Black Girls as Clickbait. #TEDxEast Subscribe. Like. Share!!

The politics of respectability implies that recognition of Black humanity has to be “earned” by Black people by engaging in puritanical behavior as approved by White supremacy…behaviors that Whites themselves don’t have to engage in to “prove” humanity because of White privilege; they’re always viewed as “the default human.”
~~ Trudy @GradientLair

Recorded May 2, 2016 at City Winery in NYC


TEDxEast How to Twerk: Restigmatizing Black Girls as Clickbait

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Introducing #TwerkTech2

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For about two years or more I’ve been toying with teens and technology and the implications and unintended consequences particularly for black girls or under-resourced girls from marginalized communities.  These communities are rarely represented in videos circulating around the web about social media and screen time.

Girls’ online interest-driven activities–those stepping stones to self-actualization and adulthood–are often stigmatized and stereotyped in networked spaces like YouTube or Facebook. It leads marginalized kids to seek out platforms like Snapchat thinking they are protected when their snaps actually were not deleted or disappearing. It also leads many black girls to seek Tumblr because there is not textual engagement with any uploaded content. Other users leave notes rather than comments providing an affirming space to self-present online.

The technology concerns I am interested in are more about humanizing a group of people who are socially alienated by networked publics. Black girls’s online content tends to be disliked in Generation Like more than their non-black and non-female counterparts.

Studying the misogyny and the sexploitation surrounding young girls’ twerking videos on YouTube has helped me think about the breakdown that can result from others’ judgments of their content and how that then affects their ecological fitness. I wrote about this is the chapter “YouTube, Bad Bitches, and a M.I.C.” in the Hip-hop and Obama Reader edited by Travis Gosa and Erik Nielsen:

Most girls, even the “smart” girls, simply do not yet have the biologically developed cognition needed to process and counter this commercial onslaught of distorted teenage relationships: their frontal lobes will not fully develop until after ages 20–23. Nor do most adolescents and teens have ample“fitness” to do so—defined here as an organism’s capacity to transmit, reproduce, and create a surplus of those things material and immaterial, biological, linguistic, and transactional (the exchange of goods, services, and funds) that it needs to thrive in a particular environment. This includes emotional, mental, and conversational fitness in what are political exchanges for sex, love—and, yes, money—in local and global economies.
Many teens (and adults, for that matter) have not learned to resist the socio-biological pull of their libidos and hormones, which are too frequently directed by the flow of corporate-market music with its twisted myths of romantic seduction. (Gaunt 2015, 221)

 

My aim is to empower those black, brown and/or poor girls who are unlikely to learn to code or elect to study a STEM or STEAM in school or college. Their digital media literacy is perhaps even more important this the lesser number who will go into tech careers. They will be moms, sisters, caretakers, community leaders, health advocates, fitness seekers, and they need to learn how powerful the mobile apps they already have can be in empowering just about any aspect of their adulthood and ambition in their personal, professional,  and physical wellness.


[Ecological fitness is] defined here as an organism’s [or a girl’s] capacity to transmit, reproduce, and create a surplus of those things material and immaterial, biological, linguistic, and transactional (the exchange of goods, services, and funds) that it needs to thrive in a particular environment.


So I came up with an idea from studying thousands of twerking videos featuring tween and teen black girls’ bedroom culture. My mission is to get black, brown and poor girls who use YouTube and other SNSs in musical interactions that often involve their body or dance to extend their online interest-driven activities into tech applications and mobility, too. Thus, the idea of #TwerkTech2.

Join me this weekend at the Rutgers Digital Blackness conference on April 23 at 3:30pm as I present my latest ideas and thoughts about a project I dreamed of almost 4 years ago. Then I called it “Cookies in the Hood”. The reference here is about computer cookies and adulthood (as well as neighborhood, childhood, labiahood or sexuality and intimacy training, and more).

