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”

“How Can I Have 1.9 Million Followers and Feel…This Alone?”

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it. – Upton Sinclair

The intrinsic troublesome and uncertain quality of situations lies in the fact that they hold outcomes in suspense; they move to evil or to good fortune. The natural tendency of man is to do something at once ; there is impatience with suspense, and lust for immediate action.      – John Dewey,  “The Quest for Uncertainty” (1929)

Assata Shakur

The Lust and The Salary It May Depend On

A fellow black feminist scholar pointed this video of by a so-called professional twerker who appears to be “white,” and claims to the the “most famous booty shaker.” Why? Because she earns 6-figures making videos on Vine. When non-black women make this symbolic move and earn capital, I wonder if they ever consider that there are ethics involved in how their moves will impact those who came before them. It’s never necessary if those who came before are black and female.

While I am expanding my research to include videos by non-black teens and adolescents, I’ve chosen to limit my study to YouTube though I’d surely would have as much to figure out and analyze if I expanded the data set to video from WorldStarHipHop, Instagram and Vine. I want to thanksto Qiana Curtis for bringing this video/short film on the professional twerker to my attention on FB.

The line that strikes me most in the 4-minute short film I used as the title of the post. Does one have to make 6-figures to learn that money can’t buy you love or eliminate the animosities of race? Jessica says as her voice starts to crack as if performing on cue for the camera, “How can I have 1 point …. nine million followers and feel…this alone?” Generation Like meets the chicken that always comes home to roost in the old and new attention economy of the entertainment business.  (Check out the PBS documentary of the same name if you haven’t already. What are Teens Doing Online?).

 

This copy about the short film appeared below the original FB post:

Twerking 9-5: ‘Vine’s Most Famous Booty Shaker’ earns 6 figures

Jessica Vanessa is a professional twerker, who’s making big bucks by shaking her booty…in fact, she makes a 6-figure sum by shimmying her bum!

22-year-old social media superstar Jessica captivates audiences from around the world with her hypnotic assets. The former teaching assistant is now paid by companies to mention their products to her 2m online followers, who tune in to watch her twerk, jerk and crack jokes in comedy short videos on Vine.

Jessica now makes more money from a six-second Vine vid than she did working for four months at the nursery. It seems her bottom is taking her to the top!

Barcroft TV bring you a new short film every weekday – from the fascinating to the funny – plus two amazing full-length television shows every week.

#Twerking #Twerk #JessicaVanessa #JessiVanessa #Booty #Bum #Squats #Fitness #Dancing #Buns #VOTD #Video

Can Twerking Be Your Profession?

I don’t study adult twerkers and while Jessica Vanessa calls herself a “professional twerker” some critics/haters might consider the moniker an oxymoron. There are those who will liken it to “sex work” though there is no sexual touch or intercourse involved. The visual economy of twerking flips is like a free “peep show” that lures advertisers to solicit Vanessa’s “assets” to sell products.

In American culture and society associating earning money with having a profession is a common practice. If I earned a living off of making music, I too would call myself a professional. Google defines the term as:

pro·fes·sion
prəˈfeSHən/
noun
  1. a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification.
    “his chosen profession of teaching”
    synonyms: career, occupation, calling, vocation, métier, line (of work), walk of life,job, business, trade, craft;

    informalracket
    “his chosen profession of teaching”
  2. an open but often false declaration or claim.
    “a profession of allegiance”
    synonyms: declaration, affirmation, statement, announcement, proclamation,assertion, avowal, vow, claim, protestation;

    formalaverment
    “a profession of allegiance”

 

The Oxford English Dictionary, a definitive and professional arbiter of definitions in the English language, defines “profession” as:

A paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification:
his chosen profession of teachinga lawyer by profession

This definition gets complicated when it comes to mixing work with anything sexual…outside of hollywood or any industrialized complex of music, TV or film. Then your profession is questioned….rappers, DJs and dancers esp. from hip-hop included.

For me, the question keeps coming back to who profits from the social or economic capital of the cultural performance known as twerking? A cultural practice that began with black dance behaviors outside the marketplace dating back to New Orleans in the late 1980s and linked culturally throughout the African and Afro-Latin and Caribbean diasporas for decades if not a century.

