HBO’s [White] Girls, White Feminism and How It’s Connected to Think Like a Man

I know you are thinking #allcity, how in the hell is the connected? It is, trust.

So yesterday, Andrea on Racialicious posted on tumblr about a writer, Aymer, who feels that while Girls is White, it isn’t the Lena Dunham’s problem. Dunham created the show.

Here is part of Aymer’s post,

I think the show is smart, and (c) I agree with Seitz: race is the industry’s problem, not Lena Dunham’s. She is privileged, yes, but–let’s be honest–also got lucky with a sweetheart Louie-like deal: cheap production and relative freedom in lieu of high ratings (Girls‘s paltry 0.4 rating in the demo would get it canceled everywhere but HBO, and maybe FX**).

Here is what Andrea says,

I disagree with Aymer that Lena Dunham isn’t to blame. Her show—which is fueled by her imagination—is another vehicle for Hollywood to continue maintaining the idea of whiteness at the expense of people of color. She is part of the problem, so she has a part in the blame. What I do agree with is that people have done incredible analyses on this racial problem with Dunham’s creation.

Here is my response,

Given my intense focus over the last 4 months on the ways in which Black men and White corporations earn millions of dollars on the stories featuring Black women’s dating and relationship narratives (Think Like a Man, Precious, Jump the Broom, For Colored Girls) I am inclined to think that the darker the US gets the Whiter television will get.

My rational? Symbolic domination is tied up in economic, spiritual and other forms of domination. So the thinking is, so what Ya’ll brown folks might be swoll in numbers, but ENTERTAINMENT- the number 1 US export will not reflect you with nuance; full stop.

They need to just call the show “White Girls”. #Done.

And now I will add this. Think about it. We have a Black man in the White House and a brown skinned, Harvard Law educated, elegant Black first lady.

Conversely though, George Lucas can’t get a film about African American fighter pilots distributed in Hollywood. the film version of the book Think Like a Man, a heterosexual, patriarchal dating advice book for Black women, earned 33 million dollars in it’s opening weekend and it has been the number one film in the US two weeks after it opened.

Dig it, you can have The President and Flotus all over tumblr, buzzing around each other like two SPIRITS who like and Love each other; but, seeing a hetero OR queer Black couple be intimate on the silver screen in a way that is NOT patriarchal and rooted in stereotypes. Good Luck with that shit Gina.

What is the connection to White feminism? Well when I say White feminism in this instance I mean third wave White feminism that pivots on the idea of “women” being “equal” to men or what I like to call equalism. A few weeks ago my students were throwing around this “women being equal” to men mess and I turned to them and said “I am going off my lesson plan here, but I need to ask you all a question; What is the difference between being equal and being free. Please do not answer immediately as I want you to take your time and think about it.”

Someone eventually responded saying that a woman can be equal to a man by possibly earning to same wages in a certain career, but she wouldn’t be free if everytime she walked out of the house she was bombarded with messages about how ugly she was, or how she needed to lose weight, lighten or darken her skin,  get married, have a baby or (I thought to myself ) if she suffered street harassment on every hot summer day.

So. With that being said Dunham has appeared apologetic saying that while she writes based on her experiences, she didn’t realize that because the characters came from a personal place, that they would be all White. This points to a very interesting moment in popular culture where the impact of racial segregation on the pop culture is crystalized. Dunham doesn’t want to write about folks of color, because they are not apart of her life and she doesn’t want to tokenize them. Is that legitimate? Wouldn’t it be interesting to create a story arch of a young White girl dealing with her Whiteness on an HBO show? Making friends with folks of color? Examining racial privilege?

I thought Dunham’s response was interesting because often times folks have three defenses when they are called on their racism, sexism, transphobia or homophobia which is a.) I was just being funny b.) I didn’t mean any harm c.) I don’t have to be PC, I am an artist. However, I don’t know the last time someone said “Well, this IS based on my experience and I don’t want to tokenize.”

Historically, feminists of ALL races have said that experience is useful for theory and creative work, in fact it makes for some of THE most interesting work that we have created. But they have also said that experience does not mean that you are ABOVE criticism; Peace to Joan Scott.

I like this particular moment in the feminist blogosphere because it speaks to how feminists on social media are co constructing old media, and holding them accountable for how they represent their worlds. That shit is fresh.

So, as the US Browns, will TV and Film become more White?’

Why is it so hard for folks to recognize the connection between racial perceptions, electoral politics and representations in film?

I also think that it is interesting, in terms of power (relationships of power) that the director of  Girls has a small budget and creative license and little pressure to attract audiences, at least according to the blog post. Is that freedom?

