, L-roc Phillips, DJ Kemit, Phil Davis, Avery Johnson, and Lil’ John Roberts pumped out hits, like “The Rock Song” that only Yin Yang Cafe (now Apache Cafe) regulars would know. All I know is I couldn’t move my neck or talk for days but I felt like a burden had been lifted by the end of the night. It was the spiritual experience–the release–I have been looking for since 2005.

Both Funk Jazz Cafe and the Chronicle presented artists like they were already stars and you just didn’t know it yet, like singer/songwriter Donnie (The Colored Section) and Joi (Star Kitty’s Revenge). In true form The Chronicle presented artists like lyricist Kev Choice out of the Bay area and my favorite of all, a true “wildchild,” Phillipia, who was so bad ass that The Chronicle ended up handing their instruments over to her band to close out the night at Apache Cafe. You know you bad when one band brings you up to play with them and you bring it such that they relinquish the stage to you and yours.

Now youtube can never recreate the feeling of being there, but it can give you a taste. So here goes…

I’m just relishing in the fact that the Atlanta Music scene is coming back and on Wednesday night I will be rocking to Phillipia at Centennial Park for the Wednesday WindDown. If you’re here I urge you to be there. I’ll be the one with the big hair bobbing back-n-forth in the front. Give Thanks.

Hail to the…Naw!

22 Jul

Summer's Eve Hail to the V logoSo Summer’s Eve has a new marketing campaign for their line of “feminine” washes and deodorants called “Hail to the V!”  And, just to be clear, that “V” is for vagina!  If you visit their website you can take a quiz to “ID the V” and get your hands on a “Vagina’s Owner’s Manual.” In case you thought this was some kind of corporate altruism, you can also learn more about Summer’s Eve’s products which, after you take the quiz and read the manual, you will know you need to keep “Lady V” on the right track!

Wait! I think I’m hallucinating so I hit the refresh button… No, this is for real.  In a world of sub-par sexual health education I’m all for some public knowledge sharing about women’s reproductive health.  And in a world that denigrates women and routinely uses “pussy” and other vaginal references to indicate somebody’s lack of courage or general inferiority I am all for shouting out and offering a big up to the vagina.  But this campaign is neither educational nor complimentary; it’s sham.  A sham masquerading as education, homage, honor and respect.

Take their commercial “The V” for example, in which a properly ambiguously female and European voice-over tells us “It’s the cradle of life.  It’s the center of civilization.  Over the ages and throughout the world, men have fought for it, battled for it, even die for it.  One might say it’s the most powerful thing on earth!”  First, it sounds like the marketing team for Summer’s Eve just finished reading some of the vintage works of Brother Cleaver (All Hail  the Power of the Pussy!!!).  Second, the honor that Summer’s Eve asks us to bestow upon our All Mighty Vagina is that of cleanliness and not just any cleanliness but one that smells like a

Picture of Summer's Eve Feminine Wash in "Delicate Blossom" for Sensitve Skin

What exactly does a "Delicate Blossom" smell like anyway?

“Delicate Blossom” or “Morning Paradise.”  In other words, your “wonder down under” stinks and you need to fix it!  This, of course, panders to the same old ideas that the vagina is inherently unclean and its processes are also unreliable and suspicious.  Bringing to mind “dirty” words like discharge, yeast, bacteria and menstruation. Of course, they do offer a scent called Naturally Normal  but who the hell said all our “normals” smell the same.  Not to mention the very idea that you can somehow bottle and sell normality!

Finally, to call “it” the most powerful thing in the world and to talk so romantically about its supposed influence and power ignores the very real ways women find themselves marginalized and made vulnerable at the site of “it”.  How women access adequate health care, navigate sexual assault or the threat of sexual assault, the right to have an abortion, the right to have a baby all demonstrate the ways in which the mistreatment of vaginas has nothing to do with how clean they are but with where they are situated in the matrix of power, privilege and disadvantage. But this commercial, this campaign would have women believe that all we need to do is tap into the Power of the P, most quickly done through washing it with Summer’s Eve, and, like Beyonce says, we could run the world!  Pause…Side Eye!  So yes, let’s talk about what it means to recognize, honor and respect our vaginas! But let’s not allow that conversation to be tethered to the sale of products.  Let the conversation be about what feels good, what feels right, what feels necessary and what feels healthy.  Until then, as my homegirl Tiffy Rose said when she saw these commercials, “Hail to the Naw!” Summer’s Eve, you can keep your faux celebration of my vagina right along with your overly-perfumed washes, spray deodorants, cleaning towelettes!


