Tag Archives: masculinity

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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Listening To Kanye [The Mental Health Files]

808′s and Heartbreak Album Cover.

 

Went through, deep depression when my momma passed/
Suicide, what kinda talk is that?/
But I been talking to God for so long/
And if you look at my life I guess he’s talking back- Kanye West, “Clique,” Cruel Summer

As often as Kanye West talks about the state of his mental health, one would think that we’d be having a national conversation on mental health–kind of like the way we had a wave of conversations about domestic violence in the wake of the Chris Brown-Rihanna incident. Yet, in the four years since Kanye began talking openly about the depression related to the death of his mother and the dissolution of his romantic relationship with longtime paramour Alexis Phifer, the conversations have continued to be one-sided.

A search for “Kanye West and Depression” brings up surprisingly few articles and discussions. There’s a sterile AP article describing his initial comments, Cord Jefferson advising Kanye to go to a therapist on The Root, an MTV news article on his path to recovery, and Tom Breihan in the Village Voice distilling 808′s and Heartbreak down to “emo bellyaching” and a “album-length tantrum at his ex.” While Bassey Ikpi later argued to have some compassion for Kanye, it was one small plea in a sea of indifference and condemnation.

After four years of being open about pain and vulnerability, I’m starting to wonder if society will ever really hear him. Continue reading

Quoted: Kiese Laymon On Slowly Killing Yourself And Others In America

I enroll at Jackson State University in the Spring semester, where my mother teaches Political Science. Even though, I’m not really living at home, everyday Mama and I fight over my job at Cutco and her staying with her boyfriend and her not letting me use the car to get to my second job at an HIV hospice since my license is suspended. Really, we’re fighting because she raised me to never ever forget I was on parole, which means no black hoodies in wrong neighborhoods, no jogging at night, hands in plain sight at all times in public, no intimate relationships with white women, never driving over the speed limit or doing those rolling stops at stop signs, always speaking the king’s English in the presence of white folks, never being outperformed in school or in public by white students and most importantly, always remembering that no matter what, white folks will do anything to get you.

Mama’s antidote to being born a black boy on parole in Central Mississippi is not for us to seek freedom; it’s to insist on excellence at all times. Mama takes it personal when she realizes that I realize she is wrong. There ain’t no antidote to life, I tell her. How free can you be if you really accept that white folks are the traffic cops of your life? Mama tells me that she is not talking about freedom. She says that she is talking about survival.

One blue night my mother tells me that I need to type the rest of my application to Oberlin College after I’ve already hand-written the personal essay. I tell her that it doesn’t matter whether I type it or not since Millsaps is sending a Dean’s report attached to my transcript. I say some other truthful things I should never say to my mother. Mama goes into her room, lifts up her pillow and comes out with her gun.

It’s raggedy, small, heavy and black. I always imagine the gun as an old dead crow. I’d held it a few times before with Mama hiding behind me.

Mama points the gun at me and tells me to get the fuck out of her house. I look right at the muzzle pointed at my face and smile the same way I did at the library camera at Millsaps. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

“You gonna pull a gun on me over some college application?” I ask her.

“You don’t listen until it’s too late,” she tells me. “Get out of my house and don’t ever come back.”

I leave the house, chuckling, shaking my head, cussing under my breath. I go sit in a shallow ditch. Outside, I wander in the topsy turvy understanding that Mama’s life does not revolve around me and I’m not doing anything to make her life more joyful, spacious or happy. I’m an ungrateful burden, an obese weight on her already terrifying life. I sit there in the ditch, knowing that other things are happening in my mother’s life but I also know that Mama never imagined needing to pull a gun on the child she carried on her back as a sophomore at Jackson State University. I’m playing with pine needles, wishing I had headphones—but I’m mostly regretting throwing my gun into the reservoir.

When Mama leaves for work in the morning, I break back in her house, go under her pillow and get her gun. Mama and I haven’t paid the phone or the light bill so it’s dark, hot and lonely in that house, even in the morning. I lie in a bathtub of cold water, still sweating and singing love songs to myself. I put the gun to my head and cock it.

From “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: A Remembrance” by Kiese Laymon, published on Gawker. Read the rest.

Ethical Manhoods: Interview With Professor And Filmmaker Celine Parreñas-Shimizu

by Guest Contributor Terry K Park, originally published at Hyphen

Celine Parreñas-Shimizu begins her latest book, Straitjacket Sexualities: Unbinding Asian American Manhoods in the Movies, with a close reading of the controversial “Gay or Asian?” photographic spread from the April 2004 issue of Details. For those who need a refresher, the spread featured an Asian American male model accompanied with captions that conflated stereotypes of Asian American and gay men, such as this gem: “One cruises for chicken; the other takes it General Tso-style. Whether you’re into shrimp balls or shaved balls, entering the dragon requires imperial tastes.”

As you can imagine, this recycling of well-worn racist and homophobic images sold as “satire” did not sit well with a lot of folks, especially Asian American men, for whom this “straitjacketed” representation of Asian American male sexuality was a reminder of the many ways in which Asian American men have historically “fallen short.” But this crisis of masculinity, Parreñas-Shimizu warns, “must not lead to solutions that actually deepen and reemphasize Asian American masculinity as lacking such that the presumed and unstated racial problem is really the queer and the feminine.” Instead of beating up other men or conquering women to lick racial wounds, Parreñas-Shimizu wants us to consider “ethical” manhoods in which Asian American male sexuality is re-defined as the care for self and care for others.

