Tag Archives: womanism

For Colored Girls…But Not Really

Now I’ll fully admit that I have watched some Tyler Perry movies in the past and even enjoyed one or two. There’s a lot to discuss about Perry most especially the way women tend to be portrayed in his work. Strong but unable to be so if they continue to be single. It’s like the law of Tyler Perry movies a female character cannot just leave her abusive/mean/dismissive/boring husband or boyfriend unless there’s another man already lined up for her to lean on. There’s also the added facet that all of these women go from “professional” men to “working class” men which adds a whole class aspect to his work. The men always marry up and the women always marry down in terms of socio-economic level. And this isn’t saying that that is not a valid story for some folks but it’s less the individual movies I have a problem with as much as the overall thematic pattern of his work. The only woman allowed to be angry and strong consistently in his work is himself dressed as Madea, which is a whole essay on its own. We could also talk about the fact that those who starred in his original plays and happen to be plus size and black never make the transition to screen unless its in the background, there’s not even talk about the originators of the roles being cast which is interesting considering the to do that’s happened around other transitions like Rent and such but again point for another time that none the less informs a lot of the things that bother me about him and his portrayal of women of color.

So I was understandably nervous when he bought the rights to Ntozake Shange’s amazing choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf which is an amazing work from the perspective of eight  black women only known  by the titles: Lady in Red, Lady in Orange, Lady in Yellow,…Green, …Blue, …White, …Brown and …Black. It’s one of the most moving pieces I’ve ever read period. It interrogates the perspective of black women as they fall in love, deal with abuse, raise their children, confront their secrets, work, dance and just live their lives. It’s nuanced. It’s moving. It’s smart. It’s beautiful. These are not words I really connect to Tyler Perry or his work.

The fact that originally Nzingha Stewart was supposed to direct the film before he used his connections to snatch the film from her already did not make me a fan of  him. When it was announced that he was considering Beyonce for one of the roles I was too through. Then as things started to come together in terms of the cast I had hope: Janet Jackson (who lest people forget started in acting – Good Times, Fame and Poetic Justice), Whoopi Goldberg, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Loretta Devine, Kerry Washington, Kimberly Elise, Phylicia Rashad, Tessa Thompson and more. These are all actresses I’m a huge fan of and began to balance out the presence of Tyler Perry. I also learned that rather than writing the screenplay himself he was using the the screenplay that Nzingha Stewart wrote when she was still in charge of the film which IMDb and various sources confirm. Another point in the movies favor.

And as I was watching the trailer I actually was interested.

(WordPress would not let me embed the video of the trailer, go here to watch it.)

Until the whole video ended with this:

“Written For The Screen, Produced and Directed
By Tyler Perry”

WTF? So not only did Perry snatch the film itself from Stewart but he’s taking credit for her work. Now if it turns out that what I’ve heard and IMDB is reporting is wrong then I’ll take this back but as of now I hate Tyler Perry. What a move to make? To take a story about black women’s experiences written by  a black woman, steal it from a black female director (of which there are few enough as it is) and then take credit for her work. Methinks you actually need to read some of the original work you’re adapting:

somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff

somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff 
not my poems or a dance i gave up in the street
 but somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff

like a kleptomaniac workin hard & forgettin while stealin
 this is mine/this aint yr stuff/
now why don’t you put me back & let me hang out in my own self

somebody almost walked off wit alla my stuff 
& didn’t care enuf to send a note home sayin 
i was late for my solo conversation
 or two sizes to small for my own tacky skirts

link to the entire piece

We could also have a conversation about the shortening of the name, erasing a lot of the context in terms of the lives being portrayed, but that’s a post for another time.

Awesome Site – Check It Out!

