Violence Against Young Women

“In San Francisco last year, a man stabbed a woman in the face and arm after she didn’t respond positively to his sexually harassing her on the street. In Bradenton, Fla., a man shot a high school senior to death after she and her friends refused to perform oral sex at his request. In Chicago, a scared 15-year-old was hit by a car and died after she tried escaping from harassers on a bus.” 

In her article“Street Harassment: Is a Man Running Over a 14-Year Old For Refusing Sex Serious Enough?” feminist blogger Soraya Chemaly details the street harassment against young women. The stories not only disturbed me, but I am outraged. Why can’t  young women make it home safely without some man harassing/stalking them?

The article reminded of my own experiences (and stories my friends have told me), walking down the street as teenagers. A good friend from high school told me about the time when she was 14-years old waiting for a bus. A man in his 30’s/40’s circled the stop in his car. Eventually, he got out of his car and invaded her personal space. He leered at her “Does your boyfriend like to play with your big boobs?” My friend said she was so scared, she didn’t know what to say. Luckily, other folks walked up to the bus stop.  The man hopped back in his car and drove away.  I remember when I was 16-years old and waiting for a bus.  At the time, I was wearing braids. Two grown men passed me. One of the men tugged my braids.  Of course, I gave him a dirty look, as he touched my body without permission. He just laughed. He then started saying vulgar things to me. I ignored him. Because I wasn’t responding like he wanted, the guy got angry and started cussing me out.  He walked up to me like he was going to hit me. His friend stopped him and pulled him away. “Come on man, she’s just a kid” He said.  I shudder to think what would have happened if this guy had been alone. I was scared as hell.

Young women are vulnerable to street harassment. They often walk home alone from school or rely on  public transportation. They have also been conditioned to submit to male privilege/authority. We don’t empower our young women to know that they have a right to their bodies/personal space. We live in a society that tells all women, but especially younger women, to smile/be nice/be helpful/be polite/be non-threatening. As Chemaly discussed in her article, when you add-on race, class, and disability, it makes this issue even more alarming. Young women of color are more likely to be harassed as they have been stereotyped as “fast” and overly sexualized in the media. Young women of color in poorer neighborhoods, the rate of street harassment/violence skyrocket. Women/younger women with disabilities are also more likely to be assaulted. Chemaly noted, “Consider the experiences of people with disabilities. For example, women in wheelchairs have to be on the lookout for men who push their groins into their faces.  An “architecture of aggression” renders people with disabilities far more vulnerable to harassment and potential violence. Add to the suggestion that disabled people, especially disabled women, should consider themselves especially “lucky” to get any attention.”

Our society has failed at  making the streets safe for young women. It is not a joke that young women are being stalked down streets. I know some folks don’t think catcalls/whistles are a big deal,  but usually this behavior escalates.  Male privilege allows men to think they can walk up to a woman and invade her space/act any way they want.  Or even sitting down. I encourage folks to check out the tumblr  “Men Taking Up Too Much Space on The Train.”

In order to stop violence against younger women/women, folks need to support organizations that are committed to this work. Grassroots/DIY groups like INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence and Hollaback! are working towards ending oppression/misogyny against women. They relay on donations and word of mouth support.  Men also need to hold other men accountable. Do not just sit by and watch as a man terrifies a young woman. Speak up for the young women/women in your community.

Photo from: www.thesaudavoice.com
Photo from: http://www.thesaudavoice.com

 

The Best Man Holiday

My favorite three black films from the 90’s are (1) Set It Off (2) Love Jones and (3) The Best Man. I liked “The Best Man” because it showed a different side of black life. It was a romantic comedy about professional/educated black folks.  It was a polished film with good acting, good-looking people, and a decent story line. When the film first came out, I loved me some Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, and mysterious newcomer Terrence Howard.  These days, I mostly prefer Chestnut. Diggs and Howard have turned me off with some of their anti-black woman comments/behavior.  It’s hard to see them through the same lens as I did years ago. I always hope black films do well at the box office, but I might wait to watch on Netflix, unless I’m dragged to it by a girlfriend :/

PS: Don’t tell me the Nia Long’s character is still single?!  The first film did stereotype the professional black woman as being lonely/horny with cats.

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In theaters November 15th

Randomness: Breaking Bad

I’m always late to the popular shows because I don’t have a television.  I just started watching “Breaking Bad” on Netflix. It’s soo addictive. I pause it when I need to take a shower or make something to eat  :/  It’s sad really, but oh so good:

Photo from: patdollard.com
Photo from: patdollard.com

The show is well written, acted, and seems so real.  I like the Jesse character. He is very likable, for some reason. The Walter character is a bit more devious. While on the surface it looks like a good man pushed to the extremes,  I think he had it in him all along.

