#DayOfTheGirl 2014

#dayofthegirl
October 11, 2014

All I want is an education, and I am afraid of no one.
Malala Yousafzai

How rare is it for twerking to be discussed…or actually anything involving what Black [girls] do, think, say, write, create, believe or are…without bigotry, and sloppy, one-dimensional bigoted ideas as the basis of the discussion or the “critique?”  Gradient Lair

quvenzhané-wallis-at-event-of-tarâmul-visurilor-(2012)

In English and Portuguese. For Español, click here.


For the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala. Congratulations!!

For black girls/women who twerk and those who don’t! Back that thing up but make sure you own your content fully! #MissKimari, #GetItIndy, and all the nameless teen and adolescent girls who don’t get a fair shake for their exploration of their self-identity on YouTube.

For breaking the silence of girls of color in NYC today!! Join us for the Town Hall at Columbia sponsored by Girls for Gender Equity, Inc. The event will be moderated by Columbia Law School Prof. Kimberlé Crenshaw will be moderating the event.

She defined “intersectionality” for us:

The need to split one’s political energies between two sometimes opposing groups is a dimension of intersectional disempowerment that men of color and white women seldom confront. Indeed, their specific raced and gendered experiences, although intersectional, often define as well as confine the interests of the entire group. For example, racism as experienced by people of color who are of a particular gender – male – tends to determine the parameters of antiracist strategies, just as sexism as experienced by women who are of a particular race – white – tends to ground the women’s movements.

The problem is not simply that both discourses fail women [and girls] of color by not acknowledging the “additional” issue of race of patriarchy but, rather, that the discourses are often inadequate even to the discrete tasks of articulating the full dimensions of racism and sexism.

Because women of color experience racism in ways not always the same as those experienced by men of color and sexism in ways not always parallel to experiences of white women, antiracism and feminism are limited, even on their own terms.  ~ Kimberlé Crenshaw [quoted from the brilliant blog Gradient Lair. Please subscribe to Gradient Lair!!]

 

“Half the story has never been told.”
To Toni Blackman and her #rhymelikeagirl mission!!

RIP #LeftEye

#Freedom the rap version

“How Can I Have 1.9 Million Followers and Feel…This Alone?”

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it. – Upton Sinclair

The intrinsic troublesome and uncertain quality of situations lies in the fact that they hold outcomes in suspense; they move to evil or to good fortune. The natural tendency of man is to do something at once ; there is impatience with suspense, and lust for immediate action.      – John Dewey,  “The Quest for Uncertainty” (1929)

Assata Shakur

The Lust and The Salary It May Depend On

A fellow black feminist scholar pointed this video of by a so-called professional twerker who appears to be “white,” and claims to the the “most famous booty shaker.” Why? Because she earns 6-figures making videos on Vine. When non-black women make this symbolic move and earn capital, I wonder if they ever consider that there are ethics involved in how their moves will impact those who came before them. It’s never necessary if those who came before are black and female.

While I am expanding my research to include videos by non-black teens and adolescents, I’ve chosen to limit my study to YouTube though I’d surely would have as much to figure out and analyze if I expanded the data set to video from WorldStarHipHop, Instagram and Vine. I want to thanksto Qiana Curtis for bringing this video/short film on the professional twerker to my attention on FB.

The line that strikes me most in the 4-minute short film I used as the title of the post. Does one have to make 6-figures to learn that money can’t buy you love or eliminate the animosities of race? Jessica says as her voice starts to crack as if performing on cue for the camera, “How can I have 1 point …. nine million followers and feel…this alone?” Generation Like meets the chicken that always comes home to roost in the old and new attention economy of the entertainment business.  (Check out the PBS documentary of the same name if you haven’t already. What are Teens Doing Online?).

 

This copy about the short film appeared below the original FB post:

Twerking 9-5: ‘Vine’s Most Famous Booty Shaker’ earns 6 figures

Jessica Vanessa is a professional twerker, who’s making big bucks by shaking her booty…in fact, she makes a 6-figure sum by shimmying her bum!

