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/ 

Free our Minds from This: Minaj Cover of Malcolm X (El-Shabazz)

The Miseducation of our Minds by the Media of Black Folk

The Miseducation of our Minds by the Media of Black Folk

Thanks to Brooklyn-based filmmaker and FB friend Stacey Muhammed for inspiring a rich conversation on her FB wall about Nicki Minaj’s latest video “Lookin A** N***“. Thanks for challenging us and reminding us to think about how black folks are exploiting our own radical history and libration.  I will not add the link for the video.  I refuse to give any eyes or promote the video’s views (literally and figuratively). I do not support the view count or the view WorldStarHipHop!
All I will say is that the use of violence, sexual misrepresentation and “lookin ass nigga” discourse with Malcolm X’s image is worse that the proposed (and beat down by an NAACP petition) Zimmerman fight. This is peculiarly significant in my mind. It’s like saying it’s ok to indoctrinate girls into this imperialist, twisted white supremacist, gun-totin’, school-shootin’, patriarchal system of misrepresentation as if it’s part of our freedom is to say whatever the f*ck we want on social media. That ain’t liberty! It’s cultural narcissism.
Narcissistic personality disorder is a condition in which people have an excessive sense of self-importance, an extreme preoccupation with themselves, and lack of empathy for others.
This is narcissistic: No empathy for the impact on those of us who stand in and with the legacy of the life of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. No empathy for releasing this ish during black history month. No empathy for the commitment Brother Malcolm was for black folks’ liberation and for the liberation of ALL people before the ending of his life.
The music industrial complex’s freedom to do this kind of marketing and sales is a 21st century version with wartime overtones of Step-and-Fetchit. Those actors made lots of money. For them, it was  the only option in white mainstream entertainment. Nicki Minaj, Cash Money and WorldStarHipHop.com got other options. We need to start pressuring them to take ‘me.
Facebook comments on thread by Stacey Muhammad today.

Facebook comments on thread by Stacey Muhammad today.

Standing for the Liberation of and Power to ALL People especially black girls and women!!
Kyraocity works.
POSTSCRIPT from  a Newsone blog post on Feb. 13, 2014: “In a post on Instagram, the Trinidadian barbie, who clearly has no concept of appropriate context, said that she meant no harm by using the picture and has nothing but the utmost respect for Malcolm X’s family:

What seems to be the issue now? Do you have a problem with me referring to the people Malcolm X was ready to pull his gun out on as Lookin Ass Niggaz? Well, I apologize. That was never the official artwork nor is this an official single. This is a conversation. Not a single. I am in the video shooting at Lookin Ass Niggaz and there happened to be an iconic photo of Malcolm X ready to do the same thing for what he believed in!!!! It is in no way to undermine his efforts and legacy. I apologize to the Malcolm X estate if the meaning of the photo was misconstrued. The word “nigga” causes so much debate in our community while the “nigga” behavior gets praised and worship. Let’s not. Apologies again to his family. I have nothing but respect an adoration for u. The photo was removed hours ago. Thank you.”

My thoughts after the apology

My thoughts after the apology

5 Digital Lessons, pt. 3: Practicing Non-Violence (the real way)

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.”
― Kahlil GibranThe Prophet

I love how my work sits in the between spaces of girls’ musical expression in games and twerking and male expressions in commercial/mainstream hip-hop music. Doing this new work on twerking seems so relevant to my earlier research the deeper I get into it. I love to write about music between the sexes in ways that allows race, gender and generation to come across in my interests to show the socialization processes at work as an ethnomusicologist.

So here’s one final lesson, though it’s really an afterthought while writing the previous two posts (see 5 Digital Lessons part.1 and part. 2 for the larger discussion but here are the 4 previous lessons I outlined:

Lesson #1 Websites containing YouTube videos can disappear.

Lesson #2: Capture everything that is meaningful while you work with online media.

Lesson #3: Stop and Think! Find Other Solutions When Data Goes Missing

Lesson #4: Stay Calm and Keep Love Alive

And now #5 reserved for throwback Thursday. After hearing John Lewis speak on MLK day for the second time, the latter via a podcast, it’s led me to think about the ways non-violence, the actual study of what it was back in SNCC activist Ella Baker’s and Dr. King’s time, what it might mean for a scholar like me today doing work on gender and sexuality within black cultural studies. We black feminists studying hip-hop do this out of love. Love of community. Love of music. Love of blackness as a cultural signifier of our time and place in the world. But I never really got present to the root of nonviolence being love until John Lewis talked about it that way.

It helped that Sunday night I witnessed love as music by Toshi Reagon and a host of African American singers I love and adore as musicians and people at the Public Theater of Joe’s Pub. So the notion of what love means as active participation in struggles have been very real for me relative to music this week.

Lesson #5: Practicing (and Studying) Non-Violence Can’t Hurt

I heard John Lewis speaking yesterday in an On Being podcast from Krista Tippett that I regularly follow. He talked about what “Love” meant practicing non-violence in the face of viscious attacks by whites who claimed then to hate black folks. In an aside, he said the Dr. King used to jokingly tell them “Oh, just love the hell out of ‘em anyway!”