My only issue so far, has been the representation of brown folks. They have all been crazy/violent (I’m still on the first season).  I find it fascinating brown people are involved at all. I guess because the story is set in New Mexico. But the meth business is still predominately white. Or maybe it’s just the users? I tried to research, but it’s hard to find information about meth addictions/culture, unlike crack addictions. I wonder why dot dot dot

Other than that, great show!!

Trailer: The Black Line

I think this is a new documentary that came this past winter or will be coming out soon. The promoters weren’t clear on Facebook. In any case, this film was directed by the same person who produced “Dark Girls,” D. Channsin Berry.  “The Black Line” explores life for black women in America. It looks interesting. While I do think it’s important to tell the stories of black women, it can be a thin line of sharing experiences and turning it into the stereotypical downtrodden black woman.  It’s one of the reasons why I didn’t like Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls.” Yes, it told the reality of some black women’s lives, but it was so damned depressing. Perry sucked out all the complexity/black girl power from Ntozake Shange‘s play.  This tends to happen a lot when black male directors make films about black women. It often becomes one-dimensional.

It’s like SOME black men are no better than white folks at seeing the many layers of black womanhood. Which is kind of sad, as they have better access/contact with us, than anyone else.

I would like to see more films exploring the many sides of black women.  There are so many black women in the world doing more than just being sick, depressed, or dying. Not making light of this, as these issues are important , but we can be happy/adventurous too. There needs to be  a balance of black female representation.

I wish I had some director skills…

#solidarityisforwhitewomen

I don’t know how I missed this controversy. The hashtag  #solidarityisforwhitewomen was started by Karnythia, a black woman blogger. It grew out of her frustrations of white women feminists and their continued marginalization of women of color. Despite the rhetoric of inclusion, diversity, and “intersectionality” the feminist movement tends to still be dominated/controlled by white feminists. They haven’t been that eager to share their power.

Honestly, when a white woman tells me they’re a feminist (as a way to connect with me) I already know I will be dealing with some nonsense later on. Or white women tears.  White women tears is the not so inside joke of feminists of color. Basically, its white women who resort to crying when they realize a person of color won’t let them off the hook for their white privilege/racism.  These tears tend to be especially used against women of color, as many white women have bought into they are the “real” women and we are the fake ones.

In the words of bell hooks:

“All white women in this nation know that their status is different from that of black women/women of color. They know this from the time they are little girls watching television and seeing only their images. They know that the only reason nonwhites are absent/invisible is because they are not white. All white women in this nation know that whiteness is a privileged category. The fact that white females may choose to repress or deny this knowledge does not mean they are ignorant: it means that they are in denial.” From http://stfu-moffat.tumblr.com/post/45677527617/all-white-women-in-this-nation-know-that-their

Most women of color have had to deal with white women tears. Especially black women. While all women of color are made into second class (sometimes third class) citizens to that of white women, black women are more likely to be used as the antithesis of white womanhood:

Photo from:http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/scarlett-ohara/images/27870938/title/scarlett-ohara-photo
Photo from:http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/scarlett-ohara/images/27870938/title/scarlett-ohara-photo

A lot of it has to do with slavery. In order to justify the labor exploitation/rapes of black women, we had to be “othered.” Historically, white women have benefited off the backs of black women. I bet the majority of black women have experienced white women trying to make them their personal Mammy. Hell, it happened to me just the other day.

I was trying to get my Starbucks on. One of the white women workers eased up beside me, as I was stirring my tea. She stared at my hair. “So, what hair products do you use?” She asked. Now, anyone that knows me, know I don’t answer non-black folks hair questions. I just don’t. So, I suggested to her, like I suggest to other folks, she should Google about black hair products.  She didn’t get the hint. She started carrying on about her daughter’s hair. I think she was trying to let me know her daughter was biracial. But that’s still not my problem. If you have a biracial child, it’s your responsibility to read books/Google about black hair culture. When the woman realized I wasn’t going to answer her question, she huffed and walked away. But, I didn’t give a damn. I was not put on this earth to be the educator of blackness to white folks. If Angela Jolie and Brad Pitt can learn how to do their adopted black daughter’s hair (or at the very least pay someone to do it), so can other non-black folks.

Am I hardcore?

