Tuesday, August 21, 2007

DISAPPEARING ACTS?

As you all know, I pulled my own "disappearing act" last week to get married and enjoy a little time off with my honey, family and friends. The honeymoon won't be for a few months though, since I will be transitioning to a new job in the next few weeks (because I never bite off more than I can chew--no, not I!!) and DH has some work travel of his own to attend to. In any case, thank you all so much for your warm wishes on our recent union. It feels great!

I wanted to open up discussion this week about a very complex issue that has been troubling me for some time now: the connection between popular images of black women, and our sexual and romantic desirability to men generally. It is an issue I've touched on before here in discussions about everything from mainstream advertisements to pornography, because I think that the power of imagery in contemporary society to shape male and female perceptions of appropriate partners would be hard to overemphasize.

Most modern societies have evolved from the point where parents and clans arrange marriages for offspring, to providing only slightly less formal community meeting places for choosing appropriate partners (church, socials, friends of family), to the current environment where our only guidelines are the broad-based and increasingly vague criteria of class, race, gender, sexuality, age, "chemistry"--and our own allegiance to these concepts.

Now that our choices are almost entirely our "own," the role of of socialization and social imagery in teaching us how to choose our mates has become increasingly important. For many Westerners, for better or worse, the mass media has replaced church, family, and virtually every other institution of significance in guiding our decision-making processes for choosing our careers, our homes, value systems, and our mates.

What this means for black women is that, even as we make incredible strides in the real world, the negative and false imagery that predominates popular representations of us has become arguably more dangerous than ever. The seductive, promiscuous light-skinned Jezebel, and the big, dark, dominant, emasculating, sharp-tongued Sapphire/Matriarch all share one trait in common--they are deviant. Regardless of how restrictive or degrading the mainstream feminine "ideal" may be for other women, black women are always defined in opposition to it--and thus men are taught that to desire us is to indulge a fetish, rather than to engage a normal urge. We are not only forbidden fruit (like black men), we are a marginalized and perverse taste. That is, when we are visible at all.

For too long, we have neglected to address this negative propaganda campaign against us, and its devastating impact that is now revealing its destructive consequences in the lives of so many young black women. As usual, the focus of the "community" has been on negative images of black men, and ameliorating the effect of those images on black men. Many of us assumed that once black people gained positions of authority in the media, that destructive images of black women would naturally improve; instead, we have seen that black men and women who hold such positions seem more eager than ever to cash in by throwing us under the bus or eliminating our images altogether. This is intolerable.

This is why we must insist on making our voices heard on this issue. Sisters touched on this question at the Black Women's IR Circle under the "Permission to Survive" post, where some questioned whether we should bother "boycotting" black male celebrities who insult and belittle black women, and consistently choose non-black mates. I agree with those who posited that such men have every right to choose to partner with whoever they wish, and that our greatest focus should be on finding our own healthy, happy relationships--but I also agree with those who insisted that when someone attacks and undermines us, we must make it clear that we will not accept such treatment. This is not merely an issue of "hurt feelings" or "freedom of speech": this is about the freedom and opportunities that will be available to young black women, their right to love, the acknowledgement of their beauty and femininity. No one must be permitted to attack our womanhood with impunity.

As one of my very wise uncles pointed out to me when I was a child, in this country, we vote with our dollars. No choice you make with a ballot will ever mean as much in the first instance as who you give your money in America--or who you withhold it from. We as black women have gained much power in this arena, and it is time for us to leverage it. Think of the movies you see, the songs you download, the magazines you read, the television shows you watch, and all the commercial products whose advertisements support these endeavors. Do they employ black models and actresses? If so, are they portrayed as feminine and romantically attractive? Are they portrayed stereotypically? Are we included at all? As efforts like Gina McCauley's http://whataboutourdaughters.blogspot.com/ campaign against the hot mess that is BET's "Hot Ghetto Mess/We've Got to Do Better" make clear, we can make a difference--we do have power. Now let's exercise that power!

26 comments:

pioneervalleywoman said...

Greetings, Aimee!

It's great to see you posting again!

It seems to me that many in the black community gave up on that sense of imagery, in how we are presented by others, and in how we present ourselves, when we gave up on what early black women's historians called "the politics of respectability."

When black women were told that we were less than, worthless, etc., in the late 19th century and into the 20th, we responded by saying, "the images you present of us are not accurate." We are respectable women, just as worthy and attractive as everyone else. The image we presented was of moral conservatism with an interest in liberal political activism, to end discrimination and prejudice.

