Archive for February, 2009

A few Words on Chris and Rihanna

Cross Posted at

Most of you have heard about the Chris Brown-Rihanna domestic violence issue. There are several sides to this story, but I will say that violence against women is a serious issue and it is an issue that needs to be addressed in our communities.

Two members of Females United for Action – 15 year old Alex Pates & 17 year old Ace Hilliard – wrote about the Chris Brown / Rihanna case.  The group is hoping that the article will be used  for discussions around intimate partner violence and how the media frames the issue.

I am so glad that these two young women are speaking out about this issue. My hope is that this story will begin an honest dialogue about domestic violence among men and women, boys and girls, gay and straight.

This is not an easy discussion nor is it an easy topic for me to write about. The thing that really bothers me about the way the media handles the Chris-Rihanna case is that it perpetuated a culture of blame when it comes to domestic violence coverage. What did Rihanna possibly do? Bloggers and reporters started to ask. Maybe she dressed too sexy. Maybe she threw his keys out the car. OMG, she gave him herpes! 

All of a sudden, the blame game began. The media–particularly entertainment media and the gossip bloggers who benefit from it–were blaming Rihanna for what had taken place. Nevermind the fact that Rihanna was in pain, mentally and physically–it was her fault right out the gate. 

Many rape and domestic violence cases go unreported because no survivor, regardless of their sex, gender, race, or sexual preference, wants to be blamed for the abuse they have experienced. No one wants to be told that perhaps they “deserved” their abuse, and no one wants to go to court only to see their absuer let off the hook. 

We need to break out of the habit of blaming the survivor for their abuse. I will acknowledge that there are several sides to cases like Chris and Rihanna but I also we must realize that a honest dialogue means having compassion and sensitivity for our friends, loved ones, sorority sisters, neighbors, and coworkers who have survived any form of abuse. An honest dialogue means being careful what we say around our children–that if we continue to be insensitive and forwarding around pictures of Rihanna’s bruised face, we are only setting a dangerous precedent for them.


Michelle’s Vogue Cover Matters

Carmen Van Kerckhove from New Demographic recently wrote about Michelle Obama’s Vogue Cover.

From CNN/AC360:

In case anyone is wondering what’s so utterly remarkable about having Michelle Obama model the cover of Vogue, consider the fashion magazine’s blighted past in matters of race.

Vogue has a history of publishing disquieting images of black people, so the March cover — showing Michelle Obama in a healthy, glowing, glamorous light — is a definite departure for the magazine.

Traditionally, Vogue has thrown a spotlight on very few faces of color. In the last decade, only five covers have featured blacks: Oprah in November 1998, Halle Berry in December 2002, Liya Kebede in May 2005, Jennifer Hudson in February 2007, and Lebron James in April 2008. And during the past 80 years, only 18 of Vogue’s covers – that’s less than 2% — have featured black women.

I couldn’t agree more. I’m sure many of you heard about the inexcusable LeBron James/Giselle Bundchen cover. This past July, I wrote about Vogue Italia and their salute to Black models.  While I was excited to see the images of Black beauty, it didn’t change the fact that a.-we still had yet to see something of its kind in American Vogue, and b.-every other ad still featured mostly White women.

But with Michelle on the cover of this month’s Vogue, perhaps there is progress in the air.

And it looks beautiful.

Behold, a Lady | Open Thread





I have no other comments except for this song right here.

What a lovely expression of Black womanhood.

Consider this an open thread….please feel free to drop links, music, blogs, news, questions, comments, and general queries 🙂

Yes Means Yes @ Busboys and Poets

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a booksigning for Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power & a World Without Rape, an anthology edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti of Feministing.

What an incredibly powerful and liberating idea: creating a world where rape is rare and where women can truly own their sexuality. The title implies that if women can say no to sex, then they also have the right and the freedom to say yes to sex as well; a remix of “no means no” if you will (which, by the way, is  still a very important piece when we talk about rape).

I did livetweet this event,  but because some of my friends and homegirls couldn’t attend,  I thought I should do a wrap-up right here on black girl blogging.

