Social Media Content Control or No New Sharecropping, No, No, No

Social media content control, as well as curation, can be a difficult process. Once we have comfortably programmed our favorite phone application to remember our screen names and passwords, we tend to forget that we are providing content in a means similar to sharecropping. Now, for Black African Americans familiar with US sharecropping, this metaphor might seem a bit of a stretch. Like with most things US, economic, and Black, the story is much more hostile, violent, and inhumane than the story outside of the United States. In the same way that slavery in Brazil or England tends to read much less brutal than in the United States, so does the practice of sharecropping tend to read much more fair in other places.

 

To keep things neat and tidy here, the essence of the analogy of Twitter user to Twitter as tenant farmer to landlord, is producer/worker to owner. As of the date of this writing, the Owl’s Asylum account on Twitter is suspended. That means, I do not have the ability to delete, republish, or respond to any of the one hundred thousand plus pieces of content I have provided Twitter the company with. I do not have access to the one-hundred and twenty shy of six thousand followers I have accumulated over the past four or so years. I have no control over any of the writings stored on the servers that house the content of Twitter. As a result of this relationship, Twitter severing ties with Asylum has lost me half to one-third of my organic traffic to Asylum. Those are not good numbers. But, I blame Owl for this.

 

I do not blame myself for Twitter suspending my account. If I had a guest post on Asylum that generated five thousand or more users to interact with it daily, like say, this post, and I was discomforted by the writer of that post, I would not pull the post. But, I am Owl, not the owners and developers of Twitter, and they have their own rules to abide by. My point of accountability lies in developing a stronger content model on the apparatus of someone else, than on my own.

 

I have worked incessantly to establish the brand Owl’s Asylum, Owl, and Asylum under the same principles of “poor righteous teacher” that I live by. In being one that is capable of forging radical ideas and developing ingenious tactics to deploy said ideas, I am upset that I have spent so much time in one channel that I do not own. As the person that developed Owl’s Asylum, the only space online for Black people to examine media, entertainment, culture, and Black African American history from the perspective of someone that has seen prison, homelessness, and university, I am upset with myself. As the person that developed Owl’s Asylum, a space for thinking Black people to gain insights into the messages being communicated to them so they can better think for themselves as opposed to allowing others to think for them, yes, damn it, I am extremely salty with Owl.

 

I write for the Thinking Person. People who read Owl’s Asylum are people that like to ask questions and do not like when their emotional drawstrings are pulled. This especially when those emotional drawstrings are also doubling as their purse strings. When most online content providers were “dumbing down” their content, I was looking for a bigger thesaurus, a more unabridged dictionary, and more abstractions to apply to the everyday struggle. I should have known better, as stated here, I am a “Digital Hustler”, and that implies something I hate admitting I overlooked. Social media is a great opportunity to meet new people, but unless you are paying the server fees, I cannot advise you providing content on these sites as if you are.

 

According to eMarketer predictions, Twitter will reach an ad revenue generated evaluation of one billion dollars by the year 2014. That is ad revenues generated primarily(53%) through mobile devices. Let me ask a series of questions here:

 

How many people do you know logging into Twitter to read ads, “promoted content”?

 

Of those that you know that definitely do not log on to Twitter dot com to read “promoted content”, how many log on to read the content provided by others?

 

Of that group of people that log on to read the content provided by others, how many of the people they log on to read are getting any percentage points of revenue directly from Twitter the corporation?

 

Now, that is sharecropping the United States of America way. Twitter was not even willing to provide Owl and his Asylum a reason as to why the account was suspended. I had to search engine my way to an understanding of why my followers were asking about my whereabouts. I came across this piece on the topic, and this article, then this one, and this one, and then this one. After reviewing the consistencies across a few other channels, I still do not know why Twitter suspended my account. Nor do I feel compelled to fight to have access to provide a company with free content that they are receiving a projected one billion dollars in ad revenues from. Like the Digital Hustler, I am, I am willing to chalk this lack of social media content control to the game, and keep moving.

 

A few months back I was reading an article posted by Sonia Simone. The article was posted on highly recognized CopyBlogger dot com. The title of the article is “The Most Dangerous Threat to Your Online Marketing Efforts”, and she discusses the concept of “digital sharecropping” and the lack of social media content control, in a slightly different tone than I am(I mean, come, come, now…who in all of the interwebs writes anything with the same tone or perspective as Owl?), but providing much of the same essence. She opens the composition of caution with this story I am reproducing here:

 

We have a great bookstore in my town — the kind of place you picture in your mind when you think of a great independent bookshop.

 

It’s perfect for browsing, with lots of comfy chairs to relax in. The books are displayed enticingly. There’s a little coffee shop so you can relax with an espresso. They get your favorite writers to come in for readings, so there’s always a sense of event and excitement.

 

They do everything right, and they have always had plenty of customers.

 

But they still closed their doors last year.

 

No, not for the reasons you might think. It wasn’t Amazon that killed them, or the proliferation of free content on the web, or the crappy economy.

 

They closed the store because they were leasing their big, comfortable building … and when that lease ran out, their landlord tripled the rent.

 

Literally overnight, their business model quit working. Revenues simply wouldn’t exceed costs. A decision made by another party, one they had no control over, took a wonderful business and destroyed it.

 

And that’s precisely what you risk every day you make your business completely dependent on another company.

 

It might be Facebook. It might be eBay. It might be Google.

 

The analogy here is precise. Simone also provides tactics and strategies that I have implemented over the years, so, in closing I will add my own “also do” list here:

 

1:: Along with owning your own domain name and paying for your own hosting, continue to add the link to your site to all digital exchanges and content. You should be typing- or having automated- the words “Read more here…” until you earl.

 

2:: With an increased linking of your content, also back up all of your social media exchanges that might work as stand-alone content on your site, or just writings you wish to keep. For Asylum, I use ThinkUp and it plugs right into your online database, giving you absolute control over what is stored and when.

 

3:: The last tactic I am going to leave here is create a ratio that demands you to have more content on your own site than on any other. It is not wise to have more images of your product or service on Pinterest or Instagram than you have on your purchased domain, and regularly billed site. You are paying a recurring bill, act like it.

Spoiler Alert :: Fruitvale Station

Black history has been impacted in many ways this month, and not exactly all by events and circumstances controllable by Black Afrikan Amerikkkans(Black African Americans). On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Benjamin Martin was shot and murdered by George “Georgie” Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. July 13, 2013, five white women and a racial straggler found Georgie Zimmerman ‘not guilty’. A week later, Bridget and I decided to catch a midday screening of the independent film written and directed by Ryan Coogler, “Fruitvale Station”.

 

Fruitvale Station

 

I pretty much assumed “based on a true story” just meant they used names of historical personalities but left out the good parts of their actual history

I am always a bit skeptical with cinema reenactments. After I read Chris Gardner’s “The Pursuit of Happyness”, and then watched the Will Smith “turned down” for nominations of the Academy kind adaptation, I pretty much assumed “based on a true story” just meant they used names of historical personalities but left out the good parts of their actual history. The handling of Oscar Julius Grant III by Coogler– and those that mentored him out of Forrest Whitaker’s camp– was slightly less delicate, although, I still have my reservations. The portrayal of anyone whose name has become as socially infused with the ideas germinated when discussing senseless murder of Blacks by incompetent White cops, neighborhood watchers, vigilantes, and the like, has to almost always be one of two presentations: documentary style reenactment or dramatic recounting of events with liberties taken for the sake of emotional appeal.

 

Instead of making a choice, in true US Black fashion, Ryan decides to mix both flavors. And from that decision, I believe, in the same thinking as Armond White on this film, is where Ryan departs from an impeccable presentation of Oscar Grant and the events leading up to his murder. Instead, we are left with one in which overly dramatic cinematic devices are scattered throughout what is more masterful during its more subtle renderings.

 

This reproduction of stereotypical young Black America –no matter how interwoven the sensitivities– does not remind me how “human” Oscar was. The bullet placed in his back by a maladroit public servant reminds me how human Oscar Grant was..

 

The movie starts out with us overhearing a conversation between Oscar and his girlfriend, the mother of his daughter, Sophina. From their two to three lines capturing an intimate moment before the black screen of credits is even lifted, we are thrust into the camera phone recording of the murder of Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale Station by Bay Area Rapid Transit cop, Johannes Mehserle. It is this sort of juxtaposition of real life footage, and drama, that leaps out at you as reminder that yes, this is Coogler’s first time at bat.

 

The chemistry between Melonie Diaz(Lords of Dogtown, A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints)– who plays Sophina –and Michael Bakari Jordan(The Wire, Chronicle)– who fills the role of Oscar– is compelling and refreshing. Once again, I have to agree with Armond White, the cast truly brings this storyline through all of its rough patches. The strength of the movie is not so much in the hair-pin trigger anger displayed throughout the film by the character of Oscar– although Michael elicits multidimensional range here– it is the interactions of Oscar with his mother, played by Octavia Spencer(The Help), as well as his relationship with his daughter, Tatiana–played by Ariana Neal.

 

The existentialist approach to Oscar was lackluster. The scene where he is sitting by the water is only buttressed by the flashback of him being visited in prison by his mother. The dramatic fulcrum of this film should have been the redemptive aspect, symbolized in him tossing an ounce of weed into the ocean(which, by the way guys, was underplayed as a device, and overplayed as a prop. An ounce of weed has never looked that large!).

 

I was deeply moved by the scene of Oscar with his mother in prison. It is scenes like this that– although in this storyline a device for foreshadowing and historical maintenance– balance the narrative with the outlying socio-political framework that many US Blacks face in this country. I was also carried to personal reflection by the scene depicting Oscar, Sophina, and Oscar’s family sharing his mother’s birthday celebration together. This is definitely where Coogler shines in his storytelling, the soft scores of composer Ludwig Garrinson guiding us through what is a woman’s last day with her son, which also happens to be her born day.