But with the end of the civil rights movement, and the attack on mainstream civil rights activists by black nationalists as being too assimilationist and accomodationist, combined later with a celebration of "ghetto culture" as being "real" in its "outlaw" nature and opposition to the mainstream (white) culture, we gave up that ideal of moral authority. We bought the images that made us seem to be "less than...," ie., the images of us in videos, etc., came to predominate.

The mainstream white culture picked up those new images to the tune of millions, and many black men and women, of course, have been happy to get rich.

But the question, I ask though, is whether we have lost our souls in the process. We arguably have.

PVW

http://episcopalienne.blogspot.com/

foreverloyal said...

I monitor and restrict the visual media to which my children are exposed, partially for the very reasons you state.
Better for them to have very few images of black people, and have their views shaped more by the books and company I choose for them, than for them to be dxposed to alot of junk.

pioneervalleywoman said...

I just saw an article about a new book that addresses this very phenomenon, perhaps for your sidebar?

http://www.alternet.org/mediaculture/60079/?page=2

shocol said...

in this country, we vote with our dollars. No choice you make with a ballot will ever mean as much in the first instance as who you give your money in America--or who you withhold it from.

Aimee,

I'm so glad that you commented on this. The following is part of a post I made on another blog:

Another thing that really burns me up..If you don't like me fine. But don't trash me in the public eye and turn around with your hand out for my money. Media companies get paid big bucks by sponsors & advertisers to bring in viewers. That laundry detergent or cleaning product, those salty potato chips, the ridiculous "ethnic" car commercials, and that famous fast-food restaurant that your kids beg for instead of wanting a home cooked meal... all commercials brought to you while watching your daily programming. No matter how awful the program, they know that BW will still spend money on their products.

When BW collectively realize that where/with whom we spend our money is just as important as earning/saving it, we will be unstoppable. No need to march on Washington, just close the wallet and target your spending. I truly believe this approach is one of the most effective ways to improve our public image.

I really believe this doable, but maybe I'm being naive? IDK

Pamela said...

I rarely watch any media these days. Most of it is garbage. I absolutely reject BET and other 'black' media that portrays blacks in a horrible light. I may need to pay more attention to where ad dollars are spent. The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil. Sometimes that is the only thing that will make businessmen/women buckle to pressure.

I do NOT listen to rap music at all. However I had heard about some fool that did a song called "Read A Book". I thought I would check it out on YouTube. BIG MISTAKE. I was thinking it would be like an encouragement to read. The non-profane words were 'read a book', drink some water, parents get out of the club and raise your kids. That's all I remember. HOWEVER I was past horrified at the video images there. It was a cartoon and I guess it was supposed to be satirical. I was more than angry. Most of it degraded bw like I had not seen in many years. What really sickened me was that since it was a cartoon it could appeal to children.

Money talks, especially in 2007. I hardly deal with the media. I just can't stomach the garbage out there. I wonder if a web page exists that has a list of advertisers that sponsor the denegration of bw. It would take people like the Neilsen folk to watch TV all the time and make notes of the advertisers. Something needs to be done.

Of course the best example is US. When people can see how we live our lives that helps debunk the slander that the media assaults us with on a daily basis.

Anonymous said...

Gina McCauley was talking about this the other day on the radio in the second part of the program.

http://www.kpfa.org/archives/index.php?arch=21848

Evia said...

Yes, Gina is doing a FANTASTIC job!! She's using the power of the internet and other media to fight back against this relentless negative bombardment against bw and to empower bw. We all have access to the same tools.

More of us are doing what we can to uplift bw and show that we are beautiful and wonderfully capable woman who have numerous options to love who we choose and promote our own interests in various other ways.

I challenge each supportive person who reads any of our blogs to set up a blog, host a blogtalk radio show, do a podcast or do whatever you can do to get the message of bw empowerment out there. You never know whose life you change for the best with a few simple words. I KNOW these blogs have changed the lives of many sistas for the better, FOR SURE.

If you can't do anything at the present time, then please urge a friend to do so. If nothing else, send folks to our blogs.

kara said...

Speaking of negative propoganda against us, look at this post on Gina McCauley's blog 'What About Our Daughters".

Apparently some of the same BM that traffic in our negative images have a problem with the focus of Gina's blog:

XXL Magazine calls Dunbar Village Victim "some hooker down in Florida"

XXL is a hip hop magazine.

http://whataboutourdaughters.blogspot.com/2007/08/xxl-magazine-calls-dunbar-village.html

Noelani said...

The problem I see is not that these things exist, but what are we "as black women" going to do about it? All the lamenting is going nowhere. I don't say this to be condescending, but I reached a breaking point, where I was tired of being frustrated with the status quo and wanted to do "something".

