Tag Archives: New Model Minority

Author Martha Southgate on Why the Film “The Help” is a Symptom of a Larger Issue: My Thoughts.

17 Aug

Author note: Post written last week.

In Entertainment Weekly, one of my favorite authors, Martha Southgate (@mesouthgate) discusses the film “The Help” stating that,

There have been thousands of words written about Stockett’s skills, her portrayal of the black women versus the white women, her right to tell this story at all. I won’t rehash those arguments, except to say that I found the novel fast-paced but highly problematic. Even more troubling, though, is how the structure of narratives like The Help underscores the failure of pop culture to acknowledge a central truth: Within the civil rights movement, white people were the help.

I would say that she certainly has a point there. And, given the fact that I am swimming in readings about women in the civil rights movement, at this VERY moment, I am particularly sensitive to claims about women during the civil rights movement.

White people did play a substantial role in the civil rights movement.  However there were incredible tensions in the civil rights movement because “women” were seen as “the help.” Looking at how gender played out in the civil rights movement in fact may poke more holes in Sockett’s narrative. For example,

  • Many White feminist wanted to organize under the auspices of women united for solidarity but did not want to acknowledge the differences between women. See Benita Roth’s “Separate Roads to Feminism.”
  • Stokley Carmicheal, of the Black Panther Party alleged that the best position for a woman in the BPP was “prone.”
  • There were some White feminist lesbians who felt that engaging with men was apart of the problem so becoming separatists and living amongst and supporting women was the solution. See Radical Sisters: Second Wave Feminism and Black Liberation in DC by Anne Valk.
  • Here is a link to Courtney Desiree Morris analyzing Assata, Angela Davis and Elaine Brown  and how sexism impacted their work with the Black Panther Party.
  • Black women played a prominent role in organizing the March on Washington but they were not allowed to SPEAK at it.

I by no means intend to conflate the Black Power movement with the Civil Rights movement. They are overlapping yet distinct in tone and intent.

However, I wanted to bring the issue of “Women” to bear on Southgate’s article on the film and book, The Help.

Here is her excellent closing paragraph, which actually upended me from my reading ABOUT women in the second wave and compelled me to write this blog post. She writes,

This isn’t the first time the civil rights movement has been framed this way fictionally, especially on film. Most Hollywood civil rights movies feature white characters in central, sometimes nearly solo, roles. My favorite (not!) is Alan Parker’s Mississippi Burning, which gives us two white FBI agents as heroes of the movement. FBI agents! Given that J. Edgar Hoover did everything short of shoot Martin Luther King Jr. himself in order to damage or discredit the movement, that goes from troubling to appalling.

Why is it ever thus? Suffice it to say that these stories are more likely to get the green light and to have more popular appeal (and often acclaim) if they have white characters up front. That’s a shame. The continued impulse to reduce the black women and men of the civil rights movement to bit players in the most extraordinary step toward justice that this nation has ever known is infuriating, to say the least. Minny and Aibileen are heroines, but they didn’t need Skeeter to guide them to the light. They fought their way out of the darkness on their own — and they brought the nation with them.

Southgate’s fourth novel, The Taste of Salt, will be published in September.

By centering White women as actors in the civil rights movement, we mask, hide and erase the work of Black men and women, and we negate the ways in which WOMEN were treated in many instances like “The Help” in Black and White organizing circles. 

*The terms Black and White are capitalized because I see them as racial classifications AND political identities. #ummhmm.

“And You Even Licked My Balls: A Black Feminist Note on Nate Dogg”

20 Jun

***Note: This piece is from the blog vault of CF ReninaJ, who maintains her own spot at newmodelminority.com. As the 24 hr news cycle goes, it’s easy to miss great commentary on popular culture. Occasionally, then, we’ll share with you pieces that we think you should read, which you might’ve missed. We hope you enjoy the reflection below on Nate Dogg’s life and music for those feminist, Hip Hop enthusiasts among us.***

So I have been thinking of Nate Dogg in general but rap music in particular and the difference between how I as a Black woman and how White men relate to rap music.

While I understand that sexism and patriarchy is systemic, that we LEARN and are taught how to be “men” and “women,” how to be racist, how to be sexist as well as  how to Love, how to forgive.

What I am getting at is, to be crude, we don’t pop out of our mommas knowing how to be men and women, we are taught from infancy on through blue and pink clothing,  girls being told to sit a certain way that is lady like, boys being told crying is weak, and not manly etc.

I also know that there are several structural things impacting the lives of Black men and women such as archaic drug laws, mandatory minimums, three strikes, the underdevelopment of public education, gentrification, police who shot and kill Black people with impunity, and the lack of good grocery stores in working class and low income neighborhoods. All this matters.

Culture matters as well. Culture meaning,  music, books, websites and films.

Culture is hegemony’s goon.

