Tag Archives: Joan Morgan

Meanwhile, On TumblR: In Case You Missed It

By Andrea Plaid

Usually, I highlight some of the most popular posts on Tumblr, some of which appear here on the main R. However, there are some really great posts that may not have gotten the biggest numbers but still got some love, like this Parlour Magazine interview with hip-hop feminist Joan Morgan:

Parlour: You talk a lot about the Politics of Pleasure, what does that mean?

Joan Morgan. Via madamnoire.com

Joan Morgan. Via madamnoire.co

Joan Morgan: Much of my work as a feminist revolved around how do we improve black women’s lives. I had been investigating how we talk about black women, particularly in terms of sexuality, without talking about pleasure. Instead, we identify the racial and sexual history, particularly in the United States, and why that history prevents or complicates black women’s sexuality from enjoying a sex positive space.

Feminism is very good at dissecting the politics of respectability and the culture of dissemblance thanks to Darlene Clark Hine. Still, we’re not so good at articulating a language for pleasure, which is crucial for any human being but it plays a critical role in other black women’s issues with which we don’t necessarily make the connection. For example, if we’re talking about black women and the rate of new HIV cases – the percentage of black women among new infections is disproportionately high – but when you look at the prevention, the language is ‘If he doesn’t want to use a condom, tell him to back off’ or, ‘If he really cares about you he’ll use protection.’ The discourse is centered around men’s pleasure.

Parlour: Perhaps women don’t like the way condoms feel either, so how about developing protection that feels better without centering the conversation around men …

Joan: For black women, I think about our health and the diseases that compromise our lives due to stress, and we will send out the call to arms around obesity or heart disease. But we’re not talking about making a real commitment to joy in our lives, particularly around the erotic or sex and the body. I’m very interested in that little taboo area. With the Politics of Pleasure I begin to argue that what’s missing is language, and I really wanted to begin to articulate language and introduce pleasure as a feminist priority for Black women.

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Class Notes: The Black Feminist Politics Of Pleasure

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 3.03.42 PMHey Racializens!

I am still at Stanford (and will be until June.) But I am bringing back an old tradition of doing class notes on some of these ideas.

Background

Joan Morgan, hip-hop feminism pioneer, has been moving her work into conversations around pleasure and sexual politics. Jeff Chang, hip-hopper-about-town and the head of Stanford’s Institue for Diversity in the Arts, asked Joan if she’d like the be the artist in residence for WinterQuarter. Joan agreed and then developed a class called “The Pleasure Principle: A Post-Hip Hop Search for a Black Feminist Politics of Pleasure.”

The Course

“The Pleasure Principle: A Post-Hip Hop Search for a Black Feminist Politics of Power” (CSRE127B) will explore the various articulations of a politics of pleasure in black feminist thought. We will examine classic black feminist texts on respectability politics, the erotic, hip-hop feminism, and dancehall culture, geared toward helping students develop a critical lens for interrogating depictions of black female sexuality and articulations of pleasure in popular culture. Examples include “The Cosby Show,” “Sex in the City,” “Girlfriends,” “Basketball Wives,” “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” “Pariah,” as well as the works of Beyonce, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Tanya Stephens, and Lady Saw. Continue reading

Nicki Minaj: The Flyest Feminist

By Guest Contributor April Gregory, cross-posted from STATIC

“You Could Be the King But Watch the Queen Conquer:”
Nicki Minaj as a Model of Empowerment for Female and/or Queer Y
outh

“In between the beats, booty shaking, and hedonistic abandon, I have to wonder if there isn’t something inherently unfeminist in supporting a music that repeatedly reduces me to tits and ass and encourages pimping on the regular.” Such is the dilemma of hip hop feminist Joan Morgan, author of When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost.  Like Morgan, I consider myself to be a fairly ardent feminist.  I also consider myself to be a fairly ardent hip hop fan.  It’s no secret that these two identities, as Morgan points out, are frequently in conflict with one another.

