Monday, June 30, 2008

The Loud Silence Of (White, 2nd Wave) Feminists

So the question persists... where are the voices of the outraged white feminists who were so vocal when Hilary Clinton was dealing with sexism in the campaign, now that Michelle Obama is being targeted? This subject is covered with sharp wit on The Angry Black Woman blog, along with commentary around other racist/sexist attacks black women usually get in the media. I quote:

It’s hard not to notice that there’s not nearly as much commentary about this in the feminist blogosphere as I saw when there were sexist media attacks against Hillary Clinton. Talk about angry black women — what those Fox pseudopundits really ought to be afraid of is angry white women. They’re kickass, man. I mean, there was just so much furor out there — and rightly so — over the sexism heaped upon Clinton. All the big names of feminism and politics — Steinem, Ferraro, Jong, and more. All women who speak softly and carry big no-phallic-pun-intended-sticks. I’m sure these same women are going to come out guns blazing now that Michelle is getting the same ugly treatment. It’s still sexism, right? Even if it’s compounded by racism. Sexism’s still sexism.

Right? Right? So the defense should begin any minute now. Right?

I was also glad to see this subject covered in The Washington Post, where i gleaned some of the title of this post. Mary C. Curtis goes on to say:

I've long been frustrated, as a black woman and a feminist, with our national conversation. I didn't hear the cause speaking up for women of color or for women who have always worked in blue-collar or service jobs. Choice was not their issue.

The woman who employed my educated mother to clean her house never quite saw her as a sister in the struggle for equality.

Still, I cheered Steinem when she spoke at my college. Her message could have been more inclusive, but it was a start.

I'd like a little of that solidarity back now, not suspicion because someone of my race defeated someone of our sex.

For me, this is an issue of racism, more than telling pro-Clinton female feminists how to be feminists. And it really glares of racism. Quite shamefully. Sure, people are disappointed about their candidate losing. But in the meantime, the history books/blogs will tell of iconic feminists who relaxed into their whiteness and looked the other way when a prominent, strong black woman was being maligned by sexist and racist attacks. For real.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Black Men Unite And Speak Out Against The R.Kelly Verdict.

I just got this in my inbox. I am glad that i did, because when i heard about R. Kelly being acquitted after there being video tape of him having sex with (read: statutory rape) and urinating on a 13 year old young black girl... I was shocked beyond words. So much so that i couldn't even blog about it. It was too glaringly effed up and wrong, on so many levels. I thank these strong, conscious and socially responsible black men for helping me find my voice. At the very least, as a dj, i will not spin any R. Kelly until he comes correct (Its not like I have any of his albums anyway, perhaps a dancehall or hip hop single where he makes a cameo). I stand with the men who wrote this statement, and hope you will too. Bless.


Statement of Black Men Against
the Exploitation of Black Women

From: Aaron Lloyd • Adisa Banjoko • Alford Young, Jr. • Byron Hurt • Cheo Tyehimba • Davey D. • Dion Chavis • James Peterson • Kevin Powell • Kevin Williams • Lasana Hotep • Loren S. Harris • Lumumba Akinwole-Bandele • Mo Beasley, Jr. • Saddi Khali • Shaun NeblettSteven G. Fullwood • Thabiti Boone • William Jelani Cobb *

Six years have gone by since we first heard the allegations that R. Kelly had filmed himself having sex with an underage girl. During that time we have seen the videotape being hawked on street corners in Black communities, as if the dehumanization of one of our own was not at stake. We have seen entertainers rally around him and watched his career reach new heights despite the grave possibility that he had molested and urinated on a 13-year old girl. We saw African Americans purchase millions of his records despite the long history of such charges swirling around the singer. Worst of all, we have witnessed the sad vision of Black people cheering his acquittal with a fervor usually reserved for community heroes and shaken our heads at the stunning lack of outrage over the verdict in the broader Black community.

Over these years, justice has been delayed and it has been denied. Perhaps a jury can accept R. Kelly's absurd defense and find "reasonable doubt" despite the fact that the film was shot in his home and featured a man who was identical to him...But there is no doubt about this: some young Black woman was filmed being degraded and exploited by a much older Black man, some daughter of our community was left unprotected, and somewhere another Black woman is being molested, abused or raped and our callous handling of this case will make it that much more difficult for her to come forward and be believed. And each of us is responsible for it.

We have proudly seen the community take to the streets in defense of Black men who have been the victims of police violence or racist attacks, but that righteous outrage only highlights the silence surrounding this verdict.

