Category Archives: women of color

This Isn’t That Documentary: Gloria: In Her Own Words

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

 

As I said on Twitter, Gloria: In Her Own Words, the new documentary about feminist activist Gloria Steinem running exclusively on HBO this month, is a “precise” work on her life and The Second Feminist Movement (and what I mean by this is the mainstream Second Wave Movement) in the last 60+ years.

Dana Goldstein took the doc to task in The Nation for not addressing race and racism in the movement Steinem helped shape:

Though there are interviews in Gloria about how upper-middle-class, straight feminists came to embrace lesbian rights and economic justice for poor women, there is no explicit discussion of an equally enduring and arguably more fraught issue: the relationship between feminism and struggles for racial equality. The film does feature archival footage showing 1970s white feminists arguing that men’s only bars are the equivalent of Jim Crow lunch counters. Doesn’t that contention cry out for debate, for analysis—for something? We see Steinem appear alongside her 1970s “speaking partners,” the black feminists Flo Kennedy (pictured above–Ed.) and Dorothy Pitman Hughes, but we don’t hear much about how these women (who were so often overshadowed by the more famous Steinem) navigated their dual identies as women of color within the feminist movement.

Steinem notes that her own brand of feminism was more radical than that of her elders, women like Betty Friedan, who were concerned mostly with the plight of white, college-educated housewives. Yet there are no interviews with either Steinem or other movement veterans that reflect explicitly on the relationship between feminism and civil rights. We hear about how Steinem’s sexy good looks helped propel her to prominence, but not about how her whiteness helped make feminism seem less threatening. We also learn nothing about the sophisticated set of critiques women-of-color, such as Angela Davis and bell hooks, have long made regarding mainstream feminism: that its focus on abortion detracted from their own struggle for maternal rights and that the assumption that women represent a united interest group often downplayed the struggles of non-white women in overcoming racism.

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All We Are Gonna Say About Basketball Wives

Now, if you happen to be like me, an avid viewer of VH1…

And you just so happen to find Basketball Wives playing around the time Single Ladies goes off, so you catch little bits of the high school drama that happens when you allow seven women to act on their pettiest personal impulses…

And you just so happened to catch this episode, where they let Tami fight whatsherface:

And you remember how, ahem, different Tami is since the first time she was in a sticky situation on reality TV:

And you just so happen to remember when Shaunie tried to say she isn’t a fan of drama

As you see on the show, I’m not a big supporter of the bickering, drink throwing and fighting, but when you put a group of strong, independent and vocal women who are going through or just came out of a bad relationship together, there’s bound to be a little drama.

Let’s face it, we all know women like the ones on “Basketball Wives” and countless other reality shows: Women who are vocal if you cross them.

The problem for me is when black women are portrayed as only being that way and labeled different than their non-black counterparts for the same type of behavior. That’s when it becomes negative and damaging to our image.

I’m not saying we have to create shows that only paint a pretty picture about who we are, but there should be a balance and most of all some integrity to the shows we create.

And you look at how the whole show is people letting minor squabbles escalate into drama and violence…

Then this thread is for you.

I’m trying to pretend that I am not actively following this show, but at this point, I’ve seen three eps in a row. I think it’s time to give up the ghost…

State of Georgia, Race, and Weight

Gaps between white experiences and non-white experiences pop up in the strangest places.

Raven-Symoné has a new comedy on ABC Family called State of Georgia. This is her first comedy series where she will be playing an adult role and it’s been interesting watching that transition. I had planned to tune into the premiere, but it moved up in priority when I read the producer, Jennifer Weiner, talking about Raven’s weight loss in USA Today:

Q: Tell us about the show’s star, Raven-Symoné, who plays Georgia.

A: What we were looking for was a larger-than-life, bubbly, exuberant, confident young woman who was convinced of her own worth even when the world couldn’t see it. I really think that’s what we have with Raven. She’s this incredibly natural comedienne.

Q: Is Georgia a classic Jennifer Weiner character?

A: The original intention was for Georgia to be a big, curvy girl, and that would be one of the obstacles she dealt with while pursuing her acting career. She wanted to play the ingénue and the bombshell, and people would want to cast her as the funny best friend. Raven has lost a lot of weight, and that’s been a challenge we’ve been dealing with. But in terms of her sense of humor and outlook on life, Georgia’s going to feel familiar to anyone who loved Canny in Good in Bed or Becky in Little Earthquakes and Addy in Best Friends Forever.

Okay. I’m very familiar with Weiner’s work, having read most of it, and I get it – Weiner writes curvy heroines. She is most comfortable writing about larger women trying to make their way in the world. And there have been a great many discussions (like this one from Women and Hollywood) on the debates around Raven-Symoné’s weight loss and how it impacted what they were doing for the show.

But I’m puzzled. Did no one ever point out that black, thin and thick actresses face that same problem in terms of always being cast as the funny best friend? Come on, now, it’s even got a TV Tropes entry. The same jokes wouldn’t fly, but I am sure there are plenty of women who could help the writing team come up with amazing bits about how screwed up the acting world is to women of color. They could call Angela Nissel and Aisha Tyler in for writing assistance, and ask for people like Gabrielle Union and all of the women on this list to provide real life anecdotes for the show.

Or is that just too scary of a topic?

The Exoticism of South Asian Queer Women

By Guest Contributor Anurag, cross-posted from (Gaysi)

When queer women are first coming out or becoming involved in the mainstream queer community they are often becoming subject to misogyny and objectification at the hands of other queer women. However, in a lot of cases queer women are bred into a heteronormative lesbian culture where they feel they should be the misogynists, although they probably don’t recognize it as such.

