On Moya Bailey, Misogynoir, and why both are important ‹ The Visibility Project

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.

On Moya Bailey, Misogynoir, and why both are important ‹ The Visibility Project.

Why #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen Is So Important

Why #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen Is So Important

Right now on Twitter a well-known Black woman blogger @Karnythia has started a trend online with the hashtag #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen. I have seen related tweets coming from publications such as Al Jazeera and Colorlines.

Of course, there are the people who automatically jump to the conclusion that #Solidarity is about hating on White women who want equality for ~*everybody*~, and that people of color participating in the tag are just race-baiting. That’s a given. And I’m sure most of said people are not actually reading the hashtag, they are just responding to the name. For those who aren’t aware, it should feel like a punch to the gut. I promise you that being excluded from the mainstream feminist movement feels much worse.

To be clear though, this hashtag is about holding “allies” accountable. It should be self-explanatory! For too long, White, straight, cis, able-bodied women have been the face of feminism.

New York Times: The New Shades of Feminism?

New York Times: The New Shades of Feminism?

Read #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen to understand what marginalised people are trying to say. Feminism is supposed to be for people marginalized by patriarchy, but so far it only uplifts the women pictured above.

Here are some gems from #Solidarity

Click the link above for more!

SONG OF THE DAY: Beyoncé – Grown Woman [Audio]

Beyoncé has something to say to the people out there waxing poetic on Black celebrity-hood and respectability politics.

Rebecca A. Gowns: Most of all, I love the small “But of course!” line thrown in there, delivered by a bitchy passive-aggressive white girl. “I’m a grown woman! I can do whatever I want!” Beyonce belts, and in the background, there’s that tiny valley girl voice: “But of course!” That’s gotta be intentional; this song is just as much a response to her (white feminist) critics as “Bow Down” was. What makes it extra delicious is that this is the only spiteful part of the song — “But of course!” — and it’s coming from some weird non-Beyonce character (a single character, with not a single echo, chorus effect, or call and response acknowledging her). Beyonce made the hater a part of her song. This is a trophy song, a song to celebrate her and all her achievements, and it’s topped with the head of her enemy.

Gowns pretty much summarizes how I feel in this quote above about the song. Read the lyrics here.

Open Season on Mrs. Carter

ImageIs anyone else really sick of people ragging on Beyonce, or is it just me?

I’m not saying you have to like her music, or like her as a person, but let’s take a look at her accomplishments:

There’s plenty more where that came from, but even if there wasn’t I would say that Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter is a very accomplished, multi-talented, influential and admirable person.

This is one of the reasons why I get particularly annoyed when I happen to come across things like this letter that Rakhi Kumar has written to Michelle Obama about Beyonce not being a good role model for her daughters, Sasha and Malia Obama.

Rakhi Kumar’s complaint starts with her objection to one of Beyonce’s outfits at the Mrs. Carter World Tour, which apparently consists of a sheer bodysuit with the nipples showing. Because I haven’t been to the show, and because there are people commenting saying that her nipples were not showing, I won’t comment on that. But I will say that it’s a bit ironic that Kumar was so bothered by the costume and the ‘misogynistic implications’ that it represented, because the fact that Beyonce’s performance was belittled to what she was wearing can be read as misogynistic as well.

Also, a sidenote: Why do people have such a problem with nipples? Last time I checked, all humans, regardless of gender, had nipples? What about them makes them overtly sexual? They are used FOR FEEDING CHILDREN. As soon as nipples are revealed, they are instantly assumed to be there for a man’s gratification, and if they are revealed for breastfeeding, it’s ‘indecent’. Feeding infants naturally is indecent now?

But I digress. My point is, automatically rendering any woman’s body parts overtly sexual… sexualizes women. And apparently, women aren’t supposed to be sexy in order to be good role models. Or at least that is the case according to Rakhi Kumar.

At one point in the letter, Kumar says:

Beyonce, performing in sheer body suits, nipples displayed, mouth open, high heels and sheer tights, shaking her butt on stage, can no longer be held by world leaders as an icon of female success.

Because for as long as she is, we are feeding a demonic myth that women must make themselves sexually available to enjoy ultimate success.