The fact that race is never mentioned in the short film seems curious to me. The following viral meme from 2012 suggests that race was attributed to the before Miley Cyrus took it to the top of Google searches. But such practices in dance and music have always been extracted from the rich bottom of black creativity in our culture for centuries. Erasing the contestation is troublesome but such practices go beyond the hood.

Meme - So this is what Negro Girls Do

Questioning Who Profits

I was chatting with Hannah Giorgis after inviting her to speak to my students yesterday and we both dwell in and pondered a few related questions. Most of the ideas of these questions I attribute to Hannah. I embellished on them. She’d probably say my previous blog post on who profits from the counterfeit culture of stereotypes about black girls inspired some of these ideas:

  1. How are people who do not identify, who are not socialized or perceived to be, black girls affected by black girlhood? Do other girls or transgender folk get to explore sexuality through its prism or as a way into and out of popular adolescent/ youth culture?
  2. What does it mean to put symbolic elements of black girlhood upon yourself (without the symbolic codes of skin color and its incumbent stigmatization)?
  3. What does it mean to adopt (as well as adapt to) “black femaleness” and at any moment back away from it, return it, shed it when no longer value-able?
  4. What does it mean to have black girlhood imposed upon you because you look the part because of skin color even though you didn’t necessarily sign up for the part (Cue music: “Mama’s always on stage“)?
  5. Can these tensions be in conversation with one another in our contemporary discourse or debates or must we always take sides (black or white, booty or not)? (Cue music: Which side are you on? #michaelbrown #ferguson)
  6. Ultimately, who is profiting from black girls twerking on YouTube (way back in its beginnings in 2006) as a performance?A performance that can “make it rain” in 6 figures for some and not others (particularly not adolescent/teen black girls themselves)?

The questions need to be lived with before we simply jump off on some conclusion or result. There’s research and study to do first. I’ll leave readers with this. Some  commentary about a bell hooks talk at the New School earlier this week. In a piece called “bell hooks Was Bored by ‘Anaconda'” featured in The Cut, writer Kat Steoffel wrote:

According to hooks, reducing female sexuality to “the pussy” raised questions about “who possesses and who has rights in the female body.”

the booty is a more visible, PG-13 stand-in for female sexuality, easier to represent (and sell) in pop culture, but freighted with more racial connotations.  A booty-centric vision of female sexuality, hooks explained, asks, “who has access to the female body?”

Broadcasting while your twerk has consequences and differential consequences for non-blacks than for black girls themselves. There’s a lot to unravel before or while shaking your butt in the webcam.

My First Vlog: Upping My Content #bottomlines

The more legal and material hindrances women have broken through, the more strictly and heavily and cruelly images of female beauty have come to weigh upon us…After years of much struggle and little recognition, many older women feel burned out; after years of taking its light for granted [feminist progress], many younger women show little interest in touching new fire to the torch.                           – Naomi Wolf, US writer, The Beauty Myth (1991).

When the #NFL Goes So Wrong, Only Satire Can Make it Right!

sat·ire
ˈsaˌtīr/
noun
  1. the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
― Margaret Atwood

I wish there was more intentionality around posting on my blog, but hey!…”It’s my party and I’ll …” write when I want to. You know why? Teachin and writin’ (like pimpin’but different) ain’t easy. I thought I’d try to be funny this time cuz I am always so serious here.

A reminder about the purpose or mission of my blog. Black Girls YouTube is designed for two things.

  1. To have a space to express my thoughts, feelings and critiques of what’s happening when teen and adolescent black girls YouTube (“YouTube” is a verb in the blog title). I’m thinking of girls under 18 who vlog and/or twerk, who create content and engage with others on the platform, and
  2. To feature other online videos or talks about the social lives of black girls, especially the girls as distinct from women over 18, or that simply speak to issues affecting their self-presentation online.