So imagine my utter bewilderment when, in 2009, I heard a woman spitting lyrics as crude and grimy as those coming out of the mouths of male rappers.  Nicki Minaj had flown into my hip hop radar with her mixtape “Beam Me Up, Scotty.”  Its cover art, which features Nicki and her bountiful curves in a skintight, barely there Wonder Woman outfit, was in itself enough to make the feminist in me have a stroke.  Her rhymes provoked equal alarm.  How could I, as a feminist, respect or support a woman who spit quasi-pornographic lines like “Bitches can’t find their man ‘cause I ride it good” (“Itty Bitty Piggy”) and “Maybe it’s time to put this pussy on your sideburns” (“BedRock”) while prancing around in outrageously stripper-esque garb?

To be blunt, Nicki Minaj frightened me.  Her abrasive, slightly schizophrenic tone and unabashed use of misogynistic diction made me uncomfortable.  I could not accept her brazen female sexuality as anything more than a ploy to obtain male attention and furthermore, I felt a little violated by the ease with which she could talk about her body and her sexual exploits.  As an ally of the queer community, I was likewise bothered by Nicki’s claim to be bisexual, which I perceived to be an exploitation of queer identity for the purpose of appealing to heterosexual male fantasies of lesbian and bisexual women.  And, above all, I was horrified by the fact that young girls were idolizing Nicki, especially the fourteen- and fifteen-year-old girls from East Palo Alto that I mentored through a college access program.

Then, on Aug. 27, 2010, my relationship with Nicki Minaj was changed forever.  Kanye West had released “Monster” featuring Nicki, Rick Ross, and Jay-Z on his Twitter page. After a few listens, I was forced to join those who “unanimously decided she had the best verse” on the track. I was particularly struck by the final lines of Nicki’s verse:

Pink wig, thick ass, give ‘em whiplash
I think big, get cash, make ‘em blink fast
Now look at what you just saw
This is what you live for
[Screams] I’m a muthaf-ckin monster!

She beats the boys at their own game through a verse that goes, to borrow a phrase, hard as a motherfucker. In the process, Nicki also affirms herself, from her unique sense of style to her entrepreneurial aspirations. Her assertion that “This is what you live for” situates Nicki in a position of power, wherein listeners beg for the sustenance her rhymes provide.

It is this same notion of power – as well as empowerment – that catalyzed my reevaluation of Nicki Minaj. I began to question the social constructions of womanhood as well as the hegemony within certain tracks of feminist thought that caused my discomfort with Nicki. What’s more, I realized that I wasn’t cool with Nicki speaking so openly about her body and sexuality not because it constituted a violation of my feminism, but because the norms of our patriarchal society dictate that women ought not to openly express their sexuality – and I had internalized those norms. Why shouldn’t I be okay with Nicki’s language? The way she dresses? The ideologies she espouses? Considering these questions and others has brought me to the conclusion that ultimately, no one is forcing Nicki Minaj to dress and act like a coquettish Barbie. Everything she does is of her own volition, and she is not submissive to patriarchy. Rather, Nicki takes patriarchal notions of femininity and womanhood, reclaims them, and makes them work for her. In doing so, she reverses the paradigm of female inferiority and submissiveness and creates a model of empowerment for those who look up to her.

As is the case with all hip hop artists, Nicki’s core fan base is comprised of youth. While I was once appalled by the idea that young people could be looking up to Nicki as a role model, my newfound respect for her has given me a different perspective. Nicki Minaj’s massive success and popularity presents us with a unique opportunity to rework our definition of a role model toward one that isn’t focused on what adults deem worthy of admiration, but rather is geared toward finding positivity and worth in what youth are drawn to. In other words, we ought to work toward meeting and validating youth where they are instead of sermonizing about where they ought to be.

Here are 6 reasons why Nicki Minaj provides a space for youth, specifically young women and queer youth, to feel represented in the overwhelmingly sexist and homophobic domain of hip hop:

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Table For Three: The Racialicious Roundup on ‘Run The World (Girls)’

By The Racialicious Editorial Board

Beyonce might not completely run the world, but she’s certainly dominated the blogosphere news cycle since the release of the video for “Run The World (Girls).” Rather than each of us having a go at analyzing the song and the video, we decided it best to get together online and talk about not just the message Beyonce’s song is promoting, but how it fits in with other representations of Girl Power, as well as the song’s problematic backstory.
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