JoJo “I’m Not A Princess!”: Audiences Deny Agency; Promote Patriarchy

“Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another–physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion.”
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

What would happen to the future of white supremacist patriarchy if [hegemonic] white [fe]males were choosing to form serious relationships with black females?

Clearly, this structure would be under mined.
Bell Hooks, Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations


So Mashable releases a video (Monday, September 14) of this adorable and sassy little white girl named JoJo. JoJo is having a logic and YouTube-adorable argument with her Dad explaining how she is NOT a princess.

JoJo: “No! Don’t ask me any questions, I just need <indistinguishable>.

Dad: I wanna call you my princess.

JoJo: NO! You cannot call me your princess, o-KAY DAD!?!

So you can see how from the viewers standpoint we must fix JoJo. She cannot be denied her “rightful” place in the habitus — the “trained capacities and structured propensities to think, feel and act in determinant ways, which then guide them’ (Wacquant 2005: 316, cited in Navarro 2006: 16)” — of hegemonic femininity, fantasy and seduction, can we now?!?

Her dad tries to convince her otherwise. She IS a princess, he insists in one way or another. Here, her dad–used by his own habitus of hegemonic daddy-hood and masculinity — denies his daughter her sense of agency, unintentionally–we are all creatures of our habitus of the structures that keep the logic of hegemonic masculinity and femininity in place.

The capacity of individuals to act independently.
The idea that children can be seen as independent social actors is core to the development of the new paradigm for the study of children and young people that emerged in the social sciences in the 1970s. It underscores children and young people’s capacities to make choices about the things they do and to express their own ideas. Through this, it emphasizes children’s ability not only to have some control over the direction their own lives take but also, importantly, to play some part in the changes that take place in society more widely. As Mayall describes it, a focus on children’s agency enables exploration of the ways in which children’s interaction with others ‘makes a difference — to a relationship or to a decision, to the workings of a set of social assumptions or constraints’ (Mayall, 2002: 21 quoted in Allison James & Adrian James, Key Concepts in Childhood Studies, Sage Key Concepts, 2008: 9).

Then along comes Katy Perry using her millions of followers on Twitter to do the same. In the name of cuteness, Katy will usurp this little girl’s agency to insure she fits the norm and gets the bracelets JoJo argues distinguishes her from a real princess. All little girls should want to be a princess and get the diamond bracelet, right?!?!

Starting a Kickstarter to get this 👑Queen👑 her rightful bracelets!


The last thing girls need are more myths about having someone one else buy the jewels that make you whole or someone else who comes to save you from the fate of second class citizenship. Let’s just deny JoJo’s healthy agency and replace it with money and jewels. Patriarchy wins!

Let a Girl Be a Girl: On Her Own Terms

JoJo: I said don’t ask me anything OR don’t talk. You can talk AFTER.  [long pause as she looks at the TV and gathers her thoughts. Dad interjects]

Dad: OK, it’s my turn to talk. [what lesson is she and the audience of girls watching learning from the subtle cooptation of her request.]

JoJo is on to something! Don’t let them seduce you, oh great one, with jewels. Daddy, pay attention! Let your girl grow up to be her own definition of self. Let her be an assertive, independent, a social actor with her own voice and her own actions with your loving support and protection.

But Katy Perry has to go and start a Kickstarter campaign for her to get the bracelets. PU-LEEEZ!!  IT’S NOT ABOUT THE JEWELS, Katy! Stop messing around with the myths and mental maps of reality that seduce girls into subservience to body and beauty politics.

This girl gets it on some brilliant level as a child. Don’t mess with that!! Both the dad and Katy Perry feed into this enculturational process where girls are taught patriarchal femininity where girls should be selfless in order to have relationship. As Carol Gilligan notes in the video below, without a self you cannot be in relationship.


Having a female celebrity singer, a mega star, use her platform and privilege (and in this case white privilege) to help a girl whose intentions are very clear sends the wrong message in my book. I applaud Perry’s good intentions but the road to hell is already well-paved by such paternalistic moves in the name of male as well as female celebrities. How about helping raise millions for a cause in JoJo’s name that’s bigger than bracelets?? That could make her a princess of a whole different sort.

There are millions of girls right here in the US (let’s not go white savior on Africa or Southeast Asia for just a minute) who she could help; millions of marginalized girls of color and poor white girls would get more bang for those bucks. Let’s start thinking impact not celebrity diamonds for JoJo. Queens and princesses — the real ones — use their power to help the people who need it most.

This moment of lifecasting on YouTube by JoJo’s dad under the username Lomelino Kids could have been (and still may be) a stepping stone to a kind of feminist stance about being beautiful and ordinary in an extraordinary way that is NOT about the body or mere beauty. Carol Gilligan reminds us that feminism actually is a liberation movement to free democracy from patriarchy. Women and men, girls and boys are not free if patriarchy is the structure of our lives, the order and measure for our success.

If we situated the role of a “princess” from the historical GPS that dictionaries entries provide, the oldest definition is first,  we might see how the structure of a princess’s power has devolved over time.

Full Definition of PRINCESS

1  archaic :  a woman having sovereign power
2:  a female member of a royal family; especially :  a daughter or granddaughter of a sovereign
3:  the consort of a prince
4:  one likened to a princess; especially :  a woman of high rank or of high standing in her class or profession <a pop music princess>

Merriam Webster Online also positions first and foremost on its site before this chronological rendering:

a usually attractive girl or woman who is treated with special attention and kindness

JoJo has everything she already needs and learning about other notable princesses or queens other than the fictional Disney versions would be a real asset. Learning about Nefretiti, who was considered one of the most powerful women to ever rule, Marie Antoinette, who rose to the throne at 14, Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii or Queen Noor of Jordan would be more beneficial than bracelets from a Kickstarter campaign. But that is not what JoJo is being enculturated into. YouTube’s media ecology will amplify a totally different intention that JoJo asks — back to the seduction of the jewels.

Dad: I’m a king

JoJo: No, you’re not! You’re a dad

I skimmed the reactions to the video and most have little to do with JoJo’s agency and more to do with reasserting the normative expectations where we romantically seduce little girls into a focus on their bodies and how they adorn them. Read: Isn’t she cute trying to break the chains of patriarchy but it ain’t that serious. She’ll grow outta that with the help of Daddy, Katy, Kickstarter and the crown achievement of some jewels. This makes it all about the jewels and adornment not the substance and character of an independent or interdependent girl or woman.

Screen Shot of YouTube Comments 2015-09-14 at 9.50.06 AM

Screen Shot of YouTube Comments 2015-09-14 at 9.50.06 AM


Ok, I should be writing my article on Mirrors, Monsters and Webcams and marginalized girls on YouTube, but this got me. #feelingsnarkytoday #backtowork

Have a look out these two remarkable YouTube videos about feminism. They helped me resituate some of my own thinking.

Dr. Carol Gilligan Defines Feminism and Patriarchy

Black Folk Don’t: Do Feminism



Pit Bulls, Bitches or Rudolph: Is the “Dog” Wagging Her Tail? #twerktweens

I am realizing how all the research I’ve been focused on for the last 2 years is about one big idea: the unintended consequences of the “new digital divide” for marginalized groups across new media ecologies. With the ubiquity of the mobile web among African American tweens, unequal literacies about the persistence and searchability of girls’ music-related content on the Internet has become a “new digital divide.”  The consequences or #bottomlines I explore are the participation gaps and critical literacies found beyond mere access.

NOTE:  I’m still playing around with the title of my blog. The aim of my new title is to emphasize my role as an ethnomusicologist as well as the work I do as a social science researcher and digital media ethnographer. Thus: #Bottomlines in the New Digital Divide. The new subtitle plays with the notion of the digital seduction of music and media among marginalized groups in new media ecologies. I am toying with typography in the word “education.” The way it’s stylized–by inserting the “$” sign — signifying economic capital–before the word and inserting the “@” sign in the middle to replace the usual “a” in education–the word can be slyly read as both “seduction” and “education” in the context of “Music & the Media $Educ@tion of Marginalized Groups.”

Why “seduction”? Because seduction remains the dominant possibility without better digital media literacy or education. Participation gaps in editing and in privacy ethics are costing black girls the very power and agency that marginalized groups try to establish with their use of social media. Fan video-making related to rap and R&B videos on YouTube and other platforms helps them develop cultural and social capital within their own communities but it’s their social mobility to other networks that really matters in the long run.