 

I was appalled by the red-nose pit scene. It is a symbolism almost as unnecessary and way too blatant as the withering plant in Hansberry’s “Raisin in the Sun”. The subtle details of Christmas decorations still left up on New Year’s Eve and discussions of Superbowl picks based on the racial make up of the coach where well received.

 

As stated, the on-screen chemistry of Michael and Melonie creates a solidifying cohesive. When we see Oscar and Sophina dropping off Tatiana at Sophina’s sister house, I almost forget that they were an interracial couple, technically. Which is one of the reasons I felt like the characterization of Oscar Grant and his “flaws” were over pronounced in the writing. It did not leave much for new discussions in cinema. US Black men are always characterized as violent, angry, criminal, or the complete opposite. This reproduction of stereotypical young Black America –no matter how interwoven the sensitivities– does not remind me how “human” Oscar was. The bullet placed in his back by a maladroit public servant reminds me how human Oscar Grant was.

 

In that need for Coogler to prioritize the relationship between Oscar and Tatiana, he walks away with a winner here. And sure, even in that, we have to be a bit lenient while sitting through a scene that plays on the “fruit” in “Fruitvale”, the “Fruit” in the banner above the daycare center that Tatiana attends, and the “Fruit” in the “Fruitroll” that Oscar Grant secretly gives his “fruit”. This along with what has to be an homage to John Singleton’s slow motion edit of Rickey being shot when Oscar is racing Tatiana to the car in what also happens to be her last time being picked up from daycare by her father.

 

Octavia Spencer captured the disappointment of a mother visiting her son in prison and witnessing his lack of change. This is a conversation that never reaches the population without a misdirection such as in “Jason’s Lyric” between Joshua and Gloria, or even worse, in “The Wire” between D’Angelo and Brianna. However, I did want Octavia to give me another Oscar nominated performance with her lines begging to hug Oscar outside of his emergency room after finding out he had not made it through. The lack of a convincing depiction here made me wish Coogler had just done a documentary.

 

In summation, “Fruitvale Station” is definitely a much needed movie, especially during these times of crisis. My criticism is more a question of device than topic. At the end of the hour, it is still a movie, and regardless of the social symbols discussed, I will treat it as film art. But, because of the social symbols, and this being added alongside the cultural artifacts used to immortalize the discussion, I do feel compelled to write that I wish Ryan would have chosen one of the models and left the poetic devices for the novelists. That being written, I hope to see more from Coogler, along with more cinematic representations of Oscar.

On Manipulation, Art, & Designing For Emotions

The premier question in any contest in the United States will eventually always boil down to numbers. Typically, with the number on your bank account balance trumping all others.

 

In the movie, “love jones”, (and yes, it is spelled with the lowercase type for the initial letters), we find an exceedingly immature couple of artistic types on a romantic roller coaster across the country for the spell of one-hundred and ten minutes. If you are still reading this after I made that particular assessment of one of the most compelling and influential romantic movies of my generation, then I am probably a more respected writer than my PayPal account suspects. No, all jokes aside, in the movie ‘love jones’, the character, Darius Lovehall(played by Larenz Tate) makes a statement regarding artists and definition when he is written to say:

 

“The true goal of an artist is to create the definitive work that cannot be surpassed”

 

And like many, I took that particular sentence to heart. In it, and mainly in the ideal of “definition”, and most importantly, in the ideal of that which is “definitive” or “that which defines”, I believe as humans that enjoy creating and have found a voice or an identity within the community of creators, we tend to find the most enjoyment. Until, of course, we begin to pair up with the hustlers and business men, and learn the ideas that drive successful capitalists. Either that, or a bill is late. Whichever comes firstly, of course.

 

Creation can be easy. Creation can be simple.

 

For some, it is a matter of reproducing with a canvas. For others it is molding the spark of an idea into an exploding explanation of pain. Regardless of which metaphor best suits one’s particular experience, one thing holds true for us all: food, clothing, and shelter will ultimately be a consideration at some point in our day. As a given coupled with a society of people programmed to glorify the wealthy, to celebrate the most sold above the most well crafted, it is utterly impossible to avoid the cliché in art.

 

To master a craft demands that techniques be developed and honed in order to not have to recreate wheels everyday. Those techniques that are found to produce the most sought after works(read: purchased), will of course become the techniques that everyone wants to use. This is even– and mostly– from those that have no love for the craft beyond its financial and political usefulness. Even those persons that love the craft can find them Selves mired in consumerist practices to pay bills yielding commercially successful, yet overly formulaic pieces.

 

Unfortunately, for my Self, these are the very thoughts behind art as design, and writing as blogging. The techniques of the artist: color schemes, closure, continuation, and the like, are used to manipulate the emotional body of the viewer for the purpose of clicks, reduced bounce rates, and increased conversion percentages. In my trade, design is touted as “communication”, but it is not just communication. It is a certain form of communication. When we are speaking of graphic design, the implication is sales.

 

The ideal of web design is not to just get a response regarding the aesthetic of a site or banner ad, but to elicit an action toward purchasing or returning with a desire to be a part of a community. When someone says,”by design”, they mean something done with the intent to yield a desired result. They mean manipulation. It is art as objectifying tool. Design is the intentional use of “ahs” and whatever onomatopoeia that fits there to change behavior.

 

And I understand the semiology behind a symbol or cue such as the word,”manipulation”. It has a “bad” connotation. It makes us feel less humane. We begin to itch as the greasiness of the symbol’s expressed meaning vibrates through our nervous system, echoing its perceived sentiments throughout the epidermis. But what is purpose if not manipulative? The very techniques of onomatopoeia, hyperbole, rhyme scheme, and metaphor used by poetic engineers throughout the ages have been with a desired purpose of eliciting a certain response from readers and listeners.

 

Do we think that AT&T just put a camera in a very well lit daycare center and accidentally arranged their spokesman in the middle of precocious children? Do we not think that at some point prior an assessment of the “cute factor” and its emotional tug on the viewer’s mind had been made by those that must place signatures on lines to signify the authorized permission to spend money on such things as cameras, cameramen, lighting, and well placed witty spokesmen?

 

And yet, although I probably will not be signing up to AT&T because of a few really entertaining pre-schoolers(my gawd, the “more is better/we want more” girl should be in the advertising history books next to Mikey), I was thoroughly delighted, and more importantly, I am writing about AT&T. That means it was effective and had impact. Yet, the more they attempt to rehash that technique, the more I compare the new batch of children’s responses and exchanges to the ones I was tickled by the most. Design techniques have to be used carefully, no matter how much we think we have something mastered.

 

Mastery of a few techniques that have worked over time will either lead one to develop their own language(signature style), or it will lead them to be regarded as formulaic. We are all users. It is when we are abused that most of us begin to take security measures. As we should, no doubt. Yet, in being used, in having my senses manipulated, I do want something in return.

 

I enjoy watching Aaron Macgruder’s The Boondocks. I think his series of cartoons have become a staple in the US Black culture, if not US culture en totale(which brings up a good design discussion: you know, US Blacks historically never saw an all-White cast performance and assumed it was “just” for White people;and hell, even if we did, we would just figure out away to disrupt the Jim Crow policy!). What makes his brand so compelling is that he has found a signature that is not formulaic, but if mishandled could easily be. He has not just blended adult humor and children’s animation, he has fused hip hop and anime, two very distinct cultures of art with rich contextual histories. That is Aaron being creative;but there is also a method, a purposeful use of the creativity. For The Boondocks is satire, and it is effective satire. Not only is it entertaining visually, and sonically, it adds another element of social commentary, that actually deals with critically salient topics.

 

I look at the Boondocks’ use of anime and its score in the same vein as I might look at a web site that uses a nationalistic motif for its color scheme. The colors red, black, and green immediately elicit certain reactions in certain people. I look at the topics discussed in the Boondocks as the content of the web site. No matter how great the design, and how masterful the designer utilizes certain techniques, if the content is garbage, well, garbage in, garbage out. I do not mind being used, I mind being taken advantage of. I do not mind a person needing to recognize what emotional strings they should be pulling to get me to something I find valuable. I mind you doing such and your overall product is that bullshyt.

 

When it comes to money, there are great advantages to possessing a great product as well as great advantages in being able to be accessible. I do not want anyone to think I am against earning money, or convincing others to give me money. I support the art of design. I support the formulation of techniques and the study of semiology for the purpose of understanding how symbols and cues work within the cultures that they work within.

 

I do not support mediocrity well hyped, although I might be inclined to applaud the hype and its practitioner. I do not mind being used;I use the oxygen and the plant life as well as meat of sentient beings to further my own physical and biological existence. Life is the only ecosystem, and I respect my place in it, and realize that something or someone must use me in order to exist in the same manner that I MUST USE others to exist.

 

I do not mind creative means to capture my attention created by someone that must use me. I, too, create means using cues and symbols that evoke emotional responses for the purpose of eliciting certain behavior for things that I need. Michael Jackson was a master at capturing my attention and with good purpose. A masterful entertainer that provided me with good entertainment, and insightful content with which I was pleased to give my money and attention towards.

 

Michael Joseph Jackson is not history’s greatest entertainer because he made a lot of money;Michael made a lot of money because he was history’s greatest entertainer, there is a nuance there that must be taken into consideration. And I do not want to give my attention to those that just want a lot of attention without being also great at their craft. Design how you need to appeal to who you need to, but please be ever mindful of what you are offering as content. Do not design the greatest titles for links that lead to lackluster bodies of content. It is a waste of my time, and it only serves to weaken your brand.

Miguel & The Mosh Pit Of Rapey R&B

I’ve been a sucker for a good falsetto since El Debarge. There’s something about the heavy treble and melodic keys in “Oooh, I Like It”, “Time Will Reveal”, and “Love Me In A Special Way” that always manages to trigger an 80s nostalgia like nothing else can. Thusly, I became somewhat of a casual fan of Miguel after the release of his sumptuously smooth mega-hit, “Adorn.” I sang it in the shower, blasted it through the speakers of my Toyota, and jammed to it while doing laundry. “Adorn” was just THAT good.

 

And then the record skipped, scratched, and teetered dangerously on the precipice of hell.

