Not my Crush of the Week yet–I’m planning to catch up on the US version of Shameless when I get a chance–but I had to share this bit of hotness from one of the show’s stars, Shanola Hampton, from a couple of weeks ago. She teaches the co-hosts of The Real how to make just about any sentence sound like a bit of seduction.
Earlier on SocImages, Lisa Wade drew attention to the tourism industry’s commodification of Polynesian women and their dancing. She mentioned, briefly, how the hula was made more tourist-friendly (what most tourists see when they attend one of the many hotel-based luaus throughout the islands is not traditional hula). In this post, I want to offer more details on the history and the differences between the tourist and the traditional hula.
First, Wade states that, while female dancers take center stage for tourists, the traditional hula was “mostly” a men’s dance. While it has not been determined for certain if women were ever proscribed from performing the hula during the time of the Ali’i (chiefs), it seems unlikely that women would have been prevented from performing the hula when the deity associated with the hula is Pele, a goddess. Furthermore, there is evidence that women were performing the dance at the time of Captain James Cook’s arrival in Hawai’i.
Not the move for Bob Benson, Matt Weiner. So not the move.
Okay, not such much his knee but the unrealistic scenario Matt Weiner and his crew created in which Benson’s knee would come into play. This week, as the roundtable became a Table For Two, Tami and I talk about the Notorious Knee, the possibility of D & D (Don and Dawn), and Sally, with a good helping of spoilers.
Andrea: Now, we know one thing about Bob Benson: he’s interested in the blatantly homophobic Pete Campbell. I know that you, Tami, think Benson is sketchy, but the one thing I’m thankful for is that, unlike Thomas on Downton Abbey, Benson’s alleged sketchiness isn’t tied to his sexual identity. Mad Men has been decent on that tip regarding cisgay male characters.
Tami: You know I’m ‘bout to go off, right? Andrea, we talked about this on Facebook. I am not feeling Bob Benson’s “coming out” to Pete Campbell.
I have a very hard time believing that years before Stonewall, a closeted gay man–a junior associate–would make a pass at a partner at his job, seconds after that partner calls gay people “degenerate” and with no indication that his coworker is interested in same-sex relationships and every indication that he is not.
Bob took a tremendous chance. And it didn’t ring true. I also need him to have better taste in men, ‘cause Pete? No.
Also, gayness does not explain why Bob is always skulking around. Another shoe better hit the ground. I’m crossing my fingers that Bob does not become a Thomas.
In the June issue of Glamour magazine, spunky rock chick Pink declares herself a “reformed slut,” describing her brush with whorishness as an “unsophisticated” attempt at taking back her sexual power from men.
“I’ve always had an issue with [the idea that]: ‘Okay, we’ve both decided to do this,’” she says. “‘Why am I a slut and you’re the player? You didn’t get anything from me that I didn’t get from you.”
This “anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better” attitude has been key to the burgeoning cultural narrative around slutdom, and it’s an attitude I’m mostly down with. Still, I found myself bristling when I read Pink’s interview. At first I thought my politics were offended: is Pink suggesting that sexual experimentation for women is a moral crime that ultimately requires “reform?” But then I realized, as a black woman, what I was really feeling was resentment, even envy–what a luxury is has to be able to publicly declare her sexual independence without having to worry how the declaration might affect her credibility, career, or romantic prospects.
In recent years, scads of books and other commercial works of art have been tossed onto the pop-culture landscape by white women reminiscing about their “phases” of sexual promiscuity, often told from the comfort of their fulfilled, easy-peasy lives as wives and mothers. In March, comedienne and NPR host Ophira Eisenberg published Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy about banging everything in Manhattan with a bulge before settling down with her handsome, comic book-writing husband. In 2010, Jillian Lauren published Some Girls: My Life in a Harem about kicking it with the Sultan of Brunei before marrying a rock star and adopting a cute kid. And since 2005’s My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands, Chelsea Handler and many of her sassy gal pals have built thriving careers around being drunk and easy. Then of course, we have the fictionalized slut phase Hannah braves through on Girls in order to bring her creator, Lena Dunham, cultural relevance and Emmy awards.
So why aren’t these stories by or about Black women?
Last week, Jennifer Lopez scandalized Britain with a “raunchy” performance on “Britain’s Got Talent.” Not only did viewers flock to social media (as you do) to complain about JLo dropping it like it’s hot in a French-cut one piece and thigh-high boots, but British TV regulator OfCom confirmed that it has received complaints about the broadcast and is assessing the matter, but not investigating it.
