Ratchet Feminism

14 Aug

Down in the A, as all things Love and Hip Hop go, ish is moving from CRUNK to straight up RATCHET very quickly.

One of the things that brought the CFC together besides our love of and immersion in Atlanta’s Hip Hop culture is a desire to have less high brow conversations about the range of ways feminism can look in the everyday lives of women of color.

Despite all the ratchetness that goes on on LHHATL, I actually find it refreshing on a couple of levels. The myriad friendships between women seem genuine, especially between Erica, Rasheeda and K-Michelle. 

When I look at the way they have each other’s back, it reminds me of the community of sisters I’ve been blessed to have both within and beyond the CFC, who hold me down in every necessary way.

Friendships are never uncomplicated though. In last night’s episode, I was really disappointed when Rasheeda questioned the truthfulness of K-Michelle’s testimony about being a survivor of domestic violence. Who will believe us if we can’t believe each other?

Kudos to K-Michelle for owning, naming, and standing by her own truths and using her story to empower other young women.

On Twitter, one of my guy friends called her “crazy” and suggested that she shouldn’t be believed. “Crazy” in what way I asked?  Loud? Boisterous? Outspoken? Over-the-Top? Ratchet? K-Michelle is certainly gregarious. She’s the kind of friend I’d wanna take to a party with me for sure. But none of her quote-unquote RATCHET qualities justify anyone putting his hands on her.

Rasheeda’s disbelief grows out of the same logic; if a woman is not a perfect sweetheart, her credibility is shot. But there is another way to think about it, one that doesn’t scrutinize victims so much as it does perpetrators.

Abusers can reinvent themselves on the daily, being perfect gentleman to the women they are currently with, while being abusive assholes to their exes. #beentheredonethat So rather than questioning K-Michelle, if I were Rasheeda, I’d be concerned about whether Toya is good.

But hell, Rasheeda’s got an emotionally manipulative man of her own. I swear when I watched that whole scene where she fell on her sword, retained him as her manager, and confessed that she had been too focused on her grind, I wondered if the producers took a page from the play book of Tyler Perry.

The kind of emotional acrobatics Rasheeda had to do to appease Kurt’s ego would make Gabby Douglas proud. All the while he sits smugly with an unstated emotional ultimatum: “if you love me, you’ll retain me as your manager.”

My question to Kurt is: and if you love her, then what are you willing to do for her?

I continue to be amazed by the fundamental selfishness of some brothers and their lack of willingness to own their ish.

Take Scrappy. A woman has to cry from the pain you caused before you recognize that she loves you? Seriously? I’m confused. Are we in emotional Kindergarten? I can appreciate Scrappy’s attempt to grapple with the impoverished conceptions of emotionality that his own mother Mama Dee has handed down to him, but I’m more concerned about the baby mama(Erica), bestfriend/homie (Shay), and daughter Emani that are casualties of his attempt to emotionally grow the fuck up.

I also appreciate that for all the pathology and “bad black mothering” Mama Dee represents, we find Erica providing an alternative narrative of motherhood, that is conscientious, healthy, and committed. Rarely are the portrayals of Black women and mothering on TV complicated and multi-layered enough to contest the implications of Moynihan.

Despite my impatience with these brothers and the men in my own life around emotional (im)maturity, my conversations with the fabulous Esther Armah around the importance of #emotional justice have reminded me that we “diaspora folk” are usually working with a surplus of “untreated trauma” and a deficit in terms of our emotional tools. So we must be patient with one another. Patient, but not unwise, or unduly self-sacrificing. Translation: don’t keep putting up with bullshit, if there is no real move to change.

 And that is why the award for “Ratchet Feminist of the Week” goes to Karlie Redd!!!!


 (I know, I know. I was shocked, too!) When Benzino started to give her static about being so career driven, she said to him, “you just want me somewhere barefoot and pregnant.” Yes, Karlie, call out that sexism! He’d prefer “barefoot and butt naked,” but the principle is the same. As he said, “relationships are a two-way street and her career is taking up both lanes.” Stay in her lane= Know Your Place 2.0: #theremix

Sure career chicks should make sure that our careers aren’t all we have going for us, but when it’s truly male ego at play, we should not let that shit slide.

