By Andrea Plaid
Beyonce Knowles-Carter. Via wallpapersbest.net
I find myself increasingly defending someone whom I otherwise wouldn’t look around at or wouldn’t listen to: Beyoncé.
I haven’t converted to listening to her discography: To me, she sounds like every other Black female soloist in a Black church choir, so her voice–her timbre and melisma–isn’t unicorn-unique to my ears. In fact, I find it gratingly common because I heard so many women with her voice every Sunday from the age of five to my late twenties; Beyoncé just has a better production team.
And, as I’ve said on the R, her female-empowerment messages aren’t my feminism:
[S]ome of folks who see Bey as “girl power” may have never heard of Valenti or may even want to be bothered with her writings or what they perceive to be “white feminism” that she embodies. Bey is their feminist text and their idea–and ideal. And whatnot…On the real though, Bey is not my sort of feminism–and that’s not blasphemous to say. Then again, neither were the Spice Girls…or the Riot Grrls, for that matter. And I remember folks tripped on each of those pop-cultural “generations” of feminist representations, too, trying to figure out their effects on younger people.
Feminism is rather malleable as each generation figures out what it means to them, even when we’re fighting the same old battles. Or because of them.
And let’s not forget Beyoncé now-notorious photo layout in French Vogue, which she said was an homage to “African queens in the past” and “African rituals”:
And I was quite happy to leave Beyoncé to her ideas about race pride and “girl power” with a genuinely heartfelt “bless her heart”…until Harry Belafonte came along.
I am still at Stanford (and will be until June.) But I am bringing back an old tradition of doing class notes on some of these ideas.
Joan Morgan, hip-hop feminism pioneer, has been moving her work into conversations around pleasure and sexual politics. Jeff Chang, hip-hopper-about-town and the head of Stanford’s Institue for Diversity in the Arts, asked Joan if she’d like the be the artist in residence for WinterQuarter. Joan agreed and then developed a class called “The Pleasure Principle: A Post-Hip Hop Search for a Black Feminist Politics of Pleasure.”
“The Pleasure Principle: A Post-Hip Hop Search for a Black Feminist Politics of Power” (CSRE127B) will explore the various articulations of a politics of pleasure in black feminist thought. We will examine classic black feminist texts on respectability politics, the erotic, hip-hop feminism, and dancehall culture, geared toward helping students develop a critical lens for interrogating depictions of black female sexuality and articulations of pleasure in popular culture. Examples include “The Cosby Show,” “Sex in the City,” “Girlfriends,” “Basketball Wives,” “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” “Pariah,” as well as the works of Beyonce, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Tanya Stephens, and Lady Saw. Continue reading
By Andrea Plaid
RuPaul Andre Charles. Via peacockandpaisley.com
Racialicious fave Monica Roberts of TransGriot wrote a scathing critique about RuPaul and his transmisogyny–and how they influenced her to be the renowned activist she is today. The excerpt is the most liked and reblogged one this past week:
RuPaul is a Black gay man, not a transperson, and the trans community is beyond sick and tired of being sick and tired of him being elevated by cis and gay people to some nebulous ‘trans expert’ level..
As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I became a trans activist in 1998 was because of a Transgender Tapestry magazine article in the 90’s that ignorantly considered RuPaul and Dennis Rodman as Black transwomen juxtaposed against other accomplished white trans people despite both Ru and Dennis Rodman emphatically saying they weren’t trans and didn’t want to transition.
It was the epiphany that made me realize just how invisible Black transwomen were in the trans human rights movement and gave me the impetus to get involved and change that dynamic.
By Andrea Plaid
Heidi Renée Lewis. Courtesy of the interviewee.
Once again, Mark Anthony Neal–aided and abetted by one David J. Leonard–committed the kindness of introducing me to another cool-ass groove in African American-ness, this time on his Facebook page in the form of Heidi Renée Lewis and her post on Li’l Wayne and his politics of cunnilingus.
After reading her smart essay–and seeing how she dealt with some fooligan respectability-politics criticism in the thread about her post being fluff under the guise of an academic-sounding title–I had to be friends with her. We friended, and I’ve been deep into her brilliantly funny loving-The-Community commentary on vids about gospelizing over chicken, praise leaders losing their shoe trying to be cute and jumping on cheaply made tables, and people doing the Robot at church services (among other ones) ever since. Hanging with Heidi is like hanging with that one wild-ass play cousin whose pithy ongoing social commentary has you holler-laughing for days.
In other words, totally Crush-worthy.
Of course, I talked to Dr. Heidi…but I had to talk about her lively ass, too! Check out what I said to Crush alum Tamura Lomax about our latest one…
By Arturo R. García
Screenshot from Franchesca Ramsey’s video “How Slut Shaming Becomes Victim Blaming.”
Late last week, Franchesca Ramsey shared her immensely intimate and painful story regarding sexual assault as part of a critique of a video by comedian Jenna Marbles. The video and a transcript are under the cut, but be advised that it carries a heavy TRIGGER WARNING due to the subject matter.
By Andrea Plaid
Jada Pinkett Smith and Willow Smith. Photo Credit: Bauer Griffin. Image via Zimbio
What captured the most likes and reblogs in our corner of Tumblr this week? Jada Pinkett Smith on her giving her daughter, Willow, the autonomy to cut her hair…or, rather, a post from Feminist Griote on Pinkett Smith’s position about it:
Willow as a little girl is learning that she is a force to be reckoned with in this world, and that her gender, and gender presentation will not serve as impediments. Jada who is now championing the cause against human sex trafficking, of which girls are disproportionately victims, understands that women need to own themselves fully, if not someone else will. Girls are being trafficked at an alarming rate and not just abroad, but also in our own backyards. In the U.S. alone 80% of human sex trafficking victims are women and girls and 50% are minors. Jada is making the conscious choice to take her daughter along with her on her journey to help end human sex trafficking. In a world where little girls are raped, stolen, and sold as a commodity, hair isn’t all that important. Sometimes I wonder, have some of us adult Black women forgotten what it’s like to be a little Black girl in a white heterosexual patriarchal society? Again to quote Lorde, “easier to crucify myself in you than to take on the threatening universe of whiteness…” Our Black bodies and Black psyches are always being assailed and violated. Healthy validation is often hard to come by in these streets riddled with harassment. Therefore, let us save our vitriol and condemnation for more important things like the perpetuation of rape culture or Donald Trump.
By Guest Contributor R.N. Bradley
Image via madamenoire.com
“He so fine, he could rape me so good.”
Yeah. You read that correctly. To borrow from my southern roots, I got “thowed off” when my student put this in the atmosphere while talking about black women’s sexuality in a multicultural space like hip hop.
It happened in class about a month ago, and I have yet to find the words to ease the levels of high anxiety and horror that I continue to grapple with after hearing this phrase. Part of me recoiled like the 9-year-old little girl I talked about here; part of it was me as a grown woman angry at the fact that rape is contextualized and dismissed as a spectacle. By no means is this quick commentary intended to be a polished discussion of rape and blackness in the popular imagination. Instead, is more sporadic and “off the dome.” It has no shaped trajectory but accentuates the messiness of rape discourse that currently exists in (black) American popular culture.