Brittney Cooper deserved better. All women deserve better. Women should not be afraid to voice their opinions for fear they’ll be called a “ratchet hoe” or “bitch” as I was by Kweli defenders during our exchange.
Kweli ducked and dodged challenges all week abruptly ending discussions with women he deemed too angry or vulgar.
A woman I follow on Twitter acknowledged she tweeted him abrasively because the ongoing discussion of rape triggered her. Kweli struck back just as I’d witnessed during his exchange with dream hampton a few days earlier. The woman admitted fault, but her apologies, though appreciated, made me uncomfortable. As the overwhelming victims of sexual assault and primary targets of rape culture, women shouldn’t constantly be asked to stretch ourselves across gaps in knowledge. Women need freedom to express our feelings without admonishment. Those who call themselves allies are responsible for understanding the contexts in which they speak; they are responsible for recognizing the structures of power from which they derive their privileges. And if this all sounds like too much to ask, then, perhaps, they should reconsider their claims to social justice work.
– From “The Problem With Our So-Called Allies,” by Kimberly Foster
By Guest Contributors Moya and Whitney; originally published at Crunk Feminist Collective
*TRIGGER WARNING: Expletives, misogyny, and violent lyrics*
Pop a lot of pain pill’
‘bout to put rims on my skateboard wheel’
beat that pussy up like Emmett Till
“I just couldn’t understand how he could compare the gateway to life to the brutality and punishment of death,” said Aricka Gordon Taylor, spokesperson from the Till Family. We can, though. It’s happened before, from Wayne and friends.
People are mad. Real mad. They’re even talking about it on the radio here in Atlanta, while simultaneously continuing to play the song with Emmett Till bleeped out. Folks are calling for a boycott of Clear Channel and the removal of the song from the airwaves. There’s Twitter activism in motion as well from Dream Hampton to shame LA Reid (who should be shamed, for this and more) because he should know better. Epic, Future’s label not Wayne’s, has apologized saying that this lyric won’t appear on the final version of the song and the family has written an open letter to Wayne.
We understand why folks are mad and in no way want to diminish this important call to action. One of the things Moya hated about other media activism she’s been involved in is the question, “why you mad about this and why now?” We want to think about these lyrics in the context of calls by feminists of color to interrogate the problems of violent sex metaphors before the name of a slain civil rights icon was invoked. With this in mind, we want to add some thoughts to the growing conversation.
1. We need intergenerational conversations–“beating the pussy up” is a hip-hop metaphor for sex that’s not new. We need and have been trying to have a conversation about the violence this metaphor (and others) conjures, but folks using it don’t understand themselves to be talking about intimate-partner violence when they use it. It is used by men and women to describe sexual prowess, not violence, despite its employment of the violence of “beating.” In reading the framing of the outrage we see elders taking issue with Till being compared to the “anatomy of a woman” and “domestic violence.” That’s not quite what’s happening, and we wonder if intergenerational strategies can help alleviate some of these misreadings. Rather than domestic violence, perhaps we can shift our frame to think about sexualized violence and violent sexualities more broadly, which, to be clear, are not always practiced in the context of traditional understandings of intimate partner violence or under duress or coercion. Patricia Hill-Collins already hipped us to the violence that undergirds many discussions of black sexual prowess in her incisive reading of black colloquial usage of the term “booty” and its dual meaning/invocation as both the spoils of war and conquest (i.e. violence) and as the long-standing icon of black women’s sexual desirability. Too much connection to be coincidental, no? This framework might allow us to see how violent sexual prowess acted out on the bodies of women of color is a staple of hip-hop and popular culture more generally. The issue is not just the ill-informed invocation of Till’s brutal murder but the normalization of brutality acted on women’s bodies.
Additionally, what does bleeping out words on the radio do? Particularly when it’s part of a rhyme scheme? The absurdity of radio editing is just more than we can fathom sometimes. You want to protect children from hearing the words “Emmett Till” and “pussy” but not the “beating up” they are used in conjunction with? Not to mention any other songs that have other violent metaphors that don’t have curse words in them that are perfectly fine for radio play. Can we talk to children as opposed to shielding them from certain words? Why are words bleepable but problematic concepts aren’t under review?
By Arturo R. García
That segment, originally aired in 2010, holds to what MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry calls “civil rights lore” regarding Rosa Parks.
But last week, just days before what would have been her 100th birthday–today, to be exact–a new book was released that has gained acclaim for painting a more vivid picture of her life, on top of the story of her refusing to yield that seat on that bus in Montgomery, AL.
By Guest Contributor Hannah Green
In India these days, it’s hard to go for very long without thinking about gang rape. Since the horrific and well-publicized rape and death of a young woman in Delhi last month, more rapes have been appearing in the headlines every day. More politicians’ and public figures’ opinions about why violence against women occurs are getting thrown around as well, each more ludicrous than the next. (But the press isn’t tolerating the nonsense this time, nor are the women of Delhi.) It’s a confusing time to be female and living in India. The constant discussion of rape makes it difficult to forget bad experiences. And it’s hard to know whether to be dominated by anger or fear. It’s easy to forget that India’s–and the world’s–reactions to this will shape what the next stage in the women’s rights movement will look like.
