Misogyny and Genius: Assange + R. Kelly

Image via New Black Man.

During my birthday a couple of years ago I was posted up in Philly with Filthy in that awesome Barnes and Nobles on U Penn’s campus.

The Roman Polanski rape charges were being debated in the New York Times and some folks were defending him saying that it wasn’t “rape-rape”, that happened so long ago, or the alleged rape victim retracted her statement etc.

I was perplexed, why was this White man not in jail for raping an underaged White girl?

I thought, if she couldn’t be protected than my ass was grass.

I said this to Filthy and he looked at me, paused, stared at me for a minute, then said, well you know that’s a real working class Black woman’s perspective. I didn’t really know WHAT he meant by that at the time, but I remembered it, because it felt like I was going to need to remember it. Feel me?

Black men have been lynched and Black women have been raped, historically, in the US to maintain the hierarchical, racial,  gendered, social order. This terror was particularly acute 1880’s-1920’s in the south, as the US tried to figure out what a post slavery nation would look like.

Historically Black women are seen as UNrapeable. Naturally lewd, lascivious, fast and promiscuous. The social system of slavery needed us to be seen this way to normalize the domination of our reproduction and our manual work during US chattel slavery.

Because Black women were the two-fer, we worked in the fields and gave birth to enslaved workers, our sexuality was and in many ways still is looked at in a very particular way, even in 2010.

My understanding of this comes from two books.  The first is Terror in the Heart of Freedom: Citizenship, Sexual Violence, and the Meaning of Race in the Postemancipation South by Hannah Rosen and At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance–A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power by Danielle McGuire.

Back to Polanski. Filthy explained to me that in Western Europe prominent, artists, writers, filmmakers, philosophers and thinkers  are placed on a pedastal.

I was like word?

Then peep game, he said for this reason, he holds these folks to a higher standard WHY? Because they have a platform where they can both influence society and consequently play a large(r) role in changing the world.

Louder voice, conceivably bigger impact.

This bugged me out.

How do I get to Assange and R. Kelly?

Well, I was really interested in three things in terms of how the Assange narrative was emerging:

The lack of a clear narrative around the facts of what actually occurred during the week in question. (h/t to @shoutcacophony for the link.)
The fact that people didn’t have the language to talk about both his genius/subversive actions AND the rape allegation against him.

The fact that Naomi Wolf’s stand point on Interpol as the dating police.

The fact that a group of largely White feminists got Keith Olberman and Michael Moore to apologize after being dismissive of Assange’s rape allegations. More here @ the  #moreandme hastag.

    Whats the Assange/R. Kelly connection?

    In 2008 R. Kelly was found not guilty on 14 counts of child pornography charges with a thirteen year old African American who was suspected to be his Goddaughter.

    A couple of weeks ago, on The Facebook a homie made a comment about R. Kelly’s genius, and a conversation ensued about just sorta being conflicted over him.

    I responded:

    It’s bugged. In terms of R.Kelly, if the issue were Race/Rather than Gender, I don’t think we would be so ambivalent.

    To put it another way:
    Could we really rock to some music made by a Brilliant Racist, rather than a Brilliant Pedophile?

    …R. Kelly Married Aaliyah when she was 15. We *Been* knew he was wrong.

    Why is sexual domination acceptable for men artists who are labeled genius?

    Then again, sexual domination often goes unchallenged on the day to day, so I just kinda answered my own question. 0.O

    In someways its a part of the success package and that troubles me.

    What makes people short circuit when it comes to holding artists and other genius folks accountable for their janky gender politics, pedophilia, rape allegations?

    Because artists influence people, large amounts of people via their art, shouldn’t they be held to a higher standard, not a lower one?

    Why or why not?

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    1. says

      They definitely should. But the issue of consent mucks up conversations about rape and harassment. You can tan all day or bleach all night, but your hair, features, mannerisms, style & way of speaking will out you every time.

      Rape is seen as a gray area. It’s unquestionably wrong to be racist, but when a rape accusation flies out everyone has questions.
      “Did she really say no? How did she say it? What was she wearing? She must have had it coming.” Or in the words of The Boondocks’ Riley, “Why didn’t she move out the way?”

      I have a real problem with the fact that our society presumes consent is present until proven otherwise. With something as sensitive as personal space, shouldn’t it be the other way around? But I forgot. We’re still “just” women, after all.

    2. brownstocking says

      Nothing to add, other than werd. Thanks, as always.

      This is swirling in my head, along with all of the feminists who ride for Assange, but want Vick buried beneath the prison. I dunno…

      Hope you’re enjoying DC!

    3. Will says

      “I have a real problem with the fact that our society presumes consent is present until proven otherwise.”

      It’s called being “innocent until proven guilty.” Our society sees all alleged criminals that way, regardless of accusations of rape or anything else, that’s a good thing. You ought to be glad you live in a society that has that principle, even if said society fails to live up to it in many cases

    4. Renina says

      American Society (the law, advertisers, schools) presumes that the “norm” White, Heterosexual men, married, employed, fathers of two who are athletic.

      So innocent until proven guilty applies to the above listed group.

      These are people for FALL outside of this category are deviant and they are NOT innocent until proven guilty.
      Blacks folks, “immigrants”, Black men, Spanish speaking immigrants who are brown…etc.

      #OscarGrant. #Seanbell. etc…

    5. Renina says

      I never said it was completly true.

      Exceptions to the rule don’t negate the rule, they prove the rule.

      1. Are you a white man?
      2. What are your intentions in having this conversation with me.

      Finger on block.

    6. arieswym says

      I agree with what Filthy said, that artists should be held to a higher standard due to their ability to influence people and shape the acceptable imagery and sounds of the future.

      Gender politics and laws against rape, child sexual abuse, etc are recent additions to the legal books. In most places they only date back to the 1970s. So NOT giving men a pass on janky sexual politics, is only about 40 years old. And just because laws are put in place, that doesn’t make culture automatically change.

      RE: the R. Kelly love – There is still a stronger sense of racial solidarity than gender solidarity. Why so strong in 2011 and for how much longer are questions I just can’t answer.