The Power of Satire in YouTube Vlogs

As I organize the overall class schedule for my latest semester of a digital ethnography course that focuses on black girls who twerk on YouTube, I ran across a great video of satire about the Ray Rice controversy. I’ve basically been too busy to jump into the fray. I was searching through Chescaleigh’s latest videos and playlists and found this gem. It’s not one of her classics. She is now a curator for Upworthy and put together a playlist of her curated content. She writes:

I’m now a content curator at upworthy.com which is a new media site dedicated to promoting content that matters. This playlist contains some of my favorite content from around the web on a variety of important topics and social issues. To see more of my posts on Upworthy visit http://www.upworthy.com/franchesca-ramsey and make sure to “like” us on Facebook for more important content! http://facebook.com/upworthy

The latest in the playlist had me in stitches and got me thinking about the power of satire. As Wikipedia states, satire when some event, person or institution’s:

…vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement.[1]

You could read this as a shaming of a professional football player, Ray Rice. But losing his job will serve the purpose of shame very effectively. No satire necessary. You could read it as a shaming of his girlfriend-now-wife, whose name here need not be repeated. She deserves some privacy. No satire necessary there. But the institution, the corporate-person known as the NFL. Well…let’s just saw this satire by Megan MacKay  posted Sept 12th does not fumble the ball about sexual abuse of women by pro ball players.

Teaching about Black Girls in a Predominately White Setting–NYC

I hope that we might find moments of satire in our class discussions since it’s such a pivotal genre on YouTube.

I wish I knew how to make a satire of this fact: I have 18-19 students and only one black student at one of the top public university’s in New York City.  The student, Chris, and I represent [CORRECTION:] 10% of people in the room in a city where black people represent. African Americans represent 19% of the population in NYC, so we’re off by almost  50% [Math is not my forté but I know people who do math!]

The New York City Metropolitan area represents the largest city and metro in America with more than 18 million residents. African Americans have a rich history in this region even before the civil war. The New York Metro Black population is the largest of any city in the United States at close to 3.5 million. This is almost 9% of the entire Black population of the United States. New York City Proper has more than 2.4 million African Americans.

It’s odd to me that we cannot improvise and experiment with other forms of privilege (or even other majorities) in the classroom. The demographic of the college where I work has students from over 120 countries represented. In an average classroom, I have students from 14 different nations. But the black student population seems to be dwindling. So why teach about black girls? Because it matters that we pay attention to the “least” among us.

Hangin on a String

The other day, at an event with a circle of sacred feminine women artists, a string player who is an African American virtuoso shared that a major black pop artist had requested 30 black female string players be hired for a major gala event. They were hired and then 28 were summarily unhired because it didn’t look “diverse” enough for an event in NYC. When was the last time you saw 30 all-black women string players at a major arts event ANYWHERE? Thank god the multicultural censors stepped in. It would have been a tragedy to allow that! We should all thank them for  saving the Metropolitan arts world from black domination one gala at a time!! Big them ONE BIG BAD APPLE for diversity! I ❤ NY.

Given all this satirizing, you can probably imagine that i might be concerned about my classroom. If I have only one black student in a class about the ethnography–the first-hand personal study of online behavior–among teen black girls, how do I help the millennials hear the voices of the people we are studying without dominating them with black femaleness? How do we teach non-black students to avoid the trappings of stereotypes and stigmas usually attributed to black girls’ humanity by our mass and social media.  Think about the comments below YouTube videos that feature or talk about race or blackness. Can you say #trolls 3x fast?

Thankfully, I trust in the humanity of my non-black students.

WE’RE ALL GREEN!! DARK GREEN KIDS ON THE BACK OF THE BUS!!

Monday I did this post-it note exercise giving each student a pink, green and yellow post-it (which I call “stickies”). They were asked to write responses to three prompts about themselves.