The Purity Myth: Jessica Valenti talks about who gets to be considered pure (“skinny white girls” in her words), and why it is problematic for the rest of us. “Pop culture feeds us a modernized virgin/whore dichotomy…abstinence-only sex education by day, girls gone wild by night.” Well said, Jessica

Rape and the Immigrant Woman: Miriam Pena talked about an issue I hadn’t thought of before….how women who cross the border experience rape and violence from the men helping them across the border, among other people. “Rape is the price some women pay to get into this country,” she says. Wow.  I dont’ know what else to say about this. It is painful.

The “Not-Rape” Epidemic: LaToya Peterson of Racialicious explains how our framing of rape–especially for women of color–has silenced voices. The way that “not-rape” works is that we are told that rape happens to women who are in strange places with strange men–therefore, anything outside of that definition is considered “not rape.”

This becomes very apparent when juxtaposed with the “don’t have it” meme that elle, phd has discussed recently. Because many Black women are told growing up to just not have sex until we’re married–as I was–when we are “not raped” by someone who know, date, are friends with, are related to, etc. we are made to feel ashamed since, after all, we were told to “not have it”.

“Women are raped twice–once when the rape occurs and again in the courtroom,” says LaToya. This tweet from @naturallyalise took it a step further….that once they tell friends and family it is as if the rape is happening all over again if they face judgement.

Lastly, Jessica Valenti talked about pleasure as a universal right and how this idea cuts across racial and gender lines…Just hearing this made me feel inspired enough to write a piece about black sexuality next week as we get closer to Valentine’s Day….stay tuned.

Confessions of a Black Male Womanist

Please welcome my friend and fraternity brother James Hines to the blog. Today he addresses an issue I wrote about recently at, which is the ways in which men–particularly Black men—embrace womanism and feminism. He also discusses the challenge of balancing womanism with not-so-womanist tendencies. (btw, you can find him on twitter @jimmysunshine).

I’m just gonna get this outta the way…

I’m Black.

I’m a male.

I’m a womanist.


Uh… sometimes.

Now while some people might be looking at the “sometimes” and be like “WTF?!! Either you is or either you ain’t!!!” I’m thinking since I didn’t know what womanism exactly was ’til I looked it up recently, I’m doing aite by saying “sometimes”. Now that I think about it, I’m more then a womanist “sometimes”. I’d say I’m a womanist 79% of the time!!! That sounds like a good number, just about average. And since I believe that the average Black male tends to be a womanist and not even know it, I have a lot of company.

While reflecting on the ideology of womanism, I thought to myself, “Damn!!! I believe that… and that… and that!!” In discussions with other Black males, their believe systems tended to reflect womanism, despite their differing backgrounds. So when I say “sometimes” (in my case 79% of the time), I speak more specifically of the struggle for womanism.

The racism that has plagued Blacks has fostered in us a sense of ultimate discrimination and causes us to become self-centered and sometimes unable to recognize the struggles of others. The targeted attacks on Black males has created a void between us and Black women while exacerbated this problem and like in most situations where one loses (at least some) perspective, we have minimized their struggle. If anything, the struggle that I speak of is the struggle to recognize the mirror image of ourselves in others.

Womanism embodies not only a knowledge of self (in this case, the Black woman) but also acknowledging their place in the larger community and how when we work together, we become more then the sum of our parts. All the while respecting the uniqueness of our experiences as these qualities teach us to expand our minds beyond what we can experience personally.

In the end, the struggle to embody the values of womanism is the struggle for us to become a complete person. To know one’s self and be able to fully respect the unique experiences of someone else while using that to become more. Once we get to this point, maybe we’ll not need to acknowledge these virtues because they will not be so unique as to outshine the experiences that are the true treasure we need to share.

Womanism 101

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending Feminism 2.0, a conference devoted to creating a bridge between feminism and social media. During one of my comments, I mentioned that I was a womanist political blogger. The one thing that kind of surprised me was the number of women–young and old, black and white–who had never heard the term womanism and were not sure what it is.

So in this post, I will do my best to clear the air and let people know what I mean by womanist.

Let’s start with Alice Walker’s definition:

“the black folk expression of mothers to female children, ‘You acting womanish,’ i.e. like a woman … usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous, or willful behavior. Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered ‘good’ for one … [A womanist is also] a woman who loves other women sexually and/or nonsexually. Appreciates and prefers women’s culture … and women’s strength … committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female. Not a separatist … Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.”

So what does this mean to me? It means a concept, a culture that is devoted to women in general and women of color in particular. It means a culture that supports the idea of bridging the gap between family and motherhood and feminism; BOTH can coexist. It means standing for reproductive health, equal pay, education, and speaking out about violence against women. And, yes, it means supporting and working with men as opposed to treating them like the enemy.

A Feminist Theory Dictionary talks more about this:

It includes the word “man”, recognizing that Black men are an integral part of Black women’s lives as their children, lovers, and family members. Womanism accounts for the ways in which black women support and empower black men, and serves as a tool for understanding the Black woman’s relationship to men as different from the white woman’s. It seeks to acnowledge and praise the sexual power of Black women while recognizing a history of sexual violence.

Read the rest of the article here

I believe in the power of defining your own feminist ideals. I really do. I am devoted to many of the issues that feminism has fought, from choice to equal pay. However, I do love and support Black men, and I want them to be included in the dialogue. I do love wearing heels and MAC Lipglass and I like watching Girlfriends and Sex and The City. I’m in a sorority. I do want to raise children one day. And, yes, I can own these things about myself, and still define myself as a womanist. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

So, here are some links to books and blogs about womanism and related issues:

Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens: Womanist Prose

bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody

James H. Cones, A Black Theology of Liberation

Delores Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness

bell hooks, Feminist Theory (I include this because Womanism is very similar to Black Feminism and I would be remiss if I didn’t include bell hooks in this discussion)

…and here are a few blogs:

Womanist Musings (awesome womanist blog!)

elle, phd

Racialicious (LaToya is a Hip Hop Feminist…again, cut from the same cloth)

If you are a womanist and have a blog, please add your link in the comments.

More on Feminism 2.0:

NotMyGal has a great video from a panel called At the Crossroads, a dialogue about bridging the generation gap in feminism. LaurieWrites liveblogged the session.

Jen Nedeau at has a great wrap-up at

Cynthia Samuels also talks about her Fem 2pt0 experience at Don’t Gel Yet

Tweets is Watchin: Twitter feed of all things Fem 2pt0.

And as always, if you have a link to another post on this great event, post it in the comments!

Michelle Bernard: Lily Ledbetter act meaningless

Dear Michelle Bernard:

I applaud you for being a Black woman pundit. There are so few of us doing what you do, so I can respect your gangsta to an extent.

But when I saw your sloppy attempt to disregard the importance of the Lily Ledbetter act–the act that will address equal pay for women–I was absolutely disappointed in you

Doing away with the wage gap would mean also breaking the cycle of women of color being at an even greater disadvantage. Did you know that poor children and people of color have less of a chance of going to college? Did you know that they have a better chance of being denied proper healthcare? did you know any of that?

And with the number of single parent homes where the mother is the only source of income, the wage gap is even more apparent.

That nurse analogy was cute….cute and embarassing. There is already a shortage of nurses, Ms. Bernard, and guess what?

They have to go to school to become nurses.

Refer back to my comments about the achievement gap. and then come back to this section. As long as there is a wage gap, there will be an achievement gap in our school system.

And how dare you imply that being a nurse is a choice and therefore women who choose to be nurses deserve to get paid less than a man doing the same job. One day, my doctor could not see me at the OB/GYN office. I went to an RN and she was amazing. And she is absolutely worth every damn penny she earns–and more.

It is not a mere choice between being a nurse or being a neurosurgeon. Do you know how much damn money a medical degree costs?

But I digress. Ms. Bernard, consider your own position. There are very few women in political media  and even fewer Black women political pundits like yourself. Perhaps if you looked in the mirror you’d understand why equal pay and equal rights are so important.