Watching “The Best Man”: Old Movie, New Feminist Lens

Last night I watched The Best Man. What is significant about it is that watching the film with an eye towards representations of Black women, I knew that there were going to be major distinctions and differences that I would see now that I didn’t see before.

The first difference is in the opening when Sanaa and Taye are in the bathtub and she confronts him on his desires to take the next step towards commitment in their relationship. She gets upset, and gets out of the tub. The camera then remains on Taye’s character. This has the impact of forcing the viewer to experience the moment from his eye’s, not hers. This is important, because the focus of the camera tells us who the director thinks is important in a scene.

The second difference is that I noticed that the Black women fell into representations of “controlling images” that honestly could have come out of a Tyler Perry movie.

There was the “good Christian woman who deserved her man”: Mia/ Monica Calhoun.

There was the attractive Black woman, who was invested in her career more so on getting married, so she was seen as someone who “didn’t need a m an” and was “damn near a lesbian”: Jordan/ Nia Long.

There was the attractive, materialistic and shallow Black woman who emasculated her man/partner: Shelby/ Melissa DeSousa.

There was the attractive Black woman, who was smart and sweet, but held in a holding pattern by her gentleman friend: Robin/ Sanaa Lathan.

Needless to say, I enjoyed the movie but it was interesting that the Black women characters were very similar to the representations of Black women in Tyler Perry movies.

In the book Beyond the Black Lady Lisa Thompson helped me to think about how women in general were presented in the film, Nia Long’s character in particular. Thompson writes,

 “The middle class black woman (or Black lady) represents a problem to be avoided; she is too indendent, too intelligent, and too self sufficient. The men declare her a threat and romantic outcast who resonates to them in the same register as “the lesbian”.

Thompson then goes on to connect the dots regarding how middle class Black women are represented in films during this era. She writes,

Popular African American romantic comedy like “The Best Man” and “Soul Food” consistently reward women who pursue tradtional female roles. They present the desperate social circumstances of professional black women as the result of misplaced priorities and aggressive personalities. In essence, these films uphold and further the cultural stereotype the black lady as cold, prim and passionless. They also, in light of bleak marriage rates for black professional women, send an alaringly conservative message and signal a backlash against the recent academic and professional successes that women have enjoyed.

So, “The Best Man”. Old movie, feminist lens.

Thoughts?

 

Blogging + Social Media + Dating As a Black Feminist

I had a turning point on my blog when I wrote in Feburary of 2010, How Dilla and Zora Helped Me Claim My Crush.

Not only was the post popular, but by and large on of the reasons what I wrote it is because a reader @mistermattnash chided me for being “so political” and asked me to “take the combat boots off and put on some heels”. Well,  I did not agree with his language around gender representations, and I told him. However, given the fact that he is one of my oldest readers (5 years?) I listened. And I wrote about dating.

Because I date and I write about my dating life on my blog I have a pretty stealth attitude about hollering at boo’s, on being attached to them on social media.

Why? Because I have to deliberate about how I interact with folks because when I come online I do not need to be triggered by 5011 racist, sexist things, nor do I need to see an old boo with a new boo, nor do I need to feel like I am censoring MY VOICE because a boo snack is reading. #AllCity is la femme libre.

Why? Because this is MY space. I create it, I cultivate it, I grow it, it is mine. Well, really it is both mine and ours because I share with you all.

Now this became clear to me when Filthy broke up with me nearly three years ago (time flies) and I wanted to call him and Sbot said, “don’t call.”

Me: I want to call.

Sbot: Don’t call. He broke up with you that means you leave him alone. He is in his space.

Me: Pouting. Then I said, “Well I am going to blog about it instead”.

Sbot: Okay, that is fine YOUR BLOG IS YOUR SPACE.

Me: OHHHH word? Ok, I get what you are saying now.

So, when I am dating someone, and I get the sense that we might be kicking it for a while, it always comes to that point where I have to tell them, for a few reasons.

First, they may find it on their own, and then I would have to back pedal and I would look out of pocket. #nobueno.

Second, I may write about them, and that is the kind of thing you tell someone about. Side bar. Good lawd, I was mortified when #aquemini read AND LEFT a comment on my blog post about him. It felt surreal.

Now, when it comes to Goldy, she ain’t really on social media like that but I made her a tumblr, because there are little links and things that I be wanting to send her throughout the day and I HATE when people send me e-mail spam so I try not to do it to others. She also don’t really mess around on my blog, because guess what, It’s My Space. And honestly, there are probably some things that she doesn’t WANT to read on here, so she doesn’t come around. When I write something I am proud of, she may read it, and then start editing it because that how she gets down. We are not on FB, she may look over my shoulder at my twitter, or at my tumblr, and I will say scoot back jack.

Now this brings me to a recent tumblr experience. You have to understand that after comps I am not really taking shit off of any one. Writing 49 pages in 72 hours with nearly, I don’t know, 80 citations taught me some things. Mainly that if someone ain’t coming correct, they need to sit down. Comps was like academic boot camp; for Marines.

So, while studying for comps I saw Filthy pop up on my tumblr, and I clicked on it, and was taken to a personal narrative. I was like wooooooah. Too much info. We haven’t spoke in almost two years and I am reading about him. o.O

Now he was my friend and I still consider him to be a friend. I stand by the idea of keeping the door cracked for folks who want to make amends; folks who have grown. I also know that there is an inappropriate way and an appropriate way to do things. So I waited, talked to Court Bear my dating coach about saying something to him, then I decided to wait until he did it again. Well, he did.