Which brings me to Nate Dogg. The recent coverage of his death clarified for me why some issues that I have thought of about rap music but didn’t have the language to articulate.

I am a little troubled over how White mens investment in Black mens misogyny in rap music isn’t interrogated. And how this impacts me and the women who look like me.

Society is organized by and for men.

And our lives in the US are hyper segregated racially.

By and large Black people don’t live around White folks, so most White men can experience the pleasure of singing “and you even licked my balls” in the comfort of their cars, homes and apartments, whereas a young Black man said to me nearly two years ago on 125th street that he wanted to “stick his dick in my butt.”

On the street, in broad daylight.

This was so absurd I thought HE was singing a rap song initially. No, he was talkingto me.

Consequently, largely, White men are  not subjected to the kinds of violence and sexism that is sung about in the songs that Nate sang the hook on. As a Black woman, I am.

As a woman, as a Black women who Walks like she has a right to be in the street, this means my behind is toast.

For example, there is an officer in my neighborhood that harasses me so fucking much that I am now on a first name basis, Peace to Officer Anderson. Typically he stops me because there is apparently a 11pm curfew in DC for children under 18 on week nights. He normally asks me from his car, “Hey, how old are you.”  Dead ass, the second time he did it, I responded saying I was grown. o.O

After the third time, I was like “Mr. Officer whats your name because this is either the second or third time you have asked me that, and seeing as we are going to keep running into each other, I thought we could just on speaking terms.” He smiled. Doesn’t MPD carry 9mm’s too? Sassing officers of the state who carry legal weapons?  Ummhmm. And, he told me his name.

My clarity on this issue came about after I read a excerpt of a post on NPR about Nate Dogg by Jozen Cummings. He writes,

“There’s also “Ain’t No Fun (If The Homies Can’t Get None),” a song that was never chosen as a single from Snoop Dogg’s debut album, Doggystyle but has become a favorite for many DJs trying to work a room. The song is a tour-de-force of misogynistic lyrics, but only Nate Dogg can make a verse about dismissing a one-night stand sound so sensitive and endearing.”

“Remembering Nate Dogg, Hip-Hop’s Hook Man”

by Jozen Cummings, NPR.org,  March 16th, 2011

(via beatsrhimesandlife)

Then I reblogged and responded on tumblr saying:

In some ways, Cummings comments re Nate Dogg remind me of why I think The Chronic and Doggy style are the Devil, in terms of rap music. Men in general and White men in particular have a different relationship to the kinds of violence that I am subjected to as a Black woman who WALKS like she has a right to be in the street. Shit…two weeks ago I told two dudes to kill me or leave me alone. Dead ass. This ain’t for play. This is our lives.

Have you ever thought about White men’s investment in rap lyrics by Black men that are hella outta pocket?

I went to look for Cummings racial identity and I learned that he is African American, Japanese and Puerto Rican, so I am not saying that he is White. What I am saying is that his writing about Nate Dogg’s misogyny reminds me of how when the misogyny bomb is dropped, people who look like me tend to get hit with hella sharpnel. Whereas White men get to live out their thug fantasies singing along with Nate “And you even licked my balls.”

The Chronic and Doggystyle are sonically genius, however, did they up the ante on allowing White men and even some Black ones live out their Black sex fantasies?

Do you see the connection between Black women and White men that I am trying to make, why or why not?

Originally posted at New Model Minority.com.

Arielle Loren Asks “Is Beyonce the Face of Contemporary Feminism?” My Response

14 Jun

We need to be clear about who we are trying to be equal to.

In her blog post Arielle Loren asserts that most women do not identify as being feminists even if they share its core ideologies, that there has been a shift in the contemporary agenda for women’s equality and that women are tired of rhetoric of hardcore oppression and patriarchy. She goes on to say that “frankly, all of the traditional feminist criticism of her “Who Runs The World (Girls)” video is just another example of the disconnect between intellectual theory and real life.” Beyonce is the face of contemporary feminism because women feel empowered listening to Beyonce’s music, so consequently, they take this “power” with them as they go on about their day to day lives.

Interesting.

Let me lay out my assumptions.

Feminism is not about being equal to men. All men are not equal. A black man  from 135th street with a Harvard MBA does not have the same social capital as a Black man from 135th street who just got out of Rikers. Full stop.

Next.

We need to be clear about who we want to be equal to. In fact, we need to ask do we want to be equal or do we want to be free?

Second assumption.

Black feminists are rooted in Love.

Black Feminists are interested in creating spaces for men to feel because men who don’t feel do not know how to Love. Black feminists are interested in holding themselves, and others accountable when they say racist, homopobic ‘ish, because thats how we roll. Black feminists will get up in that behind when a rapper tries to make jokes and bets about non consensual choking of women during sex. Peace to Jay Electronica. The Black feminist I know are rooted in Love. Being rooted in Love means that you understand that you will not be able to have meaningful emotionally invested relationships with another adult until you have forgiven you one OR both of your parents for abandoning you. Peace to all my homies who are in therapy. We grown.