For helpful context, here is the performance–labeled “disgusting” and “shameful” by some critics–that provoked an “assessment” of whether a competitive reality show violated the bounds of decency.
In my humble opinion, the only thing indecent about that performance was the tepidness of the dancing and the awfulness of the song. (But, hey, maybe it’s not for me. I’m an old–actually the same age as JLo–and I don’t spend much time at the club lately.)
I suspect the assessment of Jennifer Lopez’s performance is influenced by both race, size and age bias. But you know I’m conspiratorial that way, so I asked Andrea, my homegirl and fellow editor at the R to weigh in.
Tami: When I heard all the crowing about this performance, I recalled Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance earlier this year., which also prompted cries of outrage.
Both of these performances seem astonishingly tame in the face of criticism. “Disgusting” is a pretty strong word to describe booty shaking in a body suit. Folk are generally cool with sexy (and sexist) Go Daddy commercials during the Super Bowl, but Queen Bey causes parents to “shield their kids’ eyes.”
I think the response to these performances is very much influenced by racial bias. Brown and black bodies are routinely sexualized. Latinas bear the weight of the “spicy” and “exotic” stereotypes. And those stereotypes have dogged Lopez throughout her career. The nickname “J. Ho”–a reference to the singer/actress’ alleged promiscuity and mercenary character–even has a spot in the Urban Dictionary. And I should point out, these accused character traits seem to be based on little but the skewed way this culture views Latinas.
Lopez herself told US magazine of the controversy: “I think people are so much raunchier than I am. I feel like I’m so tame. [I] wore it at Billboard and Britain’s Got Talent said they wanted exactly the same. So I thought I’d wear the outfit in black. No one complained at Billboard. I think people just like to talk. It was a bodysuit. A lot of performers wear that these days. It is standard stage clothes. I’m not going to walk down the street like that!”
JLo’s act does not seem markedly different from any other pop spectacle–no different Britney Spears’ iconic performance at the 2000 VMA’s or what this Britney impersonator did during an audition for…wait for it…“Britain’s Got Talent” in 2011.
Andrea: I agree, especially about the relative tepidness of Lopez’s performance and the non-scandalousness of her outfit.
What I think is at play here is Beyonce and Lopez are doing dance moves that are, whether done with Beyonce’s exuberance or with Lopez’s tepidness, sexy moves that they thought of and/or approved of. In other words, they’re expressing their sexual agency. However, that’s a major no-no in a society steeped in the sexist ethos of “I can touch you, but you can’t touch yourself,” which has a long structural history in the lives of women of color due to slavery and colonization.
And this “what about the children” reasoning as to folks’ disgust with the two women’s performance brings up not only women of color doing that stereotypical thing of ruining people’s sexual “innocence” but also something of–how shall I phrase this?–an unspoken notion of the influence of images not only affecting how a person will be “brought up” to express their own sexuality but also the kind of person their brain will be hard-wired to be attracted to. If the child–and let’s be really real, kids are indeed sexual beings–is connecting their erotic feelings to seeing a woman of color dancing like Lopez and moreso like Beyonce, the parents may be thinking that their child just may act upon that attraction and–gasp!–fall in love and–clutch the pearls!–bring “such a woman” home as a spouse.
Tami: And here’s the other thing: Jennifer Lopez (and Beyonce) are not only women of color, they are also women known for having curvy body types, which are often associated with Latinas and black women and are larger than the current ideal for celebrities. Unrestrained fleshiness and jiggle reads differently than hard and trim; Physical abundance is often mistaken for wantonness.
Media wrote about Lopez’s “bum-baring” performance, but the singer’s booty is covered; her outfit was less revealing than typical beachwear. Could the rub be that JLo’s rear is big and round vs. tiny and tight?
Andrea: I think Lopez herself has pointed out how her body shape get framed in this society: “People equate sexy with promiscuous. They think that because I’m shaped this way, I must be scandalous–like running around and bringing men into my hotel room. But it’s just the opposite.” To me, Lopez shouldn’t have had to say such a thing–her body, however it’s shaped, is hers to do with what she wants with nary a comment to the press. However, the burden of the stereotypes about Latinas and Black women keeps us defending our reputations in the public space in order to, as Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry says in her book Sister Citizen, keep our bearings in the face of the socially constructed crooked images of ourselves.