This is a debate that comes up a lot in discussions about rape culture. There is an idea that women who wear revealing clothing are ‘asking to be raped’ or ‘asking for sex.’ Because apparently women don’t dress for themselves- they dress to attract or repulse men. So by wearing clothing that is revealing, Beyonce is making herself ‘sexually available.’ I wish it was obvious to people why that is an extremely flawed philosophy, but apparently not. So just to make it clear: women are people. People should have the right to wear what they want and not be judged for it. As far as I’m concerned, a woman should be able to walk down the street naked and not have someone touch her without her permission. If a man can walk down the street shirtless and we can just assume he’s hot, and a woman can’t because that’s indecent exposure and she’s inviting rape, that says more about our assumptions and who we are than it does about the man and woman in question.

Kumar also says later on in the letter:

And it’s time that young girls were sent a different message. A more refined, intelligent message. A message that engaged them at the level of their intellect and potential because implicit in our message to them should be the acknowledgement that they are naturally brilliant and that we believe that they are capable of everything -without ever having to undress to achieve their success.

I’m sorry, since when is someone’s intellect based on their appearance? Because Beyonce isn’t wearing enough clothing for your standards, she isn’t smart or strong or capable? Beyonce won every single award she has because you could see her nipples through her bodysuit?

Kumar even points out that Beyonce is the one who chooses to do it! You don’t have to agree with Beyonce’s choice, you don’t have to like it. But to tell the First Lady of the United States that she is not choosing the right role models for her children because you don’t like Beyonce’s clothing is absurd. The fact that Kumar refuses to acknowledge Beyonce’s talent as an artist and musician because of a sheer bodysuit is playing right into the idea that a woman can be defined by what she wears. And the fact that Kumar feels the need to criticize an aspect of Michelle Obama’s child-rearing reminds me of Jaclyn Friedman’s piece last year on GOOD, telling Beyonce and Jay-Z how to raise Blue Ivy Carter.

In a broader scope, I tend to feel icky when people feel the need to tell influential, successful Black people how to raise their children. I also don’t like the idea of Beyonce being judged by her outfits, because I feel like Black women are simultaneously oversexualized and desexualized, and that there is another anti-Black political message in judging what Black women wear and what effect that has on their body and their sexuality. But that’s another post for another day.

I conclude this by saying: Leave Beyonce alone! Let her live her life and celebrate her accomplishments the way she wants to, please stop overcriticizing every little thing she does. No one is a perfect human being- that includes celebrities, and that includes her. Before Kumar judges someone else for not being a good role model, she should make sure she is one too- and so far, I’m not feeling the messages she has for young women.

Unsolicited Advice from a Black Woman: To Jaclyn Friedman

Dear Jaclyn Friedman,

Beyonce Knowles', showing off her baby bump!

Recently, I read your piece “Unsolicited Advice for Blue Ivy Carter: Growing Up As the Girl of Beyonce and Jay-Z,” on GOOD, and I walked away feeling perplexed. I know who you are. You’re a pretty well-known feminist author, from Boston, Mass. You wrote and published Yes Means Yes: Visions of Sexual Power and a World Without Rape a few years ago. Keeping these facts in mind is what led me to become perplexed in the first place, because I’m sure you wrote this piece as your way of helping, not hurting, the newest addition to the Knowles-Carter family.

If there is anything that we’ve learned from Forbes’ “If I Were A Poor Black Kid,” by Gene Marks, I would hope it would be that when White people talk down to Black people about what they  SHOULD do with their lives, without actually knowing what it’s like being said Black people firsthand, problems ensue. And yet, here  I am, reading your “unsolicited advice,” wondering what on Earth made you think it was a good idea to write a letter to a Black baby that is barely a week old badmouthing her parents, and telling her how to “properly” assert her sexuality in a sexist world.

This is a problem that many Black people have with the mainstream (read: very White) feminist movement; intersectionality is not taken into account nearly enough. I understand that Blue Ivy, as a girl child*, will have to deal with issues of sexuality as she grows up. But unfortunately, not only will Blue Ivy’s sexuality and related choices be complicated by the infamousness of her parents, but because she’s going to grow up a Black woman. The sexuality of Black women in America is much more complicated. Throughout history Black women have been hypersexualized- we suffer from higher rates of rape, Black people’s “endowments” are used to dehumanize them, and our sexuality is often controlled (for example, see: forced sterilization) and shamed by White people. So, telling Blue Ivy how to navigate her sexuality is problematic at best. At worst, it’s entitled, and indicates that you think you know best.

You should know all of this by now.