White queer women often feel subject to this objectification and misogyny in the queer community. However, South Asian queer women and other queer women of color have a level of exoticism, or some may experience it as tokenization, that we have to deal with that most white women do not.

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Who Is the Black Zooey Deschanel?

By Guest Contributor Tami Winfrey Harris, crossposted from What Tami Said

I had a great Twitter conversation yesterday with @AndreaPlaid, @AnnaHolmes and @Amaditalks. We were talking about Julie Klausner’s recent post on Jezebel, “Don’t fear the dowager: a valentine to maturity.” Klausner’s post, lamenting the trend of grown women adopting childish personas, is sort of a companion to all the similar pieces about modern men living in a state of perpetual boyhood. She writes:

There’s so much ukulele playing now, it’s deafening. So much cotton candy, so many bunny rabbits and whoopie pies and craft fairs and kitten emphera, and grown women wearing converse sneakers with mini skirts. So many fucking birds.

Girls get tattoos that they will never be able to grow into. Women with master’s degrees who are searching for life partners, list “rainbows, Girl Scout cookies, and laughing a lot” under “interests, on their Match.com profiles. Read more…

Anna is quoted in a similar article from The Daily Beast about websites launched by Jane Pratt and Zooey Deschanel.

But when the site xoJane.com was finally unveiled a few weeks ago—minus Gevinson’s involvement (though she says she will be launching a sister site in a few months), the reaction was less than stellar. Writer Ada Calhoun, on her blog 90sWoman, called out the site for its incessant namedropping (Michael Stipe was mentioned nine times the first day), writing: “The chatty, best-friends-realness voice feels put-on and costume-y, like too-big heels.”

Perhaps part of that disappointment stems from the improbable goal of including 48 year olds and 12 year olds under one roof. The result is a seemingly permanent state of girlishness that any professional woman over the age of 30 should cringe at, but one that Pratt pushes with abandon.

“I actually blame Bonnie Fuller,” said Anna Holmes, the founder of Jezebel.com, referencing the former Glamour and Us Weekly editor, whose penchant for bright pink cursive handwriting scrawled all over the pages of her magazines and websites has nabbed her million dollar paychecks—and, unfortunately, permeated the lady mag and gossip set.

With such tickle-me-hormonal content online, it makes one wonder, where is the content for women who want the equivalent of GQ, with sharp articles about powerful women and fascinating trend stories, written by writers as good as Tom Wolfe or Joan Didion? Where are the fashion spreads that make you feel aspirational, not inadequate? Must everything be shot through with a shade of red or pink? And does everything have to end with an exclamation point? Read more…

The Klausner article generated a ton of push back on Jezebel. I suspect because the manic pixie dream girl persona is “in” right now and everyone wants to feel like they choose their own choices. In this case, that means that some women want to believe that their predilection for rompers and kittens and baby voices reflects their individual personalities and not some trend toward retro, non-threatening femaleness. But no one chooses their choices in a vacuum and certainly it means something that so many women seem to be finding this super-girlish, childish part of their personalities at the same time, while Katy Perry’s sex and candy persona is tearing up the charts and actual little girls are being bombarded with pink, purple, princesses, tulle and sparkles.

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I Haven’t Actually Been Called a Slut

By Creatrix Tiara, cross-posted from Creatrix Tiara

Not that I know of anyway – no one’s said that to me in my face. I don’t even know if I’ve been called a harlot or a whore or any other synonym for a loose promiscuous woman.

People don’t often tend to associate me with sexuality, at least when they just see me and don’t really know about what I get up to. “Unattractive” or “ugly” would probably be more common insults, asides from “you Bangla”.

But the biggest reason though is because I spent all my life in a society and culture where people didn’t even talk about sexuality. That thing about how women are sexualised in society through ads and media and all that? Not where I came from! You were meant to be pure, innocent, untouched, sweet…”sweet” was actually a word that got used a hell of a lot as a compliment, come to think of it.

If you wanted to denote someone as slutty, trashy, harlot-like, you know what you’d call them?

Sexy.

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Silent Choices Streaming for Free–Today Only! [Culturelicious]

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

I met filmmaker Faith Pennick when I lived and went to school in Boston. At the time she was promoting her film, Silent Choices. I traveled to the Big Apple to interview her for my now-defunct ‘zine when the Republicans decided to hold their convention  and several New Yorkers weren’t having it. Just on the passion for her flick, I even tried to host a viewing/fundraiser for it. As people and life go, we lost touch.

Forward several years and my move to New York City. I reunited with Faith the other night at the full meeting of the reproductive-justice organization SisterSong NYC. Faith announced to the group her award-winning film is getting a free showing online today.

Her film addresses a rarely covered topic: Black women discussing their own experiences with getting abortions (trigger warning):

I can’t recommend Silence Choices highly enough, especially in light of how others are trying to dictate how Black women should feel about exercising our reproductive rights and are trying their damnedest to make sure we don’t have access to reproductive options.  But just don’t take my word for it.  This is what Professor Dorothy Roberts, author of Killing the Black Body, has to say about the documentary: “Silent Choices explores not only black women’s personal and political struggles around reproductive freedom, but also the complexities of abortion too often ignored by the mainstream media. Silent Choices is essential viewing for students, scholars, and activists interested in reproductive justice for all women.”

For more information about Faith, her work, and more on Silent Choices, click here.