 

Being the casual fan that I was, I never purchased “Adorn” or the Art Dealer Chic, Volume 1 EP on which it was featured. I sang along then paused in shock as he precariously leapt into the mosh pit of screaming fans on Sunday’s Billboard awards. But until recently, I was truly oblivious to the existence of “How Many Drinks”, the rapey companion piece, the anti-“Adorn”.

 

Miguel begins “How Many Drinks” with the lyrics:

 

Frustration, watching you dance

Invitation, to get in them pants

Come closer baby, so I can touch

One question, am I movin’ too fast?

 

Umm…creepy.

 

A few questions/observations if I may:

 

1. Why is Miguel experiencing frustration while watching this woman dance? Does he feel entitled to her? Is it merely lust?

 

a. Seems this lyric singlehandedly reinforces the caveman meme which implies that men are nothing more than inherent sexual beasts who don’t have the ability to control their erections/desires, even in the confines of public nightclubs, lounges, bars, parties, and/or meet and greets.

 

2. Who exactly is inviting Miguel to “get in them pants”? The woman? Miguel, himself? (see entitlement above)

 

3. Is the dialogue between Miguel and this woman real or imagined?

 

a. At this point, we have yet to hear a single yes, no, or maybe from the woman in question; her thoughts are unknown.

 

*Sexual Harassment is any unwelcomed or unwanted sexual behavior or pressure which embarrasses, humiliates, or intimidates an individual. Sexual harassment can be physical, verbal, and even nonverbal and visual (such as staring or gestures that are suggestive or sexual).

 

 

 

Miguel continues:

 

Cause I ain’t leavin alone, feel like I could be honest, babe

We both know that we’re grown

That’s why I wanna know

How many drinks would it take you to leave with me?

 

 

Once Miguel asserts that under no circumstances will he leave alone, the song dissolves into a predatory quagmire. He uses the words “honest” and “grown” to infer that their supposed maturity green lights his right to intimacy. And if the manipulation weren’t transparent enough, he asks how many drinks it would take for him to convince this woman to leave with him. The lyrics identify alcohol as the primary tool/weapon of choice for coercion. It can also be inferred that were alcohol NOT involved, the woman may not consider leaving with him at all. This woman is never given any agency. She has no voice, no say in the matter. She is only permitted/expected to dance, accept as many drinks as it takes, leave with Miguel, and have sex with him.

 

*Drug Facilitated Rape typically involves the use of the “date rape drug” (Flunitraepam, Rohypnol, GHB (Liquid E or Liquid G) and/ or alcohol.

*According to recent studies, alcohol is the #1 drug used to facilitate a sexual assault. For rape which takes place on campuses, alcohol is being used in 90% of cases.

 

He croons further:

Yeah, you look good and I got money

But I don’t wanna waste my time

Back of my mind I’m hopin you say two or three

You look good, we came to party

But I don’t wanna waste my time

 

 

Miguel’s declaration that he has money infers that he believes this woman, and possibly women in general, are commodities that can be bought, used, and discarded. There is also an implication here that women are ready and willing to have sex with men because they have money and thusly, he is entitled. His ducks are in a row; all that’s needed is a bit of persuading.

*In a research poll for the American magazine, Ms, one in every twelve men interviewed admitted to having forced a woman to have intercourse or tried to force a woman to have intercourse through physical force or coercion; that is, they admitted to raping or attempting to rape a woman. However, hardly any of these men identified themselves as rapists.

 

And finally, he coos:

Temptation, is calling your name

Sweet persuasion, baby this is a game

Come closer, baby, if you like what you hear

Impression, is what I’m makin you feel

No, no, no

I ain’t judgin

If you do decide that you might be fuckin’ tonight, what?

More power to you if you do decide that you might be fuckin’ tonight

 

 

It is unsettling that Miguel compares his advances to sport, a game to be lost or won. He repeats endlessly that his time is of the essence and fucking is the endgame. Alarmingly the word “persuasion” is used explicitly. Persuasion is premeditated, and in this case, predatory. Miguel muddies these crude advances with phrases like “If you do decide” and “I ain’t judgin” to make it appear as though this woman has been given a choice. However, the initial harassment, incessant coercion, and introduction of alcohol make her ability to truly consent impossible.

“How Many Drinks” isn’t just a slippery slope, it’s a dangerous tumble into the gaping mouth and jagged teeth of rape culture.

 

*California Penal Code clearly states that having sex with a person who is intoxicated is illegal and may be punishable with a prison sentence.

*Legally, an individual cannot consent to sex if they are drunk; having sex without consent is RAPE/sexual assault.

 

*Alcohol impairs the victim’s ability to recognize a potentially dangerous situation. When drinking, one may not notice someone’s persistent attempts to get them to an isolated location or to get them to consume more alcohol. Intoxication also makes it much more difficult to successfully resist a sexual assault – alcohol produces a slow and ineffective response to an attack.

 

*In a study of students who had been victims of some type of sexual aggression while in college—from intimidation and illegal restraint to rape—the women surveyed reported that 68 percent of their male assailants had been drinking at the time of the attack.

 

For further reading on the topic:

http://www.cwfefc.org/svfacts.html#svtstats

http://www.fullerton.edu/alcohol_drug_info/drunksex.html

www.survive.org.uk

 

“So One-track Minded”: Black Women and Sexual Performance As Sport

On May 19th, 2013, Nicki Minaj performed on stage at the 2013 Billboard awards. This performance included Lil’ Wayne in a duet fashion performing the song “High School”.

 

“Hotter than a middle eastern climate, find it 20 mataran dutty whine it, while it, Nicki on a pit while I sign it, how these niggas so one-track minded but really really I don’t give a F-U-C-K” – Nicki Minaj, “Monster”

 

“Look at all that ass”

 

 

The overall performance was divided it into three acts:

 

Act one:

Nicki Minaj coming out and doing her solo verse, a slightly erotic gyration as she eases from bar to bar verbally and physically hypnotizing her adoring fans.

 

Act two:

Lil’ Wayne and Nicki Minaj piggy backing bars with Lil’ Wayne introducing his dull cliché of hypermasculine energy that has prevailed for much of hip hop’s history.

 

Act three:

Which is of course, my second favorite act, Nicki Minaj giving Lil’ Wayne a strip club style lap dance.

 

My biggest concern with all of this outside of the normal apprehensions that come when one thinks about all the young children that might be watching was Lil’ Wayne’s inability to let Nicki Minaj just have her moment. Now, it needs to be written, Nicki Minaj totally owned Lil’ Wayne on that stage when he was sitting in that chair and she kicks that right leg up, slides with a step to straddle and just goes into her popping. She embraces her physique’s appeal, a strip tease for the audience of fantasizing fans that have fetishized her gluteus maximus with her hands pulling teasingly through her legs. And just when she concludes with her Captain Morgan’s stance on the chair after dismissing Lil’ Wayne, her prop…her stage accoutrement speaks in its mutant language.

 

“Look at all that ass”

 

It was an embarrassing power transferal. I would not even call it that. The statement in that moment is better referred to as power dissipation, really. And it did remind me of a similar performance by Kelly, Michelle, and Beyoncé of Destiny Child’s.

 

The Stats of Destiny’s Child Catering Service

 

 

At the 2005 BET Awards Show, the ladies escort Magic Johnson, Nelly, and Terrance Howard out to the main stage area and sit them down in respective chairs. Michelle partnered with Magic; Kelly partnered with Nelly; and Beyoncé with Terrance Howard. It seemed as though poor Michelle needed a footstool to hurdle onto the lap of Magic, and once there she seemed completely out of her league by being on his lap! There is a natural power dynamic attendant to height, and even sexual prowess can be incapable of reducing it. Kelly completely overpowered Nelly. In parts of the tease we can see Kelly having to guide Nelly’s hands, it just looked like poor Nelly had completely been reduced to the proverbial putty in Kelly’s hand. Which makes Beyoncé’s grace look less than polished in that particular performance.

 

 

Of course, as the lead singer, Beyoncé immediately commands the attention of the cameraman, all the magnetic seductiveness of the others, but with one difference, Terrance Howard is slowly sapping energy from her magic. And he’s not doing anything but giving in. Unlike Nelly who has just given up, Howard’s creepy puppy dog look is more controlled, and Beyoncé knows it. Towards the end of the dance she is almost falling into his arms — the absolute contrast to what Kelly Rowland has caused Nelly to do!

 

‘In Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham first coined the term “politics of respectability” to describe the work of the Women’s Convention of the Black Baptist Church during the Progressive Era. She specifically referred to African American’s promotion of temperance, cleanliness of person and property, thrift, polite manners, and sexual purity. The politics of respectability entailed “reform of individual behavior as a goal in itself and as a strategy for reform.” Respectability was part of “uplift politics,” and had two audiences: African Americans, who were encouraged to be respectable and white people, who needed to be shown that African Americans could be respectable.

African American women were particularly likely to use respectability and to be judged by it. Moreover, African American women symbolized, even embodied, this concept. Respectability became an issue at the juncture of public and private. It thus became increasingly important as both black and white women entered public spaces.

…The prevailing interpretation suggests that the politics of respectability undermined the rigidly scientific nature of racial categories, but generally tended to reinforce status distinctions within the African American community. These distinctions were about class, but they were defined primarily in behavioral, not economic, terms. By linking worthiness for respect to sexual propriety, behavioral decorum, and neatness, respectability served a gatekeeping function, establishing a behavioral “entrance fee,” to the right to respect and the right to full citizenship…’

 

– Gatekeeping and Remaking: The Politics of Respectability in African American Women’s History and Black Feminism, Paisley Jane Harris

 

Without delving too deeply into the politics of respectability, I do want to say that there is a difference between what Nicki does and what the Women of Destiny’s Child do. And I do not want this to get bogged down in the class (behavioral) discussion, because I feel Nicki could have done the exact same performance without the guy that used to strike a pose kissing his “daddy” and it would have been extremely powerful. Lil’ Wayne was at best a prop. However, there is a nuance that separates “seductive” from “sexy”, and I do believe Nicki Minaj falls into the later category. Sure, from my hetero masculine eyes, it is easy to fetishize Nicki in the same manner that White men have been fetishizing the Afrikan feminine anatomy throughout their records of history.