Tough Titty: On Feminist Mothering and the Breastfeeding Doll

20 Jul

Photo via

Dolls and doll-play have been a long-standing point of entry into discussions about the social construction of race and gender. My mother and grandmother certainly invested in all of the latest doll trends of the 1980s when I was a child—I had Cabbage Patch, Kid Sister (though he’d deny it, my cousin Chad had a My Buddy doll and lots of masculine “action figures”),  Black Barbie, anatomically correct newborn twins,  and the coveted Betsey Wetsey, which peed all over my bestfriend Amanda’s bedspread at a sleepover.

In my Intro to Women’s Studies classes, pointing to the gendered implications of toy choice—i.e. little girls are given dolls and little boys trucks or trains—opens my students eyes to just how early gender socialization starts.

Enter the breastfeeding doll.

My first reaction when I saw the video was “Oh, hell no! My future daughter will not be socialized to think about her breasts’ mothering potential before she even grows them.” Just like I won’t teach my daughter that the sole function of her period is to make her capable of becoming someone’s mama. Her breasts tell her things about her own health and development.  They also can be a source of pleasure, both cosmetic and sexual.  Her menstrual cycle, not just her period, is about the whole of her sexual and reproductive health.  Her vagina both eliminates waste and facilitates pleasure. I don’t want my future daughter’s self-conception to be reduced to or primarily shaped by her female anatomy and its  biological functions.

More than my ambivalence about the gendered futures we create for our children while they are still in utero (hence our obsession with knowing a baby’s sex), the doll also speaks to my general ambivalence around breastfeeding (and perhaps mothering). During a rousing FB conversation about this the other day, while there was no consensus about the doll– Some mothers thought it would be an excellent way to help their daughters understand what they saw their mother’s doing for them or younger siblings; Others shared my concern about socializing their daughters too early—there was a resounding consensus that breastfeeding is preferable.

 All the feminist mamas I know breastfeed. For that matter, most of my FB friends breastfeed, no matter race or political belief. What most mothers indicated was that breastfeeding had various health and emotional benefits for their children and them; the challenge many of them suggested was being employed at places that didn’t allow them to pump, or dealing with family members grossed out by the sight of their breasts, or other clearly sexist social taboos.

But the question I’m asking is really a more basic one: “What if I simply don’t want to do it?” I have the creeping suspicion that for those of us, including myself, who are now clear about the completely undeniable health benefits of breast milk, particularly in light of the healthy and organic food movement, our assent to this fact is supposed to be coupled with our automatic consent to breastfeed. It’s like the same problematic logic among Black women in the natural hair debate–“You know how damaging the “creamy crack” is. So why would you continue to get expensive perms (relaxers)? You must hate yourself.” Well, what if the answer as many of my permed-out homegirls continue to argue is simply “convenience. Manageability. Personal notions of beauty.”I rock a natural, but I’m not hatin on the sisters who don’t; nor do I automatically think they must hate themselves.  In the same vein, the breastfeeding convo sounds something like, “You know it’s healthier for babies, and it’s healthier for you. And it’s much cheaper. Good mothers do what’s best for their children. ” By implication, bad mothers make choices out of convenience. After offering nine months of free rent, bad mothers selfishly want their kids off the titty so they “can have their bodies back.”

One FB commenter explained to me that motherhood wasn’t on her five year plan because she doesn’t feel she can make the sacrifices in terms of body and career in order to do it. I share this attitude, which is why B.C. does not only refer to the initials in my government name.

(Perhaps after these latest recommendations, it won’t continue to cost me a grip.)

But there was a not-so-subtle implication in her comment that if I wasn’t ready to breastfeed, then this probably means I’m not ready to make the sacrifices required for my child, and hence unready to mother.

I’m not ready to mother (other than the communal mothering I participate in with the CF babies). But even when (and if) I get ready, I reject the notion that my readiness will be signaled by my willingness to breastfeed.

Feminists have long questioned the all encompassing premise that motherhood is about sacrificing one’s own self to “do what’s best for the child.”  We have rejected this notion when it comes to the prosecution and incarceration of drug-addicted mothers. We have rejected this logic in the abortion debate. But we have been curiously silent of late on the resurgence of this logic in the national breast-feeding conversation.