My friend the angry black woman has started a new website called Corner Beauty Shop– a virtual gathering place for all Women of Color to talk about beauty. The All About Us page states clearly:

The Corner Beauty Shop is a virtual gathering place for Women of Color (WOC) to talk about the things that matter to them with other women who share the same or similar background.  We can all commiserate over the difficulty in finding makeup for our skin tone, or the trauma of transitioning from processed hair to natural, or not being able to find clothes that fit because designers only have one “typical” body shape in mind.

Here we’re going to talk about products and fashion and makeup and stores.  We’ll praise who we like and dog the mess out of the rest.  There’s no need to walk on eggshells at the beauty shop.

Here’s something the fashion and beauty industry needs to understand: we don’t need an “Ethnic Aisle”.  Sure, products made for Black, Asian, Native, or Latina women are great.  But aren’t some of them good for non-ethnic women, too?  And don’t some of those “mainstream” products work just as well on dry, oily, or combination skin no matter what the skin tone?  In other words: we’re not interested in being marketed to as if we’re a niche.  What we want to know is will this product work for us?  Will these pants fit?  Do you only use WOC models for the ads going in Essence and on BET?  Do you think about WOC at all?

This is the Corner Beauty Shop, and the ladies within will have something to say about all of that.

Let me tell you why I think this is such an awesome site. First of all it’s an aesthetically gorgeous site, love the picture up top and the layout, easy to navigate and easy on the eyes. Secondly it’s a site that’s needed, there are thousands of sites where people try to sell beauty products to WOC but very few were WOC can gather to discuss the things that worry and affect them when dealing with haircare, make-up, clothing, etc. Thirdly I love that it’s all WOC as opposed to focused on a specific ethnicity because I think those sites already exist and I see this as community building across racial lines in spite of the white supremacist patriarchal society that would love WOC to remain silent. So I say right on.

A last note Non-WOC are allowed to participate but we must remember THIS IS NOT ABOUT US it is about WOC and if you have something valid to contribute go right ahead but don’t make it about your issues, your interactions or your feelings because (and this cannot be reiterated enough) IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU! Check out The Rules section for more on this.

Links – Female, Muslim & Mutant, Olympic Rumors, WoC & Beauty Carnival, Publishers Contract Issues – Deja Vu & Why Say No?

Links for today!

*Broken Mystic explores the position of Muslim Women in comics comparing the American-created Dust and super-heroines created by Muslims such as Noora, Hadya, Jalila and Aya in two parts – Female, Muslim and Mutant (Part 1, Part 2) . All characters are deconstructed and its a very interesting exploration of the true existence of Muslim women and the biased Western views of the lives of Muslim women. Also the comic he talks about “The 99” sounds pretty awesome I’m picking up the English translations as soon as payday swings around.  

*Racialicious talks about black athletes being banned from bars in Beijing during the Olympics and the xenophobia and racism that’s been directed at Chinese since these unsubstantiated rumors popped up. It all exploded at Perez Hilton’s blog and the comments are really quite horrifyingly racist and soul-killing – Perez Hilton Hates Yellow People.

*A new carnival is looking for submissions. The Women of Color and Beauty Carnival looks to explore:

This Carnival is intended to focus on beauty and what it means to and about women of color. In particular, I would like to see discussion go beyond a focus on the ways in which women of color can internalize self hatred to the ways in which women and communities of color recognize and celebrate beauty.

Submissions from women and men of color are welcome, focusing on these areas:

What does beauty mean to women of color?

What is the difference between beauty and ethnically based sexual stereotyping? How does stereotyping and white supremacy affect our concepts of beauty, and how can we create change? What kind of responsibility do white women who identify as allies have to analyze and take ownership of their privilege in this area?

How do popular standards of beauty based on generalized whiteness affect our relationships with ourselves, each other, and between different groups of people of color?

The deadline for submissions is August 5 so hop to it, I’m gonna try to come up with something myself for this soon.

