Tag Archives: MTV

Miley Cyrus, Feminism and The Struggle for Black Recognition

by Guest Contributor Jacqui Germain

[Video NSFW]

On Sunday night, four of my friends and I—all people of color—watched a YouTube clip of Miley Cyrus’ performance completely prepared to laugh and joke about it by its conclusion. We were expecting something that would fit neatly in the long line of ridiculous and yet mostly entertaining awards show performances. Instead, as the YouTube clip reached its end, the room fell completely silent. Even as a writer, I don’t quite have words to describe what that moment felt like. Using academic lingo to explain why cultural appropriation is problematic is one thing; the feeling in your gut when you actually watch parts of your identity being used as props is another. As is true with so many shockingly specific traumatic black experiences, this is a feeling we all recognize immediately, and a feeling we all have no words to describe. In the hours and days following, the critical feminist response was, yet again, a reminder of the ways in which my blackness—even as it exists in concurrence with my femininity—is still actively being othered.

A few weeks have passed since the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen hashtag first surfaced on Twitter. The subsequent conversation about the lack of representation and further marginalization of women of color by white women in the feminist movement (not at all a new conversation) seemed suddenly reenergized. Women of color have always talked about the subtle racism that happens within the feminist movement; just because you haven’t heard it, doesn’t mean it hasn’t been said—especially considering which narratives are allowed space and which ones aren’t. But with this hashtag, their voices suddenly had a stage. And some white women listened. Some critiqued their own privilege and pointed out the ways the feminist movement has historically dismissed women of color and their experiences. But now, it seems that even those well-meaning white feminists have yet to turn their articles into actual actions.

Most of the responses following Cyrus’ performance have been a conversation of the unconventional way in which she expressed her sexuality on the VMAs stage and the slut-shaming that ensued. Many feminists have since rushed to her defense and appropriately prompted us all to question our immediate negative response to Cyrus’ choice sexual presentation. And don’t get me wrong, it’s a valid stance—in the sense that slut-shaming is certainly a habit that supports rape culture and demanding that society recognizes a woman’s sexual autonomy is hard and necessary work. Back when Cyrus was being sexual without involving the appropriation of my blackness, I was totally on board. Now? Not so much.

Here’s where the racial fissures in feminism come out: by all means, defend a woman’s right to govern her own body; it’s great that white feminists have that goal at the top of their lists. But meanwhile, as a woman of color, I’m still defending my right to actually be considered a body at all and not decoration. Expressing your sexuality at my expense isn’t okay. You don’t get to claim sexual freedom while simultaneously perpetuating the oppression of another body. When you feel the need to express your sexuality by turning my body into an accessory, the black feminist in me—two identities which I refuse to separate—can’t have your back anymore. The feminist struggle is a struggle for autonomy. It’s a fight for recognition and full-body respect. But in Cyrus’ search for and exploration of her sexual identity, she limits my autonomy as a woman of color. She appropriates it. She cheapens it. She effectively uses the identity and lived experiences of so many women of color as a crutch for her career. Continue reading

Missing In Lawndale: The Daria Spoof Trailer’s Near-Total Whitewashing

By Arturo R. García

So late last week, this fake trailer for a live-action Daria movie started going around online:

The premise, which brings the eponymous anti-heroine back to Lawndale for her high-school reunion, is clever. And the casting of Aubrey Plaza is not only a great comedic fit, but it would be another great spotlight for her as a biracial actress in a lead role; if it were to come to pass, it wouldn’t be a bad follow-up at all to her work in The To-Do List.

But, while the trailer does maximize its time in showing us updated versions of Daria, Jane Lane, Daria’s family and representatives of the student body and town Daria was so glad to leave behind, Tanya at Geekquality noted the first glaring absence: no sign of Jodie Landon.
Continue reading

Friday Foolishness: Selena Gomez Is Wearing A Bindi?

By Andrea Plaid

Image via The Aerogram

Image via The Aerogram.

Usually, this space at this time is reserved for the Racialicious Crush Of The Week. But sometimes we gotta keep our Fridays light by giving some side-eye to some face-palming foolishness.

