Posts tagged ‘sexuality’

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?

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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.

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

Amber Rose in Complex Magazine: Sexy Beast (?)

500x_amber_cage_01

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.

Today is the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy invites teens to take a short, scenario-based quiz on their teen website. The quiz challenges teens to think about what they would do when sexual situations arise.

This day also is  a great opportunity to think about solutions to not only teen pregnancy, but also to how we can reduce the risks of teens getting STD’s. This can be a great opportunity to consider how we talk to our youth about sex and what we tell them about protection themselves and each other.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts about this subject, I believe that it takes much more than someone simply telling young people to “just say no.”  That’s not to say that abstinence should be removed from the dialogue completely, but that perhaps giving young people  a comprehensive view of how to prevent pregnancy and STD’s will allow for them to make more informed decisions.

And it goes without saying that it takes more than a day prevent teen pregnancy. It has to become an on-going part of how we engage youth in a real discussion about these issues.

A few links:

Drop it like it’s hot: If you have blogged about the National Day or would like to talk about ways to talk to kids and teens about sexuality, then drop your links in the comments section!


Song of the Week-Part 2

Because this needed its own post.

I’m not sure how I missed this long version of Jill Scott’s “Crown Royal” but…I heard it this morning for the first time and it is fantastic. Wouldn’t expect anything more from Jill though. What I loved about her last album is that it had a level of erotic sensuality that we hadn’t seen from Jill before. Audre Lorde’s “Erotic as Power” comes to mind.

This song is for grown folks…so make sure the babies aren’t around.


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.