IMG_2274 IMG_2273

Below is a transcript of their responses. They made me feel like I don’t need to worry much. We have lots of concerns we share and from there we can co-create together AND bring complexity to both what we see and what we share to a quite diverse network no matter what we learn:

Pink: Major/Discipline

Corporate Communication
Political Science/ Philosophy
Accounting (4)
Economics (2)
Statistics
Math (2)
Sociology (2)
Psychology
Finance(2)
Operation Management
Business Administration

Green: Interest/ Aspect Topic

What is the purpose of posting twerking videos?
Life of young black girls on youtube
Extensivity/ [or the] Reach of youtube
How black girls are affected by racism and their culture
How different races view each other
People and their actions
How young black girls choose to face discrimination against them
Family
Online communication (perception)
Black girl struggle
Philosophy and equality
Interested in how much i can learn about black girls twerking
Sub groups online
Why certain actions are done
Negative stigmas: Origins, solutions, results
Culture vs Society

Yellow: Self Identity/ Fears of YouTube Videos:

Chinese + Vietnamese
Italian + American
Asian American + Chinese American
Albanian + Caucasian
Napalese
Girls in a man’s world

Peoples Comments
Privacy Issues
Fear of peer opinion
Don’t know what to vlog about never filmed myself before
I view YouTube videos as permanent. if someone quotes you/ screen shots what you say on twitter, its nothing in comparison to YouTube
I fear that my videos won’t be worth seeing
Going viral
Broadcasting myself
If it doesn’t turn out as planned
Fear of sounding like i don’t know what im talking about

Videos of Protest Can Be Healing – Context is Everything! #Ferguson

Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
― Henry David Thoreau

“Your silence will not protect you.”
― Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

#Ferguson: On Peaceful Protest and Democracy

Fatigue. Yes, we’ve all been experience attention economy fatigue with videos of police brutality, killing, tear gas, and assaults as well as resistance and disobedience in the name of justice. But we are still biological beings in a social ecology. If that social ecology lacks trust, does not feel fit and serve our needs, we suffer and fatigue comes. You must care for self to be able to hold such visual struggle for long. Take a break OR find a video  that is like a balm in Gilead. THIS!!

Music by Mt. Eden “Oh That I Had”

Immersion & the Great Escape: Is Queen Bey a Surrogate Reality?

74% of young girls say they are under pressure to please someone.
― Eve Ensler, I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls, 2010

Loneliness, Cacioppo points out, has nothing to do with how many people are physically around us, but has everything to do with our failure to get what we need from our relationships.”
David DiSalvo, What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite

Cherish your solitude. … Say no when you don’t want to do something. Say yes if your instincts are strong, even if everyone around you disagrees. … Decide if fitting in is more important than finding out what you’re doing here.”
Eve Ensler

Screenshot 2014-08-07 11.35.56

I’ve been thankin’

This past weekend I attended an amazing training during which I discovered that I tend to misinterpret my assessments as results or reality. It’s not something I’ve ever noticed or understood about myself before. As a professor, this can be harmful to myself and to the people I train to think for themselves. It’s also costly in doing research on YouTube. I also learned that how I best learn is from thinking and reflecting. So what I have started to do as a habit is whenever I get upset, I go to reading something outside myself or getting out of my head (trapped in my ego) to learn something about what I am struggling with — alone.

If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.
— Isaac Newton

Yesterday, after being in a tailspin about a decision I made, I went to my Kindle Reader and opened Chapter 5 of What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite by science writer David DiSalvo. The chapter is titled “Immersion and the Great Escape“.

DiSalvo discusses how our brains have the capacity to split and collapse two “existences” — or role-playing in immersive e-media like Twitter and Facebook  and our face-to-face interactions. Pre-digital era days we played with multiple existences such as in playing Dungeons and Dragons or for girls playing with dolls or putting ourselves in Diana Ross’s place while practicing the choreography of The Supremes with your female playmates. I remember playing with my two female cousins and one of their best friends. We played with heternormative roles. Who was married to which Jackson Five.  The most ambitious girl to yell first got Michael. Sometimes it was the oldest girl. Sometimes it was the girl who say “let’s play” whatever game that was invented from our imagination.

Does Musical Immersion = Identity in 21st Century?

DiSalvo suggests that this two existences we now contend with–online role-playing in immersive e-media like the interactions around the recent audio remix released by Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj and face-to-face connections off-line.

