Posts tagged ‘race and gender’

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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Precious Part 2 – When “feel good” branding goes wrong

My second post devoted to the movie Precious was going to be about how Tyler Perry should consider leaving the director’s chair alone for a while and funding more smaller projects by black directors other than himself. It could really show Hollywood the real scope of his power.

Then I started seeing the new cut for the Precious Ad. I couldn’t find a video to show you all (but if you can find it hit me up!), but in summary it is basically a mashup of all of the main character’s happy daydreams with Mary J’s “Just Fine” playing in the background.

Wat?

Now I understand the idea of marketing and doing whatever it takes to get more people to pay money and see the movie, and I realize that it’s the way that business works.

But what I didn’t understand was the complete 180 that was made in the marketing of this movie. I read Push well before watching the film so I knew not to expect a lot of happy moments. What I worry about are people who have never read the book nor know much about the movie seeing these new ads and expecting the movie to be a happier, more hopeful story. It’s pretty misleading if you ask me.

Some of you know that I’m a PR/media professional by day, and so the media geek in me is wondering if this move by the movie marketers was a good one. Sure, it might get more people to the box office, but what good is it if some folks won’t be informed enough to know not to expect a happy, more hopeful film? To me, this makes as little sense to me as Lee Daniels recent comments.

From NYMag.com:

Some guy came up to me at a screening that I was at recently and he told me that he, um, was sexually abusing his 14-year-old daughter,” said Daniels. “That’s what he told me. And he was crying. To me, that is the award. There is no award on this earth that can get a man to admit that. So to me, that is my award. My award is healing. You know what I mean? I want to be acknowledged or whatever, but I’m happy with people healing.”

There was one thing that was severly lacking from Daniels’ little story: the part where he reported this man to the police. What sense does this make? I hate to think that Daniels was so immersed in his own ego that he didn’t think to do the right thing and PROTECT THAT CHILD.

One criticism of the movie I agree with is that they didn’t give enough space in the film to talk about the social and political implications of WHY Precious lived the way she lived. Why did she think lighter skinned people were more beautiful with lives worth living? Why was she obese? Why did her mother abuse her and allow for her husband to rape his own daughter? None of these questions were answered through a sociopolitical lens, and that to me is a bigger marketing fail than the ads I’ve discussed earlier in this post.

Black People, Decorum and Privilege

As I settle into another work week, I realize that this hasn’t been a good couple of days for Black America. First, Serena Williams loses her shit after a bad call during the US Open, which cost her the match. Then, Kanye decides to be a jerk (again) and ruin country music star Taylor Swift’s very first acceptance speech at the VMA’S by bum rushing the stage and declaring Beyonce’s Single Ladies video the greatest of all time.

The two situations above may seem very different, but I think the only difference between Kanye’s outburst and Serena’s outburst was a bottle of Hennessey. These are grown ass people who are fairly young. Black, and at the top of their game. So why did they act out in public like they could get away with it?

The way I see it, Serena and Kanye’s fame and talent, and even their wealth will not make up for their lack of privilege. Kanye didn’t get to perform at the VMA’s and was escorted out of the event. Serena lost  the match and had to pay  a $10,000 fine for her behavior. It wasn’t waved away as just being “colorful” the way it was when McEnroe did it, and I’ll venture to say that it’s because she is a Black woman and he is a white male. No matter how high a Black celebrity climbs, they will not just be a celebrity getting out of pocket, they will be a Black celebrity getting out of pocket. They will not escape their lack of privilege to do certain things and be able to LOL it up on the David Letterman show the next week.

That’s not to say I”m excusing Kanye and Serena’s behavior because I think both of them showed an extreme lack of decorum and what my Nana would call “home training.”  Everyone has to be accountable for their actions, but what I need for Black celebrities to understand is that their fame doesn’t put them on an equal playing field with white celebs that act out in a similar manner. Get your decorum game up and let’s cut back on the nigga moments from here on out.

So what you think? Does a lack of privilege mean greater attention to our public behavior?

WAT? Roger Sterling in Blackface????

If you follow me on Twitter, then you probably saw my shock and awe at seeing Roger Sterling in Blackface on last night’s episode of Mad Men. Wat? Blackface? In the 60s? I was in disbelief. In my last post I talked about my frustrations with the lack of race commentary on the show.  Wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing but I now think that we will see more commentary on race and white privilege in this season than we ever have before on the show.

From Basket of Kisses:

Matt Weiner has been criticized often enough for not quite getting there about race. We have, on this site, discussed “Magical Negroes” in Mad Men, and the Sheila storyline ended up fizzling in an unsatisfying way.

So now that he’s decided to address it, it’s not just a scene or an incident, no, it’s Matt, so it’s a holistic embrace of everything privilege; the privilege of race, of gender, of age, of money, of social class, and of how all of those things intersect.

Surely the most privileged person on the show is Roger Sterling; even more so than YodaBert, because Roger was born with his silver spoon. Roger is so incredibly privileged that he can parade an embarrassingly young wife and make a lot of powerful people treat her politely, and do it, nauseatingly, in blackface to boot. Blackface! (And don’t even try to say “sign of the times;” privileged people still do this). Roger can make people swallow any kind of bad behavior, because he’s got the money, class privilege, and power.

I certainly think Roger in blackface was a symbol of his level of privilege. On another note, I loved seeing the tension between Betty’s father and Carla–of course he accused Carla of taking the money without actually saying, “that n*gger stole my money.” And then when he got her name wrong? “We don’t all know each other, you know”…..a woman after my own heart as I’ve retorted with that in my travels.

Damn…the Black blogosphere might go nuts over this one.

So…what did you all think about Roger in Blackface? Did we like it? Was it a sign of the times? Do we hate him more?

And isn’t Joan’s husband just a complete loser (and a rapist)?

Black people on Mad Men (or lack thereof)

As a pretty big Mad Men fan, I was so excited about last night’s Season 3 premiere. Not only did I want to know how the rest of the story unfolded but part of me hoped that maybe, just maybe, we’ll see more than a passing glance at a Black character on the show or the mention of race as an afterthought. Every time I watched the show, I couldn’t help but think, “gotdamnit! When are they going to say anything about race or Blackness! It’s the sixties for cryin’ out loud!”

It wasn’t until I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ recent post that I realized that it the absence of Black people is precisely what we love about the show as it explores what white privilege and masculinity is—and in the case of Mad Men it does mean that people of color are rendered invisible.

I actually think it’s a beautiful, lovely, incredibly powerful omission. Mad Men is a show told from the perspective of a particular world. The people in that world barely see black people. They’re there all the time–Hollis in the elevator, women working in the powder-room, the Draper’s maid, the janitors, the black guy hired at Leo Burnett–but they’re never quite seen. I think this is an incredible statement on how privilege, at its most insidious, really works.

It’s been argued that the absence of people of color is a romantic view of “the good ol’ days”, but I beg to differ. The fact that Black people are so absent and silent in the face of white privilege is exactly a commentary on race in the 60s, especially as there were already so few Black people who lived in worked in the type of environment that Don Draper and company were so accustomed to. There are several female writers on the Mad Men team, which is why the gender commentary is so on point, but I often have to wonder what would have happened on the show if there were people of color on that team. Would we be more present? Or would things remain the same?

Vogue Italia’s Black Barbie: A Step Forward or a Step Back?

This month, Vogue Italia is doing another take on last year’s successful Black Issue: a fashion spread featuring all Black Barbies.

from Jezebel:

Last year, Italian Vogue shook the fashion world with its “All Black issue, which sold out on many newsstands. This year, the July issue features Kristen McMenamy on the cover, but comes with a delightful supplement devoted to black Barbies.

It is Barbie’s 50th birthday, after all, and Mattel does have those new black Barbies to promote. And while this supplement is not full-sized like a regular magazine (it’s about 6 inches wide; 7.5 inches long) somehow the doll scale makes sense.

As a girl growing up in Los Angeles, my mother always made sure to buy us Black dolls, especially Barbies. I even had a Black Ken doll! And while it was great to have a doll that looked like me, the reality was that it still sold me and other little girls dangerous ideas about what a woman’s body should look like, and what was considered beautiful. In preparing to write this post, I spoke with a friend of mine who happens to be a Black dad with a young daughter. He told me that while he reluctantly buys his daughter Barbies because she loves them, he is concerned about what it teaches his little girl about having a positive self-image. As a result, he makes it his responsibility to teach his daughter about how special and beautiful she is as a black girl.

I loved Vogue Italia’s Black Issue last year. I loved that it featured Tocarra, a voluptuous, curvy woman who was far from a size 2. And I like the concept of using all Black Barbies in a Vogue spread. But I have to wonder if it is actually a step backwards. Barbies themselves use the white female body as a the prototype for beauty. Even the new Black Barbies do not have the hips, ass and curves that myself and other Black women possess. It’s great that Mattel has barbies of all shade, but what about all sizes? What taking into consideration that other races and ethnic groups have different ideas of what women’s bodies actually look like? The fashion industry often creates fashions, ad campaigns, and yes, even Barbie photo spreads that leave Black female bodies out of the equation and therefore, out of the question when defining what a “perfect body” looks like and who is able to possess it.

So what does everyone else think? Is the Black Barbie issue of Vogue Italia actually progress? Or does it still perpetuate anxiety and even denial of the Black female body as one that is indeed normal and beautiful?

Poking Fun at Postracial

This commercial was so funny and clever. And so was the back story.

H/T: Ta-Nehisi Coates