Tag Archives: gender


Why I am still on the fence about Suffragette

I love supporting women focused films.

I like historical dramas.

I like stories about women kicking ass.

So, by all rights, I should love (and want to see) Suffragette. But I didn’t go to the free screening at ONA and the more I see from the marketing of this film, the more I wince. It’s pretty clear from the trailer that the film is about white women. Since anyone who studies history for more than 15 minutes knows history never fits neatly into a little box, where are the suffragettes of color? If they weren’t in the movement, where were they? What were they doing?

A Women & Hollywood piece stumping for the film tries to answer these questions, but in the worst way possible (emphasis mine):

3. It’s got (almost) all the other feminist bona fides on its side. The film is led not only by a woman helmer and writer, but has been guided by two female producers (Alison Owen and Faye Ward). It passes the Bechdel test with flying colors and has at its emotional core a political speech by Emmeline Pankhurst. Yes, the “whitewashing” concerns are real and the film’s promotional t-shirt campaign was poorly conceived, but Gavron isn’t blind to intersectionality. In an upcoming podcast with Women and Hollywood, she’ll discuss how most of the suffragettes of color she found in her historical research were of noble birth, and they unfortunately had to be waylaid because her intent was to focus on the working-class women who were the unknown soldiers of the movement. (There are well-to-do but no aristocratic women in the film.) We hope another film in the future will give suffragettes of color their due. 

As usual, the inclusivity of the film lies in the hands of the storyteller – there are always hard cuts to be made in any creative work, but why do the stories of women of color always pull the short end of the stick? Here’s to hoping Amma Asante takes a look at this next – somehow, she always finds a way to look at history through an inclusive lens. That tiny disclosure prompts so many more questions: what was happening to working class WoC in that era? Which nobles were involved? Where white suffragettes racist and/or violent toward their WOC counterparts? It’s tough to want to be transported by a film to another era, knowing you’ll be left unsatisfied in the end.

I understand that for some people, erasing women of color from historical narratives is simply an unfortunate oversight. But for those of us who continually see our stories erased from historical record, whitewashed depictions of history aren’t so easy to swallow.




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“We Build Our Village” – Ava Duvernay

[O]ur conversation shouldn’t be consumed with what he’s not doing or what they don’t value. We value us. We build our village. We grow stronger. We testify in commissions, and we write our own op-eds, and we push at every turn that’s necessary. We also blossom because we nourish one another. We focus on her—​the woman sitting right next to you. We focus on us. It’s equally as important. If we don’t do both, I think we lose. Toni Morrison, a prophet that I really admire, said the function of racism is distraction to keep you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining your reason for being. I think sexism is the same. Patriarchy is the same thing—​constantly having to justify our very presence. It’s something to think about. I believe that there are multiple ways we can attack the problems that we face as women in this industry. And fortifying one another and being food and fuel and fire for one another is one of those things.

– Ava DuVernay​, speaking at the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards

Henry Zbyszynski, via Flickr

The Hollow Promise of “Inclusivity”: Saida Grundy and Boston University

By Tope Fadiran

It’s hard out there for white men on college campuses. At least, that’s what American media would have us believe, given its coverage of the current controversy swirling around Dr. Saida Grundy, a Black scholar recently hired (effective July 1, 2015) by Boston University as an assistant professor of Sociology and African American Studies.

In reality, the way in which Dr. Grundy has been unceremoniously shoved into the spotlight proves the exact opposite: Black women on our campuses, even those who have reached the highest levels of educational achievement, are political and cultural targets simply for existing. There is no other explanation for the fact that this all began with a white man whose response to Grundy’s hiring was to go in search of something he could use to undermine her intellectual and professional standing.

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The Evolution Of Hula: Traditional, Contemporary, And Hotel

By Guest Contributor Sarah Neal, cross-posted from Sociological Images

Earlier on SocImages, Lisa Wade drew attention to the tourism industry’s commodification of Polynesian women and their dancing. She mentioned, briefly, how the hula was made more tourist-friendly (what most tourists see when they attend one of the many hotel-based luaus throughout the islands is not traditional hula).  In this post, I want to offer more details on the history and the differences between the tourist and the traditional hula.