Fitness takes time and planning; seduction is easy and quick. Fitness takes healthy eating, movement, and education; seduction is cheap and fast. Seduction requires nothing of you to participate. In fact, it trades on a naïve notion that your future is far away and that what happens now will not matter later. Why can’t girls as content
creators shift that seduction? It seems so accessible with YouTube—why isn’t it happening? (Gaunt 2015, 221).

Cookies are small files stored on a user’s computer. “They are designed to hold a modest amount of data specific to a particular client and website, and can be accessed either by the web server or the client computer.” What if we took this same concept and restored it to thinking about sovereignty of mind and body as well as the autonomy or learning to DIWO (do it with others) without threats or obligations to others? That’s another way of saying autonomy = wealth. A wealth of skills, capital, and human and non-human resources that all you to “do as you see fit.”

So, that’s what I am up to these days. That’s what I’m going to present about at the Rutgerts University DIgital Blackness Conference this weekend.

Here’s a couple of videos — one for parents and teachers and one for kids and teens — from a great organization Common Sense Media. There mission is to “improves the lives of kids and families by providing independent reviews, age ratings, & other information about all types of media.”  These videos give us insights into the need for new digital media literacies and conversations about the unintended consequences so girls can grow up online free from harm AND free to express themselves and explore technical ways to twerk their user-generated content on any platform.

 

 

Bibliography:

Gaunt, Kyra D.YouTube, Bad Bitches, and an M.I.C. (Mom-in-Chief) ): On the Digital Seduction of Black Girls in Participatory Hip-Hop Spaces. The Hip Hop & Obama Reader, 2015a, 207-26. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199341801.003.0012.

Felicia, 1964 — Black and Female in Watts

“Usually, when people talk about the “strength” of black women . . . . they ignore the reality that to be strong in the face of oppression is not the same as overcoming oppression, that endurance is not to be confused with transformation.”
bell hooks

From the mouth and mind, from the views and shoes, of a black girl living in Watts in 1964, we hear a social analysis of black and female life for her, her family, her mother, and her community. Who back then allowed Felicia to tell her own story and what kinds of stories can you find in user-generated content like these?

If you know any user-generated content that does, share them below. I want to help combat the digital seduction of girls’ online reputation with their own media.

Social media platforms and their advertisers exploit black girls’ (and womens’) spending power, often coopt agency and voice, and will damage their future net worth, which is quickly wrapped around one’s digital reputation–how others’ view you and comment on your presence vs. what you think of yourself.

 

Social media advertisers, like the advertisers and media companies before them, sell us disparity in complicated and nuanced ways. I am working on unpacking how that works.

Marginalized girls and women must begin to build their mental capacity or willpower to counter this symbolic warfare and gendered violence on female bodies and minds of our online daughters. This includes digital literacy but also nourishment and exercise.

Despite the apparent freedoms social media appears to offer youth when they get to self-produce their own images,  advertisers are hot on your trail and free ain’t freedom online. It comes with long-term consequences and requires long-term thinking before you post.

Even issues of surveillance that piggy-back on girls’ online interest-driven activities is still largely ignored or not fully grasped. If it is, we are lured by the pleasures of being “connected” while we risk damaging our identity at the same time. Parents of kids under 13 need to have more talks about protecting children’s privacy online. More to come.

Kyraocity asks:

How have our talked to your daughter about protecting her data and online persona? Do you let your girls access social media? How do you limit their access, if at all. Do you know that nearly 60% of kids in Australia admit hiding the crimes committed against them online? What are the odds things are better in Aemrica?

More than 40% of children are victims of cyber crime and nearly 60% admit to hiding what they did from adults * Source: NetSafe

 

WHAT I’M WATCHING ON YOUTUBE:

A Deep South Despair: Black and Female? Watch Ya Back!

 

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FUSION ARTICLE RELEASED!!!

First before I dive in, Kashmir Hill, a great investigative writer on social media and privacy released an article on Fusion’s YoungTube blog based on my twerking research data yesterday. It’s titled: “A 9-year-old’s twerking video had 70,000 views and she couldn’t get it taken down.”  Can you please not only read the piece, but like, share, and comment so this issue gets more eyes and attention. Thanks for doing that!!

