The cheapest way to manufacture audience is through a high sex, high violence, high conflict content. It doesn’t take talent or research or investigative journalism. Yet it stimulates the appetites, much the same way that a high salt, high sugar, and high fat junk food diet does.”
Dr. Michael Karlberg, Western Washington University
see “Portrayal or Betrayal? How the media depicts women and girls”
“Girls are not passive recipients of these cultural messages. Girls are active agents. We know from developmental cognitive psychology that young boys and girls, once they know what their gender is, are very motivated to be the best example of their gender. And if the examples of femininity around you are a sort of tarted up, pornographied sexuality, then that’s what you’re psyched to be.”
Tomi-Ann Roberts, On the Sexualization of Girls
“If you are free, you are not predictable and you are not controllable.” #thebloodandtheblessing ― June Jordan
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.
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.”
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
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
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
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” ― Alice Walker
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
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.
Mine 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]
Dr. Gaunt aka @kyraocity on Twitter.
“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
In the representations of Black America we see through media and even through our neighborhoods, patriarchy tends to dominate. Even when it is said that women run the church, the school and even the home, it is men whom tends to be seen as the head of the household. Even his absence points to this as we speak often about the impact of not having a father on the wife/female partner, sons and daughters not to mention the community from both a generational and an economic development perspective. Women are increasingly becoming the heads of households around the world and since women tend to be paid less than men but often have children, this has led to the increasing femininization of poverty. So gender and economic development should be a concern for us all.
PRIORITY AFRICA – Gender Equality
Today, I found an interesting article online by Elizabeth ANNAN – YAO titled “African Gender Research in the New Millenium” She writes:
Gender relations in patrilineal communities differ greatly from those in matrilineal communities. In the former, women tend to be totally submissive to men (their
father, brothers, husband, uncles… ) and have hardly any decision-making powers nor the freedom of speech in public. Some common examples are that women easily yield to forced marriages; they have no political attributions and cannot inherit property…
On the other hand, in matrilineal communities, although women are submissive to men, they have some decision-making powers and liberty of expression and can generally choose their own husband. They can be Queen-Mothers in the political domain and can even inherit property from their maternal uncles and their mother…
Gender relations in general, but particularly in Africa, are always patriarchal in nature … whether in a matrilineal or a patrilineal community, or whether in the upper classes of society, men always impose themselves on women and insist on the subordinate status of women. There is therefore the need to challenge gender inequalities, gender stereotypes, biased attitudes and harmful practices against women and also all forms of discrimination against women in order to promote gender equality which is a necessary tool for development.
I know you readers out there are reading. I can see I get hits everyday. My blog gets traffic. What would really make a difference is for this blog to live in both a read and write culture. Try commenting once a week if you read once a week.
Stephen Lewis on Gender Equality and the Women of Africa. – 1 min – Sep 29, 2006
Here’s a question for the day: What differences do you perceive around your gender expression or role and your relationships with the economy, finances, money, your earning power aka your job/career, power relations at work or home, and even in dating or marriage relative to money?