But we’re not only defending our reputations that folks assume comes with our bodies; we also need to defend our bodies, literally, as seen by the clip of Beyonce whipping around and firmly telling a white-appearing concertgoer in Denmark that she’d have him removed because he smacked her butt–and this happened last week!
This brings me back to what you said about our bodies being routinely sexualized. It’s not just that bodies of color are routinely sexualized; it’s that our bodies are furthermore seen–still–as public sexual property to be discussed and publicly contested to be the figures that people shouldn’t aspire to desire sexually, though I’ve heard quite a few non-Black and non-Latin@s say that Beyonce and Lopez inspired them to “love their curves” and/or “embrace their booties” in light of the contested reality that Beyonce’s and Lopez’s curves are seen as a physical and sexual ideal.
Tami: Lastly, I think age is a factor in this discussion as well. Western culture worships youth. Women past a certain age aren’t supposed to sexy; we are supposed to cover up. Madonna is routinely told to put it away. And, to hear some folks tell it, Janet Jackson’s biggest sin wasn’t showing booby on primetime television, but showing over-40 booby. Sexy dressing may be fine for the 20-somethings, but for women north of 40, it is unseemly.
Andrea: *Sigh* I think part of this is the association of age and motherhood. Lopez and Beyonce are both mothers. Forty-something women especially (Bey is in her 30s) are cast as matronly–whether or not we have children–and being sexually attracted to a woman of that age is seen as MILFing, which, as the phrase states, is all about desiring a woman old enough to be (some)one’s mom, who are always constructed as non-sexual beings in this society. (Thus, the porned-out “shock” of the attraction.)
No, it’s pop goddesses who are so deeply degraded when they aren’t meeting the physical ideals of youth, like, well, getting older. And it’s Black and Latina pop goddesses–like Beyonce, Jackson, and Lopez, who’s still fondly remembered as one of the Fly Girls for In Living Color–who are degraded so roundly and so publicly.
Pete: “Wanna play ‘Father Abraham’?” Joan: *direct side-eye*
To paraphrase One Chele from Black ‘n Bougie, it’s Tapback Season…at least on Mad Men. Don, Roger, and Peggy try their luck to get back with former and sort-of current lovers with varied results. Tami, Renee Martin from Womanist Musings and Fangs for the Fantasy, and I chat about this bit of silliness, the joys of “Father Abraham,” and the joy of talking about how the show handles racism with like-minded folks. Tami kicks off the convo…and, yes, spoilers.
Tami: Can I say how glad I am that we have this space here? I have always found the poor racial analysis of Mad Men by viewers and recappers even more problematic than anything the show has done. And now, in this season, where Weiner and Co. have made some egregious racial missteps (cough…Mammy Thief…cough), I’m even more glad to have a group of intelligent and racially conscious people to discuss the show with.
The Summer Doldrums, as I like to call the break network television gives us from June to September, are quickly approaching. Hot temperatures and a new season of The Bachelorette go hand-in-hand, and I take that as my television telling me, “Go Outside.” But, like all couch potatoes, I just turn from one tube to another. Join me as I say ta-ta to my TV, and hello to my Macbook Pro. Below the cut are two queer web series worth watching.
This post comes with a STRONG LANGUAGE warning… for some of you. See what I mean, after the jump.
The crew at Sterling Cooper Draper Price were definitely trying to hold on to something this week–a sliver of self-respect, an image of the role of other people in their lives, a job. Tami and I, along with Womanist Musings‘ and Fangs for the Fantasy‘s Renee Martin and Racialicious staffer Joseph Lamour, talk about who had to hold ’em and fold ’em in this week’s ep–along with a bunch of spoilers, like our seeing several Black people in this episode. No, seriously…
See? Toldja. Black people–and quite a few for a Mad Men episode.
Tami: I was watching Mad Men in bed Sunday night with my husband beside me near dozing, but obviously listening to the program, too. Just after 10 p.m. he sat up: “Wait. Are those black people? There are black people on this show now?”
Yep, Sunday night Matt Weiner and Co. make Mad Men history with a scene populated completely by black folks–walking, talking and being black. Since we’ve seen Dawn and her friend sitting together and talking about their lives, does this mean Mad Men passes the race-based version of the Bechdel Test?
Renee: One scene cannot undo years of racist, sexist exclusion. They are not going get a cookie from me for doing the the bare minimum to create a change. It has after all taken Man Men six seasons to have a scene with two Black people in it.