What would a woman of color director do with those kinds of working conditions? What would Kasi Lemons, or Julie Dash, Nzinga Stewart or an Asian, Latina, Indian woman do with those kinds of working conditions? What would she create?

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

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 by race.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 Susan Giffords. 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. Ask Sakia 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 1880-1920 by 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?

My Daddy Ain’t No Feminist

Saturday I was talking to my daddy and was catching him up on my week. I told him I was reading this awesome book on Billie Holiday, If You Can’t Be Free Be a Mystery by Farah Griffin,  and that I was having a public conversation with another writer, a Black man, about the importance of having a working understanding of gender analysis if one is going to examine race in a meaningful way.

My father responded, well, Renina,  racism, sexism and homophobia are connected.  I sat there speechless. Quiet.

I didn’t expect him to say that.

That the man who raised me says things like this is telling. My dad the retired truck/bus driver.

You see, he went back to take some college courses at Merritt College (a community college in Oakland) in 2005 in his late fifties. At Merritt he took a class on Black studies with Dr. Love and they read Paula Giddings “When and Where I Enter.” In fact, HE read the book before I did.  We are both readers.

The fact that my father said this to me illustrated something that I haven’t been able to put my finger on in terms of my conversation with Ta-Nehisi.

I am not asking Ta-Nehisi to become a feminist, I am merely asking him to show me the same respect that I showed him and his work and read something that I have suggested. Furthermore, looking back, the reason why I picked up Nixonland (which then led me to finally start the book club here) because Ta-Nehisi recommended that I read it when I asked him for a book that would help me to understand the electoral politics of the 60’s and 70’s that would lead us to the dope game fresh era of the 80’s.

Framing the conversation as me asking him to become a feminist is lightweight absurd.

It reminds of some kinda Black feminist one drop rule. If you read one work, your shit might turn like that press and curled hair in the rain. <<<#turrible aren’t I?

My daddy ain’t no feminist. But having read Paula Giddings book he can say matter of factually that racism, sexism and homophobia are related, and I would imagine if probed we could discuss why.

Side bar. My daddy also read Malcolm’s Autobiography when I was 14, after I read it. It had a pretty profound effect on me, as it tends to, so my dad wanted to know what was going on. He read it too, and it impacted him as well. In fact, as I write this I realize how our journey’s as readers was connected. Because my dad is a working class Black man, I have had the working assumption that working class Black men read. I am learning, that this is false. I am finding that this isn’t the case, especially, as I date.

Friday I ran into a friend of mine, Mr. Fantastic, who is a historian as well and he chatted with me about this conversation I have been having with Ta-Nehisi.  He said something pretty daggumit profound which was, “Who is responsible for telling both sides of the story and why?”  and “Is there more than one side.”  I don’t have an answer, but I am thinking about it. These are the kinds of things that historians say. #Theybekillingme.

Why is the fact that I am suggesting that a text be read  being framed as asking someone to become a feminist or even a gender analysis expert?

Maybe my daddy is a feminist or perhaps an ally? Luls.

Thoughts?

How old were you when you read Malcolm’s Autobiography?

?uestlove’s Black Feminist Response x Sabina O’Donnell

Sabina O’Donnell and Donte Johnson photo via thebeatofphilly.com

I have been haunted by the murder and rape of Sabina O’Donnell, allegedly by Donte Johnson.

PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP/KYW) Two weeks to the day after 20-year-old Sabina Rose O’Donnell was brutally raped and strangled to death in an empty lot, Philadelphia police have announced they have arrested the person they believe is responsible, 18-year-old Donte Johnson.”

I was in Philly May 29th for the Celebration of Black Writing Festival. It is a pretty city. An artistic city. A Black city. I can’t wait to go back.

What I also noticed was that it was an incredibly angry city. Oakland is arguably? just as angry however I think the pervasiveness and intensity of the weed acts as a major buffer in the ‘Town.

I learned about the murder of Sabina O’Donnell from a tweet from @questlove. Initially he tweeted about the murder and mentioned that Donte Johnson looked like a baby. Many Black women felt that this statement served the purpose of not holding Donte Johnson accountable for the murder that he allegedly committed.

In June, I reread Kimberly Williams Crenshaw’s essay “Beyond Racism and Misogyny: Black Feminism and 2 Live Crew” to respond to Slim Thugs (Bitches Ain’t Shit 2010 + Black Women need to do better rant) but the more I read Crenshaw, the more I realized that there was something amiss with ?uestlove’s response.

It finally dawned on me in mid August that ?uestlove’s response was in many ways a Black {Male} Feminist response.

I think this for four reasons.

