Known for creating the termMisogynoir, Bailey defines it as the intersection of racism, anti-Blackness, and misogyny that Black women experience. The term is specific to Black womanhood, as Misogynoir cannot be experienced by women of any other race, but can be perpetuated by people of any gender or race.
Detroit has enjoyed a lucrative film industry for years. Several successful movies and television shows have been filmed in Detroit; ‘8 Mile’, ‘Dreamgirls’, ‘Martin’ and ‘Sister, Sister’ to name a few. Thanks to Lebanese-American independent filmmaker Rola Nashef, we can add another stellar comedy to the list.
Written and directed by Nashef, ‘Detroit Unleaded’ is a romantic comedy about two Arab-Americans living in the Motor City. Sami (EJ Assi) skips going to college after his father’s death and takes over the family business, a gas station and mini-mart in the east side of Detroit. He falls for Naj (Nada Shouhayib) when she appears in his late father’s gas station selling phone cards. Naj also works closely with her family, selling phone related materials with her overprotective older brother, Fadi (Steven Soro). To spend time together, Naj joins Sami literally and figuratively behind ‘The Cage’ – the bulletproof glass windows of the gas station.
‘The Cage’ found its place in the film after Nashef noticed Arab-American men working in gas stations throughout Detroit. In an interview with The Sag Harbor Express, Nashef says, “It just kept repeating in my head: Is this really what they immigrated here for?” Is this really the American Dream, to sit in a bulletproof cage? … There are a lot of places that trap people and keep them from doing what they want in their lives. It is a metaphor for how we constantly are put in boxes or create boxes for ourselves. [‘Detroit Unleaded’] is about breaking out of that box.”
In the film Nashef tells a story about the Arab-American community she grew up with. According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, Detroit has a large population of African-Americans (82.7 percent), and both communities give the movie its characters and context. Because Nashef wanted show the relationships between Black and Arab-American people in Detroit, many of the customers in ‘Detroit Unleaded’ are Black.
Though race plays an important role in the film, another driving theme seems to be economics. In a guest post published on Indiewire’s Women and Hollywood, Nashef writes, “Through close observations within my own family and circle of friends, it always seemed that men were under a great deal of pressure to make money and support their families. And this economic responsibility seemed to trap them in a life they did not dream of or want… This was probably the first time in my life that I identified economics, rather then gender, as the real ‘cage.’”
With Nashef joining the roster of filmmakers from Detroit, (Francis Ford Coppola, Gene Reynolds) we can only hope to see more films with such a unique viewpoint. Nashef is working on another comedy called ‘Nadia’s House,’ about four Lebanese women trying to get married.
‘Detroit Unleaded’ is now available onand .
It’s been an eye-opening week in social media. A while ago I heard about the Russell Simmons and Jason Horton project titled ‘Harriet Tubman Sex Tape.’ By the time I went to find the video, it had been taken down. So feel free to hold the fact that I haven’t seen the video against me, but I don’t think it was necessary, and could have quite possibly been triggering.
I, nor anyone else, should not have to explain why there is a problem with a parody sex video of Harriet Tubman. It’s 2013. Are we really doing this? We are going to take a Black woman hero, one of the most revered figures in abolitionist history, hypersexualize her, and then put it on the internet?
I shouldn’t be surprised. And yet…
“Araminta Ross became a “slave for hire” at the age of 5. She did domestic work, field work, cared for children. She once said that one of her mistresses would savagely whip her almost every day, first thing in the AM. As a result, she would put on “all the thick clothes she could” to protect her body from the blows. When she was teenager, she stood before an overseer who was in pursuit of another slave. He took a lead weight & crashed it on her head. She was deeply wounded. She said that the blow “broke her skull.” She was carried back bleeding. She had no bed. They lay her on the floor. She was sent back to her parents who thought she would die. She survived. She went on to become Harriet Tubman. She freed slaves daringly & without fear. This is the person who [Russell Simmons] laughed at.”
A couple of thoughts I have about the video:
I honestly don’t think what kind of sex Tubman was or was not having was relevant. The video is historically inaccurate, insensitive and in poor taste. The video both hypersexualizes Tubman and desexualizes her at the same time. And keep the context in mind, of course. Harriet Tubman was a slave. Which means that in addition to being beaten, she was also repeatedly raped and abused in other forms.
I did see a clip of the video here, and I don’t encourage you to watch it because A) I think it is a waste of time, and B) I don’t want to give the people involved with this video any views. But I will say that in the skit, the filming of the movie was done in secret. The cameraman was hidden in a closet. So we have a historical figure who dealt with numerous accounts of abuse, dealing with… surprise! More abuse. Rape isn’t funny. Neither is racism. Black women’s lives and sexuality, past and present, still manage to be the butts of our jokes…
The worst part about this Harriet Tubman video is your talents were essentially exploited @shannamalcolm
— Kimberly N. Foster (@KimberlyNFoster) August 15, 2013
Our pain, suffering, and cotinuous struggles are not real to them, @shannamalcolm. They don’t care. They used you to silence our history.