 Karlie stood her ground and affirmed her right to be career driven, held Benzino accountable for his anger and his unchecked ego, and demanded that they both give practical solutions to the problem. Yay for healthy conflict resolution!

LHHATL may be long on all things Ratchet. The antics of Steebie and Joseline confirm that for sure. But the show also clues us in to some of the cultural and social roots of our collective ratchetness and emotional wretchedness. Left untreated, our traumas can cause us to heap pain and violence on each other, physical and emotional.   For me, the show reminds me of the continued importance of the feminist work we do. Not just in analyzing representations, but also in providing language that helps women call out sexism and domestic violence, even if they don’t do it in academic terms.  It doesn’t matter if the sisters are loud, uncouth,  “ghetto,” “hood rich” or struggling; if they call out sexism and challenge its operation in their lives, then they’re down for the cause. To me, this is the kind of feminism that matters most. Our ad nauseum academic stunting can’t save us when shit gets real. Feminism that works is the only feminism I believe in. And as long as Hip-Hop culture perpetuates Black male emotional immaturity, the women in the culture can and must coopt and appropriate its terms in ways that facilitate survival.  So #letsgetratchet! 

So share your reactions to this week’s episode or the show in general.

Is it time for some new ways to think about and understand feminism?

What are your strategies for pursuing emotional justice and health in your relationships?

13 Responses to “Ratchet Feminism”

  1. rnbradley August 14, 2012 at 10:25 AM #

    You know what pushed this awesome post over the edge? You called him “Steebie.” And they say feminism ain’t no fun….LOL

  2. omi August 14, 2012 at 12:49 PM #

    i’ve never seen the show (no cable), but THANK YOU for giving voice to what myself and so many other sistas have been through tryin to “hold up” or “love” a man stuck in this stage of being…

    it can be really difficult to put it all into words, and unless someone is hitting you, so many only see a “good man” (and even then, there are problems, as you pointed out). but it gets so much deeper.

    peace & love.

  3. Natacha August 14, 2012 at 2:02 PM #

    I don’t understand why there needs to be a (ratchet) subgroup. Why can’t the women simply be feminists in their own right?

    • crunktastic August 14, 2012 at 2:08 PM #

      Ratchet is not a subgroup any more than CRUNK is a subgroup.

  4. Dr. Goddess August 14, 2012 at 2:25 PM #

    Thanks, CFC! I agree with you about this type of feminism and, I must say, Katori Hall displayed it QUITE well in her Off-Broadway play, “Hurt Village,” which is set in a Memphis, TN public housing development. I am working on my own piece on LHHATL and I cosign the sisterhood and the resistance you outlined. I don’t think Rasheeda’s reluctance to believe K. Michel is based on her being “ratchet” (not from the woman who patted her cooch for her video LOL) but because she knows Memphitz and considers him a friend. She hasn’t seen that side of him, so she is trying hard to reconcile what she knows with what could have been (and apparently was). I can understand that struggle and while I was disappointed in her lack of full support, I still love the fact that she allowed K. Michel to share her narrative, supported her when she was onstage and even listened, with passion and empathy, when K. Michel cried out in anger and frustration. Rasheeda was listening and she was trying. That is still an expression of sisterhood, even if she is a new friend to K. Michel and it’s not sisterhood at its highest form. In any event, kudos and thank you for this. I was just discussing these issues on my Twitter timeline, with people asking how, on Earth, LHHATL could be helpful to the public. I say that it is QUITE helpful for our communities and we really have to learn to meet people where they are, especially the intellectuals and academics amongst us. Besides, we all know our degrees will not protect us, anyway. *curtsies*

  5. eeshap August 14, 2012 at 2:30 PM #

    This is a great post! I just got sucked into the show (courtesy of our own Crunkadelic) and I can’t wait for more LAHHA analyses!

  6. PeepThisPeeps August 15, 2012 at 9:00 PM #

    Loved this blog post. Partially because I’ve been noticing how these women differ from the women I see on “Real Housewives of _____.” I admire some of the risks that these women take. While Joceline’s relationship with Stebbie is all type of messed up, I nominate her for trying to stand up for herself.
    Speaking of feminism, have you heard of “I’m feminist enough?” This blog post reminded me of that.
    Check it – http://imfeministenoughto.tumblr.com/

  7. E Vera August 20, 2012 at 1:31 PM #

    This is my favorite read in awhile. Thank you!