It was a Monday afternoon at the theater in Lucknow, a small city not far from Delhi, somewhat old-fashioned by reputation. We–the women in the audience–were wearing the loose, concealing clothing that women usually wear in Lucknow. The three women on stage were dressed similarly, but in striking combinations of black and pink. The audience was excited, maybe a little tense. During the introductory remarks, the Delhi rape case had been brought up again. About ten minutes into the play, the atmosphere changed when she walked on stage. Black hair, black top, short black skirt, long brown legs. She looked good, but she wasn’t trying to titillate anyone. She spoke with a kind of serene authority “Meri short skirt ka aap se koi lena dena nahin hai.” My short skirt has nothing to do with you.
By Guest Contributor Gyasi Ross
Lately, Native people have taken to the streets malls in demonstrations of Public Indian-ness (“PI”) that surpasses the sheer volume of activism of even Alcatraz and the Longest Walk. There’s a heapum big amount of PI going on right now! Many people, non-Native and Native alike, are wondering what the heck is going with their local Native population and how this so-called #IdleNoMore Movement managed to get the usually muffled Natives restless enough to be Indian in public. I mean, like Chris Rock said, he hasn’t ever even met two Indians at the same time. He’s seen “polar bears riding a tricycle” but he’s “never seen an Indian family just chillin’ out at Red Lobster.”
Now, people can’t seem to get away from us.
And that’s cool, but isn’t that what pow-wows and November is for? People (non-Native and Native alike) can only take so much PI, right? Is that what the Idle No More movement is? An extended Native American Heritage Month, where non-Natives have to act like they’re fascinated by Native culture?
In a word, no. It is much more. Please consider this a fairly exhaustive explanation of the Movement, what it is not and what it is. If for some reason you cannot read the next 1000 or so brilliant words, I can be summed up thusly: Idle No More is not new. Instead, it is the latest incarnation of the sustained Indigenous Resistance to the rape, pillage, and exploitation of this continent and its women that has existed since 1492. It is not the Occupy Movement, although there are some similarities. It is not only about Canada and it is not only about Native people. Finally, and probably most importantly, it (and we) are not going away anytime soon. So get used to it (and us).
By Guest Contributor Sikivu Hutchinson; originally published at Feminist Wire
When I was five years old I was sexually assaulted by neighbors. Ours was a tranquil post-white flight neighborhood of beautiful single family homes, obsessively tended lawns, and keeping-up-with-the-Joneses home improvement. It was the mid-seventies, before black women’s experiences with rape had come into broader public consciousness through works like The Color Purple and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
The term “sexual assault” was largely unknown. The language that rape-prevention activists now use to validate the everyday terrorism girls and women deal with was not a part of our vocabulary or classroom curriculum. In my critically conscious upbringing I was raised to clearly understand the racist police who abused and murdered us, the racist criminal justice system that jailed us, and the racist cultural history that rendered us invisible. I was taught to revere the black warriors who crusaded against the holocaust of slavery and its aftermath. But I was not taught to know, understand, or identify the casual predators that moved in and out of our lives without detection or censure; the parasites who posed as strong, upstanding black men in the light of day and terrorized with impunity behind closed doors buttressed by violent silence.
By Arturo R. García
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
You may have seen the R’s cross-postings from The Feminist Wire (TFW), that brilliant collective of mostly writers of color doing their intersectional thang on topics like Black women’s self-care in academia, forums on World AIDS Day 2012 and voting, and–in full disclosure–an interview with one of the R’s staffers. (I’m telling you–it’s a treat of a lifetime to be interviewed by one of your heroes.)
So, mutual admiration is fair play.
I got to interview the great brain behind TFW, Tamura Lomax. Her bona fides: she’s the Assistant Chair and an assistant professor of African American Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her work has been featured at, among other spaces, Religion Dispatches. She’s working on a co-authored book about the Black feminist/womanist reponses to Tyler Perry’s work and a book on Black feminism and Black cultural production. And she’s just hella fun to clown around with online, which, of course, has led to some hush-hush plans for a future academic conference.
I’ve said too much already about the event. Here’s Tamura…
The Feminist Wire is a heck of a collective of some of the best minds thinking about the intersections of race, gender. sexuality, bodies, politics, etc. How did you gather such a great group of people and, more interestingly, why and how did you start the blog?
The Feminist Wire began as a concept in 2010. Hortense Spillers and I were working on my dissertation and we thought it would be neat to write something together—two black feminists working across generations. At this time, she even referred to me as a younger version of herself. We were definitely similar in terms complexion and hairstyles and–as we learned later–personalities. Her work and writing style definitely informs my own. Our initial idea was to write some sort of peer-review essay for academia. However, when the Shirley Sherrod incident occurred, we knew it was our time to put pen to paper–or, in my case, fingers to keyboard.
We wrote the essay, “Shirley Sherrod: Open Letters Between Two Frustrated Feminists, Hortense Spillers and Tamura Lomax,” which was a critical call-and-response about Sherrod, of course, but also black women and media. We shopped the essay, hoping to get it published at theroot.com. However, no one responded. Frustrated, we decided to “create our own damn site” so that we could publish what we wanted when we wanted. Due to timing, we published the essay on my now defunct webpage, tamuralomax.com, and began charting our path toward The Feminist Wire.