Tag Archives: AIDS

Quoted: Ashley Judd’s Feminism and Hip-Hop

Aside from the fact that Ashley Judd has no clue about Hip-Hop as an art form and a culture, her comment shows an underlying prejudice towards black men. She says that Snoop and Diddy’s participation in YouthAIDS raised a red flag for her. If she knew anything about Hip-Hop or maybe even had a conversation with either one of these men, she’d know that neither condone rape or create violent music (at least not in the last decade), both are intelligent and savvy media moguls, and both are fathers (each has a least one daughter). So why wouldn’t they use their star power and influence to spread the message to young people, and especially the Hip-Hop community, about the importance of HIV/AIDS prevention? Shouldn’t they be lauded? If their music is so sexually irresponsible, isn’t it a good thing that they are talking about safe sex considering that HIV/AIDS transmission rates are so much higher among African-Americans?
What’s particularly dangerous is the use of the phrase “rape culture” in this context. In the wake of the Cleveland, Texas rape case, we have seen how stereotypes of sexually aggressive black men spin out of control and dredge up historical beliefs of black men being rapists. This is the latest incarnation with Ashley Judd, a well-respected advocate for maternal health and women and girls, attacking Hip-Hop. Commercial Hip-Hop is misogynous. So is underground shit. Rock, metal, house, R&B, techno, etc. all have misogynous and violent content. But none is as popular, commercially viable, or controversial. There’s a difference between talking about the music as being misogynous and honestly deconstructing what’s behind that, and saying Hip-Hop as a whole promotes “rape culture.” It shows a lack of understanding of the diversity of Hip-Hop and the commercial decisions that shape how it is sold and capitalized upon (and who makes those decisions).
I know that she is promoting a book and people think it’s a publicity stunt. I don’t know…maybe it is, generally speaking we as listeners and consumers of Hip-Hop (at least her definition of it) aren’t her main audience. As a publicist and communications strategist, I think that’s idiotic and shortsighted but I’m also not a big supporter of the idea that all publicity, even bad, is good publicity. If that’s the case then mission accomplished…now people who didn’t know or care about her memoir think she is a racist dumbass. Or some people think she is speaking out about negative imagery of women in Hip-Hop and pop culture. That depends on your point of view. What I do believe is that Ms. Judd wants to advance the discussion of attitudes that lead to sexual assault and rape since she experienced sexual abuse. Yet this is hardly a constructive way to do it.
I have looked closely at the feedback I have received about those two paragraphs, and absolutely see your points, and I fully capitulate to your rightness, and again humbly offer my heartfelt amends for not having been able to see the fault in my writing, and not having anticipated it would be painful for so many. Crucial words are missing that could have made a giant difference. It should have read: “Some hip-hop, and some rap, is abusive. Some of it is part of the contemporary soundtrack misogyny (which, of course, is multi-sonic). Some of it promotes the rape culture so pervasive in our world…..” Also, I, ideally, would have anticipated that some folks would see only representations of those two paragraphs, and not be familiar with the whole book, my work, and my message. I should have been clear in them that I include hip-hop and rap as part of a much larger problem. It is beyond unfortunate that I am talking about some, for example, of Snoop Dogs’ lyrics, an assumption has been spread I was talking about every single artist in both genres. That is false and distorted. Here, I am again aware that it would be impossible for me to get this “exactly right.” Some will find fault, no matter how careful I am, no matter what my intentions.

Easily the most ludicrous thing about the Twitter wars has been the perpetuation of the ridiculous accusation I am blaming two musical genres for poverty, AIDS, and the whole of rape culture. Please, people. Seriously? It’s beneath all of us that this even merits a comment. Gender inequality and rape culture were here a long before the birth of the genres and rage everywhere. Someone pointed out American history includes extensive white patriarchal rape. I’d add genocide, too, but that is another essay.

Regarding what is happening on Twitter:

Thumbs Up: In those 2 paragraphs, I was addressing gender and gender only. However, the outcry focused so much on race (and at times class) that it was naive of me to assume that everyone knew I was discussing only gender. My favorite feminist teachers, such as bell hooks and Gloria Steinem, would probably have admonished me, as they write that gender, class, and race are inextricably bound in the conversation about gender equality. My amends for thinking you could read my mind and know I was only talking about gender. I understand why you were offended.

“Why don’t we [help] end rape culture instead of getting mad that we’re getting called out on it?”
Photo Credit: huffingtonpost.com

What I’ve Learned from Living with HIV

By Christopher MacDonald-Dennis , reprinted with permission from his Twitter timeline

AIDS RibbonMy name is Chris, and I live with HIV.

I know some were here last year [on my Twitter timeline], so I’ll try not to bore you. I just want to remind us that we are here among you, living, thriving, sometimes barely surviving w HIV/AIDS. I’d like to tell my story: why I made choices I did and what I’ve learned–because I have learned a great deal about myself from this disease.