Now to the topic of the moment: black woman and discrimination. #formation

Pretty for a Dark Girl!

In the deep south of North America is where folks tend to think race and racism live. But racism, the flawed system of classification, is a symbolic and highly social structure. The systematic practice as we recognize it today that has sojourned from the earliest formations of our nations. It along with patriarchy has defined the processes of globalization about norms and values associated with skin color privilege and white supremacy that led to both the institution of slavery and that of Jim Crow in the deep south.

In the deeper south of South America, in Brazil, racism was supposedly abandoned with the end of slavery. But here in this short film by the Guardian–I deeply appreciate their commitment to critical engagements of intersectionality and social politics–they lighten the path to seeing just how viciously symbolic race and racism is and the impact it continues to have on the historically marginalized black woman. This media is both witness to the marginalization and offers a chance at intervening in the sickness of our own cognitive biases.

As David DiSalvo writes in What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite (2011):

“DiSalvo explains that the greatest desires of our brains are stability, certainty, and consistency. Humans are prediction and pattern detection machines: we process information in order to determine what’s coming next. We can’t help doing it, and it allows us to order our lives and feel in control. But to predict accurately, we need to be certain of what we know now. Hence, we are certainty addicts. We not only crave being right, but we convince ourselves that whatever information we have at hand is the right information.”

You’ll recall I wrote a post about how so many women on Twitter and FB are often engaged in the rhetoric of seducing emotions among one another to relieve a lot of psychic, mental and emotional pain. Pain that girls are learning or being socialized into at younger and younger ages with the aid of social media content and its virulent circulation on their mobile devices. It’s personalized but it ain’t at all personal. It’s structural and we must begin to intervene. It’s costing us our long-term capabilities, our cognitive juice, our willpower.

DiSalvo suggests 50 remedies in his book. Here’s one: we must be aware of the impact pre-existing beliefs is having our current thinking. No one’s thinking is free of pre-existing beliefs. We are never blank slates. Said another way, whiteness is not merely a symbol standing for something to black people only that would be wiped out if we’d just stop with the fear of being black in the eyes of others. Just stop #BLM-ing.  But this system lives and is being perpetuated unknowingly within our individual and social biology not just in the tangible or visible traits and phenotypes that link us to our ancestral connections–which connects ALL humanity not just blacks, whites, or Asians. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s leading experts on developmental trauma, explains that the body keeps score of trauma. Tis is where you have to begin to learn about your brain, about epigenetics, and about how language lives and shapes our cognition of the past, present and future.

DiSalvo warns that challenging in-grained thinking is not an over night thing. It’s not A-HA! I see! I’m racist!! We’ve all been racist!! NO! It must be incremental. The transformation stems from a deliberate reflective practice. We don’t need change. We need more comassion and empathy in incremental ways.

DiSalvo suggests we must become savvy about framing–the ingesting of labels that frame your perception of the people, places, things and even our beliefs. But here’s the trouble with that: Thinking outside that box agitates your biology–it brings up anxiety and/or upset. Sometimes you’ll even have to fight off excitement or passion (even in arguments about Beyoncé’s #Formation) to slay your frames and certainty biases.

Learning to deconstruct your frames is actually harder than the quick fix of slaying. It requires inquiry and stepping back and solitude. Slowing down to speed up incrementally! Reminds me of my adage: Agree to be offended…and learn to let things just be before you go slaying all up in your emotions.

I posted the Guardian video about the Samba queen being dethroned because she was black today, just after returning from a really important and engaging visit to the University of Albany (thanks to Bob Gluck and Oscar Williams on the faculty there). 

During two talks I believe I made an effective and impassioned case with my research on marginalized black girls in twerking videos on YouTube for the stepping back to develop a set of internalized ethics and empathy in watching black girls play online. It is our gaze that must be altered not their play. It is our allowing social media companies to exploit their digital play that needs our formation.