This week’s features some old-school kyriarchy from former Disney star Selena Gomez, who’s been styling out with bindis since the MTV Video Awards in mid-April. Before folks jump in the comments and talk about how that’s impossible for a woman of color to appropriate from another culture of color…as we say around these parts, “If you’re not part of the group, then you’re more than likely appropriating.” And Gomez, who is the child of a Mexican-American dad and a white mom, wears the bindi with the privileges of a non-South Asian woman born and reared in the US.

The Aerogram’s Jaya Bedi wrote a great post eloquently summing up what’s all wrong with Gomez putting on a bindi:

 It is a problem when religious symbols become widespread and therefore lose their religious significance. But the fear of dilution isn’t really an issue here — the bindi has lost whatever religious significance it once had to Hindus some time ago, and is now used mostly for decoration. Madonna and Gwen Stefani didn’t turn the bindi into a fashion statement when they adopted it in the 90s — we desi women already did so years before that.

What makes the non-South Asian person’s use of the bindi problematic is the fact that a  pop star like Selena Gomez wearing one is guaranteed to be better received than I would if I were  to step out of the house rocking a dot on my forehead. On her, it’s a bold new look; on me, it’s a symbol of my failure to assimilate. On her, it’s unquestionably cool; on me, it’s yet another marker of my Otherness, another thing that makes me different from other American girls. If the use of the bindi by mainstream pop stars made it easier for South Asian women to wear it, I’d be all for its proliferation — but it doesn’t. They lend the bindi an aura of cool that a desi woman simply can’t compete with, often with the privilege of automatic acceptance in a society when many non-white women must fight for it.

I understand being a little flummoxed at the rage that the bindi issue inspires in our community. The anger always seems disproportionate to the crime. But will I celebrate the “mainstreaming” of a South Asian fashion item? Nope. Not when the mainstream doesn’t accept the people who created it.

Related posts:

Cultural Appropriation: Homage Or Insult

Indigenous Feminism And Cultural Appropriation

On Cultural Appropriation: Halloween And Beyond

Miss(ed) Representations, Part One: “I’m A Culture, Not A Costume” Campaign

Open Letter To the PocaHotties And Indian Warriors This Halloween

 

On Race, Feminism, and Jodie Landon

By Guest Contributor Lois Payne, cross-posted from Geekquality

I loved MTV’s Daria growing up, which really isn’t that big of a surprise because who didn’t love Daria, right? At the time, the show was exactly what I needed to cope with middle school (and life in general). Daria was sarcastic, monotone, and aware of being too smart and self-aware to deal with everyone around her–a familiar scenario I empathized with deeply. As I’ve been rewatching the show recently, reminded of how perfectly it captured how I felt as a kid and still feel to this day, I noticed that this time it’s not Daria and Jane who command my attention. Instead, I found myself focusing on a girl just as intelligent and snarky as Daria, but even more fringe and alternative than either could possibly fathom: Jodie Landon.

Look at her. Gaze upon the one person who is even more aware of the irony and hypocrisy of the world than Daria Morgendorffer. This is the one person who has even more right and insight to call everyone out on their sh-t. Meet Jodie Landon–popular girl, homecoming queen, model student, and young woman of color.

Continue reading

R.I.P Don Cornelius (1936-2012)

By Arturo R. García

He was both the host and the ambassador for generations of artists, dancers, and music lovers. He was a journalist and an activist. And he was the conductor of “the hippest trip in America.”

Wednesday, everyone who ever listened to him wish viewers “love, peace, and soul” mourned the death of Don Cornelius, who was found in his home by police after apparently committing suicide.

Cornelius developed and hosted Soul Train, the kind of show that makes words like “influential” seem small. Soul Train ran for 35 years, making it the longest first-run syndicated show in history. But the show almost didn’t grow out of being a successful local program on WCIU-TV in Chicago.

Continue reading

If You Haven’t Been On Food Stamps, Stop Trying to Influence Government Policy

by Latoya Peterson

This is a public service announcement intended for journalists, news outlets, bloggers, folks in charge of creating policy, and people who have been lucky enough to have never relied on government assistance for basic necessities like food.

Just stop. Just stop the madness.

The latest in this ridiculousness? Fast Company weighing in on what people should and should not be eating on food stamps.