I think as in all things organization is the key. If we could come together and work on each media issue one at a time, then we'd get somewhere. That includes contacting these advertisers, tuning off the networks, sending letters and of course blogging and spreading the word to others that we are fed up with these unbalanced and horrid depictions of who we are as black women.

LaDonna said...

Can we write to Proctor & Gamble or some of these other big companies and say if you advertise on BET, or on some of these offensive radio stations or in XXL magazine we will not buy your products. Can we put together a list of products for black women to boycott then get the word out? I've heard black women spend the most money on hair products. Lets boycott hair products that advertise on these stations.

Aimee said...

shocol said...

When BW collectively realize that where/with whom we spend our money is just as important as earning/saving it, we will be unstoppable. No need to march on Washington, just close the wallet and target your spending. I truly believe this approach is one of the most effective ways to improve our public image.

I really believe this doable, but maybe I'm being naive? IDK


I don't think you're being naive at all. I think this is the next key step in our ability to make collective progress. What we need more than anything else is an organization that enables us to collectively channel our efforts in a way that makes it clear to businesses that they are being held accountable and why--an organization ran by black women, devoted to the cause of challenging both negative, stereotypical imagery of black women and the invisibility of black women. Does anyone out there know of such an organization? Or would anyone out there be interested in joining in the formation of such an organization?

Aimee said...

Noelani said...

The problem I see is not that these things exist, but what are we "as black women" going to do about it?

As I mentioned to shocol, I definitely agree with you on the importance of organization, and I know that I'M ready and willing to step up on that front. But one great thing about our power as consumers is that it can be exercised individually. We can pick up a magazine, note the absence of black faces, decline to buy it, and send the editors an email informing them of our decision and why all within less than an hour's time. Such actions are more powerful collectively, but they still have value even if undertaken individually.

For instance, I saw stats recently showing that 12% of Cosmopolitan's readership is black, and 17% of Vogue's. How often do either feature black models on the cover--unless they're celebrities or part of a group (in the back)? How often are black models featured inside? I know for a fact that Cosmopolitan's editors have stated repeatedly that their sales go down when they feature black models, so they openly discriminate against them.

Would we continue to patronize Ford Motor Company or McDonalds if they said their sales declined when they hired black people, therefore they can only hire whites? I certainly hope not--but we accept explanations like these from those who sell "beauty"--those who shape the very concept of what makes a woman desireable. These people not only rob individual black women of employment, they rob all of us of visibility and viable images as beautiful, worthy mates.

Indeed, we not only accept open discrimination from these companies, we continue giving them our money! The bottom line is that each of us, individually, TODAY, can stop buying magazines that won't employ black women. They want to see a sales decline? Let's give 'em one! It's one small step, but it's immediate, and it matters.

Aimee said...

Evia said...

I challenge each supportive person who reads any of our blogs to set up a blog, host a blogtalk radio show, do a podcast or do whatever you can do to get the message of bw empowerment out there. You never know whose life you change for the best with a few simple words. I KNOW these blogs have changed the lives of many sistas for the better, FOR SURE.

If you can't do anything at the present time, then please urge a friend to do so. If nothing else, send folks to our blogs.


I just don't think this can be emphasized enough. I know some may see such blogs as nothing more than "talk" or "venting," but all change starts first with thought and communication. People have to be talking to each other before they can act together. It doesn't make sense to say "what are we going to do?" before many of us are even aware that something needs to be done, or that there are others who recognize that something needs to be done, and are also ready to act. Let's ALL speak up!

Aimee said...

LaDonna said...

Can we write to Proctor & Gamble or some of these other big companies and say if you advertise on BET, or on some of these offensive radio stations or in XXL magazine we will not buy your products. Can we put together a list of products for black women to boycott then get the word out? I've heard black women spend the most money on hair products. Lets boycott hair products that advertise on these stations.

Back on August 10, Evia blogged on a new campaign by Proctor and Gamble designed to spark a discussion of the image of black women and black beauty:

PROCTER & GAMBLE IGNITES NATIONAL CONVERSATION ON BEAUTY AMONG AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN
Consumers can more learn about the campaign and access the booklet online at www.myblackisbeautiful.com. The contact for the campaign is Goldie Taylor, 212-464-7345.

I think it is an excellent idea for us to collect as much information as we can about the advertisers on BET, XXL, etc. (I haven't seen either in ages, but I will review them for this purpose), and let them know through a forum created for this very purpose that one of the most destructive forces to BW are images that they indirectly support by promoting thier products through these mediums.