*If you’re even marginally involved with the publishing world in any capacity then you probably remember last year when Simon & Schuster and the Authors Guild went head-to-head over a change made in their contracts. If you didn’t hear about it or want a quick refresher go here. Pub Rants is a great blog by Agent Kristin who blogs about new writer mistakes, query letters, contract negotiation and more. This morning she brings us news that though S&S’s bid to change the contract failed here in the States the Random House Group is now trying something similar in the U.K

*Liz Henry over at Feminist SF – The Blog! asks:

Why are characters in SF so reluctant to Undergo The Great Change or quaff the vial of super-spice or be part computer or become immortal or have my DNA reengineered to be part-alien and merge with the giant group nanoconsciousness?

Then asks readers what they would do if offered that kind of choice. Head over and join the discussion. I’ll go into more detail in my reply over there but the simple answer is I would not hesitate to “quaff the vial of super-spice” at all.

Too Much Going On – Short Links

I have a lot going on today and for the next couple of weeks plus it being Monday makes me feel even more stressed and out-of control so for today’s post I have a list of short links that I thought y’all would find interesting and can read instead of my insightful commentary 😉

Whose Feminism? over at Racialicious by Guest Contributor Thea Lim where she discusses her feelings of anger and betrayal toward some of the white feminist blogosphere and grassroots movements that ignore any discussion of race. I think it puts into words what a lot of Women of Color are feeling right now toward the feminist movement.

Oregon Public Broadcasting has the first in a series on Umatilla women, their tradition of root gathering and the threats to this tradition. Anna King actually talks to women of the Nation instead of talking at them which makes this a much more rounded article than the usual ones on Native folks.

A woman in Canada shaves her head to raise money for a Cancer org and finds herself fired from her waitressing job. This is all about this man (and the patriarchy itself) trying to control women’s appearances. It such bullshit and I’m glad the community is up in arms about it but – and perhaps this is just me being cynical – but I wonder would they be half as up in arms if this was her personal choice and not about raising money for Cancer?

Worried about angry white women voting for McCain? Well you probably shouldn’t be. Jill over at Feministe breaks down the point lead that Obama holds over McCain in regards to women overall. But as most of us know the media’s never really cared for any women but white middle-class ones and among that group McCain is beating Obama (but only by the small margin of 6 points).

An experimental new Alzheimer’s drug/treatment may stop the build up of protiens that damage brain cells.

Homophobic judge in Spain forced to marry gay couple after years of putting off performing any marriages between folks of the same sex.

Guest Contributor Alex Alvarez has two recent posts over at Racialicious that are really eye-opening. First, New Study Shows that Latino Teens Are Pregnant Suicidal Junkies where Alex questions who they consider Latina/o and how they decided it which is an important factor that’s not been brought up. Secondly, Our Genes Don’t Match with “Brown Pride” Clothing discusses the conflation of the term Latina/o with the chola/o subculture in the media and with clothing marketed to the Latina/o community in particular.

Finally on an environmental note, the first beaver dam in England in over 800 years.

Apologies (or if “sorry” was a fifth we’d all be drunk)

So yes there have been many apologies regarding the images in Marcotte’s book from Marcotte, Seal Press and numerous folks who endorsed the book. But I believe I speak for a lot of people who were offended by the images when I say: “Yeah, that don’t mean shit.”

Wait…hold that kneejerk response, let me explain. Of course, it’s great to apologize for these things and to try and do something about them, such as Seal Press promising to get some racial sensitivity training but here’s the thing: We’ve heard all of this before, over and over from not just white feminists but the white left in general. When these things happen again and again and we have to fight to get people to acknowledge their mistakes and then they apologize and it happens again a few years later well the apologies start to pile up and the words “I’m Sorry” just don’t mean much anymore. Yes, Marcotte et. al. could be completely serious and change their ways and become great anti-racists but I know I’m not the only one who’s not holding their breath.

Apologies don’t mean shit unless things come from them, unless change happens and unless that change is spread. So let’s say those involved in this debacle really do change their ways and become experts on intersectionality and all that but five years from now (more like one year, but I digress) this all happens again but from different folks. So if every year we have to do this, have to fight not only for them to acknowledge the issue but apologize, how long until “sorry” is just a pacifier that denotes no real change.