Without the  awareness and understanding of HOW social media is entrapping the most vulnerable girls in our society and in online networks we easily overlook how they are being seduced into selling their future net worth to indifferent globally networked publics and individuals. Digital media literacy skills and knowledge is one thing. Creating engaging content to get people to even listen is where I am at.

There is no ecological fitness for historically marginalized groups like black girls and black women if their experimentation not to mention freedom of expression and freedom to express their fears in creative and urgent ways (ah-hem #DefendBlackWomenUALbany) is ripped away. The crosshairs of sexism and racism rips meritocracy, as in the video, simply because of the sin others associate with their skin but not their living conditions they are in. Social media can rip future employability away and it can rip dignity away. Meanwhile, everybody but the girl makes a profit off their backs on social media.

When will they be paid for work they’ve done or the emotional debt they’ve paid?!?  

Inventing Solutions

I am diligently working on a solution and am looking for people to be on a team to deliver said solutions through the very medium I study — digital and social media. A critical voice in an animated context that is fun yet informative. That breeds curiosity not shame. That inspires and delivers solutions and doesn’t get stopped by the latest entertainment news.

If you’re interested, I am looking for people interested in making videos and other short media content to empower, make girls and women aware, of the digital seduction of our environmental fitness. Hit me up if you’re interested. The videos would target young girls, teens, young adults, and elders. It might also target the invisible audiences in creative ways. Come jump in the ropes with me!

 

April 7-9, 2016: The Black Girl Movement

Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.
― Zora Neale Hurston    Read more: http://www.forharriet.com/2012/03/85-quotes-from-black-women-to-inspire.html#ixzz3rkm8gaYL

Beauty was not simply something to behold; it was something one could do.
― Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

The Little Girl Dancing on the News Is the Only Thing Keeping Me Alive/Gawker
The Little Girl Dancing on the News Is the Only Thing Keeping Me Alive/Gawker

 

JOIN THE BLACK GIRL GENIUS + JOY, APRIL 7-9, 2016!!

This is the brainchild of many, many fierce academics, artists, and activists, and organizations: Aimee Meredith Cox (Fordham U), choreographer Camille A. Brown (CABD’s Black Girl: Linguistic Play), Carla Shedd (Columbia U), Cidra Maria (Brother Sister Sol), Farah Jasmine Griffin (Columbia U), Kyra Gaunt (that’s me at Baruch College-CUNY), Joanne N. Smith (Girls for Gender Equity), Scheherazade Tillet (Long Walk Home, Chicago), and her sister Salamishah Tillet (Long Walk Home, Chicago + Penn). Come join us next April and watch our girls change the world.

Mark your calendars now!! #SheWillBe
Mark your calendars now!! #SheWillBe

Seinfeld and Rapper Wale: “Chicken and Naked Women”

wale-attention-deficit

“The pornographers did a kind of stealth attack on our culture, hijacking our sexuality and then selling it back to us, often in forms that look very little like sex but a lot like cruelty.” Gail Dines, Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked our Sexuality

“People are famous without having any talent” – Wale in Jerry Seinfeld and Wale Discuss Strip Clubs for Complex (video below, Nov 17, 2014).

Linguistic violence as the “best” jokes

While watching YouTube videos, a sketch of Seinfeld sitting in a NY cafe with well known young rapper named Wale was suggested and started to autoplay. I met Wale before he made it, years ago at the Blue Note. In fact, he gave me his number and it’s still in my phone. I never called. Being a bit older, I had no idea what we’d talk about. But back to this sketch…

Seinfeld is sitting with Wale — the most unlikely pair I could imagine and wonder what the marketing tie is. One of the lines from Seinfeld is “I understand Chicken and Naked Women” when talking about strip clubs. Wale talks about hanging out at Magic City, the strip club in ATL. He says he goes there with his friends. He’s done interviews there, painting it like a social club for men. Wale ends the segment talking about how people are famous without having any talent. Hmm? Being in the entertainment business ain’t about talent. If it was, some of the best artists I know in NYC would be sitting with Seinfeld including myself. Yeah, we all got talent. But business these days is about something else in social media.