22-year-old social media superstar Jessica captivates audiences from around the world with her hypnotic assets. The former teaching assistant is now paid by companies to mention their products to her 2m online followers, who tune in to watch her twerk, jerk and crack jokes in comedy short videos on Vine.

Jessica now makes more money from a six-second Vine vid than she did working for four months at the nursery. It seems her bottom is taking her to the top!

Barcroft TV bring you a new short film every weekday – from the fascinating to the funny – plus two amazing full-length television shows every week.

#Twerking #Twerk #JessicaVanessa #JessiVanessa #Booty #Bum #Squats #Fitness #Dancing #Buns #VOTD #Video

Can Twerking Be Your Profession?

I don’t study adult twerkers and while Jessica Vanessa calls herself a “professional twerker” some critics/haters might consider the moniker an oxymoron. There are those who will liken it to “sex work” though there is no sexual touch or intercourse involved. The visual economy of twerking flips is like a free “peep show” that lures advertisers to solicit Vanessa’s “assets” to sell products.

In American culture and society associating earning money with having a profession is a common practice. If I earned a living off of making music, I too would call myself a professional. Google defines the term as:

pro·fes·sion
prəˈfeSHən/
noun
  1. a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification.
    “his chosen profession of teaching”
    synonyms: career, occupation, calling, vocation, métier, line (of work), walk of life,job, business, trade, craft;

    informalracket
    “his chosen profession of teaching”
  2. an open but often false declaration or claim.
    “a profession of allegiance”
    synonyms: declaration, affirmation, statement, announcement, proclamation,assertion, avowal, vow, claim, protestation;

    formalaverment
    “a profession of allegiance”

 

The Oxford English Dictionary, a definitive and professional arbiter of definitions in the English language, defines “profession” as:

A paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification:
his chosen profession of teachinga lawyer by profession

This definition gets complicated when it comes to mixing work with anything sexual…outside of hollywood or any industrialized complex of music, TV or film. Then your profession is questioned….rappers, DJs and dancers esp. from hip-hop included.

For me, the question keeps coming back to who profits from the social or economic capital of the cultural performance known as twerking? A cultural practice that began with black dance behaviors outside the marketplace dating back to New Orleans in the late 1980s and linked culturally throughout the African and Afro-Latin and Caribbean diasporas for decades if not a century.

The fact that race is never mentioned in the short film seems curious to me. The following viral meme from 2012 suggests that race was attributed to the before Miley Cyrus took it to the top of Google searches. But such practices in dance and music have always been extracted from the rich bottom of black creativity in our culture for centuries. Erasing the contestation is troublesome but such practices go beyond the hood.

Meme - So this is what Negro Girls Do

Questioning Who Profits

I was chatting with Hannah Giorgis after inviting her to speak to my students yesterday and we both dwell in and pondered a few related questions. Most of the ideas of these questions I attribute to Hannah. I embellished on them. She’d probably say my previous blog post on who profits from the counterfeit culture of stereotypes about black girls inspired some of these ideas:

  1. How are people who do not identify, who are not socialized or perceived to be, black girls affected by black girlhood? Do other girls or transgender folk get to explore sexuality through its prism or as a way into and out of popular adolescent/ youth culture?
  2. What does it mean to put symbolic elements of black girlhood upon yourself (without the symbolic codes of skin color and its incumbent stigmatization)?
  3. What does it mean to adopt (as well as adapt to) “black femaleness” and at any moment back away from it, return it, shed it when no longer value-able?
  4. What does it mean to have black girlhood imposed upon you because you look the part because of skin color even though you didn’t necessarily sign up for the part (Cue music: “Mama’s always on stage“)?
  5. Can these tensions be in conversation with one another in our contemporary discourse or debates or must we always take sides (black or white, booty or not)? (Cue music: Which side are you on? #michaelbrown #ferguson)
  6. Ultimately, who is profiting from black girls twerking on YouTube (way back in its beginnings in 2006) as a performance?A performance that can “make it rain” in 6 figures for some and not others (particularly not adolescent/teen black girls themselves)?

The questions need to be lived with before we simply jump off on some conclusion or result. There’s research and study to do first. I’ll leave readers with this. Some  commentary about a bell hooks talk at the New School earlier this week. In a piece called “bell hooks Was Bored by ‘Anaconda'” featured in The Cut, writer Kat Steoffel wrote:

According to hooks, reducing female sexuality to “the pussy” raised questions about “who possesses and who has rights in the female body.”

the booty is a more visible, PG-13 stand-in for female sexuality, easier to represent (and sell) in pop culture, but freighted with more racial connotations.  A booty-centric vision of female sexuality, hooks explained, asks, “who has access to the female body?”

Broadcasting while your twerk has consequences and differential consequences for non-blacks than for black girls themselves. There’s a lot to unravel before or while shaking your butt in the webcam.

My First Vlog: Upping My Content #bottomlines

The more legal and material hindrances women have broken through, the more strictly and heavily and cruelly images of female beauty have come to weigh upon us…After years of much struggle and little recognition, many older women feel burned out; after years of taking its light for granted [feminist progress], many younger women show little interest in touching new fire to the torch.                           – Naomi Wolf, US writer, The Beauty Myth (1991).

Quotes: On Media’s Junk-in-the-Trunk

The cheapest way to manufacture audience is through a high sex, high violence, high conflict content. It doesn’t take talent or research or investigative journalism. Yet it stimulates the appetites, much the same way that a high salt, high sugar, and high fat junk food diet does.”

Dr. Michael Karlberg, Western Washington University
see “Portrayal or Betrayal? How the media depicts women and girls”

 

“Girls are not passive recipients of these cultural messages. Girls are active agents. We know from developmental cognitive psychology that young boys and girls, once they know what their gender is, are very motivated to be the best example of their gender. And if the examples of femininity around you are a sort of tarted up, pornographied sexuality, then that’s what you’re psyched to be.”

Tomi-Ann Roberts, On the Sexualization of Girls

YouTube Nation on #LikeaGirl & SmoothieFreak on Nicky Minaj Cups

In the last thirty years … there has been a remarkable change in the image and roles of children. Childhood as a protected and sheltered period of life has all but disappeared. Children today seems less “childlike.” Children speak more like adults, dress more like adults, and behave more like adults than they used to. In fact, the reverse is also true.

There are indications that many adults who have come of age within the last twenty years continue to speak, dress, and act much like overgrown children. Certainly, all children and adults do not and cannot behave exactly alike, but there are many more similarities in behavior than in the past. The traditional dividing lines are gone.

Joshua Meyrowitz (Author of No Sense of Place)   childhood | adulthood/adult development


YouTube Nation host Jacob Soboroff is a TEDster (TEDActive) and I’m proud to say he’s a former student of mine from NYU who took a jazz course with me that he told me changed his point of view about life.

Jacob is political and an improvisor in life. He and I reconnected about 18 months ago while he was running HuffPost Live. Now he’s featured as a host for YouTubeNation and I’ll be posting those videos here because it connects with my research on black girls who twerk on YouTube. Studying the YouTube community is essential to my work.

In the video above he talks about the viral phenomenon of my previous post about the Always #LikeaGirl Campaign by documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield that asked different demographic groups of girls and a few guys of varying ages to “run like a girl” and the cognitive bias of gender emerged very powerfully among them all.

Doin Nicky Minaj to the game-song Cups

The YouTube Nation review video also features black girl (ok woman) blogger Akilah Hughes better known as smoothiefreak on YouTube. Check out her video playing the cups game to the original twerk queen of pop rap Nicky Minaj’s lyricsBlack girls got game, baby! Also check out her YouTube channel and subscribe!