The problem is not really Marcotte, or Seal Press the problem is the movement as a whole. (and don’t think I’m only picking on feminism and racism, I’m also taking about POC movements and sexism, both movements and their queerism, queer movements and racism, basically all movements have some -isms that they need to deal with I’m just dealing with feminism because this is what’s up right now) When the movement refuses to change or alter after over 50 years of the same issues, the same battles, the same criticisms we start to wonder will it ever change. If it’s even worth our time to be involved in such a movement that tries our patience and then when we do criticize attacks us, what  does the movement benefit us at that point? When our situations are never taken into account and in fact we feel attacked on all fronts what is the point

Now this is not to knock white feminists as a whole because there are plenty of fabulous white feminists, in my personal life and on the internetz BUT those are not the white feminists that getbooks published, they are not the feminists that the world remembers, they are not the feminists given a platform to speak. They are considered too radical, too loud by the mainstream feminists and where have we heard such critiques before? From the patriarchy directed at feminists in general.  

I could also write a whole post talking about the absence of some really famous Feminists of Color from this discussion.  The way Audre Lorde is seen as the only Feminist of Color ignoring a whole lot of other women that are still alive and still writing but as I said get no voice or platform to speak. The fact that because these women actually discuss their lives and the way that they cannot separate being Of Color and being a Woman they are ignored and relegated to footnotes in the history of feminism while problematic white feminist that they criticized are held up as paragons of virtue and egalitarianism. We could talk about Barbara Smith, Cherrie Moraga, Gloria Anzaldua, bell hooks, Merle Woo, Maxine Hong Kingston, Gloria T. Hull, Helen Zia, Patricia Bell but that’s a post for another time.

And through all this let us not forget one of the core problems of this whole dust-up, the fact that all these people saw those images and saw nothing wrong with them until other folks brought it up. Well we get tired of bringing it up, we get exhausted. At some point you have to do the work for yourselves, you have to educate others like you because that exodus of WOC will continue until they can actually get their issues address by mainstream feminism, until intersectionality becomes de jure and not the province of an ignored few, until mainstream feminism actually dedicates itself to the uplifting of all women and combating all the  issues that face them everyday.

And I think this will be my last word on this subject.

Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Program

vito_excalibur has an excellent post, spurred by the idiocy of the Open Source Boob Project (remember the rage from yesterday?), Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Program:

I would like to start the Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Program. Here’s my pledge: if I see somebody groping you in public, and you’re not moaning Yes! Yes! Yes!, I will break through your Somebody Else’s Problem invisibility field and come over and ask if you’re okay. If your situation looks dangerous enough I can’t help on my own, I will call over friends or, if it’s a situation in which I think the cops would be on your side, I will call the cops. If you’re being harassed by a guy, you can say so to me, even if you don’t know me. I pledge I will distract him so you can get away, or I will tell him that he needs to leave, or whatever I can do to the best of my ability. I pledge that yes, actually, because you are a woman I will give you the benefit of the doubt. If you tell me that a guy just did something shitty to you I will not refuse to look at any evidence and tell you that I know him and he’s a great guy and you must have been imagining things. I have great loyalty to my male friends but I will not allow that to blind me to the fact that none of us are saints and even my best friends can screw up and may need to be called on it. I pledge that I will walk you to your car if you don’t feel safe walking alone at night, and then you can drive me to mine.

Yes, even at Wiscon. I pledge that even if I don’t know you, if there is a creepy guy following you around, you can say so, and I will not say to you go hide in your room; I will say to him go find another party, or if necessary, go home. I will come with you if you need to talk to the con organizers. I will not make you feel like your right to control over your own body is not a big deal.

I pledge my support to this project and promise to help in anyway I can while understanding that it is womyn-focused and run and that as a man it is not about me. Meaning it’s not about me and how I can “save womyn” or about taking up space that does not belong to me or any other male privilege bullshit. It is about supporting the womyn who’re involved in this project.