So I reached out via email and we had an exchange that was pretty cordial and benign until he said “Well your tumblr is public”.

I flipped out.

Just because a digital space is public doesn’t not mean that it is lawless.

In fact, I have had this conversation with men a few times on the internet, a few of whom I had to block.

The same thinking can be extended to analyzing a woman in public. Well “You did wear that short assed dress outside to go grocery shopping”. So? My body is mine.

My blog is both mine and public.

So let me say two things here.

I wrote anonymously for years. And now because my name is attached to my blog, I have to be prepared to answer for what I say online, in person. Trust me, it happens. It is fine, it forces me to keep it even because a blog post is a record.

Second, I know that if I say something on the internet, that people may or may not respond. I get that. I can also speak back to what they say and do. My digital spaces are not lawless.

Black girls have to deal with enough micro and hyper aggressions in the material world (work, school, the train, the bar) to be subjected to them in the digital world (Tumblr, Facebook, Blogs) as well, and remain silent. Full stop.

So, I had been meaning to write this.

Do you friend boo snacks on social media?

What happens when you stop dealing with each other?

Do you have a social media policy for your boo snacks?

Musing on the Genealogies x Sex x Digital Black Feminisms #BettaComeCorrect

On Friday, on the Crunkfeminists blog, Crunktastic wrote a post titled “How Chris Brown is Effing up my Sex Life: A B-Side to Dating While Feminist.” In the post, she discusses the challenges that Black feminist face when a #boosnack has some janky gender politics.

As you can tell, I am clear on calling folks out on their janky gender politics when I see that they have space to grow. See here and here.

The post is awesome because she analyzes how our politics follow us into our intimate day to day interactions, #ItsNotaGame.

Context.

See, Latoya wrote a piece a couple of weeks ago titled “On Being Feminism’s Ms. Nigga.” While I found that last word of the title, to be both dangerous and violent, I do understand where she is coming from. We all have to navigate the tension associated with assimilation. As Black female bodies living in and interacting with institutions that we DO NOT control, we feel the burn honey. I also understand that the positions that we take up in these institutions can impact our careers in profound ways. Is it possible that strategic tokenism helps to keep us from being homeless?

More context, last fall Moya and Lex wrote an article in Ms. Magazine about how Black feminism is alive and well on the internet. They write,

When Black feminism’s words do live on, it is not by accident, default or simple popularity: It is often because Black feminists scraped together coins together to publish them, as when Black women’s social clubs raised the funds for Ida B. Wells to put out her 1890 anti-lynching and anti-rape pamphlets. Similarly, nearly a century later, in the late 1980’s Barbara Smith risked bankruptcy to continue funding Kitchen Table, an autonomous press for writing by women of color.

….So from these roots are a new(er) generation of Black feminist voices are coming out of academia using free and direct means of publication- the internet and social media- to spread our vision and to provoke and ongoing dialogue.

How is that for rooting our work in history?

I am also in an awesome feminist genealogies course, where we are looking at the historical connections between the theory created by women and women’s social movements. Some of the most enlightening texts that we have read are:

Benita Roth’s, Separate Roads to Feminism: Black White and Chicana Feminist Movements in the Second Wave. Powerful in how it shows the connections between these movements, along with the distinctions and the way race and class shaped how women put their energy in social movements in the 60’s and 70’s. #Ummhmm.

Sally Wagner’s,  “The Untold story of Iroquois Influence on Early Feminists.” Incredible, in how it details how early White feminists observed the Iroquois women, and their gender relationships and how it shaped White women’s ideas around feminism before, during and after the American Revolution.

So I am thinking about how knowledge gets produced by women of color online, who shares ideas with whom, who is in conversation with each other, who reads history. Then, Black digital feminism magic happened on Friday.

I was reading the comments on Crunktastic’s post, and I saw that Lex left a comment that kinda had be blown and so I tweeted it. She said,

…that black feminist sex is the best sex around and that folks who insist on ignoring the dynamics of gender violence in order to maintain their privilege are missing out.Makes me want to create an ad campaign that gives new meaning to the phrase “come correct.”

I left to go teach my class and I came back an hour later and there was a Bettacomecorrect Tumblr, a listserve thread, a Twitter account, a Facebook page in the works. It was on and cracking.

The manifesta for the site is:

because black feminist sex is the best sex ever…this site was created by those of us having and committed to having transformative erotic experiences with/as black feminists. (and both! oh both!!!!!!)

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.

In some ways this site runs directly in the face of the politics of respectability. However, it is also important to note that because of our social locations as teachers, professors, instructors, students and administrators, and because of the history of Black women being constructed as lewd, lascivious and 50 million “hoe’s”, we also write with pseudonym’s because it is safer.

When I called one CFC later that Friday afternoon on the way from dinner, I was patched into a three way phone call where we were talking about possibly doing work on Digital Black Feminisms and sexuality at a conference next year. I also mentioned how I storified a conversation that a few of us had on Twitter last fall about Nicki Minaj, Jasmine Mans. It was like all of us have been in conversation with each other and that this is a natural outcome. What I like most about it is organic and collaborative.

You peep Betta Come Correct?

What do you think of the Manifesta?

Who knew Chris Brown could inspire this way?