Posts tagged ‘misogyny’

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.

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Guest Blogger: Maia’s Descent is No Laughing Matter

Please welcome my long-time friend D.L. Chandler to the blog as he discusses actress Maia Campbell’s painful drug addiction and her struggle with mental illness. I too was saddened by how so many people made light of the recent youtube, and I hope some of you feel the same way. As always, feel free to post a comment here or hit him up on Twitter @dlc123.

Like many young men in the 1990s, I found actress Maia Campbell to be one of the more attractive young black starlets on television. Early on, I discovered that she hailed from the Greater Washington Metropolitan area just as I did and that factoid endeared me to her as well. Of late Maia Campbell has fallen out of the public eye, and has been unfairly ridiculed by her poor life choices fueled by her bout with Schizophrenia. The daughter of late bestselling author Bebe Moore Campbell, Maia found fame on the LL Cool J vehicle In The House. For 3 seasons, the show enjoyed some mild success and Maia Campbell was a prominent fixture of the sitcom. Once the show ended, Maia worked bit parts in television and small movies, but nothing more.

I am not going to play reporter here and try to guess what happened beyond that point. What I do know is that in the last three years, nude photos of an obviously inebriated Campbell and a very recent video of the actress has appeared on the Internet. The gossip blogs, Twitter, message boards and news outlets (such as The Examiner) have all had their say to the inner workings of Ms. Campbell’s fall. We don’t know what’s leading her down this path nor do we know if she’s ever had adequate help – at least as far as what’s been released publicly. However, what is quite telling is how much of my Twitter feed was filled with hurtful jokes about her condition. The blogs and their comment fields were also filled with the same insensitive and lame commentary found in the linked Examiner piece above.

I immediately felt sorrow for Maia Campbell after viewing the video and wanted nothing more than to protect her. It triggered an almost instinctive brotherly reaction. It was if I saw my little sister on that screen and just wanted to snatch that camera away from her antagonist and whisk her away. There wasn’t anything humorous about this scenario. There wasn’t a reason to make this a Twitter topic of the day. It didn’t have to become this ugly display of humanity – anonymous keyboard cowards levying all types of hurtful, insensitive words towards Maia. I’ve just read that there’s a prayer campaign for Maia Campbell and that’s great. I’m not a religious person but this is obviously a step in the right direction so I support it fully.

Many of us know a Maia Campbell, a young person lost to their own devices and lacking the help, love and care needed to rise above whatever demons ails them. Are we to look at Maia Campbell with pity or are we to act when we see this pattern in our respective cities and towns? What did you truly feel when you saw Maia in that state? What would you do if you saw it? Are you witnessing something of this nature now? Are you out there helping to prevent more lost souls? Are you content with reading the insensitive comments and hashtags on Twitter? I know I’m not. I know that any time I can help a person – young or old – I’m going to give whatever time I can spare. I don’t see how we can look at this as a laughing matter. Moreover, for those of you that I know who choose to see humor in such a sad situation, you’ve lost a huge chunk of my respect.

Amber Rose in Complex Magazine: Sexy Beast (?)

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saartjiebwJezebel talks about Amber Rose’s most recent photo shoot for Complex Magazine:

The industry’s general unwillingness to embrace models of color as anything besides the exoticized “other” is thwarting the development and popularization of other kinds of black beauty. Even Alek Wek, the Sudanese supermodel, noted that she was often asked to pose in spreads that she felt fitted into a wider and more troubling tradition of black peoples representation in the mainstream media, particularly with regard to a Lavazza calendar where she posed inside a coffee cup, her skin intended to represent the espresso. As Wek wrote in her memoir, “I can’t help but compare them to all the images of black people that have been used in marketing over the decades. There was the big-lipped jungle-dweller on the blackamoor ceramic mugs sold in the ’40s; the golliwog badges given away with jam; Little Black Sambo, who decorated the walls of an American restaurant chain in the 1960s; and Uncle Ben, whose apparently benign image still sells rice.”

It’s worth noting that in re-creating these pictures, Complex did tone them down; gone are the chains from the whip photo, and so too is the raw meat and the sign explicitly referring to the model as an animal in the cage photo. The choices the Complex art director made are almost certainly intended to mitigate the offense of the original images; we’ve come at least some way as a society since Jean-Paul Goude’s day. But how long will it be before we automatically recognize any picture of a black woman caged up like an animal as offensive?

If the pictures above look oddly familiar and even similar to you,  they should. When I see the image of Amber Rose  or Grace Jones in a cage, I immediately thought of Saartjie Baartman, a black woman in the 18th century captured in S. Africa by British imperialist and then put on display at carnivals and fairs because of her voluptuous body.

It’s no secret that the “black woman as sexual beast” meme is still very prevalent in portrayals of Black women, particularly in fashion and music. That said, I really don’t think it was that deep for Complex. What I mean is, I don’t think their intention was to fetishize Black women at all in these pictures. It seems as though they just wanted to pay homage to Grace Jones* and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. However, even though the magazine had the best intentions it doesn’t mean that the implied racial and sexual implications of these picture don’t exist.

*and stereotypes aside, Amber Rose ain’t SEEIN Grace Jones in these pictures. Grace Jones is SO stylin on her.

Dov Charney, sit your ass down.

absolute foolishness.

Dov Charney–for those of you who have been living under a rock–is the CEO of American Apparel, a California-based fashion line. Dov is no stranger to controversy. However, the quote in the above ad,  taken from an interview with  McGill University student, is inexcusable:

Women initiate most domestic violence, yet out of a thousand cases of domestic violence, maybe one is involving a man.  And this has made a victim of culture out of women.”

OH REALLY?

So what you’re telling me is, my friends, relatives, and countless other women who have experienced domestic violence did so because they somehow “deserved it?”

It’s been said that this is most likely a fake ad, but the actual quote is very real; it was taken from a  2004 interview with the American Apparel CEO.  And the quote itself is what angers me the most.  His statistic is not only untrue, but it discounts the stories of women all over the world who have been beaten, raped, and yes, killed by the men who claimed to love them.

I showed this quote to a male friend of mine. His response? “Tell Dov Charney about Nova Henry.”

From United Press International:

A woman found slain in a Chicago townhouse, identified as the mother of NBA player Eddy Curry’s son, was trying to escape an abusive boyfriend, her family says.

 

Nova Henry, 24, and her 9-month-old daughter Ava were found shot to death Saturday by Henry’s mother, Yolan Henry, who told Tuesday’s Chicago Tribune her daughter had just moved to the South Loop condominium to escape an ex-boyfriend against whom Nova Henry had taken out an order of protection.  Read the rest of the article here

Clearly, this is in’t the only example of a woman who tried to escape an abusive boyfriend or spouse. But if tangible examples aren’t enough, you’ve gotta use raw facts and data:

1 in 4: The number of women raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or dating partner/acquaintance at some time in their lifetime. (for men: 7.6 out of 100)

1.3 Million: The number of women physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States. (for men: 835,000)

20: The percentage of nonfatal violence against women committed by an intimate partner. (for men: 3)

33: The percentage of female murder victims who were killed by an intimate. (for male murder victims: 4%)

1,247: The number of women killed by an intimate partner in 2000. (for men: 440)

There is plenty of statistics to debunk Dov’s bullshit, and if I were to lay them all out in this post, we’d be here all day. But one thing is clear: Dov Charney, aside from being a completely asshole, cares nothing about the lives of women, and what is sadder, may not even care to know.

From Womanist Musings:

Charney is using his position as a male of privilege to reinforce this destructive message.   There has been ample evidence of his hatred of women and the only question that remains is what we are going to do about it.   Obviously we cannot hope to change his mind, such misogynists  men rarely come to an understanding of the ways in which their behaviour is not only reductive but dangerous.  If he cannot be taught to respect women, he can still be brought to heel by a boycott of his stores.  What human decency he did not learn in socialization can be force fed through economic sanctions.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. The best thing to do now is to boycott American Apparel. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown out of the brand nor the sleezy soft-core ad campaign. But I think we can take it one step further with a boycott and start to let our younger sisters know about this foolishness. American Apparel is, after all, a fashion line that is marketed to Generation Y and older teens as well.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, go here for information on resources, support, and other services.

H/T: Womanist Musings

Black Woman Walking: A Documentary

I certainly agree with the sentiment, but I feel like the director is under the impression that only non-white men/Black men do this….then I went to her website and I wasn’t sure what to think…the cover of her book shows a black woman with a white man. What does that tell us?

Does that tell us that we should stick to dating white men and everything will be all right?

Does that tell us that white men are the only men with sense?

My younger sister was dating a white boy at her school. My mother told her she doesn’t trust white men, and then my sister replied, “well I don’t trust any guys. Any man of any race can be a jerk, mom.”

I tend to agree.

In any case: Like the documentary, not sure if I agree with all her sentiment.

What do YOU think?