You know what I wish? I really wish the talent Wale speaks of in hip-hop or comedy came with gender ethics about misogyny and misogynoir. Ethics about the subordination of girls and women by men who claim to have power. I recently started reading Disconnected by Carrie James, a digital media ethnographer from Harvard. She distinguishes between morals — you’re sense of good and bad — and ethics — your care and attention to/for unknown individuals, for instance, on the web. Girls so could use some ethics in their online lives!

There are few ethics in entertainment hip-hop about girls esp when strip clubs are in the picture. Instead they silence girls (and women’s) voice. The gender lifestyle portrayed in “funny” media — in satire and in spoofs on YouTube — are shaping audience’s perceptions of what is tolerable and thus acceptable to think AND DO to women and girls who are simply unknowns to you–bitches, hos.

UNKNOWNS: UNCLAIMED PROPERTY

Women are the property that makes a joke funny and not only men. It is the stuff of ideology and manufactured consent. Women are bitches and hos. Their bodies make it rain to sell rappers’ content up the male chain supply and demand. Women are property in this discourse of laughs and lyrical labor as well as the prime discourse of the rap music industry. If you like in any residentially-segregated neighborhood it’s present in the everyday discourse you hear on the streets from little boys. It is often cruelty towards girls and women in loud aggressive grand-standing in the name of “being a man.” Even from the  mouths of babes — 8- 12 year old black boys — this is ordinary in the hood.

I know there are probably non-black boys doing the same,  emulating their part of hip-hop in a southern style or drawl or in some ghetto heaven to the east or in midwest.  Still I’ve never seen it. It’s always black boys and men. That reminds me. I need to read about Black Twitter often dominated by women vs. Hotep Twitter. Hotep Twitter is about social justice for black men, but not so much for black women or black LGBT folk.

Let’s go to the videotape and check out Seinfeld giving this linguistic violence with Wale a bigger platform instead of operating ethically in this Complex sketch that seems real as rain. And I don’t mean the rain as in the strip club, although it has over 244,000 views to date.

 

NO BLACK FRIENDS IN NYC? #blackfriendsmatter

I’m in the midst of finishing a script for a major talk about twerking, its interesting historical intersection with YouTube and Katrina, both celebrating 10 years in 2015, and the resegregation of our racial and sexual mentalities by funny or playful social media. It’s about the role this kind of video content plays in reinscribing stereotypes. While the digital mobility of black youth leads all others groups including adults, 63% of black kids under 18 reside in low-income households (i.e., making ends meet without any savings aka wealth). See more about mobile teens in this Pew Internet study.

Based on my analysis of over 615 videos of black girls twerking, not in strip clubs but in the “privacy” of their bedrooms which are likely in residentially-segregated neighborhoods, I am starting to link the isolation of blacks which has returned to levels not seen since 1968 to ways the invisible audiences, like the 28 million views associated with my data, are probably contributing to the problem that is at the heart of #blacklivesmatters. These invisible audiences are not too dissimilar to many of the undergrads I teach who live in NYC. Most don’t have any black friends. They cannot tell the difference between an 13 year old black girl, a stripper, and a woman. And they are so conditioned to not talk about skin color privileges and race that they cannot tell the difference between dark or light skin, black and most Latinas, and they began and some continued to be afraid to even ask so our data could be accurate. As accurate as anyone else guessing on YouTube.

Reminds me of a favorite quote by Alice Walker:

“People do not wish to appear foolish; to avoid the appearance of foolishness, they are willing to remain actually fools.”

I have a lot to write about here but I am just hinting at all I am learning. Still, this study may not be taken seriously because of its content’s association with strip clubs vs realizing it’s little girls under 13 who are not being protected by YouTube, VEVO, mega artists or COPPA act that says kids under 13 should be protected from advertisers online and must have the consent of their parents. Meanwhile, we all agree to the terms and conditions of apps and websites.