To start: I have been positive for 15 years. March 10, 2010 was  my anniversary. I am 41 yrs old. In fact, I was born exactly 1 week before Stonewall rebellion in NYC. I was born and raised in Boston in a working-class neighborhood. I grew up in uber-dysfunctional family: brother diagnosed as sociopath in teens, dad an alcoholic, mom mentally ill. It was hell in that family, I was a little “sissy” who knew at early age he was gay. I was OK with it but knew others wouldn’t be. I was terrorized as kid–ass kicked a lot. My city didn’t like femme boys. Also, I am mixed: dad was white, mom Latina….looong before mixed folks were cool.  :) We just were odd. So I grew up alone…and lonely. Went to college and  didn’t just come out of closet..

I blew the doors off hinges! I became popular…and, most importantly, saw that men were attracted to me. So I became BHOC–Big Homo On Campus–who also partied hard at clubs. I felt what I thought was acceptance for the first time. I was an activist, a feminist, just thinking I had to it together…but I was promiscuous. It filled a need. Men wanted me; I was desirable. Because of my background I mistook it for love. At 22 I was in my first relationship with an AIDS activist [and] always used condoms. Broke up after 3 years and saw a man I had dated briefly in college.

I still remember the night we met. His smile shut off every thinking part of my brain. I know you know those fine types–your brain disappears. He asked me home. I accepted after he asked my friends (we had a rule–we come together, we leave together.) They agreed–he was that fine. We went to my place & began to have sex. I noticed he wasn’t going to use condom. I thought about it but was afraid he would leave me. Yes, I was more afraid a man would leave than protecting myself.  We never talked about status until 3 months in…he said he was too scared. That made me pause…

Continue reading

Madonna, Africa, adoption, and the white man’s burden

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Before I get started with this post, a few clarifications. First, I don’t think that Madonna is the evil, attention-hungry, Angelina-copycat that others are making her out to be. I’m sure she was guided by the best of intentions when it came to this adoption. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t buy into essentialist notions about blacks, whether she realizes it or not.

Second, we have no way of knowing exactly what transpired during this process. Was she really led to believe that David’s father’s whereabouts were unknown? Is it true that his father never visited David at the orphanage? Was David’s father misled into believing this was not a permanent adoption? We’ll just never know, and it’s best not to make assumptions about any of the facts.

Third, I do not oppose international adoption and no, I wouldn’t prefer to leave the orphans to die. But are those ever really the only two options?

Okay, with that out of the way…

I was struck by how many times Madonna used the phrases “I will give him a life” or “he didn’t have a life” when referring to her adopted Malawian child, David, during her interview with Oprah on Wednesday.

And I think this gets at one of the main problems I have with the way international adoption is discussed in this country. There’s always this unspoken, underlying assumption that:

  • keeping the child in the home country = no life or a bad life
  • bringing the child to “the West” = a good life

The situation in Malawi is dire, yes. But discussions about international adoption always make it seem as if every single child who doesn’t get adopted by an American family — no matter what country the child is in — is going to die. Like, right now. But that’s just not always the case.

Also, we really need to question the assumption that the benefits of international adoption will always outweigh the negative repercussions. I encourage you to read this post of Ji In’s at Twice the Rice, in which she writes that “there is irreparable pain and there are primal wounds inherent in adoption that no privileged upbringing can erase.”

Can a better standard of living, healthcare, education and loving adoptive parents ever make up for what is lost when a child is removed from his or her country and culture? Shouldn’t every effort be made to try and keep families together? Shouldn’t adoption be a final resort? I don’t pretend to have the answers to those questions, but I’m disappointed that the questions are rarely, if ever, even asked.

If a country is experiencing such extreme poverty that it cannot adequately care for its children or orphans, is international adoption the best solution? Or the only solution? If, like Madonna was, you are so moved by a country’s troubles that you feel compelled to do something to help, are there other things you can do? Things that could actually help solve some of the underlying, fundamental problems that have led to this dire situation in the first place? Those questions are never asked either.

I was surprised that Madonna so willingly and unquestioningly accepted the orphanage’s claim that no family member — not even the father — had ever visited David since his arrival at 2 weeks old. Not only did she fully believe it, but she immediately assumed that it meant that “no one was looking after David’s welfare.”And during the entire interview, she didn’t once acknowledge the fact that David’s father might have kept custody of his son, had he had the resources. Her focus was on his apparent gratitude to her: “Thank you for giving my son a life.”

This lack of acknowledgement of a father’s loss reminded me of the old slavery-era essentialist notions about blacks that were created to justify oppression. Black people were characterized as subhuman and bestial. That meant that the notions of democracy and freedom this country was founded on didn’t really apply to them. Black men were said to not love their wives and children the way white men did, therefore it was perfectly okay to split up families and sell them off to different plantations.

Could a similar essentialist/white supremacist notion be at play here? Does Madonna believe that David’s father couldn’t possibly love David the way she can? That the affection and parental relationship she can offer is inherently superior to his? Continue reading

Did anyone watch Madonna on Oprah?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Did any of you see yesterday’s episode of Oprah, where she interviewed Madonna about the recent adoption controversy? I only had time to watch half of it on the old Tivo, but I plan on posting my thoughts tomorrow after finishing the show tonight. In the meantime, here’s a very critical take on it from The New York Post.

If you saw it, what did you think?