Halima said...

Would we continue to patronize Ford Motor Company or McDonalds if they said their sales declined when they hired black people, therefore they can only hire whites? I certainly hope not--but we accept explanations like these from those who sell "beauty"--those who shape the very concept of what makes a woman desireable. These people not only rob individual black women of employment, they rob all of us of visibility and viable images as beautiful, worthy mates.

Word!

Evia said...

Indeed, we not only accept open discrimination from these companies, we continue giving them our money! The bottom line is that each of us, individually, TODAY, can stop buying magazines that won't employ black women. They want to see a sales decline? Let's give 'em one! It's one small step, but it's immediate, and it matters.

I TOTALLY agree. I think one reason why some of this continues is because many times, we don't have the facts about whether a magazine employs bw and such. If someone could monitor this and provide factual info about this to us, I think we could feature it prominently on each of our blogs.

Sometimes people write to me and say they want to blog, but don't know what to blog about, so this would be an excellent area of focus--monitoring these biggie magazines and detailing the ads featuring bw or the lack of them and such because all of this greatly impacts our image. Many times, black folks don't do what we need to do because we don't have vital info when they need it. So after we feature the info on our blogs and urge our readers to read it, reflect on it and circulate the info, we could write to the magazines and tell them what we're doing and will continue to do.

When you consider that many of these publications are in heavy competition with each other and have a narrow profit margin, they will definitely take note.

Aimee said...

pioneervalleywoman said...

When black women were told that we were less than, worthless, etc., in the late 19th century and into the 20th, we responded by saying, "the images you present of us are not accurate." We are respectable women, just as worthy and attractive as everyone else. The image we presented was of moral conservatism with an interest in liberal political activism, to end discrimination and prejudice.

But with the end of the civil rights movement, and the attack on mainstream civil rights activists by black nationalists as being too assimilationist and accomodationist, combined later with a celebration of "ghetto culture" as being "real" in its "outlaw" nature and opposition to the mainstream (white) culture, we gave up that ideal of moral authority. We bought the images that made us seem to be "less than...," ie., the images of us in videos, etc., came to predominate.


Hey PVW!

When I mentioned "complexity," I think this is the tension that I was referring to. Because, of course, many people would quite reasonably respond to my argument by asking "do BW want to be sex objects like other women?," just as many black activists in the 60's and 70's rejected what they considered hypocritical, "bourgeois" standards of decency and respectability.

Instead of trying to conform to those standards, why not expose them for the false, destructive force they are, and reject them in their entirety?

In applying this analysis to popular images of women, the only problem is that even if we recognize that the way that WW are portrayed in the media is also often troubling and objectifying, we must recognize that at least such portrayals, good and bad, exist.

All too often, BW are simply excluded altogether, or included in some neutered("mammy/Sapphire") or animal-like form ("Jezebel").

This "bourgeois objectification" analysis also posits a level of pure victimization that doesn't recognize the power that has been conferred on white women through this imagery--as ideals of feminine beauty and virtue, that all women should aspire to be like, and all men should aspire to possess.

That's why while many radical feminists rejected Playboy and the beauty industry, most WW have continued to embrace the disproportionate benefits conferred on them, vis-a-vis other women and men, by the "sex symbol" role, even as they argue for equality in the home and workplace. This contradiction has fueled a tremendous amount of male resentment and backlash.

Ultimately, I think that we have to take the world as it is. So even while we challenge what we know is wrong, we also have to navigate the system as it stands, and make the most of the structures that are currently in place. And that means that BW must also be included in the spectrum of feminine beauty. Because the choice today is not really "objectification or freedom," it's "inclusion or exclusion." And too many BW are bearing the very real burdens of exclusion.

Halima said...

Ultimately, I think that we have to take the world as it is. So even while we challenge what we know is wrong, we also have to navigate the system as it stands, and make the most of the structures that are currently in place. And that means that BW must also be included in the spectrum of feminine beauty. Because the choice today is not really "objectification or freedom," it's "inclusion or exclusion." And too many BW are bearing the very real burdens of exclusion.

Aimeee this encapusulates one of the 'head dialogues' i have been having with myself for a while. With issues of beauty standard at least, a good analogy of what is happening, is a house that is supposed to be demolished at some future point, white women are still inside the house and they are enjoying its benefits, however bw are on the outside and when they make a move to get in too, they are chided, "Why do you want to get in anyway, we are trying to see how we can pull down the house" ie we want to demolish ideas and notions that limit women value to their looks and the age of their ovaries etc.