    • Dean August 27, 2012 at 9:41 AM #

      The women of Love and Hip Hop in Atlanta, were never put in a position to be viewed fairly. Their roles are dismissed,the complexities of their lived experiences ignored, their strength, perseverance, assertiveness and self-determination become attributes to be critiqued and scrutinized under over-arching myths of Black women as Sapphires, Jezebels, and the like… The show position within Hip Hop culture, places the women in a context to be viewed as inferior because within the lens of Black middle and upper class respectability, Hip Hop is the lowest reflection of Black life and black culture and their position as women within struggling romantic relationships, further serves itself to the myth that Black women are culturally inferior and deviant, and are unsuccessful in being able obtain and maintain a man. With this distorted visions of Black womanhood, people viewing Love and Hip Hop in Atlanta remain ignorant to the undeniable strengths displayed by these women, in each episode.

      • Dean August 27, 2012 at 9:42 AM #

        After being encouraged to watch the a few espisodes of the reality tv-series centered around the complexity of the intimate relationships of a select few Black women involved in Atlanta’s notorious hip hop culture and industry, Love&Hip Hop in Atlanta, I was in awe of the strength exhibited among the women engaged within these complex relationships. In the Combahee River Collective Mission Statement, the authors write, “There is a very low value placed upon Black women’s psyches in this society, which is both racist and sexist. As an early group member once said, ‘We are all damaged people merely by virtue of being Black women.’ We are dispossessed psychologically and on every other level…” In Love and Hip Hop, Each character reveals the painful trauma inherent in being a Black woman. We learn that Joseline, began running away from at age 13, and sought survival within the stripclub with aspiration to achieve more in life, leading her into a heart-destroying relationship with Stevie J, where she is pressured to receive a abortion, after becoming pregnant with his child. It is revealed that Erica, mother to the daughter of Lil Scrappy, suffered through her mother’s addiction to crack cocaine as a child, and dealt with southern rapper, Lil Scrappy’s infidelty and betrayal as he left the mother of his child to pursue a public relationship with a female artists by the name of Diamond, but remained strong and forgiving, in allowing Scrappy to seek refuge in her arms and in her life, as he tried to heal from the hurt caused by Diamond’s infidelity with the rapper, Soulja Boy. And I would argue with the women of the Crunk Feminist Collective in giving the award of Ratchet Feminism to Kharlie, and suggest that it be given to Erica for her refusal to continue to provide Scrappy with emotional and intimate supports of unrelenting affection that he received from a somewhat irrational mother, while he continued in his unfaithful behavior as an example for their seven-year-old daughter and to be a model to her in what behavior is acceptable from a man who wants to be involved in a relationship with a woman. Other characters showed similar strengths as K.Michelle stood as a testament against domestic violence and physical abuse and shared her story of personal experience and revealed her well-deserved anger at the complacent attitudes and actions of the people around her. Kharlie exhibited courageous solidarity to her friend Mimi, in revealing the discretion and infidelities of “her man” Stevie J. As women, we are acutely aware of the difficulties in revealing to our friends the indiscretions of their lovers, such acts of loyalty, often destroy the very friendship that you were trying to build, as women choose lovers over friends. She also put her career on the line, by violating the unspoken laws of Hip Hop and Hip Hop culture surrounding “snitching,” this can be particularly detrimental when the snitching involves the infidelities of a prominent man within the industry. Beyond that, Kharlie refused to sacrifice her career aspirations for the comfort of a ring that would keep her “barefoot and naked”. Ariane provides unrelenting support to Mimi, in her efforts to walk away from the manipulative and deceitful father of her child, who buys her a home away in the suburbs, only to maintain his “play-boy” life style. However, Mimi finds the strength and courage to finally walk-away. The reality found within this show is the unrelenting strength of every-day black women and their attempt to survive

  8. Noiregem August 29, 2012 at 3:33 PM #

    Thought provoking , thanks for hitting on “untreated trauma” and emotional justice subject. Self awareness is needed for healthly relationships


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