 

And without having to dance around the ring in any polemic bouts, sure, there is an objectifying quality here. But, sexual appreciation is often objectifying. Yet, I fully respect and honor the SHE of Kelly Rowland as she effortlessly causes Nelly to slide into trance level state of consciousness with her body movements and allure. While objectifying her in his head, she’s turned him into not much more than an object! And honestly, so has Minaj. While Little Tunechi is looking for a role to play, he settles for the shallowest pebble in his mind, the obvious look at Nicki Minaj’s derrière and locker room puerility of a 17 year young seaman recruit receiving his first lap dance. Little absorbs the collective psyche of 15 year old White boys in the United States and says what they wish, while Howard does to Beyoncé only what Jay seems to have, or at least I am hoping for Jay’s sake.

 

“How These Niggas So One-track Minded”

 

It is the childish expression that Little chooses out of his bag of mental marbles to display that causes me to wish Minaj had not done the performance with him. I can handle the raunchy. It was intentional. Destiny Child is singing a ballad catering to the men, some feminists may be adverse to that, but it was the song. I refuse to attend the outrage of anyone upset that heterosexual women are singing heterosexual songs. Minaj is rapping with Little– although their verses are asymmetrical– about a tryst between a man and woman. Nicki Minaj’s verse discussing how a woman helps a man to see the finer things in life after he has been incarcerated, Little’s concluding verse a batch of controlling banter that happens to be highly sexual. I expect Minaj to pay homage to Choice, Lil Kim, Trina, Salt-N-Pepa, Oaktown 357 and that sort of style of dancing and presentation because that is the genre in which she is in, and her entire career has been in homage to that particular posture developed by those women. I did not feel as though she was distasteful, in fact, I thought it was tantalizing. Her moves need polish, but so did Beyoncé’s moves.

 

Ultimately, I never want to write anything that would ever be deemed as me reducing any woman’s, or group of women’s power to “ass shaking”. For one, I would never reduce the herstories of Women globally to sex, there is too much pain in an Assata chapter for that. Nor would I ever reduce what Nicki Minaj, Michelle, Kelly, or Bey did as “ass shaking”. From belly dancing to ghost dancing, there is an extensive human art, science, and politic to the kinesiology represented in dance. I would just like it if niggaz let women do their thing, and if there must be power transference, let it be the gracefulness of a stare held too long cascading into the personae unmasking itself on stage in laughter.

 

Politics Of Sex & Sport

 

“An argument might be made that part of what it means to be a male athlete is to remain, emotionally at least, at the developmental level of many adolescent boys.” – “Studs, Tools, And The Family Jewels: Metaphors Men Live By” Peter F. Murphy pg. 80

 

“When sex becomes a contest, a means for domination and conquest, male-female relationships are reduced to a game in which there are “winners” and “losers.” The question, “Did you score last night, Steve?” represents an extension of male competitiveness in which “females are often perceived as opponents and various strategies or game plans are developed to get them to submit”. Men feel comfortable on the playing field, where they know the rules of the game and can maneuver a victory. This may be part of the reason many men avoid smart women. In addition to having their sense of insecurity about their own intelligence exacerbated, men may also fear losing. A woman who understands the rules of the game may be too much of an opponent, and male identity may be too invested in being the winner.” – ibid, pg. 85

 

 

That being typed, I think this comparison is an interesting study in how certain power dynamics operate. Without having to lean too heavily on my patriarchal socialization, there are spaces where sex is sport. And there is a space where the choices of conduct that deem us as quick witted are sport. Sport in the United States, is traditionally a male dominated social area. US professional sports define “equality” by the idea that no woman is physically capable of competing with male athletes. Even trying out for a position on a professional team where men compete is scoffed at (although that as a hiring practice in any other domain would be illegal). This fundamental notion is extended beyond race and class. In the Black community the male intellectual is relegated to the position of patriarch(like the pastor of one’s church, think Cornell West, Michael Eric Dyson), and the woman athlete is relegated to social statures that are familiar as well: the “tomboy, the “stud”(or “want-to-be male”), or a hobbyist at best.

 

“Since their earliest manifestations in pre-Greek civilization, sports have grown out of a society’s need to be proficient in war. Hunting, wrestling, running, horse racing, and fencing gave warriors a means to improve crucial components of the limited military resources they had at hand. Ideologically, sports have been used domestically to reinforce class differences and to encourage men to become soldiers.” – “Studs, Tools, And The Family Jewels: Metaphors Men Live By” Peter F. Murphy, pg. 60

 

Hip hop, as many will explain, has as one of its many roots, the battle rap. This is art as sport, music as competition. For Nicki to be privy to the space she holds– a Woman successfully navigating a space of sport in the US– is a feat in and of it Self. Dance also has competitive space, with dance competitive companies. Dance as competition has emerged to the degree of suggestions of pole dancing as an Olympic sport as Pole competitions is a professional sport. So, none of this is far-fetched. The space Michelle, Beyoncé, Kelly, and Nicki Minaj find them Selves in is not new terrain in the psyche of the viewers. Yet, like most things where Women, especially Black Women, have an advantage, the status of the event is tampered with to appease male insecurities.

 

“The relationship between sports and war in U.S. history illustrates the role of athletics as an instrument of oppression and animosity. Gorn and Goldstein trace the subtleties of this association, beginning with the American Civil War which “provided a well of memory, a master metaphor for the belief that conflict between individuals, classes and nations lay at the heart of human existence”. As a moral equivalent of war, “athletics offered an opportunity for young men to get their first taste of glory, and for older men to renew the tingle of heroic combat”.” – “Studs, Tools, And The Family Jewels: Metaphors Men Live By” Peter F. Murphy, pg. 61

 

 

Nicki Minaj, one of the only Women in professional Hip Hop in 2013 with the degree of her success, can surely be taken to task for certain, um, added physical accessories. But so should Lil’ Kim, Janet Jackson, Beyoncé, and a host of other Black Women with national media coverage throughout history that alter body parts for cosmetic purposes. Sure, is there a pornification of Hip Hop? There has BEEN a pornification of Hip Hop since back when Salt-N-Pepa got on a stage in those black skintight outfits and told the world to “Push It”. I think it is dangerous to immediately run to the old standby of sexual lewdness as deleterious when it is women, or specifically Black Women, that command the power of the sexual act being portrayed.

 

Hip Hop dance, as well as sexual performance in the art of dance, is a fairly Woman dominated sport. An aside here could easily be that the competitive forms of dance dominated by men such as tap dance, break dance, and Capoeira as dance are more popular and acceptable in mainstream. The portrayal of Little, Magic, Nelly, and Howard as submissive instruments for the extension of Black Women’s exhibition is not a role men, especially Black men of stature, are commonly associated with. Yes, Nelly got the treatment, and showed it, and he was supposed to! Little was worked like the uneven bars in a Gabby Douglas set. Unfortunately, for Nicki, after she was done with her presentation of prowess, the damn balance beam wants to remind the world why it was supposed to be the inanimate object to begin with!

 

 

“Historically, as form of resistance to the negative stigmas and caricatures about their morality, African Americans adopted a “politics of respectability.” Claiming respectability through manners and morality furnished an avenue for African Americans to assert the will and agency to redefine themselves outside the prevailing racist discourses. Although many deployed the politics of respectability as a form of resistance, its ideological nature constituted a deliberate concession to mainstream societal values. The self-imposed adherence to respectability that permeated African American women’s lives, as well as African American culture, also later impacted African American activism and the course of scholarship in African American Studies. This strict adherence to what is socially deemed “respectable” has resulted in African American scholars’ confining their scholarship on African Americans to often the most “heroic,” and the most successful attributes in African American culture; it has also resulted in the proliferation of analyses which can be characterized as culturally defensive, patriarchal, and heterosexist.”“Examining the Politics of Respectability in African American Studies”, Kali N. Gross

 

So far, US history has shown us that Black Women are going to be lambasted as “whores” and morally deprived for simply being the interests of male concupiscence. If it is Black male concupiscence, there may not be an interruption in the game, but if it is in command of White male concupiscence, then you can almost guarantee a flag on the play. Madonna comes out on stage in a teddy to be received as queen and is not even performing, Beyoncé is attacked as being ‘too racy’ and ‘trampy’ for energizing an audience with spectacular use of technology, choreography, and enchantment. As a Black man and a media analyst, I have to toe the line of observer, voyeur, historian and critic. There is a history of competition between Black women and White women that reflects a delicate history where White men could glance, hawk, and rape Black women almost like hunting as Thomas Jefferson does Sally Hemmings, and then returns to the bed to place his White wife trophy on the well sculpted pedestal. The hard-fought battles of women like Ida B. Wells, Mary Church Terrell, Fannie Lou Hamer, Mary Bethune-Cookman, Assata Shakur, Elaine Brown, and countless others were not waged alongside White Women in the manner some feminist writers might misleadingly inject. The need for the protection of the “chaste” image of White Women remained a bloody timeline, while Black Women had to navigate a desirability that historically marked them as libidinous, a justification for the centuries of rape by White men, and also one that was anchored in centuries of caste positioning them in a psychological strata below White Women even in the minds of Black men.

That any Black Woman is able to capture the appeal of audiences in a seductive and sexy fashion without it being labeled in some manner as “animalistic” or “less than ladylike” is to confuse one’s Self with the implements of strategy. There is power in the sport of art and that power is economically viable, and psychologically impacting. We are not discussing subjective qualifications alone here, this is practical and utilitarian. Sport is the peacetime version of war, and there are gains to be had by the victors. Those gains will not be silently and calmly transmitted.

