Posts tagged ‘violence against women’

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

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.

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.

The Audacity of Spirit: Lessons from a New Modern Woman

June 20th marked World Refugee Day. Here in Washington there have been events throughout the month to bring awareness to the issues that refugees face here and abroad.  Ihotu Ali, a Center for Progressive Leadership New Leaders Fellow, talks about the images of refugee women here in America. I had the pleasure of meeting Ihotu at a Message Development training a few months ago and of course,  she is yet a another smart, fabulous black girl blogger.

After a college degree and several months of working in the political capitol of the Western world, I know a bit about power. Daily, I experience the power of crisp black suits, sleek cars, and boldly colored heels clicking their own new rhythms into the echo of marble halls.

However, Washingtonians may encounter an affront to this idea of power, through the advertisements of CARE, a nongovernmental refugee organization. In its trademark public campaign, CARE portrays a refugee woman, very young or very old, dressed in the tradition of her country and looking deep into the camera’s eye. The universal caption: “I Am Powerful.” In the midst of Washington, D.C., this may seem more a wistful ideal than reality. Reality teaches that even the most educated and top-earning women only make 72 cents on a man’s dollar, and that women around the world are most vulnerable to illiteracy, poverty, domestic abuse, and a lack of access to the handbag of characteristics which we call “power.” Yet these women stare out evenly from photographs and billboards to silently declare that they, even in a displaced state, are powerful.

A refugee woman may actually be the most powerful being you will ever meet. Whether she walked in tatters or designers, reality tells that she likely walked past dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people whom she left behind. People who didn’t make it out, and yet people exactly like her. She may recall their stunted journeys with every step. And yet she continues to walk. You might be unaware of the expression on her face. She may not disclose how many different lives she led, from fear to hope to indifference to ferocity. Reality provoked her to emotions of such nuance and contradiction that one would think humanity had not discovered them, before inhuman circumstances broadened the capacity of her human face. What you may see is blind faith, or a steeled persistence. You may have never seen what power it took to keep eyes so willing to remain open to new sights, a mouth so willing to continue to speak and engage and a face turned toward a new, possibly terrifying reality.

You may not see all this. Or you may equally see it in the faces of fellow American women who struggled for their power. But take a moment to look deeply into the power of these women. They may not have the traditional trappings of wealth or fame. And they may not vie to be recognized among the masses, nor do they wield their strength like a sword to bring others beneath them as they rise. Instead, consider their power as a catalyst, with which we all regard one another and ourselves with more clarity and humanity. This is a power of faith, hope, and resilience despite the most dire of circumstances. These women are not unbreakable, but they never allow brokenness to be a permanent state. They teach others the power to learn, to forgive, to accept and adapt.

As a friend and family member to such women, I often visualize their faces when I want to embody that power. What we all in Washington could learn from these women is not just the power to win the war or survive the battle. We already know this. They teach us the power to thrive, with an audacity of spirit, in the face of reality.

Bill O’Reilley’s Producer is an Unprofessional Hack

Amanda Terkel, who is scheduled to appear on the Bill O’Reilley to report on the rape case of Jennifer Moore, was harassed and followed by Bill O’Reilley’s producer Jesse Watters:

From Think Progress:

This weekend, while on vacation, I was ambushed by O’Reilly’s top hit man, producer Jesse Watters, who accosted me on the street and told me that because I highlighted O’Reilly’s comments, I was causing “pain and suffering” to rape victims and their families. He of course offered no proof to back up this claim, instead choosing to shout questions at me.

I expect O’Reilly to air this “interview” at some point this week, possibly as early as tonight. I have no expectation that he will show the entire altercation or give the entire story about what happened, so here is the full account, offering a glimpse inside the O’Reilly harrassment machine:

– The Stalking: Watters and his camera man accosted me at approximately 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, March 21, in Winchester, VA, which is a two-hour drive from Washington, DC. My friend and I were in this small town for a short weekend vacation and had told no one about where we were going. I can only infer that the two men staked out my apartment and then followed me for two hours. Looking back, my friend and I remember seeing their tan SUV following us for much of the trip. Read more

This is absolutely inexcusable. As if O’Reilley’s assertion that Jennifer Moore “asked for it” wasn’t enough:

Now Moore, Jennifer Moore, 18, on her way to college. She was 5-foot-2, 105 pounds, wearing a miniskirt and a halter top with a bare midriff. Now, again, there you go. So every predator in the world is gonna pick that up at two in the morning. She’s walking by herself on the West Side Highway, and she gets picked up by a thug. All right. Now she’s out of her mind, drunk.

Watters found it necessary to chase Amanda Terkel down, follow her, then insult her intelligence by asserting that she is doing rape victims a disservice by defending them on Bill O’Reilley’s show. What kind of bitchassness unprofessional behavior is this?

I have no patience for rape apologists who find comfort in blaming victims for what happens to them. Shame on both Bill O’Reilley and Ted Watters for keeping this ignorance going.

A few Words on Chris and Rihanna

Cross Posted at Change.org

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.