Category Archives: violence against women

Tyler Perry’s Rape Problem

By Guest Contributor Carolyn Edgar; originally published at


From the trailer for Tyler Perry's Temptation

A week after rapper Rick Ross found himself in hot water over a lyric that was said to promote date rape, producer and director Tyler Perry found himself facing questions about a scene in his latest movie, Tyler Perry’s Temptation, in which a character appears to be forced to have sex against her will.

Except–oops. That hasn’t happened. And probably won’t.

While the Internet continues to explode with commentary about Ross’s offensive lyric, almost no one is talking about the disturbing “seduction” scene in Perry’s latest movie. In fact, of all the reviews I read of Perry’s latest–including several that were scathingly contemptuous–only one characterized the scene as rape, and even that reviewer dismissed the movie as camp.

(Spoiler Alert–spoilers to follow)

In the film, Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) is wooed by Harley (Robbie Jones), a  super-rich playboy who is obviously the Devil. We know this because Harley drives a red car and runs shirtless regardless of outdoor temperatures. But we really know Harley’s the Devil because Judith’s preacher mama (Ella Joyce, whose pinched facial expressions deserve their own billing) exclaimed, “That’s the Devil!” in an effort to drive Judith into Harley’s arms–I mean, discourage her from further contact with the man.

But I digress.

Judith and Harley are on Harley’s plane when Harley, in the most unsexy manner possible, lets Judith know that he wants to make love to her. Judith rebuffs him, saying they should keep things strictly professional. Harley grabs her, and Judith says “no” forcefully, a few times, which turns Harley on even more. He pauses long enough to say, “Okay, now you can say you resisted,” and then appears to rape Judith.

The next time we see them, Judith is snatching away from Harley and telling him she wants nothing more to do with him and never wants to see him again–all signs that the encounter on the plane was, indeed a rape. However, in the next scene, Judith sees Harley at her job and becomes angry when he does as she asked and ignores her. (Women are fickle, y’know.)

Suddenly, Judith is at home on her cell phone, berating Harley for not paying her any attention–while her oblivious husband (Lance Gross in dweeb drag) watches a basketball game in the next room. Harley demands to know if Judith’s husband is better in bed than he–and instead of saying, “Of course, since he’s not a rapist”–Judith flashes back to what passes for steamy lovemaking in a Tyler Perry movie. We’re then made to understand that Judith did indeed consent, or at least, gave in. Harley tells her he’s coming to get her, she invents a flimsy work-related excuse and leaves. Her preacher mama is shocked, but her husband doesn’t even look up from the game.

We next see Judith and Harley in a bathtub surrounded by about eight million candles–he’s the Devil, you know–and the proliferation of burning candles and steam means we’re supposed to imagine that some kind of hell sex happened, creating a whole different kind of fire hazard.

There are obvious differences between Rick Ross’s lyric and Tyler Perry’s film. Harley doesn’t slip a molly into Judith’s Champagne–he drugs Judith with bad lines. She is fully conscious–so conscious, she says “no!” several times, in fact.

The woman who half-heartedly resists the hunk’s advances until she can no longer deny her own desires and gives in, is, of course, a hackneyed and familiar trope of romance novels and soap operas.

Problem is, we don’t see Judith giving in. We do see her saying “no,” and Harley forcing himself on her. We don’t understand that she eventually acquiesced until the flashbacks.

And this is why Perry deserves some backlash–backlash he won’t get from mainstream media–for this scene.

Perry could have easily made Judith’s consent obvious. A breathless “Yes!” wouldn’t have completely removed the “ick” factor, but would have made Judith’s desires clear. Instead, Perry inexplicably chooses to leave the audience in suspense–briefly–as to whether or not an actual rape occurred, all while promoting the dangerous idea that a woman’s “no” is not really “no,” but merely part of the game of seduction. This scene puts Perry in such fine company as men’s rights advocates who argue that date/acquaintance rape is simply buyer’s remorse, and men who argue–as one man did on Twitter last week–that a man has to push to make sure a woman’s “No” is really “No.”

In real life, people who are sexually assaulted sometimes stop resisting to avoid further physical injury. Relenting, or giving in to what feels inevitable, is hardly the same as consent. As many people have said in the wake of Steubenville, “no means no” needs to be updated to “anything other than yes means no.”

Of course, Perry also is out to punish Judith for turning her back on the Lord. Judith’s downfall is foreshadowed when she starts dressing like Kim Kardashian and drinking alcohol. In this sense, it may not matter to the film’s overall morality message whether Harley rapes or seduces Judith. Either she consented, or she asked for it. Notably, Perry screened this film for 100 pastors prior to its release. They gave him their blessings. That fact may be more troubling than the film itself.