First, Wade states that, while female dancers take center stage for tourists, the traditional hula was “mostly” a men’s dance.  While it has not been determined for certain if women were ever proscribed from performing the hula during the time of the Ali’i (chiefs), it seems unlikely that women would have been prevented from performing the hula when the deity associated with the hula is Pele, a goddess. Furthermore, there is evidence that women were performing the dance at the time of Captain James Cook’s arrival in Hawai’i.

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Managing Stigma: Doing Race, Class, And Gender

By Guest Contributor Lisa Wade, PhD; originally published at Sociological Images

I featured the two-page ad below in one of the first posts I ever wrote for SocImages (it was October of 2007 and we’d written less than 100 posts; today we’re approaching 5,000, but I digress…).  It’s still one of my very favorite images.

I use it in Sociology 101 when I argue that race, class, and gender are, among other things, performances. Activities, items, and behaviors carry class, race, and gender meanings. In order to tell stories about ourselves, we strategically combine these things with the meanings we carry on our bodies (a gendered shape, skin color, and hair texture etc., and signs of economic wealth or deprivation).

The ad for PhatFarm deftly balances Blackness (the body), upper-class Whiteness (the sailboat), and femininity (the pink sweater).  In strategically using culturally resonant signifiers, he challenges popular representations of the Black body.


This happens in real life, too.  Journalist Brent Staples powerfully discusses how he adds a signifier of upper-class Whiteness to his large Black body in order to avoid the discomfort of frightening people on the streets of New York.

…I employ what has proved to be an excellent tension-reducing measure: I whistle melodies from Beethoven and Vivaldi and the more popular classical composers. Even steely New Yorkers hunching toward nighttime destinations seem to relax and occasionally they even join in the tune. Virtually everybody seems to sense that a mugger wouldn’t be warbling bright, sunny selections from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

“It is my equivalent to the cowbell that hikers wear when they know they are in bear country,” Staples adds, referring to the fact that being perceived as dangerous can itself be dangerous, as we know from the example of Trayvon Martin and Rodrigo Diaz, who was shot in the head in January when he accidentally pulled into the wrong driveway thinking it belonged to a friend.

Thinking of class, race, and gender as performances gives us credit for being agents.  We don’t have control over what the signifiers are, nor how people read our bodies, but we can actively try to manage those meanings.  Of course, some people have to do more “damage control” than others.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


Black Freaks, Black F**s, Black Dy**s: Re-imagining Rebecca Walker’s “Black Cool”

By Guest Contributor Darnell L. Moore; originally published at Feminist Wire

15037_10151311871680791_1210328814_nEnter Scene: I am walking in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn—where we do more than die, by the way—rocking a close fade with two parts on the side, a full beard and mustache lined up perfectly, eyes protected by a pair of fresh chocolate browline frames (I was two blocks from Malcolm X boulevard, after all). I am donning a fitted button-up white shirt, closed off with a pink and gray striped bowtie, form-fitting charcoal gray blazer, dark blue kinda-skinny jeans, and a pair of hot pink and silvery gray kicks.

Passerbyer 1 checks out my footwear.

Passerbyer 2 offers up the obligatory, “Yo, son, your kicks are hot.”

Passerbyer 3 is looking at me like I’m way off, as if to say, “Really, you got on pink sneakers, sucka? That’s gay as hell. You are doing way too much!”

Passerbyer 4, my neighbor repeats, like he always does, “You cool, brother.”

My representation as a certain type of black man often transgresses the accepted boundaries of black masculinity. The ways I cut my hair, shape–or refuse to shape–my beard, style my clothes, walk, talk, and gesture tend to confound some folk and, on occasion, anger others because of my seeming transgressions. Sinning ain’t easy.

Indeed, some will stare at me as I make my way down any street rocking a beard, frames, “man bag,” and a little less than loose clothing because my gender presentation seems to be read as a sign of non-heterosexuality, deviance. In fact, most folk are okay with what they “see” until they notice that I am wearing something like hot pink (!) sneakers. According to some, a black man wearing hot pink sneakers, like a black woman wearing a suit, ain’t at all “cool.”

The notion of “black cool,” in particular, seems to be limited, limiting, and quite “straight” (as in hetero and rigid). I am thinking, for example, of one of the inspirations that motivated Rebecca Walker’s investigation of “Black cool.” She mentioned during an interview on NPR that an image of then-Senator Barack Obama exiting a black Lincoln Town Car during the 2008 campaign “was really, at that moment, the epitome of black cool.”