 

“The sports hero embodies this sense of control for the fan who vicariously lives out his fantasy world through the superathlete who has it all: money, fame, and beautiful women. Spectatorship emerged concomitantly with the rise of a consumer society and came replete with myths of the superathlete created by a burgeoning profession of sportswriting for an audience that sought “a sentimental sense of community, not new information or good writing”” – ibid, Murphy, pg. 76

 

Since sport is the peacetime preparation for war, it also contains elements of power and conquest. As a man, the sport of mating is a dog pit where my emotions and position as patriarch is the booty while I am tasked with getting…well, the booty. Beyoncé and Minaj are not just seen as artist in that sort of dynamic, they are looked at as champions. But there is a social dynamic of White supremacy that even in the most quantifiable of topics will place some quality of White involvement in a more worthy position than any other participant, as well as reduce the role of those non-white participants. It is a part of the game. What we call “shyt talking”, or “bad mouthing” on the court or the field of game is the propaganda of the war monger. As such, those competitors that are not the Beyoncé’s, the Michelle’s, the Kelly’s, the Nicki’s or a host of other celebrated Black Women whose entertainment puts them at the level of champion will be attacked, maligned, and antagonized like Jordan Crawford insulting Carmelo Anthony. Which makes me disdainful of Little and his immature response to what was a powerful play. It is proper to note here that Gabby Douglas, the first US Black Woman, and subsequently the only US athlete, to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics was not celebrated for her status but demeaned for her hair.

 

Black Men: Ball-hogging and Lack of Team Loyalty

 

“Racism finds a counterpoint in the sexism and misogyny of sports. Despite the impressive growth in the number of women participating in athletics, sports continue to evolve as an expression of a male culture that keeps women in their place even while on the playing field.” – “Studs, Tools, And The Family Jewels: Metaphors Men Live By” Peter F. Murphy, pg. 78

 

 

In the same vein that I felt insulted that Shawn Carter had to refer to Beyoncé as a “bitch” in his song with Kanye, “that’s my Bitch”, I felt like Wayne fumbled a ball on a fourth down pass right at the in-zone. If a Black man of Carter’s stature can pay homage to the stereotypical older White patriarchs with his suit and ties and tumblers of brown liquor, can he not also extend the image of a team mate to the Woman that got him the Oprah interview? I cannot demand anyone treat their wife without verbally abusing them, wait, that’s not true, but, I am not going to do it now. It would be nice if Black men could show the same degree of loyalty to the team that Black Women collectively have shown throughout our genesis in the US. Nicki Minaj is helping to establish your brand beyond the place she found it. Regardless of what the uninitiated might think or type, proper training in team sports holds that if your teammate is about to score, the least you do is get out of the way and let them, if you can’t block or defend them. The proper show of appreciation in most sport cultures in the US is to grasp hands, nod approvingly, hug, or slap arse. You don’t have to open your mouth to the adoring fans in the stands. Champions walk off the stage of sport with the thunder of applauding fans as the background music of their life without needing to speak or allude to their win. Not because they are arrogant, but because they have been there before.

 

 

My Thoughts On White Privilege In The Age Of The First White-Kenyan US President

“Because habit is transactional, in a raced and racist world, the psychosomatic self necessarily will be racially and racistly constituted. Race is not a veneer lacquered over a nonracial core. It composes the very bodily and psychical beings that humans are and the particular ways by which humans engage the world. Like gender and sexism, sexuality and compulsory heterosexuality, disability and bias toward ability, class and class oppression, and other characteristics of contemporary human beings, race and white privilege are constitutive features of human existence and experience as they currently occur. Sometimes these habits are consciously felt, other times not, but in all cases they help make up who and what human beings are.” – Shannon Sullivan, “Revealing Whiteness: The Unconscious Habits of Racial Privilege”, pg. 24

 

My Thoughts On white Privilege in the Age of the first White-Kenyan US President are that White Male privilege did not grow in the bushes of manicured lawns, so neither can Black privilege.

 

Often, it can be difficult for me to separate my daily pains that are a consequence of my actions, from those that were accrued from the society and global experiences that weigh heavy on all US Black people. And I can be honest enough with my Self to admit that yes, I have made erroneous decisions in my life that impact my present welfare. I can also be analytic enough to say, well, yeah, there is an entire sub-culture of people that fear, are intimidated by, just do not understand or are completely oblivious of people that look like me or come from my background that control and operate the resource distribution channels of this country.

 

White Male privilege can be difficult for me to discuss. In the same manner, I suppose that some very enlightened and hardworking Black Women find it difficult to discuss “Black Male privilege”(I wrote “some”, if that does not include you, then it does not). Not so much that “White Male privilege” does not exist, but that when you are a person that fights hard, doesn’t give up, and is bright, you tend to earn a right to this little thing call pride that often makes you forget that it is not always your fault things have not gone as you’ve planned.

 

I do not want my efforts to be overcast or shadowed by some amorphous dynamic cast and created by a select few White men that decided to rub their resources together and not allow me into their reindeer games. It would be the loudest skeleton turning in a casket in recorded history if I found out my legacy was reduced to what people did not allow me to do versus what I overcame. Yet, people are not always their accomplishments. Many of us are simply the results of a privilege born by the atrocious and predatory acts of others that look like us.

 

“Modes of public expression in black and white communities can vary considerably, but only white, middle-to-upper-class modes of behavior tend to be utilized and viewed as appropriate in class discussions.” – Shannon Sullivan, “Revealing Whiteness: The Unconscious Habits of Racial Privilege”, pg. 24

 

Deep down, I do not have an issue with that. I just wish I was playing on a more determined and aware team. As the metaphor in the Black community as been stated, I do not want to run on a team that cannot learn to accurately pass the baton. No one is going to be able to convince those that have determined that the world is their birthright to “civilize” no matter how uncivil that piece of deed might be. Begging for rights and a human dignity that should be a default has only resulted in the murders of a great number of very talented and thoughtful set of Human Beings.

 

I am not against the collective White citizenry of the United States. I am not. I sincerely doubt most of them even know what the hell is going on.

 

I am not against the collective White Male citizenry of the United States. I am sure a sizeable portion of them cannot even spell “privilege” let alone decipher it when it gives them a professional career without considering they cannot spell.

 

Hey, if I was a part of a collective that understood the power of unity to the point where they would give me a staff position even if I had a criminal conviction before a person without one just because they did not look like my brother or sister, hell, I’d take advantage, too. But unfortunately, I do not.

 

White Male privilege did not enter existence with the blade of grass. It did not sprout in the valley of the Pyramids alongside the Nile. White privilege did not find its origin as vegetation, fruit, rock, water, or air. White Male privilege was fought for. It was hard earned. It was a success story too long for a Twitter update, too bloody for an MSNBC discussion.

 

Sometimes when you play the victim too long, you become your own victimizer. Reforming an economy based on United States Slavery will never produce an egalitarian society. Black people asking for reform in this country is like a man being raped in prison asking his rapist to only put the tip in. The violation is too huge; the solution too demanding.

 

The US Black believes that because they have galvanized at the polls to elect a man born of a White college student and a deadbeat Kenyan that they have developed leverage enough to topple the socio-economic beasts that drain them daily. Has White privilege fled the White House just because Michelle Obama chooses the flowers in the garden?

 

White Male privilege did not grow in the bushes of manicured lawns, neither can Black privilege.

 

“In social psychology, the term <i>aggression</i> is generally defined as any behavior that is intended to harm another person who does not want to be harmed…” – Baron & Richardson, 1994(Citing found Advanced Social Psychology, pg. 304)

 

The treatment of the descendants of US Slaves, the Afrikans in the United States of America that derive their present citizenship because of their ancestor’s choice to be here, but a forced immigration, has been the same since July 4, 1776. It is the texture of US society for Blacks to be over worked, underpaid, housed in the worse conditions, and dehumanized through media. Reform measures such as the Civil Rights legislation has only presented a socio-psychological dynamic where Black people look at White people as those to seek permission to be treated as humans from. Any government that has to legislate human treatment is the government of a country of savages that do not deserve to be feared but to be defended against. White privilege is the residue of conquering savages reproducing and legitimizing their savagery through sophistication. White privilege is the ostracism of Blacks from certain circles of resource and capital heavy social pockets.

 

“Aggression is not an emotion that occurs inside a person, such as an angry feeling. Aggression is not a thought that occurs inside someone’s brain, such as mentally rehearsing a murder you would like to commit. Aggression is a social behavior because it involves at least two people.” Ibid., pg. 305

 

The prolonged fear of admitting that the United States of America as a social study is bound to a creed of extending White privilege globally is to beg for the diminishing of Black people. The reason why Obama, the half Kenyan whose bloodline never crosses through the genetic trauma of Jim Crow USA, can promote the safety of the Israel state while it practices its own form of apartheid and holocaust on Palestinians and Afrikans is because he is the face of global white privilege. It is a team effort to conquer a planet, and team at that level is referred to as an allied force.

 

White Male privilege did not grow in the bushes of manicured lawns, neither can Black privilege.

 

“In social psychology, violence is aggression that has extreme physical harm, such as injury or death, as its goal.” Ibid., pg. 305

 

I am not against privilege. I think it is a very sagacious response to the demands of an aggressive humanity. Much of humanity is aggressive and bound by territorial, religious, or ideological systems. The insatiable appetite of human groups with mastery of war and destruction demands an equal or more forceful threat to be warded off. Lest that human group consume every other grouping in its path of fulfillment.

 

White Male privilege did not grow in the bushes of manicured lawns, neither can Black privilege.