Yes, but you have to remember I get put into these situations on a daily basis.  White women coming up to me out of the blue wanting me answer their questions, explain things to them, or help them with things.  I am not a freelance Mammy.  These situations are probably magnified, as I am a dark black woman, and the image of Mammy has typically been that of darker skinned women.

If white women don’t get angry (if you refuse to play the role), usually it’s tears.  And frankly, a lot it tends to be from so-called white feminists. The fact of the matter is feminism has failed women of color.  It will continue to suck until white women feminist get real with some of their issues (and do better outreach to teaching everyday white women to stop being oppressive towards non-white women ). Do I hate all white feminists? Nope. I have met some cool ones that are genuinely trying to be allies/check themselves. But, they are  just a handful. Most white feminists cling to their white privilege.

Any who, I went on this rant because Salon.com is starting a column for feminist of color. It’s the continuation of the   #solidarityisforwhitewomen  movement. If you identify as a feminist of color (regardless of gender), submit something!   I put the contact information under the “Call for Submissions” tab.

Good luck!

Randomness: My blogging is too Blogalicious

This past spring, I won a grant to attend the Blogalicious conference. I can’t believe it’s just next week! It seemed so far away. I am looking forward to the conference.  It’s an opportunity to travel, learn some new things, and meet up with family. If I am not feeling overwhelmed/lazy, I will post a video(s) from my time there, or at least blog. I wish I knew about the event, last year. The conference was held in Las Vegas. I would’ve hit up the slot machines. 😉

Oh well…

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When You Forget to Whistle Vivaldi

thoughtful article…

tressiemc

Last week Johnathan Ferrell had a horrible car crash. He broke out the back window to escape and walked, injured, to the nearest home hoping for help. Ferrell may have been too hurt, too in shock to remember to whistle Vivaldi. Ferrell is dead.

Social psychologist Claude Steele revolutionized our understanding of the daily context and cognitive effects of stereotypes and bias. The title of his book alludes to a story his friend, NY Times writer, Brent Staples once shared. An African American man, Staples, recounts how his physical presence terrified whites as he moved about Chicago as a free citizen and graduate student. To counter the negative effects of white fear he took to whistling a classical music piece by Italian composer Vivaldi. It was a signal to the victimless victims of his blackness that he was safe. Dangerous black men do not listen to classical music, or…

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20 Feet From Stardom

The other day I had some free time, so I went and saw “20 Feet From Stardom.” I’ve been wanting to see the documentary after reading good reviews online:

Photo from: www.imdb.com
Photo from: http://www.imdb.com

The film tells the story of the backup singer. You know,  the folks that provide the harmonies/hooks of your favorite songs.  The little known secret is that many of these background singers, tend to be black women. The music industry has been built off the bodies/voices/talents of black women. The film focuses on Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Claudia Lennear, and Judith Hill:

Darlene Love
Darlene Love
Merry Clayton
Merry Clayton
Lisa Fischer
Lisa Fischer
Claudia Lennear
Claudia Lennear
Judith Hill
Judith Hill

It’s a great film. You will dance in your seat, laugh out loud, and even cry. All of the featured women are hella talented/fun personalities. You wonder why they never made that 20 feet.  Well, actually I do know why. As one of the singers noted (I think Darlene Love), she believes she had a hard time having a solo career because“there  was already an Aretha.” Therein lies the problem of the black female singer. The film was directed by Morgan Neville, a white man. While he does touch on some historical moments that helped shaped the music industry, he glosses over how racism, sexism, and colorism affected these women’s careers.

While there can be many white women singers in the spotlight (Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Adele, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, etc.), there can only be one black female singer, at a time. The racist music industry does this on purpose. They know if they didn’t keep black women singers marginalized, black women would dominate the music/entertainment scene. We can’t have people seeing beautiful, charismatic, black women sanging their azzes off, now can we? Just think, this film doesn’t even scratch the surface of black women backup singers from back in the day/now.  These women have had a major impact on the way lead singers (usually white men) sang their songs, wrote their songs,  ad libs, etc.  They tend to bring the energy, creativity, and soul to the music industry.

The film does interview the white stars that the women sang backup for. It includes folks like Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, etc. Personally, I thought these men could’ve been left out of the film. I know their inclusion was an opportunity for them to give props to the women, that contributed to their careers, but white men always get to speak for “colored” women. These women can shine on their own…

But these mishaps, don’t ruin the film. The film provides insights of the life of the backup singer. It also gives them the respect they deserve.  So, I can’t be mad about that. I definitely recommend this film.