But social policy is actively being shaped to both support breastfeeding (which is not a problem) and compel breastfeeding (which is a problem.)

The new Obama healthcare law mandates that employers provide non-bathroom based lactation stations for nursing mothers.  The IRS has ruled that breast pumps and other lactation materials are tax write-offs. These moves should be lauded.

Michelle Obama has made breastfeeding a tenet of her anti-obesity campaign, arguing that breastfed children have a lower tendency toward obesity.

One of my students informed me that the WIC program, which provides infant formula, has started to reduce the cans of milk given to mothers in order to “encourage” mothers to supplement with breast milk. Any time the state regulates motherhood based on notions of what is natural and normal and in ways that require increased bodily labor for women, it gives me pause.

Gender socialization, uncompensated bodily labor, and maternal sacrifice are all heady topics that must be a part of the feminist mothering conversation. It goes without saying that I want any future children I have to be healthy. so I’ll definitely consider breastfeeding. But even as I acknowledge that food is a feminist issue, I would caution us to figure out ways to support the healthy food movement and be in coalition with it, without reinscribing dangerously gendered (and sexist) notions about natural gender roles and good and bad mothering practices.

So a few questions, Crunk Fam:

What are your thoughts on breastfeeding?

Would you give your daughter this doll?

Can you be a good mother and admit you may not want to breastfeed?

And more to the point, though I never thought I’d have to ask this question, can you be a good feminist and admit you may not want to breastfeed?

Prelude to an Exhale: My Best Friend Is Getting Married!

18 Jul

My best friend is getting married (in three weeks).  In fact, in the last four months, three of my close friends have tied the knot.  I can remember having “waiting to exhale” conversations with all three of these friends (one of them male) about the improbability and impossibility that true, enduring, forever-type love was possible for us.  And so we imagined alternate endings to would-be fairy tales and held fast to each other in what felt like our perpetual singleness.  And we had some good times and some hilarious conversations over glasses of wine, inexpensive meals (the male and I were on graduate student budgets), and long distance phone calls.  I watched on the sidelines, only partially participating in the last two years, as we un/successfully trekked along waiting for love and trying not to settle in the meantime.  And we dated and dabbled and tried on various imitations of love and distracted ourselves with the details of everyday life (grinding hard, raising children, going to school, making love without commitments, and watching soap operas for fleeting moments of romance).  And we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  We waited while holding our breath, as if the love-thing would just happen with no warning or effort, and the anticipation itself would build and make the exhale that much more exhilarating.  But the waiting didn’t do it.  My best friend met her soon-to-be-husband at a New Year’s cookout that she almost declined attending because of a bad bout of the flu.  I encouraged her to go, saying, “you could meet your husband there.”  (I have always been rather clairvoyant).

My other friend, who is ten years older than me, gorgeous and definitely wifey-material, saw her now-husband on facebook, a site she had intentionally avoided for years and is now no longer actively using (she jokes that she got what she needed from facebook—her husband!).  Her husband’s face was one she recognized from her childhood.  After marrying other people and growing into who they are, they re-connected, fell in love, got married and honeymooned in Hawaii.

And my homeboy, well his dream girl was in his life all along on the periphery.  She was his friend from college who held all of the calm he needed to complete the life he was building.  Once they were official he told me that the next time I saw him he would probably be engaged.  I attended his fabulous outdoor cookout-style wedding on the water a few weekends ago in Florida.

In a time when black love feels impossible, and we are constantly bombarded with messages of its demise, it is refreshing to have friends who are happily in love and committing to love.  And it is especially encouraging that they are with the people they wished and prayed for all along, not substitutes or good-enough versions of what they really wanted.  Being single into your thirties always leads to the chance of running out of time or options…and the fear of settling (whatever that means). 

Years ago my best friend and I compiled lists of our “ideal” mate.  We were encouraged to specifically name everything that we wanted in a future husband and to keep the list in a place where we could remind ourselves of our standards.  I wrote an early version of my list in pencil, just in case I changed my mind about dealbreakers that seemed so significant in my early twenties and less relevant in my late twenties (and let’s not forget that who we are and what we want when we are 18 is not the same when we are 28, or hell, even 25).  I came across my final list a few weeks ago, written in pen with the non-negotiables highlighted in yellow.  At the time I wrote it (about five years ago) it felt lofty but I was optimistic and convinced that the only way I could be truly happy was with the man I had written out on paper.  Now, I realize that my happiness is a personal endeavor, something I am independently responsible for.  But while I have been focused on loving myself fiercely, unapologetically and utterly…I am still checking for the love list!