 

Physical aggression involves harming others with body parts or weapons (e.g., hitting, kicking, stabbing, or shooting them). Verbal aggression involves harming others with words (e.g., yelling, screaming, swearing, name calling). Relational aggression (also called social aggression is defined as intentionally harming another person’s social relationships, feelings of acceptance by others, or inclusion within a group…Some examples of relational aggression include saying bad things about people behind their backs, withdrawing affection to get what you want, excluding others from your circle of friends, and giving someone the ‘silent treatment’. Relational aggression is similar to the concept of ostracism. Ostracism refers to being excluded, rejected, and ignored by others…)” ibid., pg. 305-306

My Thoughts On Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Response To Nate Thayer

“I believe that in all men’s lives at certain periods, and in many men’s lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside….Of all the passions the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things.” – C.S. Lewis, “The Inner Ring”(1944)

 

This piece is written in response to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ ‘Lucrative Work-for-Free Opportunity’ article for The Atlantic (which is owned by Atlantic Media owner David G. Bradley based in the Watergate in Washington, DC), the company that a few months ago asked sports journalist Nate Thayer to republish an article, and when Thayer asked about compensation, he was denied. Well, all this is very well documented here, do not be a lazy surfer, check it out. Ta-Nehisi Coates stands at the bat as, possibly cleanup, definitely yet another swinger for The Atlantic to defend the magazine against the brouhaha of writers that felt The Atlantic’s business model is diminishing their evaluation, and thusly the evaluation of the very craft that brought you the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. If those people that hold so much to the history of human development cannot presume to make a living, then how easy will it be for the fattest pockets to put pressure on their staff to provide only content that suits the purposes of the fat pockets? Or governments? Or any other power that First Amendment rights were initially created to protect writers against?

 

If those people that hold so much to the history of human development cannot presume to make a living, then how easy will it be for the fattest pockets to put pressure on their staff to provide only content that suits the purposes of the fat pockets?

 

Now, while I do not personally regard my Self as a ‘journalist’, I do hold a Bachelor’s degree in media communications and I have written several “journalistic” type pieces over the years. Without me rewriting my resume here for you, I do regard the craft of writing in high esteem and I have sat in the training facilities of these “professionals”. I do consider my Self a Black media analyst and I do analyze Black media, and I’ve even written a few self-published works as well as having a contract with a major publishing house for a book of media analysis due out…any…damn…day…now(excuse me for that). All that is to say, although I don’t work for any popular brands that sell written works, I have met the standard squarely and I’ve told it, “we can fight if you don’t respect my penmanship.” Moving on.

 

As a writer, and more importantly, as a writer that doesn’t use their words to defend or dick ride those that purchase my works, I cannot promote a business model that asks writers to provide work for free. And to be honest, neither should those that write the checks and command the major brands. The content saturation model of big brands such as Huffington Post and The Atlantic creates a market where it wants content to be more valuable than the content creators, which is ass backwards. Let alone being defined as slavery. Even if the model is refined and defenders give the nomenclature of “intern”(*cough*indentured servants*cough*) to those poor hacks forced to choose between making a living and gambling on a dream, the results are surely the same. The value of the writer is siphoned, the content is pimped, and the only partner being valued and esteemed is the brand. But without those humans poring over brightly lit laptops, sipping day old coffee trying to remember what in the hell it was they scribbled here on this napkin(what in the phukkk is THIS?! Oh, sorry…) then you do not have a business or a brand. And as a writer, employment or not, I cannot advise anyone to take the responsibility of keeping brands alive if the brand has not taken even the slightest consideration that eating Ramen noodles as a daily dietary staple(as much as I love the Ramen) is not the lifestyle most of us seek to create.

 

Free is not a livelihood. Free is not compensation. Free is not a ticket to a more lucrative position. Free does not get you into more doors because no one respects free.

 

Ultimately, the argument boils down to how do you esteem your Self in the face of corporations, or bigger brands? Is the big business more important than the worker? Than the consumer? Than you? And that is a discussion that is on-going in this capitalist estate we call the United States of America. Since the inception of the federation, humans have been reduced to 3/5ths of a human to justify why businesses should treat them like they are beasts of burden. If your name is on the Fortune 500 list as an owner, getting money from the US Government is at best a subsidy, at worst a “bailout”. If your name is on the open mic list as a starving artist or writer, and you are getting a crumb of the money from the US Government that those on the Forbes listing might get, you are at best a “welfare case”, at worst a “lazy bum”. We have grown to place a stature on big business brands as divine Providences that deserve our esteem more than our own Selves. And the peer pressure to belong to one of these organizations reminds me of the pressure children face to fit in, or the pressure poor children face when hiding the fact that their family receives a Government dole out.

 

I think that metaphor is a substantial parallel, let’s explore it further, shall we? The insecurity of the child or teenager created by their fears of alienation is often reflected in their behavior. As esteemed professor emeritus of Stanford University, Philip Zimbardo writes, “Peer pressure has been identified as one social force that makes people, especially adolescents, do strange things–anything–to be accepted.” Since this is very important to our discussion here, I would like to quote Mr. Zimbardo further:

 

“There is no peer-pressure power without that push from self-pressure for them to want you. It makes people willing to suffer through painful, humiliating initiation rites in fraternities, cults, social clubs, or the military. It justifies for many suffering a lifelong existence climbing the corporate ladder.” Philip Zimbardo, “Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil” (pg. 259)

 

Profound, yes? Before I move on, I would like to one more authority on human behavior, and that is Cialdini. Cialdini writes in his book on persuasion, “Opportunities seem more valuable to us when they are less available. Interestingly, this is often true even when the opportunity holds little attraction for us its own merits. Take as evidence the experience of Florida State University students who, like most undergraduates, rated themselves as dissatisfied with the quality of their campus cafeteria food. Nine days later, they had changed their minds, rating that food significantly better than they had before. It is instructive that no actual improvement in food service had occurred between the two ratings. Instead, on the day of the second rating, the students had learned that, because of a fire, they could not eat the cafeteria for two weeks.”

 

Cialdini speaks more directly to us with regard to the pains humans will suffer in order to become part and parcel of organized humans:

 

“During the traditional ‘Hell Week’ held yearly on college campuses, fraternity pledges must persevere through a variety of activities designed by the older members to test the limits of physical exertion, psychological strain, and social embarrassment. At week’s end, the boys who have persisted through the ordeal are accepted for full group membership…What is interesting is how closely the particular features of Hell Week tasks match those of tribal initiation rites…Beatings…Exposure to cold…Thirst…Eating of unsavory foods…Punishment…Threats of death…What is it about hazing practices that make them so precious to these societies?…My own view is that the answer appeared in 1959 in the results of a study little known outside of social psychology. A pair of young researchers, Elliot Aronson and Judson Mills, decided to test their observations that ‘persons who go through a great deal of trouble or pain to attain something tend to value it more highly than persons who attain the same thing with a minimum of effort.’ The real stroke of inspiration came in their choice of the initiation ceremony as the best place to examine this possibility. They found that college women who had to endure a severely embarrassing initiation ceremony in order to gain access to a sex discussion group convinced themselves that their new group and its discussions were extremely valuable, even though Aronson and Mills had rehearsed the other group members to be as ‘worthless and uninteresting’ as possible. Different coeds who went through a much milder initiation ceremony or went through no initiation at all, were decidedly less positive about the ‘worthless’ new group they had joined. Additional research showed the same results when coeds were required to endure pain rather than embarrassment to get into a group. The more electric shock a woman received as part of the initiation ceremony, the more she later persuaded herself that her new group and its activities were interesting, intelligent, and desirable.” – Cialdini, “Influence: Science and Practice” (pages 75-79)

 

In the same way that I feel a person allowing someone to degrade them to join their fraternal order or sorority is not wise, I feel as though any demeaning of my craft, asking me to do something for free for some future bit of compensation, is also not wise. I might be able to understand this notion if The Atlantic was a not-for-profit, or a charity. It is not. According to Paul Carr the magazine has a “circulation of 482,267, and hosts a sold-out $2,800-a-ticket conference in Aspen”.

 

Free is not a livelihood. Free is not compensation. Free is not a ticket to more a lucrative position. Free does not get you into more doors because no one respects free.

Asking me to write for free is asking me to starve, to take a beating, to gamble with the possibility of enduring the cold all for the possibility of a job. This is hazing. Hazing might be a sexy proposition for some socially awkward or social mobility desperate soul, but my Self esteem is not that low, nor or my prices. And how long will It be before enough of us have submitted to the pressures of social acceptance and big business brands start hazing us in a more directly humiliating fashion?

 

“For one thing: Let’s lay to rest the notion that payment equals pro. A professional writer is a professional writer, no matter whether he’s being paid or not. Likewise, you can throw money at an amateur, and he’ll always be an amateur. The reason professional journalists need to be paid is not because money somehow magically makes them better at their job, but because real journalism is their job. The fact that some pros maintain their own blogs, or occasionally write stuff for free is utterly irrelevant to the argument.” – Paul Carr

Spoiler Alert:: Tyler Perry’s Temptation

It is entirely difficult for me to enter Perry’s Temptation without preconceived notions, assumptions, and a lack of suspended judgment. Perry introduces into most of his works a formulaic style, that –although seems to guarantee him financial success– doesn’t leave much for the imagination, nor does it leave room for those of us that like to be objective and neutral in at least a few of our Black media analysis. A Tyler Perry film critique is no country for unbiased review.

Perry is obviously devoted to his Black Christian/Baptist audience. In that regard, his plays, films, television shows, and interpretations of the works of others embodies the patriarchal, the conservative, the absolutist, and the traditional. Any media analysis or critique of his work that can only offer you a rehashing of how patriarchal notions meshed with Black vernacular(urban or rural) and cultural artifacts and western notions of romance is at best a superficial musing; at worst, another academic looking to take shots on the 4 foot rim. And yes, poking those particular holes in Perry’s work is just that easy. In that regard, nothing that Tyler Perry does should be unfamiliar: the ingredients of his secret sauce could be expounded upon by a 10 year old cartoon character in less than three minutes. More importantly, so much of Perry’s Temptation is the urban and predominantly Black cast version of “The Family That Prays”.

much of Perry’s Temptation is the urban and predominantly Black cast version of “The Family That Prays”.

I leave those initial statements there as disclaimer more for the sake of those that might choose to publicly analyze Perry’s Temptation, than for my own feeble attempt at political correctness. Any Black attempting a fair media analysis is beset by that gnawing reality that entertain and art are essentially subjective, thus no matter how disciplined or analytic the you or I might be, we still make a choice somewhere whether to like or dislike the movie based on criteria that is not always born by the content of the piece of entertainment or art. Moving on.

Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor written for the screen, directed, and produced by Tyler Perry is the narrative, or confession, of Judith, a middle aged marriage counselor.We are introduced to the story’s narrator, holding what appears to be marriage counseling sessions as she uses herself in anecdote as a moral story for not cheating, well, for not entering into an affair that has been suggested. The visual chronology is a bit off putting because initially we are given what appears to be a Black woman in her late 30s to 40s without any hint or subtitle of the date of the setting, but are told that she and her husband met 19 years prior to her meeting a social media guru at the age of 26 where the bulk of her narrative is set. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t become a household name until around 2009, but I’ll give Perry 2005, 2006, but it still is confusing because we are talking a good 20 years of physical age difference in the looks of the characters in the setting the narrator exists in. While I am on that note, the other glitch in production is that Judith’s mother, Sarah, looks the same age while Judith is supposedly 5 years old, a teenager, and 23-24 when Judith is marrying to her husband Brice.

Perry’s Temptation, although roughly 16 minutes short of two hours, left me wanting more for the initial age sequence built from what we find out is the span of 19 years. Perry’s Temptation toys at the concept of “show don’t tell” with the oft-mentioned rape scene, yet it fails to show us the burgeoning romance between Brice and Judith. One of the shortcomings of the writing of Tyler’s Temptation is that we are given very piecemeal portions of Brice’s character, and for the most part, we only know Brice in conjunction to Judith. This begs a question, sure, because we really don’t know that much about Judith. Also, we are made cognizant via dialogue, a luxury that Perry–as a playwright– often abuses, that Judith has attended and graduated from college, yet we don’t see her attending college during Judith as narrator’s depiction of her and Brice’s childhood romance. Tyler’s dependence on the voice of morality, Judith’ mother, Sarah, leaves a gaping hole in the overall character development and fluidity of Temptation as he needs to show us that her mother is always there watching over them. But, as far as whom these characters are is limited to a notion that Brice has been fairly clingy since Sunday School.

It probably makes 60 year old veterans of the Black Christian/Baptist matriarchy feel all warm inside, but for us Black media analyst that like a little meat on their fiction, it leaves Perry open for criticism on a level that Perry –a guy who has become the leading Black media producer and gatekeeper of the 2000s– should not be still dealing with. Given that Perry takes 30 minutes developing the relationship between Judith and Temptation’s antagonist, I would believe dedicating ten minutes of that for Temptation’s character evolution–maybe even just a full scene of them in high school, at least show her attending college, damn– would have gone a long way.

The antagonist of Perry’s Temptation, Harley, is injected into the story line while Judith is employed as a matchmaker working for Janise Wise portrayed by Vanessa Williams. Harley, supposedly the Black Shawn Parker, an urbane social media guru who is negotiating a deal with Janise Wise to build a dating site. Although, way too many minutes long, and a certain lack of chemistry between Jornee Smollet-Bell, who is cast as “Judith”, and Robbie Jones(“Harley”), I was captured by the development of their relationship.

Perry has a knack for squeezing various elements of Black culture into a plot cheesy enough to make your mother catch the holy ghost.

Perry has a knack for squeezing various elements of Black culture into a plot cheesy enough to make your mother catch the holy ghost. Although the subtly of a Perry script is Mother Goose meets King James–Temptation not being an exception–I chuckle and think to my Self, “yeah, I know a person like that” when Judith details why she does not like the idea of match making and online dating. It is not just a Southern Black perception of the online world, most Blacks across many subcultures of our subculture are prone to have issues with less than organic forms of social involvement, especially of the romantic sort. I was intrigued in a very reluctant manner with the alternating cuts and viewpoints regarding relationship via dialogue (this time it is complimentary) that was shared by the two. I was not happy with the plot device used to compare and contrast the archetypal “bad boy” with the archetypal “good guy”.

tyler perry's temptation

The cut scene from her just having a discussion with Harley to her rushing into her and Brice’s apartment and forcing him to be “passionate” with her sexually was confusing and embarrassing. This scene makes me wish Perry’s Temptation had spent more time developing the storyline of Judith and Brice’s earlier years because it feels as though this side of Judith comes out of thin air. It asks much too much of my imagination. The more salient point of this for the purposes of media impact is that works as foreshadow to justify a rape scene. Perry shows us that Judith wants to have an aggressive and spontaneous sexual experience that her husband Brice is too conservative to provide her with. Later, we are given the aggressive and slightly spontaneous experience in the form of a rape. The cut scene is not the only scene I have problems with, as I take issue with this entire discussion. I can almost stomach the Protestant era code of conduct propaganda as “morality play”, but, the “thug” versus the “choir boy” sans the streets and sans the singing is very much a Black cultural discussion that I am tired of insecure Black men having.

Beyond the need for Perry to use Temptation as a tacit standard pointer for what makes a “good guy” or a “bad guy”, Perry’s Temptation handles rape very irresponsibly. Judith is invited to a business trip to New Orleans with Harley. Due to Judith’s rural upbringing, she is counseled by her coworker, Ava ,played by Kim Kardashian, on how to dress. Not quite sure where Perry is pulling this archetype from as most rural and formally educated Black women that had conservative church going mothers would have been showing Ava how to dress in the same way Beyoncé would be teaching Kim Kardashian how to, but I do feel as though Kim is the voice of the “sexy standard” that Black men want in women as opposed to Harley who in Perry’s mind represents what Black women want from their professional Black men (I’m not totally sure he gets either right). With Kim as her guide into all things male libido, we cut scene to Judith arriving to a private jet and whisked away to lush lounges and strolling out with expensive daiquiris because that’s what you do in a Tyler Perry movie when you leave your husband at home and go away on a business trip to the bayou.

We are given about three minutes of nothing business related New Orleans and we are back on the private jet. With another relationship related conversation in tow, Harley tells Judith he wants to make love to her and forces him Self onto her. The major feelings of disturbance for me arose at the moment Harley breaks, makes the comment about her being able to say she resisted and we cut scene. I personally wish Perry would have just shown the rape because we already have the justification from the scene earlier, and now we have this gap in continuity that leaves a question in the air. The only reference we have for the rape is after Harley has dropped her off at home in front of her husband and mother with Judith smiling when Judith is in the bathroom mirror fantasizing about being raped. This is problematic.

Because we don’t discuss the reality that this is a rape scene in throughout the film, it impresses on the public conscious questions that are left unanswered. We go from a smiling Judith that just got raped, to a jealous Judith that calls Harley in the middle of the night and leaves to go be with him. We see Judith with Harley in a romantic setting being enticed to snort cocaine, which of course, she does. At this point, I’m left to say that Judith is a weak character, and that this movie portrays rape as a form of seduction. The “bad boy”, Harley–who is styled as “satan” through the symbolic coloring of his car and a daunting selection of burning candles where the smoke is more readily accessed than the fire—eventually moves Judith in, and they leave the life of rap stars. Although Harley is supposed to be a social media mogul, we do not see or hear of the business venture that they initially decide to embark on and that consequently caused Judith to quite her job. As Judith quits her job she makes a comment about the authenticity of her former employer’s accent, I suppose this is to show us how sophisticated Judith has grown. I suppose around this portion of the movie we get a climax when Judith and Harley go to pick up Judith’s laptop(of course Apple got the product placement nod). Judith walks in and her mother is in a prayer ritual a la Beloved. As Judith attempts to walk out with the laptop, she is grabbed by her mother and then Harley grabs the laptop and knocks Judith’s mother to the floor. This scene immediately made me state out loud, “Ah naw, in real life, they would have rushed that nigga…”

The crescendo occurs after Harley unable to find his cocaine after being slandered and attacked by Judith, beats Judith. Judith is left for dead until Brice, who is concurrently having a discussion with Melinda who tells Brice that her former husband who gave her HIV was Harley. The “good guys” always have impeccable timing in Tyler Perry’s worlds. So, Brice– mustering courage from some magical place that does not exist until this last chapter before epilogue—hits and kicks Harley, and grabs Judith and walks her to the car or whatever.

Cut scene back to Judith the narrator’s time and office. Judith concludes the story and her client promises to end the affair she is in. Judith walks, or limps ( actually, it is more of a nice paced stroll), to the pharmacy where we see that Melinda is still stocking shelves and has not gotten her half of Harley’s estate, and Brice now owns the pharmacy and is with a woman who we are able to assume is the mother of the child he is picking up and calling “son”. The credits cue with us watching Judith hobbling (oh, no confusion there) towards the horizon.

Because the redemption of the movie rests on Brice, I take issue with Perry’s Temptation being a public conference on what makes a man a “good man” and what does not. Perry’s Temptation presents a one sided discussion whereby the man that doesn’t say anything when the woman he is walking with is disrespected is redeemed and qualified as the “good guy” versus a man that immediately becomes physical even in the event of an obvious accident is “satan”. There is a not so subtle discussion occurring through Perry’s Temptation that feels like locker room or barbershop banter regarding what Black women “really” want from men, and what Black women “should” want from men. In contrast, we are presented with a Black woman that represents Judith’s opposite in Melinda played by Brandy, who gives us Moesha as a 30-something year old, but I am going to leave that all alone!

I am a little disturbed because we are, once again via dialogue, given this character Melinda that is the ex-wife of Harley. Nothing about Melinda suggests Harley at any point of either of their lives, though! Why is the ex-wife of a social media guru that owns a private jet working at a pharmacy? I understand that women in abusive relationships often need to put distance between them Self and their abusers, but divorce is divorce and I can’t buy into that aspect of Perry’s Temptation. The agency of the women in the movie with regard to retribution is lacking. On one hand there is a woman that has been raped and no cops have been called, on the other hand there is the divorcee that doesn’t collect any money from her annulment and has somehow been diagnosed as having HIV but her high profile former husband can scour the land spreading HIV with no legal ramifications. No one calls the police in the movie. I almost wish Perry would have donned grandma-ma pajamas and wig once more and brought the gun totting matriarch that is really a patriarch in drag, Madea in to rectify these loose ends.