We believe that our judgment has been clouded by celebrity-worship; we believe that we are a community in crisis and that our addiction to sexism has reached such an extreme that many of us cannot even recognize child molestation when we see it.

We recognize the absolute necessity for Black men to speak in a single, unified voice and state something that should be absolutely obvious: that the women of our community are full human beings, that we cannot and will not tolerate the poisonous hatred of women that has already damaged our families, relationships and culture.

We believe that our daughters are precious and they deserve our protection. We believe that Black men must take responsibility for our contributions to this terrible state of affairs and make an effort to change our lives and our communities.

This is about more than R. Kelly's claims to innocence. It is about our survival as a community. Until we believe that our daughters, sisters, mothers, wives and friends are worthy of justice, until we believe that rape, domestic violence and the casual sexism that permeates our culture are absolutely unacceptable, until we recognize that the first priority of any community is the protection of its young, we will remain in this tragic dead-end.

We ask that you:
  • Sign your name if you are a Black male who supports this statement:

  • Forward this statement to your entire network and ask other Black males to sign as well.

  • Make a personal pledge to never support R. Kelly again in any form or fashion, unless he publicly apologizes for his behavior and gets help for his long-standing sexual conduct, in his private life and in his music.

  • Make a commitment in your own life to never to hit, beat, molest, rape, or exploit Black females in any way and, if you have, to take ownership for your behavior, seek emotional and spiritual help, and, over time, become a voice against all forms of Black female exploitation.

  • Challenge other Black males, no matter their age, class or educational background, or status in life, if they engage in behavior and language that is exploitative and or disrespectful to Black females in any way. If you say nothing, you become just as guilty.

  • Learn to listen to the voices, concerns, needs, criticisms, and challenges of Black females, because they are our equals, and because in listening we will learn a new and different kind of Black manhood.
We support the work of scholars, activists and organizations that are helping to redefine Black manhood in healthy ways. Additional resources are listed below.

  • Who's Gonna Take the Weight, Kevin Powell
  • New Black Man, Mark Anthony Neal
  • Deals with the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot, Pearl Cleage
  • Traps: African American Men on Gender and Sexuality, Rudolph Byrd and Beverly Guy-Sheftall
  • I Am A Man: Black Masculinity in America by Byron Hurt
  • Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes by Byron Hurt
  • NO! The Rape Documentary by Aishah Simmons

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hiding In Hip Hop: A New Book On Down Low In Hip Hop, And Some Thoughts On Parallels In Dancehall.

Felicia Pride writes a commentary and review of this new book on Black Voices. "Hiding In Hip Hop" is written by Terrance Dean, a black man in the music industry who battled with living two lives in hip hop culture. He goes on to say:

It was important for me to continue my double life. One for my career and the other for myself--the real me. Only I didn't know who the real me was. I was so accustomed to living in multiple worlds I often confused myself. As a down low man, I had to make sure people saw me as a heterosexual man; they had to see me with women...Nothing about me could be associated with the gay lifestyle.

From the perspective of a brotha in the Down Low scene in hip hop, he continues to reference the struggles of popular hip hop & r&b stars without naming them. In her article, Felicia Pride talks about the "tell-some" book:

In Hiding in Hip Hop, Dean writes of tight-knit communities of down low men in both Hollywood and the music industry. He writes of thugged out rappers with girlfriends and wives who sneak around to sleep with other men. He writes of down low ministers and in-the-closet R&B singers... He writes of a world where fear, pain, shame, and a lack of self-love are the dominant emotions. He paints a world where masculinity is narrowly-defined, heterosexuality is the only option, and down low men spew hatred toward homosexuals because they hate themselves.

Wow. Intense. What is also intense are the comments that Felicia Pride gets in response to her review. There definitely seems to be more vilifying of the men in DL culture than criticism of a larger culture that gives few options for people to just live their lives. I am not endorsing anyone cheating on their wives/partners in order to have down low interactions, I just think that some of the pain that Terrance Dean seems to convey should be taken into account... As a hetero man, I myself wonder what it would be like if I lived in bizarro switcheroo-change-o land, and had to keep up appearances to be "a gay man" but really want to date women, and have to see them on the down low. If you are also a straight man, and reading that made you cringe... hold on to that feeling. Especially if you are not able to understand why men would go on the down low. Empathy to the human condition is essential for us all to make it y'all...