Black Feminist Love is hella grown.

We are so grown that we understand like Arielle Loren does, the importance of Black women being able to be sexual, complicated, whole human beings. We understand that is is particularly important for Black women who are rendered 50 million ho’s on the regular in pop culture. The mission statement for the Black Feminist blog  Betta Come Correct states that:

BECAUSE BLACK FEMINIST SEX IS THE BEST SEX EVER…THIS IS ALSO A WAKE UP CALL TO ANYONE WHO INSISTS ON INTIMACY WITHOUT ACCOUNTABILITY, CONDONES VIOLENCE AGAINST BLACK WOMEN, OR REFUSES TO BE TRANSFORMED BY THE ECSTATIC MIRACLE THAT BLACK WOMEN EXIST. YOU ARE SERIOUSLY MISSING OUT.

So Black women having space to be multidimensional and whole is a part of the contemporary Black feminist agenda.

Back to Beyonce.

As you many of you know I have done a lot of writing about Beyonce, because I am concerned about how the messages that she conveys shapes expectations within Black heterosexual relationships. Given the fact that she made 80 million dollars in 2007-2008 and that earning that kind of money is extremely rare for people in general Black women in particular, Beyonce’s messages influence society and they shape how Black women look at themselves and their partners. Black women are not allowed to earn nearly 100 million dollars unless they are beautiful, talented, non-threatening to White men and they convey historical stereotypes about Black men and women. Dave Chappelle walked away for a reason ya’ll.

Because I care about Black women, I pay close attention to what Beyonce says.

It is dangerous to make open statements that women run the world, because there is so much evidence women get the shit end of the stick in the world.

Black, Latina and Asian women are sex trafficked in the Bronx, East Oakland and Las Vegas.

Eastern European women are sex trafficked globally.

An estimated nearly 100 Million female fetuses and girl children have been aborted or neglected in China and India over the last thirty years.

Women are 50.7% of the US Population. Yet, women are only 16.4% of Congress. They are 17 of the 100 members of the Senate. They are 73 of the 435 member of the House of Representatives.

Women are routinely paid less for the same jobs that men do and this is broken down byrace.In fact when I told my students two weeks ago that they could graduate from college and be offered less money, just because of what was between their legs, they looked depressed.

They couldn’t believe how profoundly unfair it was. When I said that “Women are cheap labor” they looked mortified. I explained to them that shutting down was not going to create a more just and equitable world. That they cannot change a system if they do not understand it. And now that they do know that women are offered less money to do the work that men can do, they are expected to go out into the world and change it. Peace to the Equal Pay Act.

Poverty is feminized in this country, meaning that a main predictor of poverty is having a baby because children are expensive (childcare, healthcare, food, clothes, shelter) and there is very little support such as state/federal child care, paid federal family medical leave, support for families who work full time as parents.

We need to be honest about who we are tying to be equal to.

Women do not run the world. The world shits on women. Ask Ester Baxter. Ask SusanGiffords. Ask the woman who claims that she was assaulted and raped by the former President of the IMF. Ask Shaniya Davis’s family.  Ask Ayianna Jones’s family. AskSakia Gunn’s family. Ask. Ask. Ask.

Now if we want to celebrate the catchiness of a Beyonce song, or honor her athletic ability, her fierceness as a dancer, that is perfectly legititmate. But to call her the face of modern day feminism is ahistorical and a slap in the face to Black, White, Latino, Asian, Muslim, Native American women and men who have been working to change our world so that being born with a vagina does not automatically mean being raised to be someones wife, street harassment material, nanny, slave or prostitute, but a fully developed human being.

For more readings on the history of Black Women and Feminism read:
Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement and the Black Baptist Church 1880-1920by Evelyn Brooks Higgenbotham
Living for the Revolution by Kimberly Springer
Radical Sisters: Second Wave Feminism and Black Liberation in Washington in DC by Ann Valk.

For more readings on Black, White and Chicana Feminisms:
Separate Roads to Feminism by Benita Roth

For more readings on Third Wave Feminism
To Be Real, Ed by, Rebecca Walker
“Under Construction: Identifying Foundations of Hip Hop Feminism…” by Whitney Peoples
On Being Feminism’s Ms. Nigga by Latoya Peterson <<<And I still have issues with the title.
Feminism for Real: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism, Ed. Jessica Yee.

My post on R. Kelly and Julian Assange mentions some good books on feminism as well.

Thoughts. I know you have them.

Is positing Beyonce as “contemporary feminism” a move to come up?

What is your definition of feminism?

Music as feminist empowerment?

Originally posted on New Model Minority.com.

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