The first is that ?uestlove centers his experience as a young cat who came of age in Philly, and the ways in which violence has had an impact on his life and the lives of the Black men and women around him.? Black feminist’s center the experience of Black women, men and children. He illustrates this when he writes:

i too at one point was an 18 year old black man from philadelphia. the 2 west philly neighborhoods i grew up in (to my knowledge) ? with the exception of my next door neighbor and my best bud down the street ? all the lives have been claimed in my age range. like seriously. if there were a reunion of all the kids in my age range from born from 1971-1976 that i grew up playing ball with and summer day camp and breakdancing and trading pac-man game patterns with, out of the combined 24 of us? (3 cousins included) only 3 are STILL LIVING or NOT in jail for a long time.

The second is that he focused on the conditions that would give rise to a young man, a 18 year old young Black man from Philly who could conceivably rape, strangle and leave for dead a twenty year old Black woman. He did this when he wrote:

look. i am NOT trying to be on some capn save a thug ish.

but dude. http://twitpic.com/1xageo look at him.

he is a fucking BABY.

the hell he see in his 18 years that brought him to THIS?!?!?!?!

The third is that Black feminists center the violence within Black communities.? ?uestlove does this when he writes,

this IS my neighborhood! i moved there to GET AWAY from the 3 things (robbery, rape, murder) committed a mere 138 second walk from my house! (yes i drove there 5am and tested the distance) so of course i had vested interest in finding justice served. i know many a single woman on my block. my mom and sister visit often and have to park away from my house occasionally.

Donte Johnson’s mother turned him in. Can you imagine being a Black mother turning your son in for this? #typeheartbreaking.

Fourth he alludes to how violence is a gendered act, which is a very sophisticated feminist theortical stance. He writes,

just as all the women in that neighborhood internalized sabina?s murder as ?that could have been me or any of us!!!? i internalized donte.

im sorry?.http://twitpic.com/1xageo could have been me or any of us.

this is why i said it breaks my heart. i want to know the specific conditions that drove this boy (yes i am using boy specifically) to this ugly act. i watched the tape. didn?t look like a drug addict to me the way he coordinated himself on the bike. i didn?t get a disheveled homeless drunken vibe either. ? –

The introduction to the Crenshaw essay says:

Many feminists have maintained that there is a tie between the way in which women are portrayed in the arts and popular entertainment and the way in which women are treated.~Diana Tietjens Myers

In reading ?uestlove’s post I was reminded of Kimberle Crenshaw’s feelings about 2 Live Crew. On one level she felt for them, because they were clearly being unfairly prosecuted because they were Black men. On another level Black women in their music were “all purpose ho’s.”

What do I mean by all purpose ho’s? Well she this is how she desribes hearing 2 Live Crew for the first time,

” On first hearing 2 Live Crew I was shocked; unlike Gates I did not “bust out laughing…” We hear about cunts being fucked until backbones are cracked, asses being busted, dicks being rammed down throats, and semen splattered across faces. Black women are cunts, bitches and all purpose “ho’s.”

As I read Crenshaw’s impression of? 2 Live Crew, I can’t help but think of ?uestlove’s question around Donte Johnson, which was,

“the hell he see in his 18 years that brought him to THIS?!?!?!?!”

The text of the entire post is here.

Did mainstream “all purpose ho” rap music contribute to the conditions where Donte Johnson could possibly strangle, rape, and leave Sabina Rose O’Donnel for dead?

How could it not?

Isn’t it easier to kill a “bitch” than it is to kill a human being?

Who stands to gain if we refuse to see the connection between how women are depicted in pop culture and how they are treated in the streets?

Who stands to lose?

Am I saying that there is a one to one correlation between the music and street treatment? No?

I understand that many things shape who we are. Our family lives. Our zip codes. Our personal choices.

I also know that there are several things that contribute to the hood looking the way it does. White institutions, created, approved of? and maintain(ed) the hood. #nixonland.

However I am still thinking about Crenshaw, Slim Thug and the impact that the music has on reducing us to all purpose ho’s.

Am I saying that the music and how we treat each other in the street are connected in that they both can involve violence that impacts Black people?

Yes.

Is his response a Black feminist response?

Had you ever thought about it before?

What do you think of his response?

All purpose ho’s?

Oh and…

Fan on Facebook. #new

Vote for my #SXSW presentation here.

Musing on Harry Allen, Black Nationalism and Black Feminism


Barkley L. Hendricks Sweet Thang (Lynn Jenkins)

Yesterday,? I had a conversation on Twitter with @harryallen,
about Black nationalism and Black and White feminism,

It all started when I tweeted:

If White feminist examined the ways in which they were dominated by white men more closely, they would have more solidarity w/ Black feminist.