I often argue with my students when I try to explain to them that love is an action word, and that it is a choice, not an emotion.  Love feels like lust at first, during the initiation and honeymoon stage of a relationship, but after that…the real love starts, the love that is not based on the woozy feeling you get when that special someone walks in the room or calls/texts your phone.  Love is the decision to stay after your first major argument.  Love is coming home at night when you have an invitation to go elsewhere.  Love is seeing yourself with someone through the calamities and celebrations of life, through their good and bad moments, with or without vows.  Love is commitment.

When I read over my list, which includes my preference of a man with beautiful eyes and a soulful spirit who will be affectionate and affirming and open doors for me (yes, feminists like chivalry too) I  realized that my list was not un-realistic or lofty.  Don’t get me wrong, I fully aspire to fall in love with a man so beautiful (inside/out) that he gives me butterflies… but the majority of my list focused on character and demeanor and the capacity to love…   Who knew, the baby-thug of my teenage dreams is not the desire of my grown-ass woman heart.

I am hopeful that love is possible for everyone, in all of its various manifestations (not wholly heterosexual or monogamous or conventional or even romantic).  And while I don’t necessarily believe that “there is someone out there for everyone,” or that we all have “one true soul mate” (I mean, what if my ONE true soul mate lives in Korea and we never meet?) I do think that under the right circumstances, at the right time, with the right person, all kinds of things are possible.  And when you think about it, love is a miraculous thing.  It is as much a miracle as making a baby, which though seemingly innocuous and ubiquitous takes perfect timing and synergy.  Out of all of the times of making love, making a baby can only occur when specific factors fall in line (so too, with falling in love).

So while I am not sure that marriage is a viable option for me, or that my love list will manifest into my life partner, and while I am not particularly interested in or invested in traditional representations of commitment, I could not be more happy for my best friend (and my other two newlywed friends) and the love she (they) found.  And while she is standing at the altar, dressed in her flowing white dress, holding hands with her future husband and making promises of fidelity and forever,  I will be on the sidelines, crying my eyes out, breathing in deep, and finally, finally, finally exhaling (for her).

Shout out to everyone in love and summer weddings!!!

Happy and ‘Blackful’: A Mini Playlist

15 Jul
Maze at Wingate Field

Maze at Wingate Field (Photo Credit: Laylah Amatullah Barrayn)

I dusted up my Keds something terrible Monday night. Maze featuring Frankie Beverly opened the 2011 season of Brooklyn’s Martin Luther King Jr. concert series and I two stepped until my calves cramped. I arrived early enough to get beat down by the late afternoon sun and ate up by the bugs attracted by my all natural insect repellant. The concerts, in their 29th season, are free and the lines are accordingly stupendous. A young man with cornrows hawked ice-cold water to those of us waiting for the gates to open. A middle-aged woman with a blond crimped weave, maybe fourth in line, shooed away a photographer, pleading, “I got warrants.” I struck up a conversation with the three people more eager than her. They told me they had been posted up since morning. I’d like to think I have a bit of their enthusiasm. I passed on a ride from Harlem and took the subway to arrive early enough to secure enough spots in the limited seated section for all of my people.

The concerts are a ‘blackful’ experience to poach from the poet and professor Elizabeth Alexander. They feature artists that we love like Stephanie Mills and the Whispers, who I saw a few years back, or recently departed Teena Marie who performed just last summer after a downpour and The Mighty Sparrow, the Calypso King, who will perform this August. The shows begin with a prayer– we put God first–the national anthem and our anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which we do. It’s populated with a good deal of what Theodore Huxtable termed “regular people.”

Maze took the stage in signature all white– I’d like to say linen, but I wasn’t close enough to confirm–to a warm ovation. They were polished, present and attended the moments well. All of them. “We Are One” got me out of my seat early. I looked at the moon and raised my index finger up as I learned is customary for the number. During a brief interlude, Beverly spoke of the band’s Philadelphia origins, their original moniker (Raw Soul), their mentor Marvin Gaye and misadventures in brokeness and love. He also confessed to once holding some bitterness at their lack of critical recognition–not even a BET honor–that is now subsumed by this peace, “You can have the awards or the rewards.”