The writer is pulling all of these assumptions out of the air, based on what can theoretically be purchased on food stamps and an assumption that silly poor people don’t know that they will need to maximize their monthly allotment.  They also seem to ignore that some people do eat well on SNAP – there isn’t much data about what types of food are most commonly purchased using EBT cards, but national studies don’t really show much of a link between eating well or eating poorly and food stamps.  It really depends on the person.  Which is why lines like this are infuriating:

[I]f you live in cities like New York City and San Francisco, you should revel in your clean tap water, and save your food stamps for other things. [...]

If [the New York soda ban] passed, the ban would prevent people from using food stamps to buy carbonated and non-carbonated beverages that are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup or sugar and have more than 10 calories per eight-ounce serving. Is this over the top? Quite likely. But it’s an interesting thought experiment: What would happen to obesity and diabetes rates if soda was taken off the food-stamp approval list? [...]

One fancy lobster would suck up a good portion of a monthly food stamp allowance–and if you can afford to do that, you should just use cash. Not that poor people shouldn’t get to enjoy lobster. They just shouldn’t use our tax dollars.

13% of Americans are on SNAP.  It’s certainly one of the highest rates of SNAP usage since the program has started but let’s be real here – if every single person on SNAP was completely healthy and fit, we wouldn’t make a dent in America’s problem.  (And, in general, when people talk about issues with America’s health, it’s really just a veiled way to say “eew, fat people.”  Measuring national health is a set of shifting goal posts, and the solutions to a lot of these problems is ending subsidies on certain products.  But its easier to pretend that a growing nation is the result of three hundred million individual failures.)

The SNAP program is also considered one of the most successful government programs there is.  Families are hungry – people get food. It’s rather simple.  The problem comes in when people try to nickel and dime the SNAP program, like the writer above, in service of…well whatever.  Small government, personal responsibility, straight up bigotry, political expediency – the SNAP program takes the hit.  It’s a popular program, but thanks to the way we demonize people on any sort of government assistance, it seen as something that we need to regulate, lest the undeserving poor get to live the high life on taxpayer dollars.

And what a high life it is. Let’s look at the numbers. Continue reading

Skins: MTV Americanizes Teen Debauchery

by Latoya Peterson

If you’ve already seen the original British version of the teen drama Skins, you can comfortably skip the American one.  Despite placing the reboot in an unnamed city decimated by the post-industrial slump (this was originally Baltimore, but they scrapped the idea) and earning the rare chance to discuss American class and race politics, last night’s premiere was just a toothless re-enactment of the original.

As full disclosure, I had never seen Skins before last night’s premiere, and wasn’t familiar with the story line.  So, as I watched, I tried to figure out where in iconic American teen programing this would fit.  There isn’t a precedent for Skins, really -  My So Called Life probably comes the closest, as the first teen drama that didn’t present neatly packaged solutions to common teen problems.  But Angela Chase was big on thought, nor action – and the kids from Skins are too busy living their lives to be overly self-reflective.

The American version of Skins revolves around Tony and his crew. Tony is the central character, though Skins loosely follows the story lines of one teen per episode. MTV’s summary explains:

We’ll meet TONY; good looking, witty, manipulative – he wants everything, and usually gets it. Then there’s his girlfriend MICHELLE; gorgeous and clever, just not clever enough to realize Tony may not be the right one for her. And maybe the right one is actually Tony’s best friend, STANLEY. He’s everything Tony isn’t, and that might end up being a good thing. Of course, Stanley is stuck in a pretend relationship with CADIE, possibly the most dysfunctional girl ever to attend a high school… or maybe that’s all just another thing she’s faking. You’ll love CHRIS because, well, everyone does. No drug is too obscure for him to try, and no sexual mountain too high for him to climb. Complicating everyone’s life is the infamous TEA. She likes girls. And girls like her. What more is there to figure out… right? And let’s not forget ABBUD, the not so devout Moslem and DAISY, the responsible one of the group who is just itching to break some rules of her own.

Be it sex, drugs, the breadth of friendships or the depth of heartbreaks, Skins is an emotional mosh-pit that slams through the insanity of teenage years. They’ll crush hearts and burn brain cells, while fearlessly confronting every obstacle head on…or slightly off.

But the interesting bit is how the summary illuminates exactly what is missing. Continue reading