As said in the post/comments the YCR (Y Chromosome Reserves) should be committed to following the lead of the womyn involved in WBEOU, distracting the creepy guys as necessary, providing back up and also talking to their male friends and calling them on their shit. I definitely pledge to do the all those things but as for calling male friends out on their shit I tend to do that anyway, loudly (which might explain why out of the approx. 50 names in my cell phone only 5 are men and of those I only talk to 2 with any regularity).

YCR member, reporting for duty!

Feminism – Who’s it for?

More on the problems around Seal Press as we get a fuller account of what they did at WAM! from the friend that Black Amazon was defending. She discusses her interactions with them and how the whole thing went down and the non-surprise at the way they reacted to Black Amazon’s post.

I’m not gonna lie I’ve always had deep issues around the absence of the voices of Women of Color in the discourse of more mainstream feminism. Especially since the two issues that have come up, the one around Marcotte and BfP and the one around Seal Press are linked by the fact that Marcotte’s book is out of Seal Press. Now when you see the two things individually you might (if you don’t know the history) be able to convince yourself that they are just two instances of people using their privilege. But when you see them linked like that you realize this is systematic of the way feminism can operate. For a long time feminism has been seen as the province of the white and middle-class by people not  in those two communities and that’s not a judgment without evidence and history to back it up.

The Feminist Movement of the 60’s & 70’s mostly known as the Second Wave had a habit of ignoring the concerns of those that were of a lower socio-economic level, Of Color, queer, differently-abled, they brushed their concerns away with a shrug on how it wasn’t feminism*. When they weren’t excluding those groups and devaluing their experiences they were stealing the pain and words of those groups for their own uses and being proclaimed as so forward thinking and progressive when it was things that the other communities had been discussing and writing about for years. You see modern examples all the time, the white commentator who’s lauded for bringing up misogyny in Rap all while the media ignores the fact that People of Color have been discussing that aspect and trying to change it for years. Our words/theories/thoughts were/are stolen with nary a thought for how that makes us feel.

When those of us who were around then (not me!, not claiming that) and/or know the history behind this kind of appropriation see this kind of shit happening again, we’re not surprised in the least but I’ll tell you what I am, angry. I’m so angry that this kind of bullshit, that we should have worked through years ago (and many did, but then they aren’t the ones the mainstream wants to focus on), still impedes us from forming the coalitions we need to change the way things operate. It’s the reason Alice Walker started using the term womanist, because the term feminist and those who called themselves feminists were not at all interested in the total of things that affected her life.

True coalition cannot be achieved while a part of the group steals the ideas and denigrates the experiences of others. All of those groups of white feminists and Seal Press who wail at the fact that Women of Color don’t join or submit stuff need to have a hard look at what they are putting out there and why Women of Color might be wary of being connected to such people.

It’s really simple, there are plenty of feminists I know who are truly inclusive and aware of issues that affect the groups traditionally ignored by mainstream feminism. They carry on a tradition of feminist groups that have never gotten much attention but have been around since the 60’s, so I know it can be done and done well. They don’t get defensive when race is brought up, they don’t steal our ideas, they reference us when they riff off of something we said, they treat us like we matter and are important parts of the feminist movement. Take a good hard look at yourselves, Seal Press et. al. you may talk a good game but it’s been said time and time again, actions speak louder than words.

*Note: This is not to say that there weren’t fabulous feminists that came out of this era and wrote about intersections of identity such as, Barbara Smith, Audre Lorde, Dorothy Allison and Akasha (Gloria) Hull just to name a few. But often these people weren’t a part of the mainstream feminist organizations that got a lion share of media/popular attention. Their works and achievements have been largely ignored by the current crop of feminists who tend to write off the whole of the 2nd wave (hat tip to Ladyjax for bringing this up and for writing the post that planted the seed for this post).