Lewis talked about the discipline, practice and study required to learn to be “non-violent.” It wasn’t some romantic idea as some young generations seemed to believe. Doing this kind of work on twerking, black girlhood and hip-hop has required a similar same kind of love–discipline, study and practice–in the face of hearing popular male voices now broadcast 24-7, anywhere, anytime, and being able to access explicit video content the same way. It takes something to learn how to protect minors from the possible cognitive and emotional harm that is no longer protected by the FCC with these privatized platforms that seem to be free-sharing sites. Sites that now promote a different kind of “hyper-masculinity” via new media, in quantity not necessarily quality; where we are bombarded by visual and aural images naming “females” bitches 24-7 as well as emasculated men (if you need reminded watch Slaughterhouse defend such positions back in 2012).

Mainstream hip-hop’s gendered discourse seems designed to seduce girls and grown women into patriarchal bargains where our affection for their music content as fans may be making even emerging feminists complicit in a queer form of economic oppression that also has emotional and social consequences in gender relations, both romantic and non-romantic in nature. Gender is not simply a conversation about sexuality in hip-hop. It serves any number of unrelated ends aside from sexuality as Lewis Hyde once defined (1983).

5 Digital Lessons Learned the Hard Way, pt. 2

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”
― Paulo FreirePedagogy of the Oppressed

In my previous post inspired by learning that the Juicy J Scholarship site on WSHH has gone down, I shared lessons 1 and 2:

Lesson #1 Websites containing YouTube videos can disappear.

Lesson #2: Capture everything that is meaningful while you work with online media.

Screenshot 2014-01-20 11.43.27

Screenshot 2014-01-20 11.43.27

These were more tech oriented lessons that a new digital ethnographer of YouTube must consider in collecting data online.  Here’s part 2 of the post. It was way too long to subject you to in one sitting.

This set of lessons speaks more to my upcoming political sociology course. I needed a thrust for the semester. Some way to make it both real and relevant. I call this the “going public” part of every course I teach. It usually involves 1) sharing whatever we learn with people outside the academy, 2) collaborative learning, and 3) often but not always a publication of work in the public sphere.

A Relevant Pedagogical Aside:
Check out my curated op-eds by Baruch students from 2011 released on MLK day that year, dedicated to James Baldwin, titled Could You Be the Bigger Nigger? on Scribd.com (View count: 7700+). Check it out and please rate it if you like it the idea and/or the project and share it with both teachers and students in high school and college!

On to the final three lessons I learned doing a digital ethnography of twerking on YouTube.

Lesson #3: Stop and Think! Find Other Solutions When Data Goes Missing

This past Saturday, I had just shared with a sister in Harlem about my aims for my political sociology course that starts next week. In the conversation, I convinced myself that studying the Juicy J site was a perfect plan for the semester. Stop and think. What could I do that would be equally engaging and how could I use it still to teach my political sociology course? What about involving all 36 students in the sociological analysis of the 67,000 videos results that are yielded by a search of “Juicy J scholarship contest” on YouTube’s massive archive?

OK 67,000 is too large, but we can choose a significant sample of say 200 contest videos. Maybe some other sociology or anthropology professor could do the same and we could compare and contrast our methods and results.

What fascinates me about the idea is that my students and I can collaborate to study and analyze the political sociology of the contestests’ submissions (where they all women? all cisgendered?) while we learn and study from a new textbook by Dobratz, Waldner and Buzzell titled Power, Politics and Society: An Introduction to Political Sociology (2012).

I may no longer have access to the top-rated and most-popular videos in Juicy J’s contest, but there still remains a huge pool of valuable and meaningful data on YouTube that will allow us to study on race/ethnicity, gender/sexuality, socioeconomic class and social-class values, and age relative to adolescent black girlhood, youth dance culture and the exploration of emerging adulthood through embodied musical practices among black and non-black women. The top-rated videos would have added a real powerful dimenstion to the study that students might find fascinating but all’s well because of YouTube.

Here are some thoughts about how I intend to link the study of hip-hop music videos and twerking videos around the following chapter themes. Would love comments and other ideas if you’d care to share. Here’s what I am thinking:

Chapter 1  Power
C. Wright Mills wrote (1959: 181): “Power has to do with whatever decisions men make about the arrangments under which they live, and about the events which make up the history of their times…men are free to make history but some are much freer than others.” (Dobratz et. al, 3).

In the social settings of online always-on media, what kinds of power do black girls/women twerking have and what kind of power (economic, social and structural) do the owners in the recording industry who produce hip-hop videos via VEVO or  the owners of social media distribution sites like WSHH and YouTube have around these women’s user-generated content?

Chapter 2 Role of the State
In this chapter, democracy is discussed after distinguishing the nation from the state. “Markoff (2005) contends that there is a great deal of variation in ‘democratic’ nations, with some having widespread violations of civil liberties [my concern is about minors and black girls] despite holding free elections and others so ineffecient at providing basic government services that they are termed low quality democracies” (Dobratz et. al, 47).

From a class-based view of the state, the FCC once monitored public airwaves like radio and TV to protect minors from harm by advertisers and content creators. Since YouTube or WSHH  are privatized entities, they are not bound by any laws to protect minors from harm, and you cannot make a request based on the FOIA — Freedom of Information Act — for such a privatized company to share its data or the ‘user-generated’ data it used to promote the contest or to hide incriminating data affecting the politics of youth culture, gender, or patriarchal abuses in the corporate personhood of capitalism)

Chapter 3 Politics, Culture & Social Processes
This chapter includes a discussion of the “faces of ideology” Are black girls and other non-black girls the faces of ideology in hip-hop–with their asses?)

Chapter 4  Politics of Everyday Life: Political Economy
This chapter deals with the Welfare State: “all people in American society benefit from these programs” (Dobratz et. al, 130). Corporate welfare is called “wealthfare” or “phantom welfare”. How much money does the record industry make from hiphop and from YouTube’s music videos, which occupies 90% of its most-watched videos?  The other part of the welfare system “has been referred to as public assistance programs that are funded through general government revenues” (ibid.) from the income of the working classes of Americans often legislated through Congress or state-level government.

How are changes in public assistance programs for college student loans  and the feminization of poverty among college-age mothers apparent among the user-generated videos submitted for the Juicy J contest?  Check this submission video of a black woman sharing what it means to have to “pay outta pocket” (1:40″) for college.

The remaining chapters offer similar correspondences that we could make between the twerking videos and hte politics of power, people and the state in our society:

Chapter 5 Politics of Everyday Life: Social Institutions and Social Relations
Chapter 6 Political Participation
Chapter 7  Elections and Voting
Chapter 8 Social Movements
Chapter 9  Violence and Terrorism
Chapter 10 Globalization

I believe having students learn to how to make their own assessment and perhaps a powerful argument about the impact of music and hyperconnectivity on the Always On GenerationViolence Against Women and Girls Mattershow entertainment information overload and hyperstimulation of explicit mainstream hip-hop video content by distributors like the always-on VEVO and WSHH in tandem with viral twerking videos always available as user-generated content that girls and women upload themselves may (or may not) suggest, using various methods, a kind a sociologial warfare  being waged on girls and all youth via linguistic violence (Gay 1997). We will see.

Lesson #4: Stay Calm and Keep Love Alive

In the past, perhaps a sign of naivête from my own feminine insecurity in a patriarchal world, I’ve wanted to get mad and turn off when things like this happen. I turn away. Jump on the bandwagon and fight! Or make snap judgments without assessing the problem at hand as if media is always evil even in the age of YouTube. Immersive ethnographic study requires staying power. So, I’m stickin’ and stayin’ but I am trying to catch my faux pas’s too. This digital ethnomusicological research on twerking has a robust potential to say some things that aren’t easy to find, say or see in our society around black popular music cultures.

Last year I had my snap judgements about Lil Wayne’s viral YouTube video released on Valentine’s Day titled “Love Me.” I have written about what I learned after some analysis in a forthcoming chapter of a book on Obama and Hip-hop edited by Travis Lars Goma and Erik Nielsen. I was amassed at the social impact this media may be having on girls.  The YouTube video had amassed over 63 million within four months, which seems big but is dwarfed by videos by white male rappers in the mainstream. Yet this traffic is not insignificant. To date, it has yielded over 100 million views in just under a year. What was noticable then based on YouTube statistics up through June 2013, when the format changed–another lesson in capturing things–was how they revealed that females ages 13-17 and 18-24 lead in its audience demographics not males 13-17.  Males 18-24 came after the two female demographics. Gives credence to the hook in the song: “Long as my bitches love me. I don’t give a f#ck about no haters, long as my bitches love me.” The music industry trades on this seduction of girls.

So “Stay Calm and Keep Love Alive” because the most damaging war of revolution is not being waged simply between “these thighs” as Sarah Jones once rapped (learn about how a recording of this poetry was banned by the FCC back in 2001). The actual war is being waged over our minds and our attention. A soft head in this sense will make for a tougher life esp. as the feminization of poverty widens.  The mental slavery of women continues in new ways on YouTube in my opinion.

NOTE: If you’re looking for a broader context on sex, gender and desire in commercial music videos, broadening the analysis beyond black artists or hip-hop, check out Sut Jhally’s DreamWorlds III. Here’s a clip. These issues are not limited to hip-hop not music and any rapper using tired old argument about sexism exists in the broader public needs to move on.

Please like or comment. Engagement is a pathway to higher learning. The views in my head require feedback to know whether it makes senses beyond my internal logic. 

5 Digital Lessons Learned the Hard Way: On WSHH & YouTube, pt. 1

Screenshot 2014-01-20 11.43.27

Quote 1: “My dad always said this to me. A hard head makes a soft ass, meaning being stubborn and not listening makes life harder for you than it has to be. At the fine age of 41, I’m learning to not make the same mistakes over and over.” –  A blogspot post from a black man

Quote 2:A hard head make a soft ass, but a hard dick make the sex last..” –  Ludacris on Missy Elliot’s “One Minute Man”quoted from RapGenius.com.

RapGenius.com, owned by three non-black men, is a site where members annotate rap lyrics in a vernacular way. It’s sort of rap lyrics “Wikipedia,” but unlike the crowd-sourced encyclopedia there isn’t a taskforce of volunteers  distinguishing what information is merely entertainment information vs. meaningful fact. Despite my point, I do like the annotation for the familiar black vernacular expression from my own childhood. Ludacris flips the former meaning to go where all things in patriarchal hip-hop goes these days…to sex but the user’s annotation explains the former meaning well:

“A hard head make a soft ass” is a phrase familiar to the Southern part of the U.S. It means that hard-headed children (children who don’t listen to authority) have a tender behind, in that, whippings will hurt more because they will get more of them.

Those corporal lessons makes may or may not lead to change. Negative reinforcement can kill the spirit of learning. Fear was planted in my psyche with only a few ass-whoopins or beatings which we never violent but adjusted to the circumstance accordingly – fear of getting avoiding getting caught was lesson number one. I didn’t learn to unravel what I had actually done wrong and prevent that.

The lessons I am learning online doing digital ethnmusicology are learned the hard way–from trial and error or loss of access whenever things are taken off a site or some info is no longer accessible.

Conducting ethnographic research on black girls on YouTube comes with pitfalls: the data you study that contains girls twerking, talking and creating content, can be deleted, removed or simply lost to if someone didn’t pay for their annual domain fees.

I NEED SCHOLARSHIP (JUICY J’S WSHH SITE)

Today I went to WSHH site that featured the Juicy J contest videos to continue previous study and analysis of  the top-rated and most popular videos ranked there. I posted an image of the site in a previous post after the winner of the $50K, Zaire Holmes, was announced. Her 15 minutes of fame has been reduced to the fact that she did not twerk by Juicy J himself rather than the fact that she as a single mom going to college wants to become a doctor. These are examples of the #patriarchalbargains we make according to Gloria Steinem who arguably justified Miley Cyrus’s twerking.

WorldStarHipHop Juicy J site for the contest (Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 12.08.06 PM)

WorldStarHipHop Juicy J site for the contest (Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 12.08.06 PM)

I’m writing this post instead of attending the annual celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday in Brooklyn, (and yes I heard the about an image of King being featured in a twerking event advert but that is a case of entertainment info vs meaningful fact to the work I am doing at the moment. #focus). I got sidetracked, stopped in my tracks, when I went to the WSHH site for the contest and found this:

Screenshot 2014-01-20 09.05.50

Screenshot 2014-01-20 09.05.50

I didn’t go to Brooklyn because of the possible implications of this for my online research.

It seems that WSHH took down the site (if I returns let me know) that had that brilliant “Juicy J is not grading your work” line.  And set of ranked videos I was planning of studying. It was a convenient way to create a sample of the videos online. (Bet WSHH won’t take down Sharkisha but that’s another story for another conversation.)

This lack of access is potentially meaningful though I can’t say how yet and it may turn out to be nothing more than entertaining news. But what if the NOT FOUND page suggests that Juicy J’s gettin’ “protection” from incrimination around the controversy?  So it was written. Now it is gone! I may never verify such a suspicion. 

But this thing has taught me a few lessons. Lessons I’m learning  from my participant-observation and ethnographic study of YouTube. I’d like to share these lessons with any other twerkologists or YouTube ethnographers, too. So here we go.

Screenshot 2014-01-20 11.43.27

Screenshot 2014-01-20 11.43.27

Lesson #1 Websites containing YouTube videos can disappear.

Videos can be made private or removed from YouTube  preventing further viewing. And if a distributor like WSHH or the media handlers behind rap mogul Juicy J with a net worth of $20 milliion thinks it best to “scrub” or remove a site despite their stand for a kind of radical openness they can and will.

Shock sites like WSHH may be concerned that about the backlash from black women especially after the Crunk Feminist Collective post by Dr. Brittney Cooper and after the more recent corrosive public debate between Dr. Cooper (a black feminist historian and media studies scholar)  and a Dr. Shayne Lee (a black male who is a sociologist, a bible scholar, and  head of his department at Tulane University). It was during a segment on HuffPost Live panel via a Google Plus Chat on the topic “Do ‘Hood Sites’ Normalize Black Stereotypes?“.

Since we still live in a democracy, limiting as it may seem, where Black women are increasingly wielding  considerable online power through social media to tackle images believed to do damage to their social group identity in the public sphere, WSHH’s concern would be valid. But once again, I may never verify such a suspicion.

Lesson #2: Capture everything that is meaningful while you work with online media.

Here’s some tech info that will be useful for anyone studying YouTube videos.

From now on I will capture screen shots of images and auto-add them to a DropBox folder. I will also download the videos and catalogue any as I watch from now on. I use WonderShareAllMyYouTube for that. I find it’s better than the Torrent Torch browser I also downloaded for that purpose. The Torch browser is not always effective in downloading videos.

I don’t know why the Juicy J Scholarship site is down, but studying those submissions that were voted on by the masses as the most popular and the most top-rated are now out of reach. Wondering how I might still access them? Anyone with any ideas please inbox me.

Would WSHH be loath to honor a request from a black feminist scholar or a digital ethnographer studying black girls and their online games? I wish I could learn the backstory. Not enough contacts in this world yet. I wish I had had the forethought to back that thang up (pun intended); to recover the valuable and meaningful data that I witnessed these last two months.

Later this week, I’ll share the other 3 lessons.

The other 3 of the 5 digital lessons spill over into the pedagogy (or androgagy for adults) I am designing for my political sociology course this Spring. If you recall, last Spring I focused on “political speech acts” in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. Twerking will become a central piece in the new semester’s design.

 

Juicy J’s $50K: Managing Self, Managing Privacy on YouTube

Now that the barriers are crumbling everywhere, the Negro in America must be ever vigilant lest his forces be marshaled behind wrong causes and undemocratic movements. – Mary McLeod Bethune, Last Will & Testament

In my previous post Class is (Not) in Session, I mentioned that one of the best submissions to the Juicy J contest was made private when the winner of the contest was announced. Since then YouTuber Miss Kimari has made the complex submission public once again and I hope you’ll not only take a look but you’ll take multiple looks at what a complicated representation of self is in an age where context collapse (having the context of who you are, where you came from, what you really mean to portray from your POV) denies viewers a complex understanding of black girlhood and black female agency and consciousness.

I want to thank  Dr. Treva B Lindsey, a professor at Ohio State University, who introduced me and the participants  at the December 2013 Gender, Sexuality and Hip-hop conference sponsored by the Anna Julia Cooper Project at Tulane backed by Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry.

I have begun interviewing Miss Kimari about a week ago and I’d like to share one thing she shared with me.  I asked her several questions that are helping me ethnographically understand what is happening inside being a practitioner of twerking. Kimari is an undergraduate student at a major university in the so-called Dirty South where twerking is common body language. She has had an online identity since about 2005 on MySpace as a ninth grader and has “shut down” a couple of her YouTube accounts to manage her public persona, which was something I was not expected to hear from her. My preconceptions of the women who might twerk for the contest was stereotypical until I started studying the phenomenon and remembering the dances I did at her age and beyond as part of the black expressive vernacular communities of music and dance.

She said one thing that struck me. I wasn’t surprised as much as I was struck by my own past identity as a college student, as a black female student, who had never learned that black people even went to college before Civil Rights until I went to a school, the University of Michigan, that had a significant black presence on faculty and among the graduate students. What she shared reminded me of both the empowerment that comes with learning about being black in America and the disempowerment that comes from learning more about patriarchy and sex oppression.  I am paraphrasing from my notes because I haven’t yet transcribed the recording.

Miss Kimari (paraphrasing): Last semester I was learning about black women’s struggles in the transnational state in all of my Africana classes and what I learned was who I am is a problem and that’s what I’ve seen my whole life. The way we talk about stereotypes. the way we reproduce them…it kills people living this reality.

In the video, Miss Kimari lets us see her black feminist textbooks and her twerking. She has video, the context of which gets collapsed, from when she danced professionally in a former iteration of her life, and video of her teaching classes at college. She consciously presents views of race, gender and sexuality which the generalized other on YouTube and other social media channels might consider challenging to their moral or societal values about young women and their freedom of expression in this day and age. But she has agency. She is exploring and quite consciously and, as her withdrawal of her video from YouTube suggests, she knows she is not completely in control of it all.

We live in a world of radical openness and we often, I can attest, learn our mistakes in highly public ways that can be emotionally traumatizing before we realize that we left the doors to our safety unlocked. While we think we see what we are doing when we create a video of twerking or even a personal vlog, we are totally unawares of the infinite ways that chunk of media could have not only now but in the infinite nows that will live as a result of our transmission.

It’s hard our here for a black girl. But this is the new context of our self-construction and it’s not just a adolescent age thing. Anyone on YouTube or social media is slowly learning the very old lessons once taught by Reconstruction era grandparents. This is why when I was a girl we had oratory lessons in our privatized spaces. Practicing how you present yourself to a general audience mattered and it still does. But YouTube is a mixed space where things that were once private and local and highly publicized, persistent (you may never get rid of it online) and no longer personal.

Would love your thoughts about how you manage your online identity but also invite you to consider HOW you online interactions are reshaping the construction of your SELF. Once online, always online. Be careful out there!

Be Curious and Question!
Kyra

When the Music Stops: The Micro-Wages of Patriarchy (Beyoncé to R Kelly)

NOTE: Since this post was in part inspired by my grad school memory of R Kelly’s 1995 single “You Remind Me of Something” (yes, you women remind me of some THING), I initially though I’d post the music video, but on second thought, I refuse. I refuse to give currency (literally adding views on YouTube) to his digital presence and his commercial work. Instead, please watch and listen to the Jim DeRogatis’s YouTube series The Kelly Conversations with guest Psychology Professor Charmaine Jake-Matthews, a black woman who as a teen attended the academy where R Kelly preyed on underage girls.

Ahead of R. Kelly headlining Pitchfork Music Festival, WBEZ’s Jim DeRogatis conducts a series of conversations with smart, passionate cultural critics.

As a professor of ethnomusicology, or rather the sociology of a gendered musical blackness on and off line, I have become increasingly committed to a womanist/feminist critique of pedagogy, of the digitally divided, and of the lack of an intergenerational and intersectional analysis of the oppression and domination tactics being used against black girls and women.  So it might seem strange that  recent controversies around whatever mega-artists’ latest release whether its Yeezy or Queen Bey, are often not all that interesting to me.

Usually I am not and have never really been interested in being dragged by the current into a maelstrom of opinions and argumentation, of bullying and social agreement. Perhaps it’s being an only child who even as an adult still feels introverted and outside what’s really popular. I’ve always been more interested in how the vernacular and local popular works for black girls and women. The micro-sociologies and the micro-stories of our ethnography–the first-hand, personal study of local settings.

The new popular with its advent of “new media”–the always-on, always available participatory culture and networks from YouTube to Facebook and Twitter–it all seems so irresistible. This immediately compelling “now now” (the term someone told me must be used to transact for an immediate demand of action by request in South African work culture)  distracts and dissuades us from our own need to personalize our habits of work, money and health. It distracts and dissuades us as well as from any radical (the thing we really need–whatever that may be for you and you– given the generalized indifference to black female existence by “IMPERIALIST WHITE SUPREMACIST CAPITALIST PATRIARCHY.” We need a radical collective action one that actually stops, thinks, and plans actions like what’s needed with regards to the most beloved and often the wealthiest, and most symbolically powerful, actors of musical blackness whose linguistic and symbolic imperialism often defy any local concerns for the linguistic and symbolic violence and emotional and cognitive abuse being waged against black girls and women.

The micro-wages and -aggressions of patriarchy whose consequences range from a lack of consent in mundane transactions like calling out gender when it’s irrelevant (The Fem-Cee Jean Grae!!!) to the invasive domination of rape, sexual assault and murder are hidden by the controversies around Yeezy and Bey. Then all these micro-wages and aggressions are expropriated to all communities of girls and women via American pop culture and YouTube in almost invisible ways. Witness over time the increased visibility of formerly denigrated and now objectified ideals of black female bodies where non-black bodies have and manufacture through cosmetics and cosmetic surgeries fuller lips, fuller hips, and tanned skin but not kinky hair, fuller noses and definitely not chocolate-bar to  blue-black skin tones. This goes unseen or unnoticed in the speedy highlights of new media blazing new new stories at the speed of lightness.

This is the outflow from my keyboard this morning after reading a story about R Kelly and accusations of sexual assaults dating back to when I was in graduate school in the early 1990s. And it bleeds into some concern I had that maybe I should take a bigger role in the black feminist blogosphere’s conversations about Beyoncé.

When we critique Beyoncé’s new  (old) work without considering the larger socio-political contexts of what bell hooks calls “IMPERIALIST WHITE SUPREMACIST CAPITALIST PATRIARCHY” as well as the social imagination of a heteronormative, non-consensual, pornificated gender politics that black girls and women are constantly re-subjected to by major black and non-black, major male and non-male superstars dating back decades, we miss what inter-generational critiques have to offer. I’d love to do a Google Chat that has 16 year olds, 30 year olds and 50 year old at the table sharing simply about the micro-wages and -oppressions they have felt from watching Bey’s new work or from moments in time then-then that reminds them this now-now.

I remember back in the early 90s when I was in grad school at Michigan with about 650 currently enrolled grad students of color–one of the most radical moments of my academic experience having formerly only existed in tiny groups of minority students before that–I was disgusted by R Kelly’s song lyric “You remind me of a Jeep. I wanna ride it! You remind me of a credit card. I wanna buy it!” I don’t remember too much public outrage about the sisters I knew then but I did complain about it. There was no new media to circulate our thoughts beyond our immediate sphere. Well there was email which we did use to galvanize a full-page ad in defense of ourselves and Anita Hill in what was it 1991 which came out of womanist actions by Michigan faculty–female and male. But back then I was just beginning to learn that I didn’t have the language to identify its connections to “IMPERIALIST WHITE SUPREMACIST CAPITALIST PATRIARCHY.”

Yesterday’s December 16, 2013 Village Voice article about the stomach-churning stories about R. Kelly and a one-man crusade by one music journalist to investigate and publicize his factual sexual abuse cases brings the facts of “IMPERIALIST WHITE SUPREMACIST CAPITALIST PATRIARCHY”  into view for deeper analysis of Beyoncé and more importantly of ourselves.

These are facts that are plagued by the lack of media literacy among young and old that leads way too  many of us refusing to confront

  • what is being peddled and for whom
  • what is being bought and by whom,
  • what (not who) is being sold to our minds through popular and social media culture then and now
  • and why…to and for what ends are we constantly being distracted by new media?

I am realizing that I must keep blogging here but I ask that today, in this now now, you carve time out to:

Read the “Stomach-Churning” Sexual Assault Accusations Against R. Kelly in Full

Here is a telling excerpt:

Jessica Hopper/Village Voice: Some of our young critical peers, they’re 24 and all they know of Kelly’s past is some vague sense of scandal, because they were introduced to him as kids via Space Jam. A lot of your reporting on this is not online, it is not Google-able. Collective memory is that he “just” peed in a girl’s mouth.

Music journalist Jim DeRogatis: To be fair, I teach 20-year-olds at Columbia. Ignorance is nothing to be ashamed of. Nobody knows everything. A lot of art, great art, is made by despicable people. James Brown beat his wife. …

The art very rarely talks about these things. There are not pro-rape Led Zeppelin songs. There are not pro-wife-beating James Brown songs. I think in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, rock music, or pop culture people misbehaving and behaving badly sexually with young women, rare is the amount of evidence compiled against anyone apart from R. Kelly. Dozens of girls — not one, not two, dozens — with harrowing lawsuits. The videotapes — and not just one videotape, numerous videotapes. And not Tommy Lee/Pam Anderson, Kardashian fun video. You watch the video for which he was indicted and there is the disembodied look of the rape victim. He orders her to call him Daddy. He urinates in her mouth and instructs her at great length on how to position herself to receive his “gift.” It’s a rape that you’re watching. So we’re not talking about rock star misbehavior, which men or women can do. We’re talking about predatory behavior. Their lives were ruined. Read the lawsuits!” READ MORE.

CLOSE QUOTES:

We have been raised to view any difference other than sex as a reason for destruction, and for Black women and white women to face each other’s anger without denial or immobility or silence or guilt is in itself a heretical and generative idea. It implies peers meeting upon a common basis to examine difference, and to alter those distortions which history has created around our difference. For it is those distortions which separate us. And we must ask ourselves. Who profits from all this?
Audre Lorde. “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism” Sister Outsider. Crossing Press Berkley. 1984. Originally published as the keynote presentation at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference, Storrs, Connecticut, June 1981

Thoughts Beyond the Body, Pt 2 of 2 (VIDEO)

This is Part 2 of 2 Beyond the Body in response to a short video clip from the dialogue between bell hooks and Even Ensler Tue Nov 5th.  Here is the video clip that was the basis of all three posts.

If you haven’t watched the documentaries Misrepresentation or Sut Jhally’s Dreamworlds 3: Desire, Sex & Power in Music Video, put it on your list!! It it easy to simply dismiss critiques of capitalism and patriarchy as some feminist rant. Non-dominant identities and the bodies used to represent them, that perform those positions, that are assigned and associated with those positions in various socially-mediated contexts are most at risk, and perhaps the most risky kinds of culture in the immaterial aka symbolic cultural warfare commodified by a supremacist patriarchal system of media even when its YouTube. The lyrics from the auto-tuned song, Bedroom Intruder, makes my point about the hyper-penetration of media that promotes the hyper-sexualization of girls by their own hands and content creation in twerking videos, as just one example:

He’s climbin in your windows
He’s snatchin your people up
Tryna rape em so y’all need to

Hide your kids, Hide your wife
Hide your kids, Hide your wife
Hide your kids, Hide your wife
and hide your husband
Cuz they’re rapin errbody out here

Read more: Antoine Dodson – Bed Intruder Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Both bell hooks and Eve Ensler talked briefly during the dialogue about unplugging, about this other bedroom intruder for girls which bell hooks calls the “imperialistic, white supremacist, capitalistic, patriarchy”not, she asserted during the evening, because she likes to say it but because it “connects all the forms of domination enslaving us today.” I heard this as a call for an extreme self-care of protection against and armament from the explicit and hyper-sexualized media which we now share as participatory culture. This is the kind of self-care that Audre Lorde articulated as a political act of warfare.

We must begin to help teen girls or color in particular learn this kind of self-care especially now that the “bedroom intruder” out to rape your mind of its power lives in the mobile devices you carry 24-7. Devices whose media teached us all to be available 24-7, complicit in lyrical blow jobs as part liking and commenting on hip-hop music as videos an lyrics on YouTube, WorldStarHipHop.com, Rap Genius, and  through funny yet uncritical interpretations of patriarchal thinking that are created as provocative shareable looped miro-videos in the form of gifs on Tumblr or videos on Vine.

By unhooking ourselves, girls, women, boys and men, dislodging ourselves not completely but at least reccurently and regularly, we learn to dis-associate ourselves and more imporantly, our minds, from this sexist matrix of video sharing. The imperialistic, white supremacist, capitalistic, patriarchy will always be there when you get back. Or you can back that thang up (download it and watch it later). It will still be there, promise. We must begin reclaim not just our bodies, but the real agent of our own change, our language, our embodiment and the center of all of it, our minds which is ultimately beyond the body.  The mind–our sociological imagination–not our physical body, our skin color or our othered shapes and sizes, our social body–it is the mind that is the actual house we human beings live in.

Time to build a new home for our self and what may seem contradictory is that YouTube as participatory culture, as a media with easy to use access, and self-reflection built into the content creative process, can serve the reconstructive role but that kind of self-mediation is least popular among youth of color. They remain consumers of the new culture primarily in a house of consumption not creation.

This is all a new realm of study for me. I was the consumer of such media and an influencer. Now I am learning to think critically and

Beyond the Body? bell hooks + Eve Ensler

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” ― Alice Walker

IMG_8458

Tuesday, November 5, 5:00-6:30pm
Beyond the Body? 
A public dialogue between bell hooks + Eve Ensler 
Tishman Auditorium, The New School
66 W 12th St
New York, NY 10011
Free

I’ve not posted much this semester about our project and perhaps that has been good in that chaos lives in the beginning of anything new  and not everything needs to be broadcast I have learned (the hard way). This is particularly a concern I have been pondering relative to black girls on YouTube–girls and women. The limitless audiences who see our thoughts, feelings, actions and beliefs, those audiences are not always aware of any historical context of our lived experiences nor are they willing to do that work in the current pace of entertainment-as-news or the sharing of must-see-TV and tweets that serves as a constant distraction to the extreme self care everyday people need to be attending to. But that is another blog post.

[NOTE: This is the first of three parts about the event. The last will feature the video itself so stay tuned.]

Q&A on hyper-sexualization

This post about a  1-1/2 minute video clip recorded with my iPhone. It was in response to the first question from the audience after an amazing dialogue at the New School between cultural critic bell hooks [who always spells her name in lower case] and V-day founder and Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler. I am in the process of editing the video and preparing to share it with my research assistants in my Black Girl You Tube Project course (aka ANT4800 Anthropological Analysis).  The video will definitely be posted on YouTube so you can share. But first I transcribed the clip and wanted to share the text. Why? 1) Because I think that visual media has stolen or at least it’s dominating our critical thinking of late; and 2) Because it might serve as an experiment for you to notice and reclaim how reading is an equally engaging and transformative media of shared culture and visual culture to which I am returning. 

IMG_8449Mine was the first question in the Q&A. Stepping to the microphone I announced myself as Kyra Gaunt, professor at Baruch College-CUNY and  purposefully broadcast to the hundreds attending [see panorama view] that I was doing a project called the Black Girl YouTube project.  Then I succinctly asked bell and Eve, “Could you speak to the hyper-sexualization of teen girls in our media today?” 

The clip captures their amazing response which I have transcribed here:

0:00″  Eve Ensler:  [I've been traveling around the world] in the States and in Paris, and I’ve just been around a lot of teenage girls looking at this kind of insane pressure of over…of [the] incredible sexualization that is happening, that is making them feel as if somehow they are empowered.

:20″ Eve: It’s this weird flip but which is actually…it’s kind of like a… disempowerment within an empowerment…façade.

:30″  Eve: Watching girls who are not actually inhabiting their bodies but inhabiting a performance idea of themselves which has been projected onto them by the media and

:40″ Eve: I look at it with my granddaughter who is 17. I look at it with teenagers all the time and I see this…it’s almost like you have to become this girl in order to be somebody in the world.

:53″ Eve: This very sexual, this very performative, and somebody who is not actually in your body, but announcing your body, or demonstrating your body or…

           1:02″  bell hooks interjects: Or worse yet, Eve, offering your body…

Eve: [reiterates bell] offering your body

hooks [takes the stage and the proverbial mic]: … as a living sacrifice.

Eve [passes the space to bell; they swap positions with little tension]: Yes, that too.

1:06″  bell: I think that we are demanding of girls that they offer their bodies as a living sacrifice. And of course the sacrifice is to the institution of patriarchy. And the message to grown women is that if you won’t offer your body, we will take … the bodies…of daughters…and  [1:28"]  other people  who have the unclaimed bodies. I mean the 27,000 kids. [end of clip]

thx.

Dr. Gaunt aka @kyraocity on Twitter.

Females as Content Creators on YouTube & Hip-hop Videos

“In a time of destruction, create something.”
Maxine Hong Kingston

This summer statistics got me. YouTube decided to stop allowing you to see the statistics on videos for age and sex which totally effed up my research agenda this summer.

This happened in the middle of my summer session courses. The final week was planned around gathering data for music videos viewed by Female 13-17 as a top demographic for VEVO videos by Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne. These are not subjects of hip-hop I really would have ever wanted to study but because my earlier work in on girls and hip-hop, I went there.

It was intriguing to me that girls 13-17 could be counted on, literally, to view videos with lyrics like “Love Me” by Lil Wayne with Drake and Future. This is a cut-n-paste from RapGenius.com so you can also see what fans are saying about the lyrics line-by-line:

[Hook: Future and Drake]
I’m on that good kush and alcohol
I got some down bitches I can call
I don’t know what I would do without y’all
I’mma ball til the day I fall

Yeah, long as my bitches love me (yeah, yeah)
I can give a fuck ’bout no hater
Long as my bitches love me
I can give a fuck ’bout no niggas
Long as these bitches love me

[Verse 1: Lil Wayne]
Uh, pussy ass nigga stop hating
Lil Tunechi got that fire
And these ho’s love me like Satan, maaaan!

Fuck with me and get bodied
And all she eat is dick
She’s on a strict diet,
that’s my baby
With no makeup she a ten
And she the best with that head
Even better then Karrine

She don’t want money
She want the time that we could spend

She said “Cause I really need somebody
So tell me you’re that somebody”

Girl, I fuck who I want and fuck who I don’t
Got that A1 credit, that’s that filet mignon
She said “I never want to make you mad
I just want to make you proud”
I said “Baby just make me cum
Then don’t make a sound”

Boys 13-17 are not watching these kind of videos. 18 and up yes but not the youngest male demographic.

Students in both my sections were invited into my research exploration in girls and hip-hop videos on YouTube. Yesterday we watched what looked like a 10 year old white kid lip-syncing to “(Long as my bitches) Love Me” from his bedroom. 13 is the youngest you can be to have a YouTube account but it was clear from this video that smart digital natives have work arounds. The students and I have been talking about the ethics of young people on YouTube as a vulnerable demographic esp. under 13 but also 13-17 given the nature of the lyrical and visual content of rap videos (not to mention other nudity, vulgarity and obscenity found on YouTube even the Yasin Bey Guardian video is not appropriate for young people without parental guidance). More on that in another post.

It’s been a fascinating inquiry with 30+ undergraduate students ranging from 19 – 30. I challenged them to do participant observation after 5 weeks of studying and testing. Become a creator on  YouTube. Create a 2-4 minute video broadcasting yourself. Do what you want. Can be related to the class or not. They were also asked to watch 10 TED Talks, TEDx talks or TED-ED talks of their choosing.  The final project was to create a YouTube playlist that began with their created content + at least 3 TED talks which they had to go public with and share with at least 3 people.

All the students have been amazing themselves becoming creators and we’ve been able to talk about the multi-local sites of YouTube in ways we couldn’t before this week.

One student named Caroline got affected by the video of Yasin Bey electing to subject himself to the force feeding that Guantanamo Bay detainees on hunger strikes are being subjected to twice daily. I watched it Monday and shared about it in class.

Today, she came with a really remarkable video of her own with the help of her friends back in Lexington, Kentucky. I love the power of participatory social media and her video exemplified this. It was brave. Provocative. Collaborative. Engaging. Real!

I wanted to share it and I could say so much more but I gotta run to finish my essay for a book on Obama, Change and Hip-hop that started all this mess and rich study for me. Take a look and tell me what you think.

Caroline wants to meet and interview Mos Def aka Yasin Bey as a budding actress and a committed social activist in the making. This is the first time she’s EVER done anything like this or gotten involved. If you can pass this on, please do SHARE THIS!

We ended by talking about how young girls are not commonly content creators around hip-hop culture and on YouTube compared to young males. Caroline’s video though she is not in it herself is a kind of power a woman can wield from behind the scenes if she so chooses and she did!

Share this video below along with the Guardian video featuring Yasin Bey. The link is featured in Caroline’s playlist here and don’t forget to leave her a comment so she can learn the impact of her work in my class! Thank you!

Curiosity works! The access is through the unspoken. Voice it!

Kyra