On to the next piece: I’m not really sure where you get off telling people, especially Black people, how to raise their children. I sincerely hope you did not think telling Blue Ivy about her parents’ shortcomings (in your eyes) would benefit your career. I know you aren’t totally ignorant, because you did say this:

Some people are going to expect you to act like a “perfect lady” at all times (they will all define this differently), asking you to single-handedly extinguish centuries of cultural stereotypes about black women being sexually incontinent. Others will jump on any evidence they can find to “prove” that you’re destined to live up to that stereotype. Either way, to millions of people, you won’t just be Blue Ivy Carter, human being. You’ll be an Ambassador of Black Girlhood, and later, Black Womanhood.

And that is absolutely true. But you don’t earn any brownie points by pointing out Jay-Z’s misogynist lyrics (because of course only Black rappers are misogynists- it’s not like it happens in other genres or with other races. Oh wait…), or by shaming Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” because you don’t approve of using the symbol of a diamond ring to symbolize commitment. The fact of the matter is, it’s none of your damn business, and Blue Ivy is not your child.

You have a tremendous amount of privilege as a White woman, even if you are a woman (and therefore don’t have male privilege). Please keep this in mind the next time you feel the need to indicate that you would be a better mother to a Black child than her actual parents, or to tell a Black child how to assert her sexuality properly.

Click here to read another fantastic (and better written) post about this very subject.

*As of now, we only know that Blue Ivy was born with a vagina. We don’t know yet that they identify as a girl, it’s too soon to know that. This article was written assuming Blue Ivy is a cisgender girl, which should not be considered the default. 

Edit: Jaclyn Friedman has apologized for her column:

JACLYN FRIEDMAN
This column has received some strong criticism, and rightly so. It erases the long, damaging history of white people (specifically white women) telling Black women the “right” ways to be sexual, as well as how to raise their children. Worse, it contributes to that dynamic. This was far from my intention in writing it, but intentions aren’t magic. I was wrong.

Obviously it would have been far better if I’d understood all of this from the get-go, and not written the column. The best I know how to do at this point is to offer my deep, sincere apology, commit to donating the fee I’ll receive for this column to SisterSong, and redouble my ongoing efforts to understand and undo racism, both within myself and beyond. These efforts take many shapes, but one specific approach I’ll be focusing more energy on is increasing my reading and listening to women of color who work on sexuality issues.

(I’m publishing this here as GOOD has a no-retractions policy.)

Rihanna – Talk That Talk

By Keir Bristol

Rihanna - Talk That Talk

Rihanna - Talk That Talk

This post is part review, part love letter. If you don’t like the album though, you should totally keep reading. It may not convince you to like it, but at least to appreciate it for what it is.

One of the reasons why I love this album so much is because I can identify with it. As a 22-year-old girl figuring out what she likes and who she is, playing the field and trying to find someone who will understand her, be her partner, and… um, please her when necessary, this is a go-to album. It’s not an album where I’m forced to try to understand how someone else lives, without knowing first hand how it feels (Drake, I’m looking at you). But more than that, Rihanna is able to say what I’m thinking but may not have the courage to say.

If White women are the N****rs of the world, what are Black women?

If White women are the N****rs of the world, what are Black women?

Some of you may be familiar with the fiasco that went down at Slutwalk NYC where a white woman arrived with a sign that read: “Woman is the Nigger of the World,” and a woman of color had to ask her to take it down. To make matters worse, Slutwalk NYC did not exactly deal with the issue in the most graceful, apologetic way. This was aggravated by the fact that many people of color were already skeptical about Slutwalk because of the way people of color are labelled growing up. To be clear, many women of color (as well as people of other genders) are considered sluts, not because of how often they have sex, how many sexual partners they have, or how they dress- but because of the color of their skin. Historically speaking, women of color have been used as sex slaves for men in power, not to mention that women of color are more likely to be raped and are often considered hypersexual because of their body types. When these concerns were brought up while Slutwalk was still a newborn movement, they were not properly addressed. And then someone decided that since John Lennon gave them the go ahead, this sign was acceptable.

I digress. The reason why this is relevant, is because Rihanna could easily be called a slut or a whore for this album, if not for her often provocative dress and her skin color. The same way women of color are slut-shamed for these things, in addition to committing the crime of not being White. But listen to the album, and then ask yourself: does she care?

She doesn’t. She’s empowered, not belittled. And that’s why the album is great. 