What do you think about my wordplay? Let me know in the comments!! My blog format or structure will continue as usual: I start with quotes, then images and an intro, more or less while highlighting key terms, concepts or links in pink to signify the intersectionality of my interventions.  Let’s get to the point of this post, tween twerking videos and the question What ‘dog‘ is wagging these girls’ tail in kids dance videos of Red Nose? The breed known as a “red nose pit bull”? Hip-hop’s casual but persistent attribution of the word “bitch” to girls and women who are routinely referred to as “females”? Or do the kids here “Rudolph the red nose reindeer” even though it ain’t even Christmas time.

Red nose hook & Rudolph GIF

A GIF meme using an image of Rudolph with the popular hook from Sage the Gemini’s “Red Nose” rap song. Gemini’s video premiered on his SageTheGeminiVEVO YouTube channel on June 10, 2013, a week before “We Can’t Stop” on the MileyCyrusVEVO Channel

Italian scientists found that pups wag their tails to the right when they see something positive, and more toward the left when they see something negative. In their latest study, researchers found that other dogs also pick up on that difference, and their hearts beat faster when they see a pooch wagging its tail to the left. Associated Press, 2013

[The] asymmetry in sexual education maintains men’s power in the myth: They look at women’s bodies, evaluate, move on; their own bodies are not looked at, evaluated, and taken or passed over. But there is no “rock called gender” responsible for that; it can change so that real mutuality–an equal gaze, equal vulnerability, equal desire–brings heterosexual men and women together.”
Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

Tweenage Twerking to Red Nose 

The group I presently study — online tweenage Black girls — is marginalized by age, race, and gender. In this blog post, I examine a YouTube video of tweenage girls who are making a “yiking” video for the 2nd time. The first one was removed. I’ll write an upcoming post on the violation of Community Guidelines on YouTube and the unintended consequences of that for marginalized youth.

I found this video while searching for twerking videos on YouTube. Anything with a black girl or woman shaking her hips to music is often titled or tagged “twerking” although this video is actually a style known as “yiking” in the Bay area. The Red Nose dance has become a viral meme on YouTube and this particular video is a testament of its spreadability. The girls in the video talk to the camera with what seems to be a Bajan creole accent. So, I can reasonably argue they are not from the Bay area of Cali. Readers from Barbados or folk from the Bay, correct me if I’m wrong!

TITLE: Red nose children version(CLEAN)
13,090 views, 116 Likes, 14 Dislikes (as of Sat 23 May 2015 8:12pm)
Published on Jul 8, 2013
User Description: All about fun DO NOT PUT ON FACEBOOK
Music “Red Nose” by Sage The Gemini (Google Play • iTunes • AmazonMP3)
Artist Sage the Gemini
Category: Entertainment

The other day, I went searching for tweens dancing to “Red Nose” by Sage the Gemini because there are only 200 songs in my dataset of 800 videos. Red Nose appears multiple times. This summer, I intend to explore these copyrighted songs, the artists and their accompanying videos to get a sense of the relationships between them and the tweens’ dancing in user-generated videos.

The “Red nose” dance [Cue the video above at 1:29″] features an isolated, snake-like gesture of the female torso executed when the fluid motion of her knees from left to right and back again punctuated by syncing up a “tick tock” booty popping motion over 3-4 beats to the lyrics “like-like-like-like a red nose” which is the hook of Gemini’s song.

In the Bay area, where it’s known as “yiking“, the dance generally occurs between a female and male partner with most of the action and attention on the former’s booty moves. There are tons of exceptions In tweenage and teen videos on YouTube where is all girls. But you never see two guys doing the red nose dance together.

Four girls doing the red nose in a school bathroom.

Four tween girls doing the red nose in a school bathroom.

In the dance, generally a tween girl bends over at the hips and usually a guy, sometimes older but more often than not a younger brother stands with his hips right behind her squatting position from behind. The partner behind grabs the girl’s waist or shoulders and rides her moves, so to speak, as she were one of those coin-operated pony rides they used to have outside the supermarket.

The partner’s gaze is on the girls’ hip gestures or booty. From a viewer’s gaze, given the physical proximity of the partners–a boys’ private parts are up against a girls’ behind–it is difficult for the mind to avoid the suggestive “doggy style” sex position. When the mediated gender performance between the sexes is observed among children and tweens (ages 8-13) on YouTube, no doubt many viewers are left with a great deal of uneasiness. And, as one of my students suggested, this unease is often projected onto the imagined social identity of black girls–one of the unintended consequences of their online play.

Search Results

When typing a search of “Red nose” on my computer, the first autocorrect choice is “red nose kids dance.” It yields over 97,000 results one day and 100,000 the next (May 24 and 25, 2015). When I filter for 4 min or less videos only, the results increase to over 100,000. The YouTube search algorithm can be a mystery.

Tween YouTubers who upload these videos surely realize that “twerking” is a better tag for YouTube’s search algorithm to find. The factors shaping the algorithmic results include the video title, keywords in the description during the upload, view count and comments, and the trust and authority of the channel owner. The keyword “twerking” is certainly going to pull more results and have more relevance for a broader set of viewers than “yiking”. The cultural capital of getting views or gaming the system is known by even the youngest YouTubers–how can I get people to watch my videos and follow my channel?

The Art? of Rap

“The art of rap is deceptive. It seems so straightforward and personal and real that people read it completely literally, as raw testimony or autobiography. And sometimes the words we use, nigga, bitch, motherfucker, and the violence of the images overwhelms some listeners. It’s all white noise to them till they hear a bitch or a nigga and then they run off yelling “See!” and feel vindicated in their narrow conception of what the music is about.”   Jay-Z, Decoded


(Holy shit)
All this money on me
Come and take it from a G
All she tryna do is get naked (Naked)

Hook: And she gon’ shake it, like a red nose
Li-li-li-li-like a red nose
And she gon’ shake it, like a red nose
Like a, like a, like a red nose
And she gon’ shake it, like a red nose
Li-li-li-li-like a red nose
And she gon’ shake it, like a red nose
Like a, like a, like a red nose


That booty talkin’ to me, what that shit say?
Shake it for the dojo I’m the sensei
Once you wobble on my song, on replay
Almost got ‘er at house, up off Kingsway
I told her shake it like a red nose Pitbull
And I’mma keep throwin’ money ’til your bank full
Cake-cake-cake-cake birthday suit
Damn in a little I’mma forget your age soon
Whoa, OK, now let’s do it my way
If she don’t go crazy then she walkin’ on the highway
And if she don’t believe me tell that bitch just try me
Bet you she be shakin‘ from the club back to my place whoa

Read more: Sage The Gemini – Red Nose Lyrics | MetroLyrics

The hook of the song is about shaking it like a red nose and like a stripper. Word play is clear here when you read the rest of the lyrics. But a red nose pit bull appears in the VEVO video along with micro-celebrity India Haynes know as #GetItIndy or FunnSizeIndy for her yiking on YouTube.

Unintended Consequences

The question here: What are the unintended consequences of tween girls dancing to these lyrics whether they think they are about pitt bulls, bitches or Rudolph? Each symbolic meaning is there for the taking when sit down and think about the meaning of the lyrics. This cognitive shift from listening to dancing seems to be dichotomous but later it will come back home to roost as a form of misogyny for most older girls and women.

For ages, the passive stance that I like the beats and I don’t listen to the lyrics puts women in an even more passive stance about their involvement in hip-hop listening culture where males pay attention to the patriarchal lyrics and its narratives of black masculinity. There is a “dog” wagging the tail of online adolescent black girls’s dance in YouTube videos and it’s not man’s best friend or a woman or a girl’s. But the dancing is seductive! What has girls so mute in the face of such objectivity?

This video of the two Bajan tweens doing a 2nd video of Red Nose is linked in my mind to two of my students’ analysis in our research project this term. C. and J. coded instructional lyrics in 15 twerking videos of tween and teen girls. The applied the hashtag #poplockanddropit to their project. Watch their final vlog and analysis here:

C. and J’s presentation got me thinking about the affinity for pitbulls but not females among black males in urban settings. So I searched Google for something about why black men like pit bulls and found a 2008 law blog post about the racialization of pitbulls. It was tagged under “constitutional law”:

…the rhetoric that surrounds the proponents of Breed Specific Legislation sounds remarkably racial.  Consider the following common statements.  Biology and breed unwaveringly determine behavioral characteristics.  Reduced amounts of the aggressive ancestry decreases the chances for recidivism.  Pitbulls have large mouths and funny looking lips.  It is wise to cross the street when approached by a pitbull.   Pitbulls are lazy until you try to take something away from them.  Mixed breed pitbulls are more intelligent, kind, and gentle than full-breeds.  All pitbulls are from the ghetto.  You can take the dog out of the ghetto but you can’t take the ghetto out of the dog.

These statements could be equally applied to most any racially marginalized group, but most specifically, it invokes racially charged images of African Americans and Native Americans. The determination of who legally belongs in a racial group has long been the study of my own scholarly work, as well as that of Rose Villazor (SMU), Carla Pratt (Penn State), and Adrienne Davis (WashU).  But could similar theories be extended to that of the animal kingdom?

I had mentioned to my students that in my experience in Brooklyn, it seems that black men often have pitbulls. I don’t dare call them pets. They’re more like guard dogs, an extension of their bravado in most cases.  I added that I’ve never seen a young black man or boy refer to their dogs as a “bitch” in public though the term is technically referring to a female dog, as most people know. In street talk and rap discourse, the term “bitch” is exclusively reserved referring to girls/women or as a way of stigmatizing frienemies and enemies to call into question their masculinity or hardness like some kind of imagined group test. Real men stick together!

I just want to point out to two cues in the Red Nose kids dance video above that I coded. In the video, there is a taller girl in blue jean shorts (about 10) and a shorter girl in fuscia shorts with white trim.

0:43 Girl in fuscia shorts: “Our first one…they deleted only cuz we’re doing it [the red nose dance]” She is interacting with the audience about “YouTube” taking down their first video “Red Nose.” They make a case even at their young age that their video was no more a violation of community guidelines than dozens of other videos by kids dancing to Red Nose. Then she makes an appeal. Shifting from actor to content creator in her speaking she asks the audience to essentially help them get cultural capital or “views” on YouTube, adding

0:59 Girl in fuscia shorts: “Anyways we’re going to do another one, so please do not delete it. Cuz the last one, the first one, it was 248 viewers and 27 subscribers. WE NEVER GET THAT BEFORE! It was our first time, so PLEASE!.” Girl in jean shorts adds “It’s for the children!”

These girls are being strategic in their appeal despite the fact that in over 800 videos I’ve collected with students only 5% feature girls talking to the camera. This isn’t all that strange since they are essentially dance videos. Nobody talks on the dance floor. But they are also vlogs. Vlogs are an opportunity to not only present your body to the YouTube public but also your voice.

The jean shorted girl is trying to appeal to a sympathy for kids from the people out in the audience with power (adults at YouTube or maybe viewers who might show support in their comments). It’s as if she is saying “let us have our cake and eat it, too!” or “let us play online like everybody else who’s doing the Red Nose!” Meanwhile, Sage the Gemini’s music not only gets advertised under their video and the views they accrue count towards his Billboard ranking, and the girls get nothing but a sense of attention and that they might have been on to something on YouTube–real social capital. But that is not possible without monetizing your channel and really preparing. Nine out of ten of the most viral videos on YouTube according to the Wall Street Journal are professionally made and 9 out of 10 of the most popular videos on YouTube are music videos. Girls today have the same impression I did as a teen or tween. One day I’ll be famous like Diana Ross! Today it’s internet famous like Beyoncé, Rihanna or Nicki MInaj!

Get It Indy: Extreme Twerking by India Haynes

I refuse to embed the original Sage the Gemini video here — I will not add to his coffers — but here’s the link if you’re curious:

For me, it’s India Haynes’ appearance in Gemini’s video that interests me. I first learned about yiking from India Haynes aka Get It Indy #getitindy on YouTube around the time she turned 18 according to her channel. Her 2013 video is a guide for understanding twerking vs. yiking vs. bounce. Check out these cues:

Yiking at 10:00″-12:05″
Then she talks about bounce at 12:05″-13:22″
Then the “Tick Tock” at 13:22″ – 14:09″


That’s it for now! Leave your comments!


Tell your tweens that back that thang up when twerking on YouTube should be about privacy not publicity!  Help them change their privacy settings on YouTube to UNLISTED!!  Unlisted allows them to share with their friends but it won’t be available in the YouTube search results.

Quotes: On Media’s Junk-in-the-Trunk

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

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


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

Tomi-Ann Roberts, On the Sexualization of Girls

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

The Miseducation of our Minds by the Media of Black Folk

The Miseducation of our Minds by the Media of Black Folk

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

Facebook comments on thread by Stacey Muhammad today.

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

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

My thoughts after the apology

My thoughts after the apology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a telling excerpt:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: Antoine Dodson – Bed Intruder Lyrics | MetroLyrics

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond the Body? bell hooks + Eve Ensler

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


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. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eve: [reiterates bell] offering your body

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

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

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


Dr. Gaunt aka @kyraocity on Twitter.

What If Higher Learning Was All About Remix? (On Foucault)

“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