I hope this book starts more conversation on homophobia in our communities than spark witch hunts. I myself am waiting for some dancehall version of this book to drop! That would be amazing. I think the author might be exiled from yard tho! But for reals, like it says in the last line from Felicia Pride's quote about down low gay men "spewing hatred against homosexuals"... I suspect that a similar connection may be happening in Jamaica, and that it is very possible that dancehall artists who are most vociferous with anti-gay lyrics may actually be expressing self-protection/self-hatred around their queerness and masculinity. Another yardie friend of mine and I were talking about a lyric by a dancehall artist that sez: "bad man nuh wear g-string". Ok. sooo... i guess the lesson trying to be conveyed here is that real tough guys don't and shouldn't wear g-string panties. The thing is... this artist had to actually conjure up this image in order to write this lyric...! Where did this image of guys in g-strings come from? Not saying that this lyric is evidence that the artist is gay, but i consider it a curious example of the extent that some Jamaican men will go to in order to showcase their heterosexuality- paradoxically evoking homoerotic images in the process! But where this leaves a lot of men in Jamaica... not only down low men have to keep up appearances of straightness, but some hetero men also have to keep up the exhausting job of re-proving their heterosexuality and a certain brand of masculinity.

What makes things even more headspinning is that the rude bway style (aka the thug steez) includes aesthetics that may be construed as queer associated in European and North American cultures. Meticulously plucked eyebrows, Vaseline on the lips to make them shiny, see through mesh/net shirts... i could go on. Is it possible that down low men in Jamaican culture have become such powerful icons of hyper-masculine heterosexuality that there is now safety to be less gender conformist in appearance? Or is masculinity in Jamaica something so complex that it escapes definition?

The labyrinthine journey to one love continues...


also peep Keith Harris' essay on the down low phenomenon, he is a gay black man who very much calls for gay black men to step back up into a visible representation of black masculinity. This is one of the essays featured on

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Reality Check: Shirley Chisholm, The First Black Woman To Run For President.

Thank You Racialiscious! Sylvia/M reminds us that before there was Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, Shirley Chisholm (November 20, 1924 - January 3rd, 2005) blazed the trail for black folks and women. She was the first African-American woman (Caribbean-American woman really, her dad was from British Guiana, and mom from Barbados! We run tings you know...) elected to Congress, and the first black woman to be a major party candidate for the Presidency of the United States (DNC, 1972). She was a fierce orator and advocate for women's rights, as well as for the human rights for black folks, Latino/Chicano immigrants, and Native Americans. She was also an open critic of the Nixon administration during the Vietnam War. And one of her quotes?

I am, was, and always will be a catalyst for change.

Sounds like a good slogan :) She has some other great quotes, i found this one to be of particular interest, a valuable perspective to be given from someone in this unique position:

Of my two "handicaps" being female put more obstacles in my path than being black.

WOW. Heard that? It gets even more deep in the biographical documentary that bears the name of her campaign slogan,
"Chisholm '72 : Unbought And Unbossed" (My friend B schooled me and lent me the dvd back in the day :) where one can see how the male-dominated Black Congressional Caucus refused to support/endorse her, and would tend to think her too outspoken. Y'all aren't going down in history as heroes guys.... not on this matter anyway...

...reminds me of the white feminist women declaring they are going to vote for McCain or stay home on election day just to make sure that Obama doesn't win... you know, McCain, the guy who referred to his wife with the c-word, and opposes reproductive freedom rights and stuff. Interesting that some feminists may forget to support us having the first black
First Lady too. For me, this sounds like more of an issue around whiteness than around gender politics. Tim Wise writes an excellent open letter/essay on the subject called "Your Whiteness Is Showing."

In closing, i thought it would be good to post a clip of the woman who should not be forgotten, the trailblazer, Shirley Chisholm. Rest In Peace And Power!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Understanding Boys, Understanding Masculinity

I found an old feature from a 1987 issue of The New Internationalist. Its somewhat universalizing, but i definitely appreciate the places that they went to with the pressures and issues boys grow up with, and how that feeds into adult masculinities. I also like the quaint 80's illustration style, though it would have been nice to have a teeny bit more ethnic inclusivity :)

Reading this feature has me nodding my head, I remember the pressures to excel in sports, to have sex, dealing with bullies and more. Some of these issues I will actually be performing in the upcoming event, The Men's Story Project. Stay tuned for more, have a great week...

(* also, its probably worth mentioning the Dads And Daughters link here again, if this post intrigues you)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Beyond Masculinity: Essays By Queer Men On Gender & Politics

Samhita put up a post at Feministing that links to this free, interactive, and sleek online anthology. It looks pretty amazing, I plan to comment more after some reading. Be sure to peep

Ellen Degeneres and John McCain on Gay Marriage

For those of you who haven't seen this yet! What was McCain thinking going on this show? He can't even look her in the eyes too much...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Not So Nice Outside: Street Harassment Is The Rage This Season.

I’ve been wondering why the subject of cat-calling/street harassment has been on the uptick on several feminist/progressive blogs, and then i saw Jessica Hagy’s on point, simultaneously cute and groan-worthy graph. June is here! And though that brings a lot of us warm feelings (i’m a summer baby myself), it seems that there is also a downside to summertime that my male privilege does not expose me to.
It seems clear to me and most of my progressive fam that street harassment is a form of male entitlement to be in the space of a woman (or girl! i have read so many blogs about women getting really nasty catcalls from grown men at age 13), and that it is an expression of patriarchy, making public spaces a place where men can dominate and be abusive towards women, especially if they are rebuffed. Not trying to be alarmist, but unfortunately my research has turned up a really, really, effed up story where an 18 year old young woman in Florida was recently shot after a car chase... because she didn’t respond “positively” to a catcall. She is in intensive care right now. WTF?!? Luckily, this isn’t the norm, but i think this points towards the intensity of non-safety that women can experience when men choose to catcall.

But WHY?? What is the real motivation for men who do this? And I mean, how "effective" is it? Is it just an endless public theater of woman-hating half-assedly masquerading as woman-loving? Or does this behavior yield wheelbarrows of phone numbers...? The sad irony is that so many men conflate this behavior with “loving women”, and i often wonder if they are able to really have loving relationships at all, or if it is always around dominance. There seems to be an obliviousness that they have started an act of aggression, and then end up feeling like they were “attacked first” after “just paying a compliment” when they get negative reactions.

Almost decade ago, a friend of mine and i were walking down the street in NYC, and as some women walked by, my friend went into a catcall. I gave him a thump on the shoulder and asked him not to do that and associate me with that behavior. The women laughed and kept walking. Whew. My friend has NEVER forgiven me for that! I almost became the subject of “the rage of the rebuffed”, he felt humiliated in front of the women, angry that i had raised my hand to him, etc. A decade later, we have still not seen eye to eye on that incident. Which confuses me. I think its safe to say that most men who catcall and think its just fun and “complimenting” a woman would get HEATED if they saw some man say the very same thing to their mother, sister, girlfriend, etc. So there is a consciousness that it IS disrespectful, but that consciousness can somehow be conveniently bypassed. 

And its also not so cut and dry, because sometimes... a stranger can comment and it IS perceived as a compliment. In a post on Angry Black Woman’s blog, The Ins And Outs Of Catcalling, that very subject is talked about, and seems to get pretty far in fine tuning the parameters of what constitutes harassment and what constitutes a compliment. But of course, the experience remains subjective, and what feels like a catcall to one woman may feel like a compliment to another. And of course, culture and class influences so much of this as well. Hetero men from oppressed groups may be acting out a way to reclaim power, but what’s the deal with privileged white frat boys then? Just relaxed into their entitlement and all that privilege i guess. It would also be interesting hear some same-sex experiences around catcalling too.

I wanna leave with my new fave catcall rebuff story. I had lunch with a good friend last week, and i was sharing some of my research with her. Later she rode off on her bike. I was later informed that as she was riding, some guy said “hey lil mama whats yer number” complete with a flick of the tongue (ewww.) My friends response as she rode away? Raising the finger and saying “One”.


I am sad to add to this post that Mildred Beaubrun, the 18 year old young woman who was shot for rebuffing a catcall, died in the hospital a few days later. This was reported in the Orlando Sentinel. It is tragic & infuriating that this young woman lost her life because some man felt THAT entitled to a particular response from her. I hope that this gains national attention, and that this starts a larger conversation around street harassment, masculinity and patriarchy that leads to greater action around these issues. Blessings and light going out to Mildred, and her family.

The 4th Annual Queer Women Of Color Film Festival, June 13-15

Heads up Bay Area! The 4th Annual Queer Women Of Color Film Festival is almost here. It is recommended to go early since it is a free event. Click here for schedules and details. I am proud to say that i will also have an appearance on the big screen playing a small part in Monifa Porter's film, One In A Million. Its a short comedy about a lesbian couple trying to find a sperm donor. hee!