Harriet Tubman Sex Tape? REALLY?

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…

Blogger Prison Culture tweeted the following statement about the video:

“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…

Kimberly Foster, founder of @ForHarriet had this to say to the star of the skit playing Tubman, Shanna Malcolm.

Here is a petition asking for the video to be removed (it already has) and for a public apology to be made (which has not happened yet).

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.

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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!”