FOMO is real but it’s also an illusion. Seductive and irresistible.

fomo

MISOGYNOIR FOR FUN, AN ONLINE BLAST

So what do we do about these misogynoir linguistic environments — hating on black girls and women — that are not private and networked to publics on your handheld always on devices? They are linguistically violent against women everywhere! “I tried to call the cops / That type of thief they can’t arrest” sang Lauryn decades ago about manifesting a women’s ownership over her body and her ability to resist the seduction of her power in the music biz and the world. Misogyny by satire. Misogyny by strip club. Misogyny. When will we restore the feminine and the erotic to empower women and girls? When!?

The only way we do is through dance it seems. Dance is the way out by going in. A way to love yourself and still be here in the patriarchal den of thieves.

I was reading a GQ article “Make it Reign: How an Atlanta Strip Club Runs the Music Industry” by Devin Friedman with photos by Lauren Greenfield (bet there aren’t many black writers and photographers at GQ — #justsayin).

A stripper at Magic City talked about the old days during the BMF (Black Mafia Family) when women who stripped there made $20K vs $5K a night now. (I purposefully am not calling them strippers just as I no longer use “slaves” for African enslaved people. Dehumanization in language is a stealth and insidious teacher. Transforms thinking in a second so you don’t value the people who have had to make choices to combat the lack of opportunity or the feminization of poverty in this nation, esp. among black and brown women.) Ok. I read this quote in the article that stunned me but at the same time I could see how women have come to accept it as normal. C.R.E.A.M. (cash rules everything around me) except “females” are always property, not getting currency. Still enslaved by gender hegemony and misogyny in highly capitalistic ways.

“They was a little brutal back in the BMF,” the dancer Aimee told me. “They would have joy slapping the girls in the face with the money. You get sucker punched in the face with a thousand dollars, but you laugh it off because it’s so much money.”

riri gifIf trauma is something you learn to tolerate, than thinking your in the spotlight when you are the trick to get other’s paid is easy. No amount of money will heal the wounds that come from that misuse of your soul. You cannot kill it and wait for the bonus at the end. You won’t have any soul let to spend it on.

I seriously wonder who social media is making us become as women and as men. Anything for a laugh. Anything for a buck. Anything for internet fame or view or two. Never measuring up.

Dance, baby, dance! to Stupid Hoe

What are we cognitively doing to kids when 8 year olds are twerking to songs like Stupid Hoe even by a female artist like Nicki Minaj. Things are gettin way to hectic! We will not see the impact of this right away but I suspect it’s way too seductive to stop and notice for most of us.  This is just a pondering blog post. I’m pondering how to tackle this as a scholar and as a woman who’s been through her share of trauma digested in the name of romance or sex or marriage. Misogyny is real!

Ordinarily I anonymize info but this content is publicly available. I go back and forth because this young girl is way too young to consent to what happens to her content but clearly freely participating and seduced to do so since an adult provided the mobile device she used to record it, YouTube doesn’t utilize it’s infinite digital power to keep kids under 13 off their site, YouTube, Nicki Minaj, the artist of the song the girl plays, and VEVO all profit off the backs of girls like this. She gets internet fame with over 86,000 views from her first upload posted in 2012 but everyone else is earning a living from the collective messing around on YouTube by hundreds of thousands of girls who are marginalized as well as young white girls, too.

This has been incredibly challenging ethnography and I have so much to say. I wonder if connecting the linguistic violence to the high rates of intimate partner violence that black girls suffer might be a good thing to begin to examine.

Would love your thoughts?

Kyraocity didn’t kill the kat!! Curiosity I hope keep you coming back to my blog.

 

Trending on YouTube: For Black Girls

I started writing because there’s an absence of things I was familiar with or that I dreamed about. One of my senses of anger is related to this…  — Ntozake Shange

Button Poetry:
Crystal Valentine & Aaliyah Jihad – “To Be Black and Woman and Alive”