— Kimberly N. Foster (@KimberlyNFoster) August 15, 2013
EDIT: It was pointed out to me by a reader that Jason Horton did not write, create or produce the video. I wasn’t saying that he did, but I can see how it would be construed that way based on what I wrote. So to be clear, Jason Horton acted in the video, and that was the extent of his involvement. I apologize for any misunderstanding.
Charlamagne says, “I just think it’s b******t when you get on Saturday Night Live and you have a sign behind you that says ‘Not For Sale’… You can’t denounce corporations when you’re in business with corporations! You’re in business with Nike, and you’re helping them sell sneakers. You’re in business with Def Jam… What exactly isn’t for sale Kanye?”
I normally disregard what Charlamagne has to say about… well, anything, but this is an interesting argument (that I disagree with) because it’s way more complicated than Charlamagne is making it out to be.
Yes, Kanye sells sneakers and records and he’s in the media even more now that he and his girlfriend Kim Kardashian has had a baby girl. But who is to say that Kanye cannot criticize the culture we live in without actively being a part of it? Charlamagne’s argument reminds me of people who are trapped in their circumstance… like people who buy from Walmart, knowing the evils that Walmart perpetuates, but cannot shop at alternative places because of cost, gas, lack of transportation or what have you. The system of capitalism (which I won’t get into right now in detail) is so intricate, that you cannot really partake in something that isn’t at least slightly problematic.
Of course, Kanye could refuse to sell sneakers and not make records and be a starving artist like he originally intended, but let’s be clear here- Kanye West, the brand, and Kanye Omari West, the person, are two completely different things. And the brand, not the person, is what is for sale.
I had the privilege of reading a fantastic article on FlavorWire by Tom Hawking about how Kanye West’s persona can be read as a caricature of what is expected of him as an infamous, rich, Black rapper. I happen to agree with the author: One could easily surmise from listening to Kanye’s lyrics in each of his albums that he has opinions on culture, religion, politics, racism, self-discovery and self-love. Examples include:
“So here go my single, dog, radio needs this / They think they can rap about anything except for Jesus / that means sex, guns, lies, videotapes / but if I rap about God, my record won’t get played, huh?” – Jesus Walks, The College Dropout
“They want her to live, and she’s trying / I’m arguing what kind of doctor can we fly in? / you know the best medicine goes to people that’s paid / if Magic Johnson had a cure for AIDS / and all the broke mother*****s passed away / you’re telling me if my grandma was in the NBA / right now she would be okay?” – Roses, Late Registration
“The system’s broken / the school’s closed, the prison’s open / we ain’t got nothing to lose / mother****** we rollin.” – Power, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
A huge flaw in Charlamagne’s thinking is that he doesn’t think Kanye can be critical and yet enjoy materialistic things. Kanye himself says he doesn’t come from the projects, but he didn’t always have money the way he does now. What exactly is the problem with enjoying the money you’ve earned yourself? Or enjoying a career that you’ve worked hard and consistently for, while also criticizing the industry and the things other people will do for said money? How come any musician that raps about women, money, nice cars and materialistic things have “sold out” cannot also rap about politics, racism or self?
Not all rap music is going to be about coming from the projects and selling drugs, just the way not all rap music is not going to be about platinum chains and product endorsements. The problem comes in when you automatically categorize certain topics under “good music” and “bad music.” There is a pretentiousness in “conscious” hip-hop that argues that “gangsta” rap or rapping about partaking in materialism has “killed” hip-hop and every rapper is apparently supposed to be like Common or Talib Kweli. Not every rapper wants to stick to that formula, and people say they’ve “sold out”. People become very invested in person’s character, not realizing that people change and grow. Producer of Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint” Kanye West is not the same as “808s and Heartbreak” Kanye West, who is not the same as “Yeezus” Kanye West. Rapping about the same thing all the time would eventually get boring, and I personally would argue one of the best things about Kanye West is his adaptability. Kanye’s albums all sound different, yet you can tell each one is Kanye West. His style and influence is undeniable.
Let me stop while I’m ahead… What are your thoughts on Charlamagne’s comments?
But for real, for me, I feel like with the red lipstick thing it all depends on the pair of complexion. I’m just being for real. You have to be fair skinned to get away with that… what do dark skin girls have that you know fair skinned girls cant do… Purple lipstick? Naw, that looks stupid on all girls!
Yes, I know this is just someone’s opinion, and it probably shouldn’t bother me as much as it does. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I am certainly not depending on A$AP Rocky for fashion advice.