DiSalvo provides  scientific data from pscyhology and neuroscience that suggests loneliness (feeling lonely vs. being alone) is correlates to a strong desire to create social conflict. We then adapt to a need for this kind of engagement as dopamine is released in our brains. Then those of us who are lonely using online immersive media as a surrogate for real connections will often seek more of that kind of engagement. Engagement or social conflicts that are not good for us.

Online we seek the rewards of likes, our brain gets lit up when we check FB or other social media like our YouTube videos to see how many views we have. We get more value in such a context from our human-digital interface. Your favorite mobile device carried 24-7–always one is your BFF mediating conversations about stars like Beyoncé that seem really relevant to our reality.

What’s Real vs. Relevant?

In this context, our  brain suffers a kind of reward-distinction blindness–for our online connections that is increasingly indistinguishable to our brain from F2F contact and this is a problem. It can lead to compulsive/addictive behavior. Many of our brains may be seeking the wrong kinds of rewards (socializing online more and more and diminishing our F2F connections daily). This is happening with YouTube videos on FB and on YouTube itself as well as other networks where online video takes our focus and attention more than other kinds of interactions. Hypernetworked sharing is seduction because of its immersiveness in our daily lives today. Our brains are seeking the surrogate relationships online and preferring them over face-to-face according to a number of studies DiSalvo references. This got me thankin’.

What if you and I began to unhook from social media? Would you be willing to test out possibility of confronting this kind of compulsive blindness to digital interactions? How often are you immersing yourself, isolating yourself primarily to online surrogate relations an hour? There are only 24 hours in a day. That’s 1440 minutes. Most of us should be spending 7-8 of those hours (420 – 480 minutes) sleeping and about 3-5 hours (180 – 300 mins) preparing to eat and eating. That leaves about 600 minutes. If you work  8 hours a day + travel if you don’t work at home, that’s 600 minute more leaving only 60 minutes remaining IF you are doing one thing and one thing only at a time. I probably spend the rest and some checking Facebook and email daily.

Are Black Girls Online Actually Lonely?

I read in a study that I don’t have handy that black youth spend more time alone than any other demographic. Strange, isn’t it? And don’t forget that being online is still being alone. Could we be masking our feelings of being alone with our surrogacy of social media? I been thankin’. Can’t speak for you but i know this is something to think about and strategically change as a habit.

What would you be willing to do to insure face-to-face interactions have more time, are more compelling, in your life each day?

I remember in my childhood my mother and the black women in her network would meet at my aunt’s house on a Saturday night to play pokeno. Check out this video of an elder black women teaching a group od sistas how to play.

I think I need more face-to-face play like this. More house parties. More dinner invitations for others to come chat with me. But I’m gonna start slow. I’m trying one social gathering a month and one meetup with another person or two a month. I think I’ll also vlog about the experience too.

“We have to create culture, don’t watch TV, don’t read magazines, don’t even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe, and if you’re worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered, you’re giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y. This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion, and what is real is you and your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And we are told ‘no’, we’re unimportant, we’re peripheral. ‘Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that.’ And then you’re a player, you don’t want to even play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.”
Terence McKenna (this is from the YouTube video below. WATCH IT!!)


KYRAOCITY ask:

What are you creating? Content is becoming your identity? Your bottomline. Don’t trip!  Create & Share! and Un-hook once a day!

Girls at Play: Do We See Black Childhood Clearly?

 “Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.”
― Dr. Seuss

Where Have All the Children Gone?

As I watch YouTube videos of black girls who twerk, as I invite and request my students to study their performance as both play and to examine how others’ views of black girls’ childhood are distorted and distorting how those girls see themselves, I have been remembering my earlier work on black girls’ games. I don’t want to lose that black girls are children at play while also critiquing what it means to play with self (sexual)-objectification. This video doesn’t have that objectification piece in it from the girl or the boys. Check it out. Perhaps introducing this music and dance to adolescents would be interesting. Having them analyze its difference from US twerking in videos.

PS What I love about this video also is that they are playing freely in the mud after a rain in their yard.

//

 “Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
― C.S. Lewis

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning…They have to play with what they know to be true in order to find out more, and then they can use what they learn in new forms of play.”
~ Fred Rogers (from the PBS show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood)