Posts tagged ‘Black Women’

“Topless Black Girls” & other keywords that lead to my blog

I am currently taking part in Rosetta Thurman’s 31 Days to a Brand New Blog Challenge! I’m really excited about it because I have been wanting to take my blog to another level, especially with my new life here in Los Angeles and beyond as I start my grad school applications. I wanted to do more with the blog, and I though the Challenge was a good place to start.

For the Day 1 challenge, we were asked to take a look at our blog stats and analyze the stats. There were a few things in my stats that were surprising–for instance, it’s interesting that my “meet elledub” page is still very popular. Didn’t know that many people wanted to know more about the girl behind the blog!

But what was more intriguing to me were the keyword terms that were most used to find my blog. There were a few repetitive ones with obvious explanations (“black girl” “black girl blog” “essence fashion and beauty editor” “for colored girls”); some terms came up because of things I’ve written about on my blog. “Are there any Black People on Mad Men” wasn’t surprising since I’ve spent a few posts pondering that very question.

Then there were some off-the-wall terms; “topless black girls” come to mind. While I’m sure this had to do with this little post I wrote about a topless bust of Michelle Obama, it’s such an interesting insight into what people look for when they look for info about black women online. In fact, one google search on “black women” gives you a strange mix of the mundane and the obscene. It’s very possible that the keyword terms that people use to find my blog is just a microcosm of what’s already out there when it comes to finding images of black women on the internets, which is exactly what I’m hoping to achieve with this blog.

For those of you who do blog, what are some of the craziest keyword terms that people use to find your blog? If you’re participating in the challenge, I’d love to hear from you too.

Are Marriage rates trumping our Unemployment rates?

While the rest of the Black Blogosphere is still reeling from that Nightline Faceoff about why Successful Black Women Can’t Find a Man (I guess unsuccessful Black women fare better, whatever that means), I think we’re all failing to pay attention to a bigger issue: why successful Black women can’t find a job.

A friend of mine shared this NY Times chart that shows  how different groups are effecting certain groups of people. Depending on what group you select (Black Women, White men with a degree, Black men without, etc), it shows you the unemployment rate for that group.

For Black women of all levels of education, the unemployment rate is at 11 percent. What bothers me is the gap between White and Black women’s unemployment–the same chart showed that the unemployment rate is just under 6%.

Does anyone see a problem here?

It really does seem as though perhaps Black women are being passed up for jobs that are otherwise going to white women or men. But more troublesome is that we are so stuck on how single Black women are that we don’t stop and reflect on how unemployed we are, which whether we know it or not DOES effect our dating and relationship life; if you’re not gainfully employed, your focus won’t be on finding a man; most times you’re busy hustling trying to find a job that will afford you the time and the money to actually go out and meet someone. And yes, I do think unemployment is why so many Black men are single as well (but no one wants to discuss those numbers either).

Granted, it’s not a sexy topic at all and it’s not one people are writing books about or putting on panels about how Black women can find job. But to me, this is a much bigger issue than whether or not I’ll find a Black man to marry or whether I’ll marry my current partner. To hear other people tell it, you’d think being single and a Black woman was a crisis, but what bothers me is that being single is being presented as a crisis while our unemployment rates are hardly even whispered about. The Economist of all things had a whole article about why Black women are sooo single and yet no article about the fact that some of us can’t find a job? #iCant.

Even though I’ve recently found a new job,  but I went several months without finding something after being laid off in January. But just because I was able to find a job in three months doesn’t mean that there isn’t a Black woman out there who is still looking and wondering how she’ll pay her rent. Let’s deal with that situation instead of berating her for being single (or just not married).

Tyler Perry, step away from the camera.

Last week we found out that Tyler Perry revealed the cast for his film adaptation of for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow was enuf by Ntozake Shange.

Read ’em and weep:

Black Voices has learned that writer/director/producer Tyler Perry has selected the cast for next film, ”For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.

At last night’s premiere for his latest film, ‘‘Why Did I Get Married Too?,’ the black box-office maverick revealed that the cast will include Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Whoopi Goldberg, Phylicia Rashad, Jurnee Smollett, Kimberly Elise, Kerry WashingtonLoretta Devine and Macy Gray.

Based on Ntozake Shange‘s award-winning 1975 play, the film is scheduled to shoot in June in New York with a possible winter 2010/ 2011 release date.

I’m not even going to go in on the cast for this film nor about Tyler Perry films themselves because I know there are plenty of conversations going on about that. I know that we are all looking at Janet Jackson getting top billing and wondering why she’s there in the first place. I know we’re wondering when Macy Gray became an actress or why one “aight” performance in Precious makes Mariah Carey a capable of playing, say the Lady in Red. And lastly, I know many of us are questioning of Tyler Perry knows what he’s doing with a Shange play in the first place, or if he knew about for colored girls… before Oprah mentioned it that one time at Sunday Brunch.

for colored girls… has a special place in my heart. When I was 17, I had the amazing honor and privilege of spending a whole day with Ntozake Shange in Taos, New Mexico during the Taos Poetry Circus. While there, I participated in her small group poetry workshop where I shared some of my work. I spoke with her in depth about for colored girls… and her inspiration for it.

So when I heard the news that Tyler Perry was directing for colored girls, I was disappointed.  Nzingha Stewart, a black woman director, was originally slated to direct the film adaptation of the play, but all of a sudden I started to see Tyler Perry’s name all over it.

Hmmm. There’s something totally wrong with this picture, and it has nothing to do with Janet Jackson getting top billing.

I’m certainly not convinced that Tyler Perry is the best black filmmaker out there regardless of what his box office sales are. But my biggest problem is he is seemingly unable to give up the reins of power, step away from the camera and allow for other Black screenwriters and directors to have their shine.  What would have been wrong with Nzingha Stewart directing the film and even selecting her the cast by herself while Tyler Perry funded and promoted the project? Nothing, unless he wants to convey the message that he is uncomfortable sharing   the wealth and  the limelight with other (young and/or female) talent.

Precious was not a perfect movie, but if it didn’t show us anything else, it showed that Tyler Perry has the potential to fund the projects of other Black filmmakers and help make them a success. Part of being a leader in any industry is helping other young people rise to the top as well. The Black experience is not a monolith; some of us like myself never grew up with a character like Madea. Because of this, it’s important that we have a large variety of filmmakers who can speak to the myriad of ways a Black person can experience and live in society. Perhaps a successful, wealthy director like Tyler Perry is in a position to support other directors in their projects, but what bothers me more than his so-so movies are his unwillingness to step from behind the camera and let someone else take a crack at it.

Black, Successful, and (not so) Unhappy

It’s taken me a long time to talk about the now-infamous Helena Andrews profile on Black Girl Blogging, because it made me so upset. Not because I think there is truth to how lonely, sad, and unlovable black women are, but because I know that there isn’t much truth to it to begin with.

What really sticks out to me are the lack of narratives about Black women who are happy for reasons other than finding and keeping a man. The “single, sad, lonely Black woman” meme assumes that without a man we can’t be happy and can’t even begin our search for happiness.

My black girl blogger-in-crime Rosetta Thurman has started a “happiness project” of her own called The Diary of a Happy Black Woman. A few nights ago on Twitter, she talked about why she has decided to embark on this new project.

I hadn’t thought about this angle of the story until I saw it mentioned in the above tweet. What really has annoyed me about the whole damn dialog about the poor, single Black women is that it not only paints all Black women as unlovable, but it also assumes that until we find a man we can’t be happy or fulfilled. It even pre-supposes that Black women should be perpetually unhappy.

Yes, there are Black women out there who are sad and who are lonely…and perhaps who are also angry. But those feelings often have very little to do with their marital status (or lack thereof). Many of us  can find ourselves feeling that way even after we’ve found the supposedly elusive relationship with a successful Black man. I should know: I was one of them for quite some time before ending my last immediate long-term relationship (another story entirely).

It’s true that I have since then started a new relationship with a new partner, but I spent the better part of 2009 getting back in tune with the things that make me happy outside of being with someone who liked me and cared about me and took me out on dates and stuff.

In 2009, I lost 42 pounds after getting back in touch with physical activities I love (yoga, dance, walking/jogging), and doing something else I loved too–cooking delicious, healthy meals. I explored new angles and avenues to the media career I have chosen for myself and began to carve my own niche. I traveled to different cities and went to some great conferences. I kept in touch with old friends and made new ones. And I did all of that despite not having  a boo by my side to witness me doing all of this. I did the “brave” thing and started last year without a relationship, having broken up with my then-boyfriend around this time last year. And I regret not one damn second of it.

My soror and friend Cheri had a great response to the profile on Helena Andrews, with whom she happened to have attended Columbia once upon a time:

She said “I’m a successful black woman” several times, listed off the things that validated the statement, and then says she isn’t happy. I know many women who describe themselves this way, and they too end up in that same place at the end of the sentence. “I’m a successful black woman, why can’t I find love or happiness?”

It might be worth while to go back to the beginning of the sentence and see where we made a wrong turn.

What is success? I’ve heard it described a number of ways: having a degree (or two), a house, a car, a job, the right clothes, and/or invites to the right parties. Some women define it as beginning married or having a child. But in many cases, all of this “success” is not accompanied with happiness.

If what you want is happiness, then are you really successful without it?

Someone along the way told us the work is done once you get the tools. We want a cake – so we get the eggs, sugar, and the flour…. but we leave them on the counter and go get ready for the club. We go out, drink, dance, have a good time, and wonder why we don’t have a cake with cute rose petal frosting details when we get back. We want the results but have not done the work.

In this first week of 2010, I’ve had the chance to think about what new things I want to do at Black Girl Blogging this year and in years to come. If there’s one thing Helena Andrews’s new book Bitch is the New Black and the accompanying profile in the Washington Post showed me, it was the need for more Black women telling their stories and having their stories told their way. Stay tuned and join me as I feature and highlight Black women (and a few men) who have made their lives and their work about a pursuit–or several pursuits–of happiness.

Say it to my face!: Anonymity, Sexism and Social Networks

I recently signed up to try the current social network craze, formpsring.me. Formspring takes Facebook’s Honesty Box a step further, allowing people to submit questions to ask you either anonymously or not. I’ve never been into the Honesty Box because I wasn’t that pressed to find out what people think about me; I come from the school of thought that says: “if you got something to say about me, say it to my face.”

But, the straight forward Q&A nature of Formspring really intrigued me. I find that Twitter moves too fast sometimes to allow for a pure Q&A type of discussion. So as other people’s formspring answers showed up on my Twitterfeed, I felt compelled to check it out and see what this particular social network was about.

Most of the questions I got were tame. Lots of people were curious about why I moved to DC from LA, where my parents went to high school since they are both DC natives, what I thought about weaves versus natural hair, what grade I would give President Obama, etc.

Then, about halfway through the q & a, someone asked me my views about pre-marital sex.

Many of you who read my blog know that I support grown adults making decisions about sex for themselves…and for parents to teach their kids the importance of protection and sexual maturity. So I reiterated that in my answer.

But the anonymous questioner didn’t stop there. He (as I am sure this was a man) also began a line of questioning and judgements that would be what many call “sex-shaming”…better known as “slut-shaming.”

Do you think you’ll marry your current boo? (too early to tell…and if I knew I wouldn’t tell someone who insisted on being anonymous)

Oh but you’re already giving it up? For shame! (I’m grown, son. you don’t know my life)

He needs to put a ring on your finger…you need to learn some self-respect!

[Note: this was edited/paraphrased as the original dialogues/questions have been deleted so as not to give power to sexist, judgmental, and dogmatic behavior]

Wow.

I was hurt… I was being triggered. I felt like my relationship was being questioned by people who don’t even know me nor my partner. And I was being bullied for no reason at all.

I am not the first woman to experience sexist attacks on the internet and/or social networks. One thing about social networking platforms that allow for anonymous or semi-anonymous posting/reactions….and some people use these spaces for more harm than good.

from The WareHouse (@carolinaware):

We all type things that others may not want to see sometimes. It happens. Now you DO HAVE THE OPTION NOT TO HAVE IT STREAM to your Twitter/Facebook and not to answer all the questions. The only problem with the latter is that you have some people who LOVE TO START SHIT and will be asking questions they shouldn’t. You don’t answer and ignore it, then they step from behind the shadows..Now if they had to ask you behind the mask, then they probably shouldn’t have been asking anyway and….well…you get the picture right?

This all very true indeed. But I still believe that this issue is complicated by gender. What learned from my own experiences and observation of the way Formspring works is that women are more likely to be asked rude and/or offensive questions than men are. In fact, one of my male followers made the point that most men would never have to to deal with the kind of questions and implications that I or other women (cis or trans) would have to deal with in online spaces.

Too often we are told that the internet is a playground for boys and a dangerous place for girls…but as long as we have d-bags who are using the internet in sexist, racist, and/or misogynistic and transmisogynistic ways, I worry that we still have a ways to go before the telling of this story changes.

So what do you all think? Does the anonymity of the internet allow more room for sexism and other forms of oppression? What can be done to change this?

I Do Not Consent: Musings on Sexual Terrorism

This is a re-post from JoNubian’s blog. A painful truth is that rape plays too big a role in the lives of one too many of the women closest to me. I hope that both cis and trans women continue to tell their truths about rape and that men join us in breaking the cycle of rape culture.

I am the history of rape

I am the history of the rejection of who I am

I am the history of the terrorized incarceration of

myself

I am the history of battery assault and limitless

armies against whatever I want to do with my mind

and my body and my soul and

whether it’s about walking out at night

or whether it’s about the love that I feel or

whether it’s about the sanctity of my vagina or

the sanctity of my national boundaries

or the sanctity of my leaders or the sanctity

of each and every desire

that I know from my personal and idiosyncratic

and indisputably single and singular heart

I have been raped

From A Poem About My Rights by- June Jordan

I have been steadily dodging the writing of this blogpost about Black women and sexual abuse, however the words you are reading haunt me.  I would like to say that my thoughts on rape began just a few months back, but this would be a lie.  As a woman, and especially a Black woman, unkept and unsafe, the threat of rape is almost as constant as breathing and books.  What I will say is that rape has been at the forefront of my thoughts since POTUS Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which may seem odd- although it is not.  I became curious to see who else was nominated for the award.  I consider myself solution oriented and felt that if I would denounce my support of the committee’s choice, I certainly would need to provide the name of a more deserving victor.

As I searched the list and read the stories, one name in particular was familiar to me, although unfortunately not in cheer. It was Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist, who has dedicated his life to treating the women of DRC who are the victims of rapes so brutal that I would need an entirely separate blogpost to describe them.  Dr. Mukwege’s hospital is overrun with battered, tortured, mutilated women. In one province alone, over 27,000 rapes were reported, which accounts for at least 70% of the women living there.  While addressing the US Senate last year Dr. Mukwege made the following statement, that has etched it’s way into my memory much like my favorite lovers or Baldwin quotes, “It is important to point out that this sexual terrorism is done in a methodical manner”.  It had never occurred to me previously to describe rape as terrorist or methodical, but therein lies the truth of it.

Moving forward in time, again my thoughts and heart are bombarded with the ugliness of rape after reading an article about a fifteen year old girl being gang raped by five boys (and men) as more than twenty people spectated.  My blood boiled so terribly that I assumed it was fever and that this world had been successful in literally making me sick.  And as I spoke about the incident on twitter, I began to receive all of these private messages from women who had been victims of gang rapes themselves.  I didn’t want to believe that such violence against women was so prevalent and commonplace. Subsequently, the days and nights following the details of that rape were exhausting.  Thoughts of my and my daughter’s safety began to eat away at my sleeping hours, and I kept wanting to embrace all of the women who contacted me, somehow allowing my love to spill through my pores, providing protection where others had failed them.  Yes rape is terrible and a terror, even for those women not raped.

Rape is terrorism, especially if one defines terrorism as, “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce”.  Certainly, there is no stronger example presented to contest an individual’s (and possibly a group’s) humanity than a publicly viewed rape and torture as were the cases in the Congo and in California.   Suddenly there did not seem to be so much distance between the US and the DRC.  However, as tragic as these rapes are we cannot afford to limit our anger and remorse to these specific cases of abuse.  Sexual violence against women also includes sexual harassment/extortion, spousal abuse, incest and child rape (May peace be upon Shaniya Davis), forced sterilizations, and an overall inability to choose, as a woman, what happens to one’s body.   My revolutionary crush, Angela Davis, agrees, which I noted while reading an address she presented at Florida State University in 1985 entitled, We Do Not Consent: Violence Against Women in a Racist Society. She writes:

These particular manifestations of violence against women are situated on a larger continuum of socially inflicted violence, which includes concerted, systematic violations of women’s economic and political rights. As has been the case throughout history, these attacks most gravely affect women of color than their white working-class sisters.   The dreadful rape epidemic of our times, which has become so widespread that one out of every three women in this country can expect to be raped at some point during her life, grimly mirrors the deteriorating economic and social status of women today.

If we disconnect rape, and consequently, all sexual violence against women, from their socio-economic foundations, we cannot adequately discuss solutions to said abuses.  We dis-serve women by only acting or objecting to sexual abuse in extreme cases.  We have to understand that a woman should control her reproduction, or desired lack thereof- and be allowed to do so safely and with no judgement.  We must admit that, no matter how “provocatively” dressed or sexually explicit a woman appears to be, we have no right to objectify her and/or harass her.  We cannot emotionally abuse women, use women, treat them as receptacles, even if they contend that such treatment is okay, because we know that it is not. We have to sincerely view women as human beings before we can wholeheartedly respect and protect them.

There is no truth but this.

Please read the rest of June Jordan’s poem A Poem About My Rights here:

http://wp.me/pxAOY-2Z

To truly understand the intersection of race, class and gender, please read Angela Y Davis’ Women, Culture and Politics

More on Dr. Denis Mukwege and his mission here:

http://wp.me/pxAOY-2Z

Finally Precious – Part 1: Black Girl Pain

I’ve been psyched for Precious ever since I saw the trailer this past spring. It was released here in DC this weekend, but up until then I had read varying opinions about the movie.

From Hit me Back!

I should be clear: When I say that Precious was horrifying, I don’t mean it in a “Wow, kudos to Sapphire/Lee Daniels/Oprah/Tyler Perry because they just outdid themselves” and got me wanting to testify about it kind-of-way. No.

Make no mistake — Lee Daniels is a pathology pimp. Plain and simple. He’s not the first. Some of our most prolific movie directors (Scorcese comes to mind…) are pathology pimps. Pathos tells good stories and, often, creates great, watchable art. But, see, this is my problem with Lee Daniels. He’s a pathology pimp and he’s not even good at it. His work, ultimately, is not art. It is raw, unchecked, internalized oppression that he is peddling as “important” stories about Black folk that “need” to be told.

There are elements of Precious, of course, that are real. In this country and around the world there are Black girls like Precious — morbidly obese, abused, victims of incest, illiterate, HIV-positive, etc. There are women in my family who, in one aspect or another, have been subjected to the same atrocities as Precious.

But, really, tell me something I don’t know. I live in Chicago. All I have to do is watch the news, read the paper or visit my proverbial cousins “Pookie an’ ‘nem” to know that there are elements of Precious that exist. One look at the health, socio-economic and class status of many African-Americans is proof of that.


I wanted to hold my tongue on my own critique of the movie until I saw it for myself. And now that I have I’m revisiting some of the reviews I’ve been reading over the last few weeks.

I think she makes an interesting point. It is the type of criticism that I could imagine Boyz n the Hood received–the fact that a painful black narrative is being created for the “amusement” of white audiences. But I’m of the belief that even though a movie is heralded by white audiences doesn’t make the story less valuable. That said, it shouldn’t be implied that this is the story that all Black girls grow up with having to endure.

I also think the fact that there are kids just like Precious in hoods all over the country, and that it shouldn’t take a movie to alert people to this. But part of the power of this movie is that Precious is telling someone’s true story. It’s unfair to deduce Lee Daniels to a “pathology pimp” when this is one story that is being told on film; by saying that the motivation for making the movie was solely to exploit or glamourize black pathology for White people’s entertainment doesn’t give Daniels nearly enough credit.

from Afrobella:

Precious is the kind of film that needs our support. It’s a film that reveals a slice of American life that we too often close our eyes to. Because we don’t want to see.

It’s such an ugly slice of reality, you want to keep it hidden. But people NEED to see this movie. I hope it’s shown in schools. I hope the people who need to see this movie, see this movie.

As raw and real and painful as it is, Precious is uplifting. And important. We can’t let movies like this come and go without making some noise at the box office. Because there are many, many more stories like Precious, that need to be told.

While I tend to side more with Afrobella, I think there is room for many of the varying opinions to be right. Yes, Precious is a difficult story to watch, just as novel Push was to read. But it’s an important movie nonetheless. For one, I’m glad to see us telling a story about a Black girl growing up in the hood. So many times we see hood coming of age stories that center around boys; The Wire comes to mind. This isn’t to say that every girls story of growing up in the hood includes rape, incest, and abuse, but that the story of Precious Jones is just one of several that we can tell, and I hope that it leads to more explorations of a black girl’s life on film and in literature.

On the acting front, I absolutely enjoyed both Mo’Nique and and Gabbey Sibide’s performances. I can’t say that Mo’Nique’s acting was necessarily Oscar-worthy the way I can with Gabby’s, but it definitely will help her break out of the comedic actress box, so it’ll be great to see what other roles will open up for her after this. Solid performance by Paula Patton as well. Mariah didn’t move me either way, and of course I didn’t mind the addition of the nurse character played by Lenny Kravitz not only because I thought his character was endearing, but because anytime I can ogle at that fine hunk of man candy for 2 hours on screen is a CLEAR WIN (don’t argue with me on this point, okay?)

Speaking of Paula Patton, I”m gonna have to agree with Racialicious here and say that I was disappointed at the casting of Paula Patton to play the part of Blue Rain. In the book, Blue Rain was a woman who looked a lot like me–a dark skinned Black woman with dreadlocks. For Precious, a girl who already suffers from self-hatred and sees light skinned people as more beautiful and more capable of being loved and cherished, Blue Rain presented an alternative image of Black beauty, and an entry point to healing and reinforcing a more positive image of herself. Paula Patton as an actress is perfectly fine, but I think casting Blue Rain as a light skinned woman was a HUGE mistake given what her character represented in Precious’ life.

There’s been lots of discussion about whether or not Lee Daniels has colorstruck tendencies in his casting selections. All of the “good” characters in the movie adaptation are light skinned while all of the bad or dysfunctional characters were dark skinned. I can’t say either way Lee Daniels is colorstruck because I don’t know the man well enough to label him as such nor was I in the room when the casting took place. that said–I wasn’t bothered by Mariah Carey or Lenny Kravitz being cast as the “good” characters. The only casting I saw as problematic was Paula Patton because omitting her the significance of her skin tone in the book omits a huge part of Precious’ healing.

One thing they didn’t omit was the fact that Blue Rain was a lesbian. I was glad they actually showed Blue with her partner, because oftentimes black lesbians are fetishized on film, shown only for the entertainment and arousal of men. While Blue was only shown with her partner a few times, I think it’s important that the audience sees a positive image of Black lesbianism, especially in a Black film. It’s also a subtle way confronting homophobic attitudes in the Black community.

Overall, Precious is a great film, and important film, and I hope it gets all the attention and notoriety it deserves.

Did you see the film? What did you all think? I should probably point out that if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, there may be spoilers in the comments.