I admit Tyler Perry’s films are not for me. Perry has achieved tremendous success by making films that are not only not aimed at people like me, but which are derisive of ambitious, professional black women like me.  I’m sure many excuses will be made for how this pivotal “seduction” scene isn’t rape, or how I’m just a hater–the usual response to those who criticize Perry’s movies. Whatever.

Still, if we’re holding entertainers to account for their words and images, we should be consistent. Perry is as responsible for the images he puts on film as Rick Ross is for the words he puts on a record. And both deserve to be called out for promoting a patriarchal view of sex in which a woman’s consent is irrelevant.

Retrolicious–Mad Men 6.3: “The Collaborators”

Hosted by Tami Winfrey Harris and Andrea Plaid

Tami and I, joined by Renee from Womanist Musings and Fangs for the Fantasy, watched this week’s ep in horror: yes, at Peter Campbell’s state of perpetual swaglessness and Weiner’s needless explanation of Don’s sexual hardwiring, but most importantly, the frosted lipstick on the lips of Phyllis, Peggy’s Black executive assistant. And you can read on in horror, knowing that we got lots of spoilers in this  roundtable…

Tami: Lots of collaborations in “The Collaborators”: the sexual sort, the political sort (North Korea and the Viet Kong), the business sort…

We talked about the theme of evolution, death, and aging last week. I think those things continued in this week’s episode of Mad Men. The gigolo persona that seemed so sexy and exciting in early seasons is getting old and starting to stink.

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Renee: Only if you mean running in as many ways as possible, from the lives which the characters have created. For me it was another sign that what people are told to want, or rather what will make them happy, is not, in actual fact, what they need or desire.

Tami: It occurs to me that we’re just months past the Summer of Love when this episode occurs. And the ethos of “free love” seems to have filtered down from counter-culture into the suburbs and tony Manhattan living rooms. Even good Midwestern girls and middle-aged, Catholic doctor’s wives are trying to get a piece. But “love” really isn’t free when you’re a grown up.

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Retrolicious: Mad Men 6.1: “Doorways”

Hosted by Tami Winfrey Harris and Andrea Plaid


Don Draper has a sad about being called an "Organization Man."

Don Draper has a sad about being an “Organization Man.”

Mad Men‘s season premiere got Tami and me–and guest ‘tabler Renee Martin–thinking about how much Mad Men is about aging: yes, about how we physically and emotionally age–and how different decades of life meant different things in, well, different decades–but also how institutions, like Sterling Cooper Draper Price, get on as the founders get on in age, and US society itself gets on with mediating changes, like the counterculture of hippies and wars with people of color. Conversation and spoilers after the jump.

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Quoted: For Harriet on Talib Kweli’s Response To The Crunk Feminist Collective

Rapper Talib Kweli. Image via

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

Zerlina Maxwell: “I Will Not Be Quiet”

By Arturo R. García

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Trigger Warning: Topics include rape, domestic violence and guns

As MSNBC host Ed Schultz illustrated on Monday night, the attacks on writer and political strategist Zerlina Maxwell were not isolated behavior: they were part of a larger culture of abuse seemingly encouraged at every turn by conservative forces. And all it took to incite the rounds of racist and misogynist slurs thrown at her, apparently, was for her to say this during an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity:

I don’t want anybody to be telling women anything. I don’t want men to be telling me what to wear and how to act, not to drink. And I don’t, honestly, want you to tell me that I needed a gun in order to prevent my rape. In my case, don’t tell me if I’d only had a gun, I wouldn’t have been raped. Don’t put it on me to prevent the rape.

Besides the usual Hannity inanity–he went from victim-blaming to boasting about his own gun expertise to dismissing Maxwell’s (accurate) point that most rapes are committed by people the victim knows–Maxwell said this latest debate stirred more than the usual back-and-forth.

“What’s different about this is the intersection between guns and rape and the underlying feeling that there’s a problem of rape culture in America,” she told Schultz. “I don’t view rape culture as a partisan issue. Rape happens to Republicans as well as Democrats.”

As Talking Points Memo and other outlets reported, Maxwell was soon targeted and her message was called “bizarre” by Glenn Beck’s site, The Blaze.

Maxwell and Schultz’s other guest, Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher at The Nation, also pointed out that, in a way, the Republican noise machine has proven her point: when she suggested that a culture that has attacked women in the past as a matter of policy should instead re-educate its men, the only response many of its inhabitants knew how to give was to attack–to defend its privilege.

Maxwell has also followed up with a piece in offering five concrete tips for teaching men not to rape. In brief, they are:

  • Teach young men about legal consent
  • Teach young men to see women’s humanity, instead of seeing them as sexual objects there for male pleasure
  • Teach young men how to express healthy masculinity
  • Teach young men to believe women who come forward and not to blame the victim
  • Teach young men about bystander intervention

“I’m certainly taking steps to protect my emotional health, but I will not be quiet. Because I refuse to be bullied into silence,” she told Schultz. “The whole entire point of why I went on Fox to talk about this issue that I am so passionate about is because so many women are afraid to talk about it. That’s because they are blamed and shamed into silence, and I refuse–I refuse–to be silenced.”