 

Learn how to make your own gifs on Jacob’s site this week.  Jacob also appears on TakePartLive and yesterday they had a great convo asking if America is becoming more racist than ever following a vote on Capital Hill regarding the Civil Rights Voting Act. The research I am studying with my summer anthro students suggest the answer is insidiously yes. More on that soon!

 

 

Girls at Play: Do We See Black Childhood Clearly?

 “Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.”
― Dr. Seuss

Where Have All the Children Gone?

As I watch YouTube videos of black girls who twerk, as I invite and request my students to study their performance as both play and to examine how others’ views of black girls’ childhood are distorted and distorting how those girls see themselves, I have been remembering my earlier work on black girls’ games. I don’t want to lose that black girls are children at play while also critiquing what it means to play with self (sexual)-objectification. This video doesn’t have that objectification piece in it from the girl or the boys. Check it out. Perhaps introducing this music and dance to adolescents would be interesting. Having them analyze its difference from US twerking in videos.

PS What I love about this video also is that they are playing freely in the mud after a rain in their yard.

//

 “Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
― C.S. Lewis

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning…They have to play with what they know to be true in order to find out more, and then they can use what they learn in new forms of play.”
~ Fred Rogers (from the PBS show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood)

Courage as Home: Maya’s Call to Rise & Represent Self Well!

Your destiny is to develop the courage to flesh out the great dreams, to dare to love, to dare to care, to dare to want to be significant and to admit it, not by the things you own or the positions you hold, but by the lives you live.

Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014)

Screenshot 2014-06-07 12.40.25

 

What if courage was a place called home?

What if courage was a place we called home? What if the rising Maya Angelou spoke into existence from “Still I Rise” was a returning to one’s self, one’s spirit, what one was put her on the planet to do fuller than you, your ego, will allow you to see in the storm?  This is the gift of the life of Dr. Maya Angelou. I call her doctor cuz she’s been our shaman of humanity, from its dark recesses with its darts and its dawns of soft slow rising or blazing revelations. I bless her today as her homegoing service just concluded at 12:30 today livestreamed online by Wake Forest University, her academic home.

De-segregation of spirit: Be ready!

We black girls and women have a special place in our hearts for what Maya Angelou provided before we even read I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. She sang my song for me before I knew it had a tune. She recalled my mother’s and my mother’s mother’s journeys before Segregation. She stood as a testament to we are not our past and we are always creating our future and that everything we do in life we define. The creative act of rising to each bitter and sweet occasion whether lied about or to, whether talked about or called out of our names as bitches, hos, mammys, negras, or even when we aren’t even aware of our own self-destruction, we still have the opportunity in this life to rise.

So all  there is is to be ready!! Be willing. You and I are always able!!

Rest in power, in our love, and in our future endeavors to rise to all you left for us to create from Dr. Maya!!

“somebody/ anybody
sing a black girl’s song
bring her out
to know herself
to know you
but sing her rhythms
carin/ struggle/ hard times
sing her song of life
she’s been dead so long
closed in silence so long
she doesn’t know the sound
of her own voice
her infinite beauty
she’s half-notes scattered
without rhythm/ no tune
sing her sighs
sing the song of her possibilities
sing a righteous gospel
let her be born
let her be born
& handled warmly.”

― Ntozake Shangefor colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf

Kyraocity Speaks!

What if courage was a place called home for black girls, for black women, for all women, for all of humanity to sing from? What if we brought this to our notions of our online reputation and how we present our self in the media? Black girls pay attention!! It matters more than most for you to represent without falling into somebody’s respectability politics but to consider your own future identity which only you can build but hundreds online will encourage you to damage. Be ready!! 

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International Children’s Day! Do Your Thang…and Switch!!

Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.

– Margaret Mead

This is the fate of colored girls globally right now: the denial of their girlhood, the denial of their childhood, and the constant state of risk and danger they are living in.”

                                                      ― bell hooks

quote-being-considerate-of-others-will-take-your-children-further-in-life-than-any-college-degree-marian-wright-edelman-55752

I spent the day writing and grading and thinking about my long term plans for publishing articles and for empowering black female YouTube content creators via my collaborations with my students. It was a powerful weekend where feelings of play were present but not feelings of being a child, with no control, over how life goes. It was an energetic, focused, and peaceful day at home. Last weekend I went to see the Kara Walker installation at the Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Going again soon. You must not miss this!! Check our the inspiration for the installation from Kara’s sketches here.

Lush Tongue Restoration

Yesterday, I had a rehearsal and vibes sessions with members of Lush Tongue, a feminist vocal acappella group led by Onome Om that I recently joined. We have our first performance June 7th at LAVA in Brooklyn. To get acquainted we shared the moment(s) we decided music was our lives.

The five women present from the 6 member ensemble shared all the typical ways patriarchy in musical settings can shut you down, steal your voice. They also shared of family and father figures who helped give their musical expression voice. And I shared about how my developing vocal memoir seems to be all about men in and around my life.

So what does all this have to do with International Children’s Day you might ask?

Anybody Sing Me a Black Girls’ Song

I don’t know. But I do think that WHO we all have become as women started at a very young age and shaped our mindset about being female, about the context of life where men and boys seem to rule, and how to bargain for more power and more voice even at a young age. Girls’ agency matters. And I think we owe subsequent generations of children and especially girls — present and in the future to come — an opportunity to know childhood as a space of wholeness, and holiness, for their personhood and their particular ethnic culture.

Article 30 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states:

In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities or persons of indigenous origin exist, a child belonging to such a minority or who is indigenous shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of his or her group, to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practise his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language.

This applies to black girls twerking off- and online, black girls rapping off- and online, black girls beatboxing and breakin’ off- and online, and just being themselves – quirky, funny, nerdy, sexy, creative, curious, patient, entrepreneurial and smart on- and offline. All of our lives, and especially children’s lives and even moreso the lives of girls of color here in the US and girls living in poverty abroad, are changing in ways we cannot always see, witness (despite the publicness of everything via online video today), or understand fully, online.

Your online reputation today may make or break you tomorrow. So watch out!

For some fun, here are some short YouTube videos of girls’ from around the world playing the kind of games I wrote about in my first book. These are black girls’ games off-line.

Happy International Children’s Day!!
(yesterday now that I am posting past midnight)

IN THE GAMBIA, THEY THROW BODY NOT SHADE!

 

IN LIBERIA, THEY BE CLAPPIN’ IT OUT WITH GAMES THAT ARE FUNK-AY!

 

HEY GIRL, BACK IN THE U.S.!! DO YOUR THANG..AND SWITCH!!

Kyraocity Werks!!

Til next time.

#BringOurGirlsBack: TEDFellow Iyeoka on Breaking Free!!

More girls were killed in the last 50 years, precisely because they were girls, than men killed in all the wars in the 20th century. More girls are killed in this routine gendercide in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the 20th century. ― Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wu-DunnHalf the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

I first heard the quote above from Half the Sky on #TEDLive webcast stream by co-author Sheryl Wu-Dunn (whose name does not appear on the Goodreads page where I found the quote alongside her more famous husband journalist’s highly recognized name). It shook me. The scope of the statistical comparison stopped me in my tracks. Why don’t we realize this? My answer tends to be what bell hooks calls ““imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy.” This brings me to the hashtag controversy over #BringOurGirlsBack. While conservatives mock the power of Twitter hashtag’s to galvanize public opinion around #BringBackOurGirls, a social media movement (SMS) to return over 200+ girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in Chibok, Nigeria, and while others poo-poo the power of 140 characters, or social media for good, some artists are simply using participatory media to voice the cause to their micro-audiences and beyond.

Fellow TED Fellow Iyeoka Ivie Okoawof is one of them. She is a Nigerian-born singer-songwriter living in Boston who travels around the world spreading love through song, poetry and her amazing soul. She and I ziplined together and performed together at last year’s first TED Fellows Retreat in Whistler, Canada. I am sharing a beuatifully powerful and empowering poem titled THE UNITY REQUIRED TO BREAK FREE which she just published on YouTube dedicated to the #BringBackOurGirls movement.

The purpose of the poem and unity is to facilitate the soul light energy required from humanity to actively participate in the cultivation of love to transform the dysfunctional presence of suffering, war, and hate. 
The existence of the poem encourages a deep and personal sense of courage, respect, forgiveness and understanding to all beings expressing life on earth. 

Download SAY YES EVOLVEDhttp://smarturl.it/sayyesevolved
Order a Physical Album: http://www.iyeoka.com/store

 

This SMS (social media movement) is on some level re-globalizing, virally spreading the local knowledge of women and girls who live in Chennai, Chibok, Chicago and places like Riyadh, Saudi Arabia or the boroughs of New York City: The lives of girls and esp. girls of color, even more so in far too many places, the lives of black girls are under siege, victims of rape, sexual assault, moetional and financial abuse, character assassinations, labor restrictions like infant mortality rates and childbirth deaths, and the limits on their mobility to work or drive in places called democracies.  And it seems few journalists in major media outlets cared until the hashtag. Twitter’s hashtag has become a powerful tool for battling indifference towards people of color, women and now girls. It tackles the intangible aspects of culture that diminish the value of more than half the world’s population. Killing off parts of humanity leaving despair, cynicism and fear. Not everyone agrees that America should play a role in trying to find the 200+ girls missing from their families and communities. I too agree there are larger social forces at work that require a much more radical attempt to uproot such oppression.

A recent Guardian article titled “Dear World, your hashtags won’t #BringBackOurGirls” speaks to this criticism, but the symbolic power of FLOTUS Michelle Obama posing in a photograph with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls is helping. It further galvanizes international attention as well as local-national attention here in the U.S.. The oppression against girls and women in black communities and in the world is a pandemic crisis all children, women and men should agitate themselves to care about as well as major organizations and institutions. It’s why I do the work I am up to on Black Girls On YouTube and why I joined the Black Girl Project run by Aeisha Turner in Brooklyn as a board member. I care. And I won’t stop til it stops!

Kyraocity’s ASK OF THE DAY:

The next time you see the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, Share This! Share Iyeoka’s video!! 

Danah Boyd “It’s Complicated”

“Most teens aren’t addicted to social media; if anything, they’re addicted to each other.”

- Danah Boyd, a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center.

 

Grrrl, have I been busy! #sheworkshardforhermoney

This is the first week  in three weeks that I have not been in another country or state. Was in Toronto giving a distinguished lecture in the Children’s Studies Program at York University (second only to the one at Brooklyn College-CUNY which I didn’t know). Then was in Ohio for a job talk and interview. Last week it was #IASPM14 in Chapel Hill where I again showed a really rough cut of the iMovie documentary that is emerging from the digital ethnography with my students at Baruch last fall. Getting lots of feedback that it inspires people but there is so much more work to be done.

In the meantime, I ran across a book that relates to my research on black girls twerking and then found that it’s available for free online (probably for a limited time). If you’re interested in the digital lives of teens, this is the hot book of the presses by the remarkable ethnographer danah boyd.

FREE COPY OF DANAH BOYD’S “IT’S COMPLICATED – THE SOCIAL LIVES OF NETWORKED TEENS”

As a fellow at Harvard’s Center Berkman Center for Internet & Society, danah boyd, has produced research on social media, social networks and its users (e.g. teens) that was also referred on this blog in the past. She recently published a book titled “It’s complicated – The Social Lives of Networked Teens“. She explores a range of issues, research and trends related to teenager’s (and their parents use/role) utilization of new technology/social media. You can buy it but since she is interested in sharing her research with as many people as possible, the complete book can be downloaded as a PDF for free.

Reposted from http://blogs.iq.harvard.edu/netgov/