Melinda is supposedly all that Brice wants in his Judith, or has lost. The danger for me with Melinda is that she does not offer any redemption. Whatever moral symbol she is to play in Perry’s Temptation is lost on me. She is presented as a wholesome, yet sophisticated, woman who could be the “right” woman for Brice, but, she has HIV. As most critics of this movie I’ve read have suggested, I too believe that Perry is using HIV to represent “hell fire and damnation” and in that regard, Melinda doesn’t provide a redeeming image for the women, especially the young women, watching this “morality play”. In the moral world of Perry’s Temptation, a Black woman is damned if she gets raped and damned if she gets married. There is no message that a Black woman could walk away from this movie with as moral guidance if I am to follow the vein of patriarchal, Protestant values. For the male characters in Tyler’s Temptation, there is no true “punishment” for doing what the Black women do.

Brice is well rewarded for being the “good guy” husband, although he has known Judith since they were 5 or 6 years old and fumbles on her birthday, does not know she periodically likes rough sex, in fact, I will stretch out my analysis and say the guy does not know who Judith is, let alone should he get the husband of the year award. In the world of Perry’s Temptation, a man should be dubbed “good guy” because he is passive, authoritarian, and apparently absent minded. Yet, Brice is able to attempt to kiss Melinda with no compunction while he is still depressed about losing the love of his life. In Perry’s Temptation, being raped is punishable by HIV, and being married to the wrong man is punishable by HIV, but as long as you are either rich or the “good guy”, or hell, A MAN, you are exempt from the punishments faced by the women of the movie.

There are no resolutions for a man who we are to assume is just passing HIV out like candy on Halloween. I am left to believe that the Black man, a dark skinned brother at that, who is touted as being the next best thing to Mark Zuckerberg in a setting that is supposed to be circa 2006– eh, give or take a few years for good measure and hopes that you can play on the imagination, or ignorance, of the audience on the timeliness of what would the present setting(that is, how far in the future is the narrator’s setting)– can go around giving women, plural, HIV? I am supposed to elicit a moral proponent – albeit sexist, protestant, and naive as hell– from a world where a high profile, Black social media programmer can have HIV and no one know about it but the spouse that contracted from him?

There is no resolution, or at least no redemption, for the two women who are now living with HIV. In Tyler Perry’s world, Black women with HIV aren’t able to move on with committed relationships although I personally know couples where one party is HIV positive and a Black woman. In Tyler’s world, why can’t Black women find love after HIV? Why is it that only the Black women are left single and stuck in the purgatory of dead in jobs while we don’t know what happens to Brice, and her husband is now happy with child and what appears to the owner of the pharmacy we are told in the beginning is his dream?

In the end, we sort of get more preaching to a familiar choir from a familiar preacher giving his familiar sermon. The icon of the film poster is a snake that wraps itself into the form of an apple giving further nod to Perry’s Christian/Baptist ideology and understanding of temptation, namely the story of Adam and Eve. And in Perry’s Temptation Eve not only walks away from the Garden of Eden, Adam gets to stay, so she walks alone.

 

Ida B. Wells, Black Women And The Historical Defense Of Black Men With No Reciprocity

In one of US history’s(or herstory’s) more prominent examples of US Black Women’s desire to expose the brutality meted out by White Patriarchy upon Black Men, Ida B. Wells exposed the myth of Black men as savage and lascivious rape perpetrators worthy of the lynchings (“lynching” pluralized) that had abounded during the waning Reconstruction era. Prior to her own documentation of over 728 lynchings of Black men in the South during that time, Ida, as well as Frederick Douglas had been under the media spell of what white “historians” and media gatekeepers such as Harper’s Weekly referred to as the “The New Negro Crime”. It was a spin on the ideas espoused by Thomas Jefferson in his papers on Virginia whereby Black people were reduced to a scientific animal, a brute that couldn’t think and demanded dependence on White people. This idea of us being “animals” was magnified as Black men capable of moving up the socio-economic ladder threatened to erode the United States caste system of White Supremacy. Paula Giddings, writing in her impressive recording of Black Women in US history, paraphrases Philip A. Bruce from his 1889 publication “The Plantation Negro as a Freeman” by stating,”…Blacks, ‘cut off from the spirit of White society,’ had regressed to a primitive and thus criminal state. Bereft of the master’s influence, Blacks were now even closer to the ‘African type’ than the slaves had been.”(p. 27) According the impeccable and bravely established research of Ida, only a third of the murdered Black men had even been accused of rape, and many of the men had been slaughtered more for the crime of miscegenation and involvement with White Women under false accusations than actual rape.

Black men do not need to be defended for acting out of a media programmed behavioral set. We do not need to be coddled for our lack of responsibility, and definitely do not need to be pampered when we treat rape as an acceptable measure our masculinity. Black men seem to feel as though we need permission to defend Black women. Most of those that I consider Hip Hop evangelist are afraid that women are going to take away their testicles if Women are allowed to speak against the atrocities that they find in Hip Hop. Nobody is going to take away your precious rap music; in fact, I feel as though Black Women will be the first to help you edify the music and allow it to be the art form that it once was.

I often find my Self in a position of hypocrisy because I have used the term “rape” as a metaphor for attack and violation. And I am not always proud of that moment, and yet, my lack of pride in that moment is based on the pain I realize those words caused people that I love. My confidence wanes on that line. I do believe that as a Black male, my socialization into manhood presented Black women particularly as an enemy. I do believe that many other Black men in the US, and beyond, have been socialized to treat women as objects of sexual accomplishment. As a male, I am judged by the sexual desirability of the woman I live with, my masculinity is weighed by the type of woman I enjoy looking at, and I have been judged by the degree of violence I am willing to subject a woman to. I don’t see media alone as the culprit for Black criminalization; I have to begin to point the finger at the agents of the influence who bear the burden of the dirty work and bloody hands.

Black feminists and Womanist are not my enemy. Black women are not my enemy. The historical arch of Black Womanism with its roots in an alienation from White feminism is the buttressing and moral/intellectual protection of Black Men. I can no longer dodge the assessment by far too many Black Women that Black men do not reciprocate the sacrifice and courageous stance, thus defense, of Black Women, that Black Women have always shown and demonstrated towards Black Men. Black Womanism and Black Feminism had as its roots the politics of respectability based on a desire to have Black Men as patriarchs of their households. No matter how archaic we might find that desire, it still speaks and influences much of what can be revealed about the passionate attachment to Black men that Black Women have. In return, US Black Men have developed a culture that is the most exogamous of any other group of men on Earth.

Mind-Fucked: Rap, Rape and the Mental Collapse of Women

 

“Fuckin’ hoes since I was ten/Puttin in, pullin out and then I do it again/bitches touching me like I’m Case, make ’em feel so good like Mase and 3 days later, I’m talkin shit to their face…”

 

–from the rap “One Life to Live” written by Sasha (13 yrs old)

 

It’s no surprise that music and it’s lyrics become the moniker for how many live out their lives. Music is the banner by which many take up their personas, unmethodically assuming characters expressed by the vocalist and the images projected through their lyrics. We live these designs through our mind and eventually, they become manifested in our day to day lives.

The concept of rape (physically, spiritually and mentally) has been indoctrinated from youth.

When I was thirteen, rappers in 1998 had expressed themselves to a level where there was a no-holds bar construct and “keeping it real can never go wrong.” The lyricist within the mainstream sect of rap music, by this time, had assumed personalities of Italian-mafia druglords, spending money from ill-gotten gain and enjoying the pleasures of the best alcohol, women and weed. And with parents who threw out my CDs at every purchase, it was my desire to listen to this music out of straight rebellion.

 

The rhyme shared above was just a sliver of lyrics from a two-page rap that I wrote at the age of thirteen, pretending that I was a ghostwriter for a male lyricist. In my head, I composed what I thought a man who was in the “rap-game” at the current time would say and that people would like. From the “fuck bitches” to “gettin’ money” to “shootin’ niggas” M.O. that ran rampant in that era of popular rap, I thought that’s what would garner the most listeners. Subconsciously, my personality adopted this mindset as a young girl and I soon took on both the male and female identities presented in the music: aggressively dominant and sexually submissive.

nwa

 

In a male-dominated society, the authority presented in rap lyrics that present such concepts puts its listeners at the helm of making a decision about how they choose to conduct themselves. If we were to analyze this thought, we’d see that people were/are choosing to conduct themselves by way of the lifestyles presented. Though claimed to be entertainment and projections of fantasy, the people who are expressing these ideas are real and the materials accumulated from these ideas are real. At 17, I found myself desiring the “thug-life” and the men that lived this lifestyle; my boyfriend at the time was a drug-dealer who allotted me the experience of enjoying the gains from his “work.” It was only a matter of time before things got too real and a good friend was killed, one of my homegirl’s chose the game over college and I slowly watched my little brothers take on the personas of the men that were beginning to turn me off.

jay-z
 

Sadly, this reality was formed by decisions of fantasy, embedded in the mind of a girl who chose to embrace the role of a woman through the depiction by popular rap music instead of what her mother was showing her. It was this very reason why my father threw out my CDs until he just got tired of fighting me (plus Napster had found its way into our home and I knew he wasn’t going to throw the computer out.) It cannot be denied that there is a program being projected through lyrics that only garners mainstream appeal when demoralizing a woman while outlining her purpose to be that of arm candy or sexual pleasure. This “mindfuck” has been occurring for a long time, even before rap, and the mental rape of women through rhymes of conditioning them to accept the idea that their mind, body and soul belongs to anyone who chooses her sets the precedent for a physical rape that even then, has the potential to be excused by both the woman and the assailant.

 

The concept of rape (physically, spiritually and mentally) has been indoctrinated from youth. Will it end? Who knows. In my eyes, it’ll be either when the Father comes or I die and unfortunately, that’s the program that many women live with all of their lives. As for a solution, encouraging music that projects different images are vital to a healthy mentality about the woman would be vital for both the male and female construct, thus potentially planting seeds for healthier relationships between them. The question is: do we want to hear music that exalts a cultural perspective different from the one we’ve established or is that just too far-fetched for this society?

 

the questions.