Video still from "We Found Love"

Video still from "We Found Love"

The first single, “We Found Love,” featuring Calvin Harris, only fueled the singer’s claim that the Loud era was continuing. The song and video was allegedly a psychedelic look into her abusive relationship with Chris Brown, which ended shortly after he battered her after an awards show. The video features Rihanna and Dudley O’Shaughnessy in a passionate relationship, where the good is just as strong and influential as the bad, and leaving is the hardest of all. The lyrics of the song only reflect those feelings Rihanna croons desperately, “As your shadow crosses mine / what it takes to come alive / it’s just the way I’m feeling / I can’t deny / but I’ve got to let it go.” Watch the video here.

The second single, “You Da One,” is a bit of a return to Rihanna’s Carribbean roots. With an annoyingly-catchy sing-along chorus, she concludes, “My love is your love / your love is mine.” The next single is a mystery, because the album is chock-full of potential (eventual?) hits. A popular contender is “Cockiness (Love It),” in which Rihanna uses racy wordplay in her sexy Bajan accent. “Suck my cockiness, lick my puss-uasion,” she sings, before she chants, “I love it / I love it / I love it when you eat it.” She went there. On the subject of eating, my favourite off of the album would be “Birthday Cake,” produced by the-Dream, except that it’s cut off at 1:18. What a pity!

Talk That Talk Extended Version Cover

Talk That Talk Extended Version Cover

The only feature on the album is Rihanna’s mentor, Jay-Z on the title track “Talk That Talk,” but don’t worry: she didn’t need any more that that. This album is about her, and you won’t forget it. “Where Have You Been,” is a hyperactive dance track with a touch of dubstep, while the mellower “Drunk On Love,” samples “Intro” off of the Xx’s debut self-titled record. “Drunk on Love,” actually sums up what seems to be Rihanna’s view on love- intoxicating, powerful, stupifying, and a universal desire. 

The extended version of Talk That Talk includes “Do Ya Thang”, “Fool In Love”, and “Red Lipstick.” The latter was recorded over Chase and Status’ “Saxon,” but has a totally different feeling than the song Nicki Minaj had written for her for her fourth studio album, Rated R. Rihanna trades her superstar braggadocio for a sexual anthem that fits so well into the rest of the album. In fact, this is definitely her most consistent album to date.

Rihanna’s sexuality and empowerment are evident in this album, and it’s simply inspiring. With every song, you see another part of her and another part of yourself. Talk That Talk is an album that what have you caught between saying, “Did she really just say that?” and “I know how that feels!”

R.I.P. Poly Styrene

Poly Styrene, frontwoman of classic punk outfit X-Ray Spex

Poly Styrene, frontwoman of classic punk outfit X-Ray Spex

By Keir Bristol

Marianne Joan Elliott-Said, better known as Poly Styrene of the punk outfit X-Ray Spex, has been reported to have passed away on Monday, April 25, 2011.

X-Ray Spex formed in Britain in 1976 after Styrene saw the Sex Pistols at a concert. They only released one album, but Germfree Adolescents is hands-down a classic punk rock album. Germfree Adolescents, released in 1978, spawned five singles, including “Identity,” “The Day the World Turned Day-Glo,” and the legendary punk track “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!

Styrene was a female punk idol in a time where punk rock was totally dominated by males (not that much has changed). Billboard Magazine’s biography of Styrene describes her as “a chubby, half-white/half-Somalian teenager who still wore braces, not to mention a loud Day-Glo wardrobe,” who “she attacked corporations, consumerism, and artificiality with a winning sense of humor.” So it is no wonder that she has inspired later punk artists, including riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna (Bikini KillJulie RuinLe Tigre), Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney), Ari-Up (The Slits), Bratmobile, and more.

There is a lot to be said about a mixed-race woman who ran away at 15, started a revolutionary punk band at 18, and has continued making music until her death at 53. To add to her already stellar list of accomplishments, Styrene also left music temporarily to join the Hare Krishnas (which, considering her disgust of consumerism, is not a huge surprise), She recorded her first solo album, Translucence, in 1980, followed by Flower Aeroplane in 2004 and Generation Indigo in 2009.

Obviously it is ironic that she chose ‘Poly Styrene’ as a stage name, seeing as polystyrene is one of the most widely, most commercially used plastics in the world. But regardless of her name, Styrene proved that she certainly wasn’t one of the mill.

She leaves behind her daughter, Celeste Bell-Dos Santos, lead singer of Spanish band Debutante Disco.