Racialicious Roundtable: Law & Order: SVU, “Funny Valentine,” Or “The One About Chris Brown And Rihanna”

By Tami Winfrey Harris, Arturo R. García, and Joseph Lamour

L&O screencap1

Tami: I am a dedicated fan girl of the Law & Order Mothership. And I kind of liked Vincent D’Onofrio’s Sherlocky Det. Goren on Criminal Intent (though he does have an element of the white guy super detective about him). But Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has always seemed particularly sordid and crass. This heavy-handed, “ripped from the headlines” exploitation fest is a great example of exactly why I just can’t with this series.

Joe: I usually like Law and Order: SVU (because I secretly want to be Mariska Hargitay’s best friend forever), but sometimes there’s a misstep. When they rip things from the headlines, usually, it’s not this close to what actually happened. This episode felt more like a dramatic reenactment on the Investigation Channel than a show that has won six Emmy Awards.

Tami: “Caleb Bryant?” That’s the name they’re going with?

Yeah, that was elegant. All of the “twists,” though, were really shortcuts: Micha wasn’t presented as being a star at Caleb’s level; she was just starting out; and her producer gets shot and there’s nothing the cops can work with.

Joe: At least they didn’t go with Chuck Green or something vaguely like that. Mischa Green. Let’s all say it together: “Boo.” I would have suggested Hannigan. (Get it?)

Tami: Does Dave Navarro have a crushing tax debt? Has the Jane’s Addiction and Chili Peppers cash run out? Why does he have a bit role in this horror show?

Joe: Maybe he was a victim of the Madoff scandal like Kyra Sedgewick and Kevin Bacon. I do love his show Ink Master, though! I also love that I still find that hair sexy. He can do no wrong for me. I can only guess he joined this episode as an open protest to what’s happening in the music industry. Although there’s no interview that clears that up. Sigh.

Tami: Can someone define “beef cookie” for me? Is that an insult that hasn’t made it to the Midwest yet?

It hasn’t made it anywhere. LOL. It’s not on Urban Dictionary (’cause I’m sure Faux Fenty wasn’t calling Faux Karreuche “a small gathering of boys”), and I thought I found it in an ASAP Rocky song, but the person who put it in misheard “When the beef cooked”… so, in short, I have nothing but a guess: I think it means a woman who hits on a man even though she knows he has a girl already… so it’s like she wants to have a fight (beef=fight, girl=cookie). I think. That is nothing but a complete guess, however.

Chris Brown Caleb Bryant just uttered “Call my Jew,” and we are six minutes in.

Tami: The Law & Order franchise is notoriously bad at portraying the “urban music” community. It’s as if they cannot separate the rhetoric of genres like hip-hop from, you know, real, multi-dimensional people. [Remember when L&O, original recipe, did a “ripped from the headlines” epi about JLo and Puffy and that nightclub shooting? Puff Daddy was renamed G-Train and the episode was called…wait for it… “3 Dawg Night.” Yeah.]

It’s very meta when Bryant’s lawyer complains about the demonizing of young, black men in hip-hop within a franchise that is just as capable at that. “Call my Jew?”

The real “Caleb Bryant” is somehow talented and charming enough to make people forget that he is also a babyish, swaggering, violent fool. SVU’s Caleb Bryant is just a stereotype.

L&O screencap4Arturo: I think they tried to lampshade that with the Wendy Williams and Perez Hilton cameos. It’s not just that an abuser in this position has any sort of “charm,” but there’s a mechanism in place designed to protect those brands, as Mischa’s manager indicated.

Joe: Is it just me or is this actor playing Caleb Bryant wearing a lot of makeup?

Tami: He is. He looks like Nipsy Russell as the Tin Man in The Wiz. Is it just me or is the acting in this episode a pox on humanity?

Joe: That’s not just you.

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*TRIGGER WARNING* How To Love? Thoughts On Lil Wayne’s Emmett Till Lyrics And More

By Guest Contributors Moya and Whitney; originally published at Crunk Feminist Collective

*TRIGGER WARNING: Expletives, misogyny, and violent lyrics*

Side by side image of Emmett Till and Lil Wayne with the words

Courtesy of FAAN Mail.

In the remix to Future’s Karate Chop, Lil Wayne sings the “very unfortunate” (really, Fader?) lyric that compares sex to the beating of Emmett Till.

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?

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The Vagina Monologues In Hindi


Cast from a Mumbai performance of “The Vagina Monologues.” Image Credit: Times of India.


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.

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