I think it has more to do with the fact that I know from personal experience that dark-skinned Black women are constantly told that things don’t look good on them, that they are ugly, or that they are not as desired as much as light-skinned or White women. And rap & hip-hop is a reflection of society, so of course this is reflected in song lyrics and interviews. Here are some examples:
“That’s why I like chilling with women who like women
Light-skinned Asians, Jamaicans, and white women
Indians, Italians, Haitians and Puerto Ricans,
They be itchin’ for they chance and waiting on me to freak ’em.”
– T.I., “Let’s Get Away”
“Chocolate is her skin-tone,
Make a n***a say, “f**k a red bone!”
-Lil’ Kee feat. Javon Black, “My Baby”
“Used to be black girls was the baddest s**t, you know what I mean? Spanish, J-Lo be poppin’ … white women are poppin’ right now, man. They f*****g poppin’. Imma just be real.”
-Wacka Flocka Flame, in an interview with SOHH.com.
There is plenty more where that came from. Check out this documentary (I haven’t watched it yet, but will hopefully this weekend), Complexion Obsession, about the abundance of light-skinned women in rap videos and as the objects of desire in rap lyrics.
Now, A$AP didn’t straight up say he preferred light-skinned women, so I’m not pinning that on him. But telling dark-skinned women that they can’t get away with something that light-skinned women can’t get away with? Assuming that dark-skinned women care what A$AP Rocky or any other man think about their lipstick? Assuming that dark-skinned women (or any women at all, really) make all of their fashion decisions based on men? I’m not here for that. And I definitely believe there is a connection between A$AP’s advice and hip-hop’s preference for light-skinned women.
And I’m not the only one! Click here, here, and here to see Azealia Banks’ feelings on the matter. By the way, Banks released a signature lipstick with M.A.C. last September called ‘Yung Rapunxel.” She’s infamous for purple lipstick in particular.
Also, he’s just straight up wrong. When it comes to red lipstick, you just have to find the right shade. Check out this blog post on how to pick the right lipstick shade.
Colorism is complicated though. How much of this obsession with light-skinned Women is rooted in self-hatred?
There will be more on the colorism in hip-hop later on the blog, so stay tuned!
Today I will be on a panel on Al Jazeera’s The Stream talking about Black History Month! Click on the link in the title to watch – it’s today, Monday, February 4, at 2:30pm EST!
Edit: If you missed the live show, you can catch it here!
WHO: There’s a new female rapper/singer in the game and she’s spitting her way into the hearts of today’s hip-hop fiends. Azealia Banks, a newbie from Harlem, is the new up-and-comer in the music industry. With the exception of her Youtube tracks “Seventeen” and “Gimme A Chance” under the moniker Miss Bank$, she dropped her first official single, “212” last year featuring a beat from Lazy Jay. After that came “Liquorice,” a catchy tune with a spanking-fresh music video where Banks boasts about attracting White boys despite having dark skin. Banks sings on the hook:” Can I catch your eye sir / Can I be what you like? Yeah… / I can be the right girl / Tell me if you like your / lady in my, my color / can I be your type? Yeah…”
Banks’ debut album, Broke With Expensive Taste, is due in September on Interscope/Polydor Records. Although many people refer to her as a rapper, she prefers the term “lyricist.” She wrote on her blog:
“I never was…. and as soon as I started paying attention to b******t urban media, I started getting myself in trouble. From now on I’m a vocalist, and will not be associating myself with the “rap game”… or whatever the f**k that means…”
WHY: The quote above may be referring to her highly-publicized confrontations with White female rapper Iggy Azalea. XXL reports that in April, Banks tweeted, “How can you endorse a white woman who called herself a ‘runaway slave master’? Sorry guys. But I’m pro black girl. I’m not anti white girl, but I’m also not here for any1 outside of my culture trying to trivialize very serious aspects of it.”
Unfortunately for Banks, race is always going to play a part in her career. A Google search of Azealia Banks and Iggy Azalea will bring up plenty of interviews with Iggy about her beef with Banks, and her word is backed up even more by her rap mentor T.I., who signed her to Grand Hustle Records in early March of this year. But Banks doesn’t shy away from the controversy. Racialicious’ write up of Azealia Banks as the Crush of the Week points out, “Sexual braggadicio? Check? And hold on…did she just check Diplo and his I’m-not-an-cultural-appropriator-because-I-date-the-women-of-color-I-take-credit-for a** (and any other white person who thinks they get a Racism Pass because they sex it up with folks outside their race)? Totes check.”
WHEN: Banks’ album is due in September, but if you can’t wait that long, stay tuned for her mixtape Fantasea, to be released on July 4, and check out her 1991 EP, released May 29.