Tag Archives: sexual stereotypes

Bell Hooks on hip hop

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

This clip is from a 1996 video, bell hooks on Video: Cultural Criticism & Transformation, and in this segment, bell hooks discusses hip hop in the context of patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism. It’s fascinating stuff. Thanks very much to Chris for the tip!

Internalizing Stereotypes, Part 1 – From the Outside In

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

Dear average-sized penis,

Ugh. I don’t really know how to say this. We’ve been in and around so much together. And I really do appreciate the effort you’ve put in thus far. But I’m sure you have sensed my growing disappointment over the years. I guess the bottom line is I expected you to be a lot more at this point. I keep waiting for you to grow up, but you never do [...]

What’s that? Look, I don’t want to hear it. Yeah, maybe if you were on a white guy, or an Asian guy, or a girl, your reputation would be a lot better at this point. You might be a little more “remarkable.” But the fact of the matter is you’re on a black guy, and you are underachieving.

— “An Open Letter from a Black Guy to His Average Sized Penis,” The Assimilated Negro

In an earlier Racialicious post, I wrote about Details magazine and their coverage of the Mandingos – a subset of swingers who play to interracial humiliation and domination fantasies.

Several posters noted that members of certain minority groups seem to internalize positive stereotypes. While I did not quite agree, I couldn’t exactly disagree either. So, ever since the post was published in February, I’ve been taking careful notes of what happens when you – as a minority – do not fulfill your stereotypical role.

Stereotype: All Asians are smart/intelligent/diligent/ mathematically inclined.

One day, not too long ago, I was relaxing back at my apartment, watching AZN network. Hae was with me, flipping through some of my manga collection. She harbors a healthy distain for AZN network, feeling like it does not represent anything close to what she wants to watch. I, on the other hand, adore AZN network (or at least, pre-staff cut AZN network) because it allows me to get access to music videos, movies, and dramas I would not otherwise see.

And Hapa (host of the Bridge) was pretty hot.

Anyway.

The Bridge goes to break, and AZN starts promoting their show line up. One show had two perky co-hosts who were supposed to be the new voices of generation 1.5. During the quick promo, the male host flippantly commented, “Well, we can’t all be doctors and lawyers.”

Hae snorted. “For real,” she affirmed, not looking up from her book.

Uh, rewind that back?

Hae shared with me some of her reality, growing up Asian-American and wanting to be an artist. While she never felt family pressure to be a doctor or lawyer, her family insists on higher and higher levels of education. After almost a year of fighting, Hae finally convinced her mother to pass on graduate school and to allow her to get a teaching certificate instead. Hae hasn’t been interested in school since completing high school. This pressure is compounded by her other friend’s career choices. In Hae’s circle, many of her friends are high achieving doctors, lawyers, optometrists, architects, and tech gurus. Her career choice is glaringly different, especially considering we live outside of the nation’s capital, home of the highly driven.

I was also privy to the issues that pop up with positive stereotyping at my last job. My boss, as cool as she was, made a comment to me on a day Hae was off. I told her that Hae was a bit confused about her timesheets and wanted to make sure the changes were correct. I also wanted to get a quick check on how she was doing in her first couple weeks, as Hae was concerned. My former boss waved away the concerns saying, “Well, I tend to find that Asian employees are more diligent and hardworking. I knew there wasn’t going to be any trouble.” Continue reading

Book Review: Jabari Asim’s The N Word

by guest contributor Swerl, originally posted at Swerl

Pop quiz! Who said…

a) To be plain, I wish to get quit of Negroes…

b) I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in endowments both of body and mind.

c) I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race…

Answers?

a) George Washington (in a 1778 letter to his plantation manager)
b) Thomas Jefferson (Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785)
c) Abraham Lincoln (1858)!!

These bon mots and more are revealed in Jabari Asim’s new(ish) book, The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, and Why. What Asim (syndicated columnist and deputy editor of the Washington Post Book World) has accomplished in this slender, powerful book, is a concise history of African-Americans… as told BY whites TO other whites.