She went on to say that she was “drawn to that image because [she] wanted to decode it and to see where it fit into this Afro-Atlantic aesthetic.” And while that image is but one of Walker’s inspirations (and while her book, Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness, actually includes critical and beautiful essays that think through the gendering of “black cool”), that particular picture of Obama locates the quotidian “black cool” in a male-bodied, masculine, straight black man and leaves me to wonder: does coolness exist anywhere beyond black masculinity, maleness, and heterosexuality? As some of the writers in Walker’s Black Cool argue, I think so.

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Somewhere Between Explores Transracial Adoption And Identity

TRAILER: Somewhere Between – A Feature Documentary from Linda Knowlton on Vimeo.


Check out the synopsis:

Four baby girls are born in China to families who are unable to keep them, largely because of China’s “One Child Policy.” Instead of being raised by their biological parents, the baby girls are raised in orphanages, and then eventually adopted by American families to be whisked halfway around the world to the United States. There, they grow up with Sesame Street, hip-hop, and Twitter. They describe themselves as “bananas”: white on the inside and yellow on the outside. All is well, until they hit their teen years, when their pasts pull at them, and they begin to wonder, “Who am I?”

All four know they were probably “given up” because they were girls (they are understandably uncomfortable with the word “abandoned”), and grapple with issues of race, gender, and identity more acutely than most their age.

Documentaries have been made before about international adoption, but they have always been from the point of view of the adoptive, Caucasian parents, or the adult adoptee. Young women’s voices are rarely heard—especially young women of color. SOMEWHERE BETWEEN lets four teenaged girls—Fang, Haley, Ann, and Jenna—tell their own stories, letting the film unfold from their points of view and shedding light on their deepest thoughts: about their families, their feelings of being “other,” and their powerful connections to a past that most of them cannot recall.

The film captures nearly three years in the lives of these four dynamic young women.

The screening schedule is here.

Nicki Ménages Urban Black and Latina Sexual Identities

by Guest Contributor Sabia McCoy-Torres

Nicki Minaj got media circuits buzzing after performing alongside Madonna at the Super Bowl 2012 halftime show and then commanding the stage a week later at the Grammy Awards in a Catholic themed extravaganza. As usual, Minaj got people talking about sex(uality). After the halftime show, viewers jokingly wondered why a sensual kiss between Madonna and Minaj never transpired.

Meanwhile, Minaj’s Grammy performance included a mini-film depicting a priest making a house call to exorcise the demon possessing a child named Roman. Roman was referred to many times as “he” but when the child was revealed, rather than a boy we saw a tormented and psychotic Minaj with long blonde hair applying pink lipstick singing “I Feel Pretty.” Does the possessed boy become Nicki Minajwhen dressed in drag? Is Minaj possessed by Roman, a boy who likes pink lipstick and Broadway songs, or is she just trying to be as quirky as possible? Regardless of where Minaj was leading her audience, it was clear she was toying with gender presentation and interpretation, a hallmark of her persona that has an impact on her community of listeners.

I most recently noticed the impact that the openness of artists like Nicki Minaj to sexual ambiguity is having when I returned to my neighborhood in the Bronx after a two year stint living in Costa Rica. In that brief period away I realized much had changed: men in the hood were wearing tight jeans, 80s style had come back in full effect, and there was a growing visibility of what I dubbed “neo-soul Black hipsters.” I also noticed an abundance of pretty teenage girls on the 4, 6, and D trains to the Bronx with their equally handsome boyfriends who on second glance, and sometimes fourth and fifth, I realized were actually two beautiful girls unabashedly holding hands, in the midst of quiet embraces, or giving voyeuristic displays passionate kissing.

A friend recently asked me: “Remember back in the day when there were no gay youth?” And I had to agree that I shared that memory. Of course it wasn’t that there were no gay youth, rather it was that they weren’t as visible, especially in our predominately Black and Latino neighborhoods. It was clear to me that a shift had occurred while I was away. Gay openness was becoming not only a thing of adult men and women in the West Village but also of urban Black and Latina youth in inner-city New York. Continue reading