I left lifted. “Golden Time of the Day,” “Happy Feelings,” that sweet sepia anthem “Before I Let Go” amongst others gems from their catalogue had put me in a good space: my mind tuned to good thoughts, my ears tuned to good things. That you would do the same, I’d like to share a little of the happy blackful sounds that have been in my rotation.

“Love Me Instead” Melinda Camille [Download]

Connecticut native Melinda Camille is an American Idol veteran but don’t be dismayed. Her 2010 debut, Pure Imagination, is not middling R&B. She’s closer to Tiombe Lockhart than Tamyra Gray and her understated delivery recalls neither big-voiced beloveds JHud or ‘Tasia Mae. This record wins at hello. It’s opening line Camille sings with a side eye but no caricatured sass, “Why you tell me life is like a box of chocolates when really what it is is what you choose to make it?” And then she goes in on bougie black girl scripts. I work out of the same bag. I can understand it.

“Cupid” Lloyd [Download]

This effortfully self-styled thug is bubblegum at heart and his best. “Cupid” makes me want to pop my Trident Splash extra loud, maybe even click my Keds-clad heels. Sweetness has been my weakness since before The Good Girls (Where are THEY now?) and Cupid’s is punctuated with a booty shake-breakdown that makes me want to do squats, lunges, get my weight up and prove a low end theorem or two.  But mostly it makes me want to hold hands.

“Here We Go” Beldina [Download]

The dreamy Donald Glover, rape obsession aside, has worked with this black Swede. Thank the diaspora for ever stretching its tentacles, on this occasion from Kenya, because Beldina Malaika heartens the lithe dance music in which the Swedes specialize. My only complaint are the excessive weave tosses in her video. Maybe she was attempting an homage to Whitney’s “I Want to Dance With Somebody” video. At any rate, “Here We Go” is a great warm up for all manner of whimsy and tomfoolery.

“I Need It Just As Bad As You” Marcia Hines [Download]

I was digging for an episode of my radio show, There Ought To Be More Dancing when I encountered this Boston-bred woman of Jamaican descent (cousin to both Colin Powell AND Grace Jones). She migrated to Australia in the seventies where she is kind of like a big deal, I mean, Queen of Pop stature. After a spell in musical theatre–Hines starred in the Australian tour of “Hair”–she debuted as a recording artist with 1974’s Marcia Shines on which “I Need It Just As Bad As You” appears. It’s all the way funk and she’s all the way authentic about her sexual desires, her partner’s failure to meet them and her subsequent outside dalliances.  She’s unapologetic about her wants and, like Betty Davis stateside, opened up expressive possibilities for Black women’s sexuality that our brutal history and its continuing legacies too often harness. I find listening to her quite useful as I try an open up my armor of upstanding black womanhood.

Bonus Track: “Golden Time Of The Day” Maze [Download]

#FAME: On C.Breezy’s 12,000 Fans

15 Jul

This morning, 12,000 fans, some of whom had camped out since Wednesday, showed up to watch Chris Brown perform tracks from his latest album F.A.M.E. (Fans Are My Everything) on The Today Show’s Summer Concert Series. The multi-racial crowd was filled with young women in their late teens and early twenties, but by far, from a cursory look at my television screen, most of the screaming cohort appeared to be young women of color.

Yes, this is troubling. And yes, I know it troubles many of you that we continue to talk about C. Breezy over here at the CFC. Let me go ahead and catalogue the objections/reactions that many of y’all might be having so we’ll know for the record that you aren’t saying anything we haven’t heard.

  • Let the man live! The past is the past. He deserves to have his career back.
  • We don’t know what happened in that car. Rihanna’s a terrible human being and it’s time for a Breezy comeback.
  • He was wrong. He admitted it. Why are you feminists still talking about it?

Answer: We feminists are still talking about it because a nearly record-breaking 12,000 young people showed up today at his concert. In doing so, they signaled their clear support for #TeamBreezy. But the question I’m asking is not about whether Chris should be forgiven, whether he should continue to have a career, whether he should be allowed to move on. The answer to all those questions– for me anyway– is “yes.” I don’t think a person’s entire future should be determined by the terrible choices they made in late adolescence.

What I worry about is whether Chris has done the work (seen the therapists, grappled with his own hurt and anger about his past as a childhood survivor of domestic violence) to make sure that he doesn’t end up in the same situation again. My feminism permits me to care (in many ways demands that I care) about the emotional lives of men, particularly young Black men.

#FAME –Feminists Aren’t Men’s Enemies

But what I worry about even more are the young women who have such mediocre standards that they don’t think these questions should even be asked; many young Black women whom I’ve encountered become angry and visibly irritated when we question Chris Brown in any form. You can see the words “hater” flashing brightly in their eyes.


#FAME–Faulty Actions Mandate Explanation

Brown’s young female fan base clearly deserve more. At base level, they should learn the political and social value of their allegiances.

For when  offered uncritically,

#FAME—Fervent Allegiances Mask Errors.

Egregious Errors.

What then should we make of this fervent allegiance to Chris Brown?

First, we have to acknowledge our own shortsighted allegiances. We are the R.Kelly generation. We are the Dr. Dre generation. Neither of those brothers lost their career or their female fan base for sleeping with fourteen year old girls or beating up female veejays that chose to disagree with them.

Why does talent continue to excuse bad behavior? That’s one question to be asked.

But there is another question as well: Why is it so hard to believe nice guys can do bad things?

I’ve had more conversations than I can count with homegirls about dudes who were treating them like crap but being nice while doing it. By being nice, they meant dude didn’t call them names, or curse at them, or hit them. Um, #respectisjustaminimum. But he might routinely stand them up, ignore them, cheat, or be generally selfish. But as long as dude spoke to them in a calm manner, was nice to his mama, and occasionally treated them well, his fucked up actions were viewed as the anomaly.  

I think there is an element of this at play with Breezy. To roundly condemn his actions is seen as being judgmental. And Black communities love the #onlyGodcanjudgeme meme, however short-sighted, it might be, particularly when it is often deployed to keep us from holding one another accountable.

Beyond the emotional shit we have with us about not throwing people away and not being unduly judgmental, we have political issues about not throwing Black men  away.  Particularly Black men who seem nice, personable, and respectful.  In a society hellbent on classifying on all young Black men as disrespectful, violent, criminals, Black women consider it an act of political solidarity not to join the chorus of male bashers, even when we have to turn a blind eye to clearly problematic behavior.

So when we challenge Chris not to return to business as usual or suggest that he use his F.A.M.E. as a platform to raise the consciousness of his dedicated fans (since they are his everything,) we sound like heartless haters.

But how awesome would it be if Breezy used his failures as a stepping stone to consciousness and accountability?

 #FAME—Failure Activated My Education

I think that that’s all any of us are asking.

And as feminists, we are desperately in trouble if we can’t figure out how to translate these messages into ways that resonate for young Black women. We need feminism, and we need it right now!

#FAME—Feminism Acknowledges My Experience

Our CRUNK brand of feminism rejects the notion that Black girls lives don’t matter.

Our feminism sees a wake-up call when 12,000 women and girls show up to support a mega-talented but troubled young man, who clearly needs to work through his issues.

#FAME—Freedom Animates My Existence

Our feminism reaffirms that another world is possible—one in which love is not operationalized and expressed through violence; in which accountability is the order of the day; in which the pursuit of pleasure does not force us to sell our souls.

For these and other reasons…

#FAME—Feminists Are My Everything

Hateration, Holleration

11 Jul

I’m not trying to be the grammar police, but I really think some words just need to be retired.  Take, for instance, “swagger,” or simply “swag.”

I mean, once a word becomes connected to a scent that your grandfather used back in the day, it might be best to let that go. (Sorry, PawPaw).

“Hater” is another word that I think should hang up its jersey in the slang hall of fame. True enough, it hasn’t become quite as corny as swag, bling, or jiggy (don’t act like y’all didn’t say that word back in the day!), but it has been used so much that it really doesn’t have much meaning.

I’ve been thinking about “haters” a lot recently. Helping to run a crunk feminist blog and being a crunk feminist teacher means that I’m frequently in the business of bringing up uncomfortable truths, considering difficult issues, and holding myself and others to pretty high standards that reject bullshit and shamtastery.

And I’m frequently called a hater.  

Now, there are lots of things that I do despise: willful ignorance, racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, intolerance, muggy days, frogs (they jump at you, not away from you!), that asinine song by Rocko… I mean, the list goes on. But when I, or any other thinking individual, respectfully disagrees with someone else, calls someone on their ish, or generally acts like they’ve been cultivating their good sense, that is not hating, hateration, or holleration. It’s none of those things in this dancery!

Seriously, we all it get it wrong sometimes. And sometimes it’s painful or even embarrassing to be disabused of our cherished notions. But this inclination to dismiss any kind of critique as hateration is more than side-eye worthy. (We see you, Tyler Perry). It’s an indication that not only is your shit not tight, one, but also that you know it, and you are trying to pull the okey doke on folks. No sir, no m’am!

Respectfully holding each other accountable should be recognized as a loving act, especially in progressive communities who claim to be working for social change. Falling back on some old tired, “Stop complaining, [insert: raggedy social movement, musical artist, filmmaker] is out there doing their thing. You are just hating” is just that–tired.

I am not suggesting that we just talk to one another any old kind of way.  But I am suggesting that we remain open to hearing each other out, learning from one another, and not being mired in comfortable ideologies that simply affirm what we already think is true. 

Let’s throw “hater” a retirement party. It definitely deserves it.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Who’s Really Being Set-up Here

7 Jul

Dominique Strauss-Kahn made some more headlines this week – and so did the woman who has accused him of rape.

Much has been said about him and about her already. Reporters have noted his aspirations to become the socialist candidate for the French Presidency and others have reported on the character of the housekeeper at the Sofitel who has accused DSK of assaulting her, which has changed over the course of the investigation. Many have also cast aspersions on the legitimacy of the case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK). The majority of these aspersions are based on attacking the credibility of the woman who has accused DSK of sexual assault. She is a 32-year-old woman from Guinea who was granted asylum in the United States and is raising her 15-year-old daughter, and has been working at the Sofitel Hotel in New York since 2008.

Noting that this is the perfect storm of injustice based on race, class, gender and citizenship, I’d like to bring our attention to a less-discussed point in this debate. Specifically, there’s one thread of this conversation that I’d like to draw our crunk attention to: the sexism inherent in our criminal “justice” system.

From the NYTimes:

“Most of their problems with the case, they said, had to do not with the woman’s account of the attack, but rather with inconsistencies in her life story — lies she told on her asylum application and tax returns; deposits that were made to a bank account in her name; and a conversation she had with a man in federal custody in Arizona.”

Not including the one discrepancy in the woman’s account (on what she did immediately following the attack – waiting in the hallway or going into another room), this is the crux of the unraveling of the case against DSK – the perceived character of the woman.

Some (even self proclaimed feminists) have claimed that DSK has been under uncommonly strict scrutiny because he’s a powerful man who’s politics are left-of-center.  Um, what? No.

Some feminists have eloquently brought our attention to the fact that her case against DSK is based on her being seen as a legitimate victim – perfect in all other aspects of her life, unimpeachable in her character.

This is a common occurrence in sexual assault cases and a well-documented fact. From a roundtable sponsored by The United States Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women, The White House Council on Women and Girls, and The White House Advisor on Violence Against Women:

 “One in six women and one in 33 men will be sexually assaulted during the course of their lifetime.However incidents of sexual violence remain the most underreported crimes in the United States, and survivors who disclose their victimization—whether to law enforcement or to family and friends—often encounter more adversity than support.”

So what’s the takeaway from this? What are we to understand about violence against women in the US?

It seems that in cases of violence against women, the burden of proof falls squarely on the shoulders of the woman who brings the case to court. And then we wonder why only 16% of rapes are reported. As noted in that same report, when survivors of sexual assault DO disclose what happened to them, they often face skepticism, blame, and further humiliation from professionals, families, and friends, amounting to what many survivors consider a “second victimization.”

Here’s why I think this:

First, as the DSK case demonstrates, in order for these cases to be taken seriously, the accusers must not have any credibility issues.

Next, people who are poor, immigrant, women, differently-abled, LGBTQ, etc. will never be able to conform to the standards of credibility – because their very identities mark them as “outsiders” or “deviants” – from the jump.

So, then, if decide to brave the inevitable challenges and try avail themselves of our criminal “justice” their “character” is attacked, cases are dismissed, an/or forgotten.

Listen up, fellow crunk feminists, it’s a legal-socio-political set-up!

Dramatics aside, this belies not just a problem in this case, but also in the way that we think about violence against women. Fundamentally, it is  problem in the way that we deploy a system of justice that is, at it’s core, sexist. For this reason, it is clearly not set up to deal with the problem of violence against women. In fact, seems to consistently diminish the ability of women to find justice in cases of sexual assault.

Let’s at least call it like we see it.

%d bloggers like this: