“If you are free, you are not predictable and you are not controllable.” #thebloodandtheblessing ― June Jordan
“It is impossible to get a man to understand something if his livelihood depends on him not understanding.”
― Upton Sinclair
Gnatola ma no kpon sia, eyenabe adelan to kpo mi sena. (Ewe-mina)
A moins ce que le lion ait son propre narrateur, le chasseur aura toujours la belle part de l’histoire. (French)
Until the lion has his or her own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story. (English)
When I first heard about the Juicy J $50K scholarship back in September 2013, it was a black male student who brought it to my attention as part of the Black Girl YouTube Project. I remember discussing it with him and saying, “What happens when she goes off to college and everybody knows. ‘OH!!! She’s the one! She’s the one who twerked in the $50K video. Oh!!’ So, what happens when the business professor sees the video??” Ryan agreed and said he’d thought about the same thing. Managing one’s future identity is not always something late adolescents can see. Many do not have the cognitive ability to do so yet. I added, “And what happens when the football team learns about it?!?” The Steubenville rape case involving two high school boys dragging a girl like a jump rope from party to party raping her without consent was still fresh in my memory from months earlier. Consent has been on my mind a lot lately.
I also thought “there will be no privacy for the girl who wins that scholarship.” Perplexed, I simply thought that young women entering the contest really just wanna get the money. It was all about “makin’ it rain” as the strip club “proverb” goes. That was my gut reaction and boy I was wrong. I had not way of seeing the issues of class that would come along with a twerking contest for college.
Since late November, I’ve seen many of the submissions by black and non-black college women. Some of the videos are brilliant, one in particular by Miss Kimari who I recently interviewed was made private [but is now again available, click the link] since the results were announced. She is concerned about her future identity and needs to stop, think and plan. She’s been quite cautious with her identity online. Like Miss Kimari’s video, some involved twerking, others didn’t. One submission by a young, naive black woman from Illinois named Rashyra was extremely vulnerable–sharing her history of trouble with several times in lockup and attributing her problems to an absent dad. I thought that was not only costly relative to putting it out there in a YouTube video to persist on the Internet forever, but also costly relative to the kind of social negotiation that students take for granted when entering college. People are watching and judging you. I didn’t always think this way, but radical openness is a risk not everyone can afford to take. The winner from Rashyra’s submission, and many others, was actually Juicy J who got a strong shout-out from her to any viewers: please, download his “Scholarship” single. It’s only $1.98 on iTunes. Free promotion on the backs of broke and recovering college girls. Yeah, stay trippy, alright.
The actual winner Juicy J selected, Zaire Holmes, posted a video that I thought was savvy in its execution and self-presentation. She rapped to open the video and rhymed “straight As” with with “I need more than just…financial aid.” It was cute, seemingly innocent and genuine. Zaire edited in appearances by her references including her boss and friends. She talked about being a single mom, and she was by far not the only single mom in the lot. She made a bold appeal for wanting to become a doctor, citing that it would take her 11 years and she would use the funds to cover her lab fees. YES! It was a great college interview. Still, I was convinced Juicy J wouldn’t pick a woman who didn’t twerk. I thought even less about what would happen if he did and what the implications were for so many who occupy the position recognized as the feminization of poverty happening domestically and around the world. This is a case for how complicated issues of male privilege and gender oppression have gotten in hip-hop despite certain dominant trends:
Sexual and gender relations inside and outside of the African American community are shifting in relation to three important discourses: (1) the mainstreaming of pornography culture, (2) black capitalism and consumption, and (3) post–Civil Rights colorblind racism.
Perhaps you’ve already read the brilliant post by @ProfessorCrunk aka Dr. Brittney Cooper for the Crunk Feminist Collective’s blog critiquing Juicy J’s reversal around the context (“It’s not always about shaking your ass”) as if he didn’t originally intend for girls to “make it rain” by twerking as the credit he’d use to sell his “Scholarship” single and make more profit. Yes, no twerking required…now, he claimed in the winner’s video.
Zaire says at the end of the video, “a lot of people thought you had to twerk but you just had to read the rules.” And Juicy J chimes right in, “See that’s what you get for shaking your ass and thinking you were gone get some money. It’s not always about shaking your ass.” (B. Cooper)
I’d been checking the special HipHopWorldStar website for the last 8-9 weeks waiting anxiously to see who would be the chosen one. I first thought race was the issue that stood out with the submissions since a majority of the top-rated and most-watched videos found on that site where submitted by white women, mostly blondes with hundreds of thousands of views compared to the black women’s submissions that had less than 2,000. I speculated that this could be evidence of structural inequalities that were once called the digital divide as whites have better access to larger networks simply by privilege of their race and some non-blacks who would see liking the non-black videos as an opportunity to strike blow against at demoralization of American work ethics which most do not see in rap, among working-class blacks whose pants sag or who twerk, and even the products of Affirmative Action on the college level didn’t really earn the access they got. (Ask me about my alma mater University of Michigan and the anti-Affirmative Action cases that have set back admissions for minorities across the nation.)
The thing that really stood out to me about this contest was the issue of class (SES) relative to the “baby mamas” who were predominately white. There were a number of submissions by white women who are mothers trying to finish college also working 1-2 jobs. In every one of these videos that I saw, the white woman always chose to twerk. Ironically, most of the black and latina women chose not to. Class was playing a bigger role than my racial lens allowed me to see at first glance. But in any case, what most concerns me right now about twerking are issues of sexualization. Whether the women in this contest were white or black, what impact is this having on younger and younger girls in the U.S. given that these videos will also be mediated and shared via YouTube.
Earlier today, while researching this subject, I read about the cognitive and emotional consequences of the sexualization of girls in an executive summary of a report by The American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. It read:
“Cognitively, self-objectification has been repeatedly shown to detract from the ability to concentrate and focus one’s attention … While alone in a dressing room, college students were asked to try on and evaluate either a swimsuit or a sweater. While they waited for 10 minutes wearing the garment, they completed a math test. The results revealed that young women in swimsuits performed significantly worse on the math problems than did those wearing sweaters. No differences were found for young men. In other words, thinking about the body and comparing it to sexualized cultural ideals disrupted mental capacity. In the emotional domain, sexualization and objectification undermine confidence in and comfort with one’s own body, leading to a host of negative emotional consequences, such as shame, anxiety, and even self-disgust.”
Obviously, there is more to say but let me return to the contest and a specific video Juicy J released recently.
I wanted to post the “semi-finalists” video (above) released on Jan 8, 2014 to highlight the group of women that were selected to appear in and represent the deliberation of the contest. Juicy J’s objectifying, misogynist and patriarchal commentary is worth noticing.
Among the 10 women semi-finalists featured:
- 7 were non-black; all of them twerked
- 1 of the 10 seemed to be a woman of color (not black nor white); she twerked, too
- and 3 were women of African descent or black women
Clearly, post-racial “colorblind” politics were at work in both who submitted and who they chose to represent here but I don’t have it all worked out enough to respond about that but I can say that designations of class abounded among the women. They discussed how many jobs they held while going to college, and I would even consider identifying themselves publicly as parents in these videos was a particular salient aspect of class when it comes to college. Pregnant mothers or the appearance of being a single mom is just not talked about where I teach. Far too many colleges today don’t even offer childcare for professors much less students. And yet the women twerked.
What’s more interesting is that none of the women included their kids in the video. It’s consistent with male rappers rarely saying anything about their family life in their rapped realities.
[CORRECTION: There are videos of mothers with their children. I had not seen those videos yet. A YouTube search for "Juicy J Scholarship Contest" produces about 66,700 results!! Really considering doing a study of just these videos and thanks to a blog post by Monique John, another twerk-ologist writing on the same topic, for pointing this out for me. It appeared a few days after my post and featured a video of a mom and her son. Please read this millenial's great post on the ladies of the contest.]
Before I close, let me share that I just can’t get Juicy J’s evaluation among the semi-finalists’ videos out of my head.
One of the semi-finalists, a black woman named LaDawn from the University of Miami shared that she currently had 2 jobs–one part-time, one full-time. Juicy interjected: “Work-work-work- work-work, and now she’s gonna twerk-twerk-twerk-twerk-twerk” and then he judges her twerking for the audience it’s “not that good” and “it’s kinda boring.”
Another black woman, Krysisha from a university in Milwaukee, uses “special efx” that catch Juicy J’s eye. She never mentions anything about twerking or not twerking. “I am really tryin’ to go to graduate school, y’all. I kinna wanna be an A&R, PR, or tour manager, or maybe all three!” she says. Juicy pensively responds: “She wants to be in the music business” and adds with sincerity, “I think that’s really inspirational.” O_o
A white woman named Emily who attends the University of Southern California painted a mural of Juicy J saying “I painted you, ratchet hoes, [and] dollar bills]” He interjects “I need to see more than you painting a picture, [and] smoking weed.” When hear her video continue “I signed my name on a stripper’s ass” pointing to her own work. Talk about intersectional oppression gone wild. #ijustcanttonight
Women from the West, the Midwest, and the Dirty South all vie for one $50K scholarship from one rapper. A rap mogul who has an estimated net worth of 20 million dollars.
WAITING FOR MY INTELLECTUAL BEAT TO DROP
I need some time to really think about this implications of this contest. From one perspective, this contest gave working-class women who twerk a reason to voice concerns that have rarely if ever been a part of hip-hop, not by male rappers or female with the exception of perhaps Lauryn Hill (can’t think of others at the moment). From another perspective, it was promoted by the Miley Cyrus mainstreaming of twerking and Juicy J’s capitalization on the exploitation of girls and young women in college.
The ongoing challenge for feminist researchers and researchers of color is to fully investigate the effects of commercial hip-hop, while avoiding the limiting nature of the “politics of respectability,” the historically black middle-class ideology of “proper” womanhood and “controlled” sexuality (Reid-Brinkley 2008; Rose 2008). The politics of respectability should not prevent black women, as rappers or video dancers, from exploring the full terrain of black women’s sexualities. However, the banner of “sexual freedom” also cannot be used to ignore the uniform and prob- lematic caricaturing of black women and girls’ sexuality (Ransby and Matthews 1993). [Quote from Margaret Hunter, "SHAKE IT, BABY, SHAKE IT: CONSUMPTION AND THE NEW GENDER RELATION IN HIP-HOP," 2011]
CLASS IS (NOT) IN SESSION & THERE WILL BE A TEST
I titled this post “The Class is (not) in Session” because I was really thinking of how relevant issues of class were in the submissions. Issues including respectability politics, socioeconomic class, the feminization of poverty, the lack of available funding and loans for college that wouldn’t leave you in debt for life and much more. I have to remind myself to not let my feminist investments blind me from the intersectional politics that I am just beginning to see which were not predictable before. They still require study and cannot be pulled up so quickly since the issue of azz everywhere still grabs the focus.
$50K might go a long way for one woman and her child, but the fact that all these seemingly single woman–none self-identified as married–of all ethnic backgrounds were in some form of despair about their education such that twerking might become a way out of no way for them was telling. I can’t even wrap my head around the issues of gender identity that come up on these videos. I’ll leave that to the capable hands of folks like Bettina Love.
Whenever people look askew after I tell them I am studying twerking, it is moments like this one surrounding the Juicy J contest that remind me that this kind of scholarly and cultural work is worthwhile and truly justified. Black girls on YouTube need critical theory about the larger politics at work when they twerk. Someone who’s danced like them and who’s learning how to twerk but who someone who has some distance from its pleasure politics to explore its costs and pains.
OK. That’s more than enough for tonight. More blogging soon. I am deep in fit of writing finishing an article about the context collapse of self-presentation on YouTube and our collaborative documentary is coming soon, too.
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.
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
“People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does.”
― Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason
For about 4 years now, I’ve been experimenting with an assignment of remix in writing and other practices in my classroom where students emulate and replicate being consumers of their own productivity inside a given text or framework. I was in a course exploring how one can be empowered by ANY communication, verbal or non-verbal. It was not an academic training, thankfully, but it was a 10 month course with a weekend long training in Los Angeles once every two months and meetups with local participants here in NYC every week for, yes, 10 months. The meetups were practice sessions for completing homework between the five weekends. The course was called Partnership Explorations.
If anyone knows me personally, they know that for years I’ve said that academia beat my love of reading out of me. Perhaps it started earlier when being book smart and “talking like white people” made me assign a separation from my people to reading. I loved Shakespeare as a teen and wanted to read Freud by my mother thought it was taboo for some reason she never really explained back when I was 14.
By the time I reached the Partnership Explorations course in 2004, I was eight (8) years into being a tenure-track professor. I taught at NYU then and I hated reading books and never read anything outside of work needs. I loved the Internet and probably read as much online as some do from hardback novels. But I resisted reading. Always fell asleep. LOL. I read from cover to cover one book in maybe 10 years, a confession no self-respecting professor should probably make, but it’s true. [The book was The Funeral Planner by Lynn Isenberg, a womanist entreprenurial comedy based around my alma mater, University of Michigan. It was mature, sophisticated Chic Lit.]
So when the course instructor of Partnership Explorations said there were 5 recommended books I confronted my bias. I loved the course but reading books… Each of the weekends involved sharing individually to a group of 300 participants about what you were learning about yourself and your conversations with 20 people we were expected to track in our lives.
I read one book completely. Dire Mastery: Discipleship from Freud to Lacan and I read the first 50 pages of The Order of Things: The Archeology of the Human Sciences by Michel Foucault. Not unlike in the halls of academia, everyone in the course found the book confounding and many hated it. Though I had exposure to Foucault’s work on sexuality and liked it in grad school, this was different. I LOVED it. But still didn’t finish it. My habits were then not servicing any interest in reading more. But the preface of that book wOw-ed me.
Thus began an experiment with slow learning for me. Teaching students to replicate the preface of the book (found here: The Order of Things, 1970) in my African American music courses, my jazz course and my hip-hop courses. I have them do it early, the first weeks of class, to throw them into the world of their own thinking and sorting – reordering the mental maps of the subject they are about to encounter newly and in new ways hopefully.
In all the years since 2005 when I began assigning it, I have never written my own version but I have meticulously edited over 200 versions, I’d say. Often rewriting it for them to see other ways of thought, to instigate and agitate their thinking (vs. thoughting). Yesterday I wrote my first draft. Today my second.
From my non-academic training, I often challenge myself to do the work that I assign in my classes. It should be a requirement, I have learned from this practice. It was my students’ experimenting this winter intercession that inspired me to share my own version. I’ve learned so much from my students in this and other assignments about the “sociology” of people’s experiences with black women in hip-hop. It’s like taking a sociological sampling of culture. I wrote them earlier today: “It’s your mind each of your need to consider learning more about and intervening in the social constructs you simply inherited that were begun by people long dead and gone but that we transmit and carry on unthinkingly about race, gender and music-making. This is your opportunity to shine! Here is mine…”
Prof. G’s Foucault Remix (2nd draft):
This began as a riff off a intellectual rhymebook not well known, nor understood, inside the ivory towers of its social commons where even PhD students front in abstractions, wastin their breathe on what they “took away” from some book as if they were jookin on a basketball court (not!). It began out of a non-academic course I took on discourses and the partnership of language to uncover what’s unsaid and unknown. It arose out of the pain that shattered, as I read my participation in academia, all the familiar landmarks of my former thought — black and female thought, the thought that brands the video vixen of our hip-hop age and our corporate geography — breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which I as a black woman, a performer, and a scholar had become accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing racist and sexist things students carried with them, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse their age-old distinction between desire and ambition.
This riff quotes a ‘certain true mathematics encyclopedia’ contributed to by the fellowship of Bernice Johnson Reagon (If You Don’t Go, Don’t Hinder Me), Audre Lorde (The Uses of the Erotic read here in her own words), Tricia Rose (Black Noise and Hip-Hop Wars), Jeff Chang (Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of a Hiphop Generation), Joe Schloss (Making Beats and Foundation), and many other oracle mathemeticians, an encyclopedia in which it is written that ‘humanity in hip-hop is divided into: (a) true to Rha Goddess not Gangsta, (b) masculine masoleum, (c) domesticated pornography sold to the white masses selling black behinds, (d) Sucka MCs, (e) a Blige(d) or Beyonce(d) , (f) Fiiiiiine!! (with an extreme nasal sound to intensify meaning and syncopation), (g) rhyme retreatists, (h) not included in the present classification = invisibilified, (i) dope fiends diggin in the crates, (j) bounce, bass, snap, house, (k) Is that your real hair cuz I can’t get a comb through it?, (l) whatevah, (m) just breaks on the Billboard charts that won’t last long if they hear its a female, (n) that from a long way off look like I got fries to go with dat shake and imma reach out and take that junk in the trunk public violence.
In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing black women, women and girls everywhere as well as conscious fathers, apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of a rhyme and a video screen, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of patriciarchal and post-colonial system of hegemonic thought, is the limitation of our my own thinking, the stark impossibility of ever being without that.
The source of my remix/sample is the “Preface” from Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things (1970).
“Knowledge is not for knowing: knowledge is for cutting.”
― Michel Foucault, The Foucault Reader
A male friend of mine whom I had not spoken to for a while informed me that he had some good news to share. He had had a baby. She was now 7 months old. The proud papa is a traditionally minded Jamaican man. Opens doors. Thinks his future wife should never have to work if she doesn’t want to and definitely not while she is pregnant. Once told me that all men want a respectable smart business savy woman by day and a slut at night. He’s a young man doing quite well in real estate in Brooklyn. Despite his traditional thinking, he’s baby’s mama remains just a girlfriend.
Fatherhood relative to daughters is uniquely distinct from the relationship to a son. As the new daddy shared his newfound doting on this little 7-month old female being, he shared how it was affecting his listening habits relative to hip-hop. Born in Jamaica, he was raised up in the Caribbean enclave of Bed-Stuy Brooklyn. (Go Brooklyn!!) He grew up a fan of Biggie and Jay-Z. He told me he especially admired Jay-Z as both rapper and business man (see post and video refuting that Jay-Z smacked a women in Africa in 2004). What’s interesting is that ever since my friend’s little girl came into the picture, his interest in hip-hop’s misogyny has done a 180º. He said essentially he listens differently to all the ways men represent women now. (Pictured: three-time Grammy Award-winning rapper and actor Chris Bridges aka Ludacris with his daughter).
I shared a not-so surprised acknowledgement of this phenomenon. It happened with Nas too and a host a men who love hip-hop whom I have known or written about. I wrote about Nas in a book to be released by Michael Eric Dyson in Jan 2009 devoted to the great Nasty Nas (more on that to come). Nas actually created the anthem “I Can” for his daughter because all the hip-hop out there was so misogynistic. I only wish men would realize, I told my friend, this revelation long before they had a female child. It’s imperative they begin to, that men are willing to discover the impact this music has on their disrespect of not only women, but themselves esp. in the public sphere.
According to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs in his book titled, Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires, The Respect He Desperately Needs, the needs of men often differ from that of women. Men often yearn for respect, while women generally want to feel loved. That may be but perhaps we need a bit more of the reverse.
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity”.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love, 1963 (More quotes).
I was doing 30 minutes on the treadmill gettin my sweat this morning on at the St. John’s Recreation Center in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, my new neighborhood (yes I can’t pretend I’m living in my beloved Bed-Stuy anymore). From a boombox in the cardio room, Hot 97 was being broadcast. It was about 10am. Hold on to your seat cuz’ here comes the set up for a tribute to Dr. King on his esteemed birthday.
The two male and female hosts (can’t call ‘em DJs anymore) did this “YOU’VE JUST BEEN CRANKED” segment on this single mom followed by the most uncritical discussion polling the listening audience about whether men or women are worse at letting go in relationships. The conversation devolved when one of the male hosts suggested that more women than men are stalkers suggesting something along the lines of “when men stalk they are crazy but that stuff is natural for you all” meaning women. His evidence: Three men in his life have had women stalking them they haven’t been able to get rid of (what a sample!). I’ve been asking myself and my students as well as clients I work with to avoid generalizations but it is so much more damaging when broadcast to the public–uncritical thinking that is.
To close the segment the sister hosting gives a dear John shout out to some brother whom she says “LOSE MY NUMBER! PLEASE!” That’s the state of relationships between men and women. No intimacy whatsoever or negative intimacy aka gossip about others.
What was next? What does the female host transition into next without missing a beat?
“Today is Dr. King’s birthday…my absolute favorite quote is” and she paraphrases:
The reason I can’ t follow the old eye-for-an-eye philosophy is that it ends up leaving everyone blind
There was no sense that what had just preceded could in any way be connected, negatively or positively, to what Dr. King stood. Just making fun of violent tendencies and acts with NO facts or data sustantiating their talk about the opposite sexes. Fun and games just for a morning laugh. Hot 97 can’t even devote the entire day in Dr. King’s honor. Maybe Clear Channel doesn’t allow that kind of thing on black stations. I didn’t say black-owned.
So as I finished my workout I promised myself to make a post with some basic facts. I found these online. They are taken from the Stalking Resource Center of the National Center for Victims of Crime.
- 1,006,970 women and 370,990 men are stalked annually in the U.S.
- 1 in 12 women and 1 in 45 men will be stalked in their lifetime.
- 77% of female victims and 64% of male victims know their stalker.
- 87% of stalkers are men.
- 59% of female victims and 30% of male victims are stalked by an
- intimate partner.
- 81% of women stalked by a current or former intimate partner are also physically assaulted by that partner.
- 31% of women stalked by a current or former intimate partner are also sexually assaulted by that partner.
- 73% of intimate partner stalkers verbally threatened victims with physical violence, and almost 46% of victims experienced one or more violent incidents by the stalker.
- The average duration of stalking is 1.8 years.
- If stalking involves intimate partners, the average duration of stalking increases to 2.2 years.
- 28% of female victims and 10% of male victims obtained a protective order. 69% of female victims and 81% of male victims had the protection order violated. [Tjaden & Thoennes. (1998). “Stalking in America,” NIJ.]
These statistics do not include the new threat of CYBER-STALKING. More on stalking. Ironically, the Stalking Resource Center considers January National Stalking Awareness Month. Stalking ain’t too much different for women then lynch mobs were for blacks decades earlier. The cause of lynching was so beautifully represented in THE GREAT DEBATERS. Can’t wait for a film to bring that kind of power to the issues of sexism, misogyny and stalking in the black community and beyond.
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity”.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love, 1963 (More quotes).
This is always a sacred day for me and I want to remind people that Dr. King’s legacy lives on everyday in me and you. If each of us could take on one thing that truly matters to us in our lifetime, the world would transform overnight.
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. — Winston Churchill
Kyra’s Promise for the World:
By 2036, I promise a world where all men and women are ready, willing and able to embrace and be empowered by ANY communication, eye to eye with, the oneness of our Humanity.
What matters to you? What are you devoted to in your life? Ask yourself today and ask at least 2 others too.
Finally, some footage of black folks protesting the quality of broadcasting on networks devoted to black people. Get your sh*t together BET. We ain’t just protesting on the Mall any more. This video was taken outside the BET HONORS taping. The protest was led by a Maryland female pastor (shout out to my homies in Maryland where I’m from!). All this was reported in a Washington post article
The blog also points to a story featured on 60 Minutes called THE WAR ON WOMEN about rape as a norm of war, as a form of social terrorism. It is a must see. Black women are more and more the victims of all kinds of crimes and misogyny. Check out what’s going on in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. More genocide has taken place there than even Darfur.
Also if you’re interested in learning more about BLOGGING there is a conference coming up in JULY called BLOGGING WHILE BROWN you should check out.
AMERICAN WOMEN & HIP-HOP (11/28/07)
Last November NBC Nightly News did a series called African American Women: Where They Stand. It included the video linked above. In it, Irv Gotti, a hip-hop producer/director argues that some women just can’t help themselves on the video set and claims no responsibility in the matter. The head of The Inc (Formerly Murder Inc.) record label, Gotti says it’s hard to market female emcees because they have to be good to look at, too, and he says he asks his 15 year old daughter to confirm if the women in his “scantily-clad videos” look hot. He uses her as a litmus test!! Train ‘em young in the art of misogyny and women will keep the practice going — that’s hegemony at its best. Why they don’t call me on these shows as an expert?!??!! I could say I don’t know, but I am starting to realize it’s because they don’t know I am here. Press releases, baby! I haven’t gotten my own word out in that realm. That’s what 2008 is about – getting on the top of the roladex.
This past week, I finished a essay about misogyny relative to the music and videos of Nas for a book to be published in 2008 by Michael Eric Dyson. This essay might be my PR in this larger conversation about hip-hop, gender stratification, and power. Wanted to share some “axioms” I came up with the generate thinking outside the box. They are ratehr obvious but they are not generalizations in the manner we mostly here about misogyny.
Here’s a sample:
Years ago, I read a chapter by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, a queer studies scholar, that had me question the limits of my available thinking about sexuality despite my expertise in the study of gender and the body. As a professor of hip-hop music, her writing left me with a provocative thought: What would help students interested in hip-hop question the limits of their own thinking about misogyny and its impact on women and men? Hip-hop discourse rarely steps away from cliché conversations about misogyny, so I created a list of axioms following Sedgwick’s lead concerning Nas and masculinity in hip-hop. The list includes ideas most know but don’t seem to consider in their analysis of hip-hop (cf. Sedgwick 1993):
- Sometimes Nas [and other male artists] spends a lot of time rapping about manhood and masculinity, other times not.
- Some male and female hip-hop heads, of all races and all classes, experience Nas’s portrayal of masculinity as deeply embedded in a matrix of gender meanings and differences. Others do not.
- Many male and female heads have their richest mental/emotional/kinetic involvement when Nas rhymes about acts they don’t do, or even don’t want to do (“Understandable smooth shit that murderers move with” – “The Thief’s Theme” from Street’s Disciple).
- Sometimes Nas’s performances are embedded in gendered contexts resonant with meaning, narrative, and connectedness to actual relationships in his life (e.g., brothers in hip-hop, his father, his wife, his daughter, to children); sometimes it is important that they not be (murderers, Mafia bosses); at other times, it may not occur to Nas, his audience, or his critics that they might be.
I want to get people to think about, consider, that there is little willingness in hip-hop to go to the edge of what’s familiar and look beyond simply labeling songs and videos as misogynist to discover what drives not only individual misogyny, but the institutional subordination of girls and women relative to wealth (economic power), power (political power) and prestige (social status) (cf. Weber 1968).
Instead we often settle for what is widely accepted as true. Keepin’ it real, which has fast become cliché in and of itself, is no longer expanding knowledge. It is limiting it. (Do no reprint without permission of the author, Kyra Gaunt © 2008).
Irv Gotti’s logic escapes me but I’ve heard it before. Doesn’t even matter what he said. What I am left with is how often men are asked questions about the misogyny in hip-hop and their answers tend to be cliché, accomodating, justified, and a rationalization at best. They have no compassion or sensitivity to the real lives affected by the subordination of women in rap videos.
“If is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it” – Upton Sinclair
This quote appeared in Al Gore’s film AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH and it’s so fitting relative to what this male directors are up to and up against.
Irv Gotti: “People with real jobs and real lives …just want to be entertained!” You could say the same thing about when whites loved to gather around and watch black men (and in some cases women) being hanged. It was a social event and the murderous activity was also an incovenient truth back when. This is one of the things that is at the heart of the lack of intimacy, trust and generosity among the black youth and in our communities.