Through the lens of the “N” word, from first recorded usage through today, Asim makes the persuasive case that whites could not deal with the dichotomy of being good, God-fearing men of noble purpose AND slave owners. Instead of abolishing slavery at the birth of the nation, our glorious founding fathers created a myth around those they had brutally imported from Africa to MORALLY justify the Africans’ enslavement. To do this, they created the “N—–”, and bent reality to fit their story. It helped the whites sleep at night AND get their cotton picked. Africans were not the same race as whites. They were animalistic in their joys, passions and fears. Because their pleasure was only base sexual gratification and their pain was “transitory”, there was no moral imperative to keep families intact, honor their history, allow them to keep their names or grant dignity to them in any way. Because they were “fearful” of freedom, and too stupid to be of use, slavery was, in fact, a COMPASSIONATE alternative to freedom.

Because they were not human, it didn’t matter if white men slept with black woman, but it was an affront for any lust-crazed Negro to sleep with a white woman.

Because they were simpleminded, they loved to dance and sing merrily while working 18 hour days.

But, because they were animalistic, they could turn mean and evil and needed to be put down.

W.E.B. Du Bois cleverly called this “racial folklore”, and insisted that its presence made the “color line”, as he called it, transcend simple economic exploitation. For example, while other ethnic minorities have been or are being exploited for their labor, it is unique to the black experience to have an identity manufactured by the dominant white society and then brutally and systemically imposed — even imprinted — onto them, the “…belief that somewhere between men and cattle, God created a tertium quid, and called it a Negro — a clownish, simple creature, at times even lovable within its limitations.”

In the subsequent pages, Asim traces the implementation of this “racial folklore” through American history, proving his point with devastating detail. Almost like a prosecutor, even if you have known all the facts, seeing them all pulled together in such a cogent way makes it clear to ANYONE that whites have tried to rewrite the reality of black America with the merciless, pernicious efficiency of Orwellian scope. “2+2=5″. Winston Smith needed not just repeat it, but BELIEVE it. Internalize it.

Slaves not willing to work in subhuman conditions? They’re lazy!
Slaves pretending to like whitefolk to get by? They’re jolly darkies!
Slaves try to run away because they don’t like being slaves? They’re aggressive, violent, predatory animals out to rape white women and kill white men!

Again, a quote by W.E.B. Du Bois sums it up perfectly. “Everything Negroes did was wrong. If they fought for freedom, they were beasts; if they did not fight, they were born slaves. If they cowered on the plantation, they loved slavery; if they ran away, they were loafers. If they sang, they were silly, if they scowled, they were impudent… And they were funny, funny — ridiculous baboons, aping men!” Continue reading

Know Your Place, Woman: BET’s Meet the Faith on Black Marriage

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

[Warning: Long post. You might want to grab a snack...]

BET has been dead to me for a while now.

I would have to say I stopped watching BET in high school. With the occasional channel flick to check out music videos, nothing on BET interested me. Not 106 and Park, not BET Nightly News. Nothing.

So imagine my surprise when my best friend called me up and told me to turn on BET, like ASAP.

“They are talking about the state of black marriage!” she yelled, then hung up the phone.

I flipped over to the channel, fearing the worst.

On BET’s Meet the Faith, host Dr. Ian Smith hosted an honest and forthcoming discussion about marriage in the African-American community.

From the tone of the panel to the how the subject matter was covered, it is obvious that we have a long way to go.

The show was set up with two short segments – one black woman’s testimony about marrying outside of the race and an attorney’s venture into blind dating, along with BET personality Cheming interviewing people on the street about their thoughts and feelings about marriage.

The main event, however, was the panel discussion. Ian Smith hosted the discussion, and the featured guests were Dr. Tiy-E Muhammed (billed as an Author and Relationship Expert), Lauren Lake (a legal analyst) and Thomas Lopez-Pierre, Owner of the Harlem Club.

Automatically, I am put on edge. What kind of conversation happens in a 2-on-1 setting? One would at least imagine you would put an equal number of guests when discussing matters of gender.

Some key quotes from the discussion (and a little bit of my reactions) are as follows:

“Black men don’t want a partner, they want wives.” — Lopez-Pierre

It should be noted that Lake jumped all over him for making this assertion. Lopez-Pierre went on to argue that a partner indicates an equal. While I could not catch everything he said (which is why I can’t quote this part), he stated that having an equal or a partner basically means he has to respect the time of his partner, which would mean he would need to do things to help out like make dinner, or clean the house, which is something he refuses to do. Ergo, he wants a wife – not a partner. Lopez-Pierre talks about his relationship with his wife as an example. It is interesting to see where he draws the distinction – a partner is someone you have to pay attention to, a wife is a person who accommodates her man. This perspective is revisited later in the broadcast. Continue reading

ANTM: The Drinking Game*

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse

I was originally going to write a full article about all the patronizing, classist, and racist things Tyra & the Gang (T&tG) said on the most recently aired America’s Next Top Model Cycle 8, but our friend Malena Amusa over at Race Wire beat me to it :- )

So I thought I’d made a fun little game for those of you who have TiVo-d all the episodes or pre-ordered the Cycle 8 box set (no judgment—we all have our guilty pleasures). I mean, Tyra did say that ANTM “is not just about a pretty picture . . . it’s about more than that,” so here’s your opportunity to prove her right.

Please be warned, if you decide to use alcohol for this game (highly un-recommended considering the frequency of T&tG’s slip-ups), be sure to keep a cell phone pre-programmed with “9-1-1” close by. My suggestion, however, is to use water. You’ll be sure to get in your daily recommended dose of 2 liters.

Take a shot for each time anyone from T&tG (including, but not limited to Tyra Banks, Jay Manuel, Miss Jay, Nigel Barker, Twiggy, the contestants, and the special guest judges):

  1. makes a reference to a track, weave, and/or wig when speaking to a contestant of color
  2. says someone “looks foreign”
  3. questions Natasha (the Russian contestant)’s ability to understand English
  4. switches into an accent when speaking a person whose first language is not English
  5. refers to Jaslene, the Puerto Rican contestant, as “spicy” or “fiery”
  6. says the word “fierce”
  7. questions Jael (the half black/half white contestant)’s “realness,” “blackness,” national origin, and/or racial identity
  8. uses the term “ghetto” as a surrogate term for trashy, cheap, poorly made, and/or uneducated
  9. attempts to speak for his or her entire ethnic/racial group, sexual orientation, and/or place of origin
  10. asserts her “American-ness,” gratitude to America, and/or tells a sob story about her native country or old neighborhood
  11. praises/thanks Tyra
  12. asks a contestant to say something in her native language
  13. uses subtitles
  14. expects the contestants to behave in a stereotypical way, then questions their effort and commitment to the competition if they do not do so
  15. uses the term “cha cha”
  16. compares modeling to “acting like a ho”
  17. treats his/her moment on television as a public service announcement on otherness
  18. makes a sweeping statement about lesbians or gays
  19. supplies Latin music as an aural backdrop to appearances made by Jaslene
  20. supplies hip hop as background music during appearance made by Jael in order to remind us she is half black even though she “doesn’t look it”

*Please note, this game also doubles as a youtube scavenger hunt!

A Daycare Called Cuba: Iberia Ad More Than “Sexist”

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse, originally published at The Coup Magazine

“It was completely trivial” said a spokeswoman for Iberia Airlines’ new ad. I suppose that should be expected, but it never ceases to amaze me that some people consider the degradation of historically oppressed groups as “trivial,” “fun,” or “just a joke.” Maybe that’s because our society has a history of accepting stereotypes as truths, so veiling them in humor is its feeble attempt to disguise the simple fact that it can’t distinguish between one or the other. It may also be a result of the belief some hold that we are all equals and treated fairly. If this condition of equality is a given, then debasing one group or another is not expected to cause harm, embarrassment, or any real long-term affects. Maybe Spain’s national airline felt that they were engaging in harmless fun, simply teasing their colonial little brother Cuba, but not everyone shared Iberia’s interpretation. Ruben Sanchez, a spokesperson for Facua, a Spanish consumer rights group, found the commercial to be sexist and generally offensive to Cubans. Facua called for the advertisement, which is part of a set of commercials for Iberia’s website, to be pulled. Iberia complied. They apologized, stating that the ad was not meant to offend anyone, and removed it from television on May 16th. But considering that someone had thought up the commercial and allowed it to air in the first place, the damage had already been done.

When I saw the ad for the first time, I thought beyond sexism. Before me was a representation of women of African descent that has somehow lasted for more than three centuries. I saw an animated articulation of the remnants of European colonial dominance over a Caribbean nation and its women. There was so much to take in from such a short clip that I wanted to slow down and think about it in parts. I watched the video again, this time in silence. After muting the volume, I began to mentally catalogue the images I saw. Before the clip commenced, a tableau appeared of a fair-skinned baby in a rocking chair surrounded by two brown-skinned, dark haired, large lipped women frozen mid-dance, holding maracas and wearing bikini tops with Daisy Duke cutoff shorts. Once the video unfolded, it seemed. . . fairly harmless, but three things stood out to me:

1. The color contrast between the baby and his adult playmates.
Both women featured in the commercial have brown skin, one a shade slightly darker than the other, and the men who provide musical accompaniment for the commercial are also varying shades of brown, from light to dark. This contrast is common in tourism advertisements, particularly those in Europe and the United States (with the exception of the recent Bahamas vacation ads). The tourist is almost always white and the “natives” are always brown, black, or yellow. Last time I checked, people of color also go on vacation, but maybe advertising executives don’t want to confuse the consumer audience by featuring them as tourists alongside people who look just like them. Funny enough, this never seems to be a problem in white-on-white ads encouraging people to go to European countries. Continue reading

Craigslist Personals: Desperately Seeking Diversity Training

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse

I’ve always liked reading personal ads. Even when I was a little girl, I would check out the back of the paper in hopes of finding a boyfriend for my widowed mom, and in the meantime, made an attempt to figure out what was going on in the minds of grown-ups as they searched for someone with whom to live “happily ever after.” There were certain acronyms and terms used in the ads that I didn’t quite understand at a young age (i.e. NSA: no strings attached or BBW: big beautiful woman), but for the most part, I thought I had a handle on what I was taking in at my elementary school reading level. It wasn’t until I became a bit older that I began to notice an interesting trend: personal ads are riddled with messages, some more subtle than others, on how people feel about race, ethnicity, and nationality.

With the emergence of the internet, I abandoned the paper and began perusing online ads, some of which read more like military code than personal descriptions: “SWF BBW in NYC seeks 30 – 35 y.o. D&D free S or D H/W/B/A/M for NSA BSDM ASAP in area codes 10003, 100019, and 10011. You must host. Pics? STR.” While these types of ads make virtual bulletin boards appear cluttered, others are well-written, funny, romantic, and/or so outlandish that they are hard to ignore. Sites like Craigslist became popular resources for finding any and every thing, from apartments and pets to jobs and vacation rentals. The personal ads were no different. Considering the privacy feature of anonymous posting in order to protect one’s identity, the personal ads serve as e-snapshots of candid thought—inside peaks into what the people I encounter on a daily basis may think of themselves, but, more importantly, how they view the world around them.

I checked the CL personals about as often as I checked for apartments, or, in other words, every five seconds, even though I wasn’t really looking for anything heavy duty in the love department and happened to be quite satisfied with my Brooklyn 2-bedroom and its 14 month lease. Reading the personals was a perfect way to find a little piece of reality TV-esque drama without all the heavy editing, good lighting, and stage makeup. The ads were frank, the boards were frequently updated, and the content never failed to amuse me, but behind all the fun, there was an underbelly of racism. This came as a bit of a surprise considering that so many of the CL posters were young, educated, and lived in diverse and densely populated urban environments—all oft-cited demographic factors in the commonly held belief that racism is on its way out. Though politicians, institutions of higher learning, and Ward Connerly would like for us to believe that the United States is on its way to becoming a colorblind utopia, a simple examination of Craigslist personal ads proves quite the opposite.

In the world of online dating, where a user name, masked email address, and optional photo sharing means freedom to speak ones mind in complete anonymity, users frequently abandon political correctness and resort to exotification, stereotypes, and blatant racism when referring to racial/ethnic “others” in their attempts to choose a mate. While some ads include the user’s thoughts on race in more subtle ways, for example, simply stating a racial “preference” (still, arguably, a sign of prejudice), others are more obvious in their descriptions—ranging from the utilization of explicitly racist phrases or terms to describe his/her own background and/or the background of the person being sought to downright exclusion a la Jim Crow style (“No -insert race here- need apply”).

I examined New York Craigslist personals for a week straight, mainly focusing on the basic m4m, f4m, m4m, and f4f ads as the prevalence of racist epithets/hate speech was so common in the “casual encounters” and “rants and raves” sections that I’d have to write an entirely separate article to cover them. In order to find data, I simply typed in a group (i.e. “Asian,” “white,” “black”) in the search box and let the magic happen. Here were some of my favorites (organized by search term) from my early set of results (please ignore the typos…I have left them in their original form):

  • WHITE: “I’m looking for a nice all American woman…Tell me about yourself and what you do, etc. I’m not picky about age, older is fine with me. White Irish or Italian is my preference, not into Latin women. . .”

Hmmm . . . an “All-American” woman who is of Irish or Italian background. . . Can anyone say “contradiction”? Is he not just saying that “All-American” equates to white, and that “Latin women” are nowhere close? Continue reading

Lit Love: Anthologies and Short Essays

by Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

I love to take a peek inside the mind of someone else.

I have always been interested in the reality and perspectives of others, especially when it is one that is so different from my own. My love of reading is rooted in this desire to know.

With that in mind, I am recommending a quick list of books guaranteed to shake a few mental paradigms.

Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism
(Seal Press, 2002)

This was one of the first books I picked up about women of color and feminism that was not from the African-American perspective. The narratives in this collection illuminate struggles that are not always heard, even within the feminist community – Native American women, Desi girls, Islamic girls. Tackling topics from sexuality to sex work to abortion to gentrification, Colonize This! succeeds in humanizing issues that are often discussed only in the abstract.

[Side note: One of the Amazon commentators for this book left the following gem: "To think about racism is to be racist. People should think about other things." Wow.]

When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks It Down
(Simon & Schuster, 2000)

After scooping this up at a bookstore sale, I promptly devoured it in one sitting, and have spent the last four years loaning it out to any of my friends who happened to glance in the direction of my bookcase. Morgan’s work is refreshing, groundbreaking, and real. Her essays pop with ideas, including my two favorites, “StrongBlackWoman and the EndangeredBlack Man” and “Chickenhead Envy.”

In “StrongBlackWoman -n-EndangeredBlackMen…This is Not a Love Story” Morgan directly confronts a myth that many black women hold on to like a life raft in a churning sea: the StrongBlackWoman. Mythical and powerful, the stereotype empowers women but also hinders them – underneath the SBW banner, it is difficult to have your fears, pains, and vulnerabilities taken seriously. Other people, who willingly buy into this stereotype, see the SBW and just assume she can do all things, for all people, all the time – and then lash out if she dares to show a weakness.

“Chickenhead Envy” deals with the irrational but real pain women feel when confronted with the gold-digging stereotype that seems to have no problems with money, men, or status based ambition. Morgan cuts right to the heart of the matter, admitting that while it feels great to do for one’s self, that feeling of accomplishment fades when you see chickenheads reaping the immediate rewards of their craft.

Engaging, thought-provoking, and challenging, When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost is a long time favorite of mine.

Border-Line Personalities: A New Generation of Latinas Dish on Sex, Sass, and Cultural Shifting
(Rayo, 2004)

I saw this book on the shelves at my local library, and was attracted by the hot pink cover, displaying a photo of a skirt worn with some killer boots. Over the course of two days, I dipped into contemporary Latina reality. Divided into three sections, Border-line personalities confronts love, family, and reality through the eyes of Latinas in the know.

I’ll have to admit, a lot of things in this book went over my head. A large portion of the first section features writers who switch between Spanish and English, using colloquial phrases that the Altavista BabelFish couldn’t handle. But fair enough – I don’t speak Spanish, and I’m sneaking glimpses into someone else’s reality. This book was not written for me.

However, I still managed to pull a lot of enjoyment from this one. Carmen Wong’s story is difficult and touching, and Jackie Guerra provides a fresh perspective on being Latina in Hollywood. There were also some interesting stories about relationships, including the testimony of a Lesbian Latina, a stranded New Yorker’s quest for her lover during the 2003 blackout, and a girl learning her way around an adult relationship with her alcoholic father.

Highly enjoyable, highly recommended. (Unfortunately, the comments on Amazon are split 50-50. )

Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips, and Other Parts
(Perigee Trade, 2005)

I adore this collection for not turning away from the rougher aspects of the African-American female experience. While the celebrity pages were a bit lacking (Melyssa Ford has rehashed her views on being a video model in the same way in three different publications), the narratives from real women were poignant and touching. There was a narrative from a generation 1.5 African-American teen who receives complements on her deep smooth skin and regal stature, but receives absolutely no play from African-American boys; a few narratives of the fear felt dealing with the street sex market; narratives about loving yourself in a larger size, including a fabulous reference to Miss Piggy as a role model for body confidence; the issues involved with being black and living abroad; and the rant from a light skinned woman with a yard-long weave on the hypocrisy that categorizes black hair politics. Sexual abuse and gender politics are also featured prominently in this collection. I plan on gifting this book to a few young girls I know. Continue reading