Harry responded saying:

Not a chance. Black feminists underestimate the strength of the relationships between white people, and, thus, overestimate……the value of what white females get from Black females. They do derive benefits, but compared to what they get from white…

He still disagreed with me and contended that: The definition makes clear what I said: You can’t prove “feminisim” exists from it. All the things it seeks to do are undone.

Apparently, Harry’s understanding of a social movement means that a social movement ONLY exists to the extent that it accomplished what it set out to do. Which is an interesting read of both social movements and history as they tend to not be this linear at all. Peep the Haitian Revolution, the French Revolution, Womens Suffrage in the US, US slavery abolition, the American Revolution, etc.

I then responded by giving Harry the link to my post “Black Feminism Crib Sheet{101}.”

I didn’t share this with him yesterday, but as I thought it I realized that? my thinking around Black men, White women and Black feminism is rooted in the Combahee Collective, whose statement says:

Black feminist politics also have an obvious connection to movements for Black liberation, particularly those of the 1960s and I970s. Many of us were active in those movements (Civil Rights, Black nationalism, the Black Panthers), and all of our lives Were greatly affected and changed by their ideologies, their goals, and the tactics used to achieve their goals. It was our experience and disillusionment within these liberation movements, as well as experience on the periphery of the white male left, that led to the need to develop a politics that was anti-racist, unlike those of white women, and anti-sexist, unlike those of Black and white men.

Earlier yesterday, I asked him if he thought he needed to prove that the Black Nationalist movement existed. He said no, because it doesn’t come out of white supremacy.

So Feminism comes out of white supremacy and it doesn’t exist because it didn’t set out to accomplish its goal?

This is absurd, as it leads to the logical conclusion that the work of Soujourner Truth, Ella Baker, Ida B. Wells, Ann Julia Cooper, Mary Church Terell, Paula Giddings, Darlene Clark Hine, Barbara Christian, Beverly Guy Sheftall, Marian Wright Edelman, Hortense Spillers and thousands of others was and is rooted in white supremacy.

The work of all these Black women is rooted in the Liberation of Black women, men and children.

Full stop.

Which leads me to the questions:

What is Black Nationalism?

Has it accomplished it’s goals? And if it hasn’t is it still a movement?

Harry and I have had conversations before about gender and race.

The last one stemmed from me tweeting that “Race is no longer useful as the primary category for organizing.”

We disagreed on that as well.

I understand that I can center women, food/social justice or gender as a unit of analysis because I am being trained to. I see engaging with him and writing blog posts like this as an opportunity to share what I have learned.

According to bell hooks patriarchy is? another way of saying institutionalized sexism.

I wonder if patriarchy prevents Black Nationalists from centering? not only race, but gender and capitalism as a unit of analysis.

I was reminded of the ways in which patriarchy be ALL UP THROUGH my life. A couple of weeks ago gentleman friend, insisted on walking on the outside near the curb. I understand. It’s his Brooklyn steez. But that shit was absurd to me, so I called it patriarchal. His response to it was that I was calling HIM patriarchal, and felt like I, like many Black feminists was alienating an ally. For him patriarchy became a four letter word. OUCH.

I asked him what he sought to accomplish by walking on the outside? That if a car jumped the curb, his body was going to stop ME from being pummeled as well? He answered yes. But I knew he couldn’t be invested in that answer. He is way to brilliant and loving for that.

Love listen, it was hard to stand up to me to stand up to him. Here I am decked out, we are eating cheese eggs,? and he reaching over kissing my hand, IN THE RESTAURANT.#ummp.

Who wants to challenge the person who drops that kind of attention on them? But I did, and we had beef.? *Big beef.

I Love Black men.

However, my Love for them does not include consent to be dominated by them sexually, spiritually, verbally, violently or any other way.

This means that statements such as “feminism” doesn’t exist because it did not do what it seeked to do must be dealt with head up. A literal binary read of social movement histories erases the work of all the women and men who allow me to have the life that I have today.

But for them, I would be picking cotton, rather than writing blog posts, or telling people that they have the right to be who they are.? Nor would I be challenging awesome Black men (and women) on how Patriarchy ain’t they friend.

*Beef was cleared up, but daggumit if that wasn’t hard.

Black feminism null and void?

What do you do when patriarchy shows up on dates?

Did you find this post useful, if so how?

If you are interested in learning more about Black women, White women and Feminism, Social Movements:

All the Blacks Were Men, All the Women Where White, But Some of Us Were Brave
Still Brave
Rules for Radicals
When and Where I Enter
Ain’t I a Woman
Local Black Freedom Movements in America
Sisters in Struggle, African American Women in the Civil Rights Black Power Movement
Want to Start a Revolution: Radical Black women in the Freedom Struggle