Where can we find these alternative masculinities? In the same site of representational injury: the cinema. Parreñas-Shimizu, a professor of Asian American Studies at UC Santa Barbara, takes her readers on a critical tour of Asian American films, characters, and actors past and present such as James Shigeta, Bruce Lee, and the Hmong American actor Bee Vang from Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino. In fact, a fan of her work, I hope to work with her next year, on a fellowship at UCSB. I sat down with Professor Parreñas-Shimizu last March during the 2012 San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, where she served as a respondent for a panel on Asian American media, to talk about her new book, the joys and challenges of being both an academic and a filmmaker, and of course, Jeremy Lin. Continue reading

“La Mission” and Latino Masculinities

by Guest Contributor Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano, originally published at Hairspray and Fideo and Blabbeando

[For a summary of the film, see here.]

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to see a screening of Peter Bratt’s La Mission. The screening, which was part of a limited release, was at San Francisco’s Metreon Theaters. My compañero and I, joined by two of our queer sisters of color, were lucky enough to find seats in relative proximity to each other in the sold-out space.

It was a late night screening and the vast majority of folks in the theater were people of color. In fact, I’d say most of the people there were Latina/o, with a nice mix of generations representing. The experience was unforgettable as all four of us, none of which were born and raised in San Francisco, were sitting in what seemed to be an intimate living room screening of La Mission.

We all smiled and were occasionally misty-eyed as people in the crowd, youth and adults, loudly expressed their pride in the various shots of San Francisco portrayed in the film. During the movie, I realized that this was the first time I had ever witnessed the screening of a film that embodied the geographic and cultural identities of the audience. People not only saw themselves on the big screen, they also saw the places that have shaped and witnessed them.
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Princely Tails

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

(WARNING:  Totally NSFW)

Reader Grace nearly caused a pearl-clutching moment amongst us Special Correspondents with a link to these, ahem, enhanced drawings:

David Lilio and StitchAladdin

I look at these images as I do hentai and plushies:  some people getting off on the frisson of (hyper)sexualized ideals of taboo images and items connoted to belong to the kiddie world, like Disney cartoons and stuffed animals.   So, I do understand the squick with seeing these resemblances of lust-inspiring Calvin Klein and Armani underwear images because it’s like fucking with someone’s childhood.  And childhood, regardless of quite a few people’s realities about their early years on this earth, is held as sacrosanct in its idyllic innocence—especially sexual innocence– in US culture. Continue reading

Whatever Happened to Rufio?: The Non-Asian Ideal of Masculinity

by Guest Contributor CVT


Here’s one of my first Portland (Oregon) memories:

I’m at a bar with two white male friends.  Well, actually, I’m at a Chinese restaurant and bar . . . at a karaoke night. (*1)  With two white male friends.

Anyway.

My friends, in looking for a larger table for us, chat up these three cute(ish) white girls and get them to let us join them.  The inevitable stupid conversations and “the game” ensue.

While this is all going down, I remember thinking to myself – so vividly – “these girls could give a sh– about me here, the Chinese dude.  All the attention is on (name of one of my friends), and they have hardly looked at me.  This sucks.” (*2)  I don’t know if it was reality, or me having a few too many drinks, but I ended up falling deeper and deeper into this little self-pity fest, as the evening progressed.

The thing is,  I’m actually not a bad-looking guy. (*3)  The friends with me were not exactly blessed with movie-star looks.  So what was my problem?

Well, my problem was that I’m Asian.  And male.  An Asian male.  And let’s just say that Asian males don’t have a lot of noticeable role-models in the “known-for-their-looks” department anywhere outside of the Asian continent.

No – instead, for our entire lives, we are bombarded with images and messaging about the “ideal” man – and he sure as Hell has never had Asian features.  He’s probably white.  But he may be black.  Or even Latino or Arab.  But he isn’t Asian. Continue reading

Judd Apatow and the Art of White Masculinity

by Guest Contributor Marisol LeBron, originally published at Post Pomo Nuyorican Homo

“That shit is SO fuckin’ homo”

So I finally saw Pineapple Express this weekend and throughout the whole movie the men around me were constantly expressing how “fucking gay” the movie was. I left there thinking about the two very different displays of masculinity I had just witnessed in the movie theater. The men in the audience, who were mostly young men of color in their late-teens/early-twenties, were attempting to (re)affirm their masculinity through homophobic and sexist comments in response to the perceived lack of masculinity they saw on the screen. On the screen however the cast of Pineapple Express (most of whom are white men with the exception of Craig Robinson) were celebrating their homosocial (but not homosexual) affection for each other and their outsider status as members of the informal economy. I thought about the ways that homosociality functions not only in Pineapple Express but in Judd Apatow movies generally as a comment on the state of contemporary white masculinity in American society.

For those of you who might not know who Judd Apatow is, he’s the writer and/or producer of many of the successful “Frat Pack” movies including: Pineapple Express, Step Brothers, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Superbad, Knocked Up, Talladega Nights, The 40 Year Old Virgin, and Anchorman. He’s was also the Executive Producer of the cult TV show Freaks and Geeks on NBC.

Yeah, he’s that guy. Continue reading