Yet we can see that ww are benefiting from the ideals in place, regardless of whether these are healthy or progressive, indeed ww are still gaining in more ways than we could ever quantify by being the key beneficiary of the system in place however less than ideal it is.

D said...

Most of the time after I watch television, I feel like I wasted my time, so I don't watch it much... so it's hard for me to comment on how any group is portrayed there.

So I went to my DVD rack to see how the movies I own portray black women...

Now and Then - The most obvious one to put first, because it most directly addresses the issue... If a Kenya walked into my life and everything worked out, I would be quite happy to spend the rest of my life with someone like her, especially at the end of the movie where she intentionally makes a choice to have balance in her life between achievement and "living". I think Sanaa did a great job of portraying a woman who is smart, human, and accomplished. On a different note, in an interview and in a magazine article, I've seen her say twice "in real life, I prefer black men... there's just something I like better about them..."... which makes me wonder what the complete (and real?) story is there. Another thing I noticed was the brother's girlfriends... I found myself agreeing with Kenya that they were airheads. And the pediatrician character (Kenya's friend)... was also a little "empty" up top. As far as beauty... I agree with a phrase I heard somewhere that looks will open the door, but personality and brains is what seals the deal. To me, physical attraction is important, but mental attraction is MUCH more important.

And I never realized this until now, but as I watched the movie, I put myself in "Iron Johnny's" role and didn't find myself attracted to any character besides Kenya, although I think that several of the other women in the movie are attractive.

Mo' Better Blues - Well, it's a Spike Lee flick. I bought it to help me learn Spanish... it's got a Spanish language track, which most movies don't. As a broad generalization, it seems like the movie started with the female roles in all the negative stereotypical places, and ended with them less so. Bleek's two girlfriends were both sophisticated, smart, and articulate, but both let themselves be played, and almost all of the interactions between Bleek and his girlfriends early in the movie were pretty much foreplay leading to sex. I think everybody likes sex, but there's more to life than that. And neither girlfriend was really portrayed as an equal to him... but that was part of the plot which resolved itself a little when Bleek chose one, got married, settled down, and became a good father. If you look at what the director focuses on, the movie is really about Bleek, and the portrayals of everyone in the movie are pretty much through the lens of their relationship to the main character... which means some of the portrayal issues serve the story which agrees with the ideas a lot of you have posted... but some of it seems gratuitous, also.

Out of Africa - This one stands out because there really are no main female black characters that I can remember, and there probably should be, as most of the movie is in Africa. Even though it's mostly about white people in Africa, it seems like in real life, black women would have been part of the story more.

Cider House Rules - I'd be interested in the opinions of all of you on this one... The only black female character was Rose, and how she was portrayed was very integral to that subplot of the movie. She wasn't in the happiest situation, but that was kind of the point. Erykah Badu did a great job acting that part, I'm surprised she hasn't been in more movies since then. But I guess my question is that should the whole script have been re-written so it didn't show a black woman in such a negative situation? I don't think so... to me, it fit the plot and intent of the movie, and there was nothing gratuitously negative about the portrayal of black women... Rose had her own kind of strength, and I remember feeling like I hope she found a happy life down the road.

The Matrix - It's been a while since I watched this, but if I remember correctly, Jada Pinkett-Smith plays a smart and capable character without any negative portrayal that I can think of.

I like movies about dilemmas, tough situations, crises... life is sometimes a struggle, and it's sometimes good to see a person go through that on a movie screen, and we see the scars, the triumph, and the heartbreak. The fairness, and the unfairness. So I own a few movies with portrayals of some very flawed and/or human characters (white, black, whatever). So I think there's movies out there with portrayals of black women which are good, positive role models... and other movies where anything negative is an element in the story, which the black female characters deal with as it serves the story... Good movies don't always have happy endings. I know there's portrayals out there which are gratuitously and stereotypically degrading, but if I was to watch such a movie, I would hold that against the movie as far as liking it or recommending it to people I know.

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As a guy who is decently athletic, in-shape, and good looking, I am attracted to a woman who has the same qualities. I am annoyed a little when I hear weight made out to be a race issue. There are women of all shapes and sizes in EVERY race. Regardless of race, I personally am most attracted to an athletic girl. But on the other hand, I know there are guys only attracted to thick girls. In my mind, there's someone for everybody.

However, that doesn't mean that only "skinny" gets a second look from me. In fact, the emaciated wannabe model is not my type at all. My preference is somewhere in the middle. I was really proud of Tyra Banks when she said right up front that she's not trying to maintain the stereotypical anorexic model's body, and she hasn't. I think (hope?) she helped black women and white women both by taking that stand.

But I also think that the whole concept of beauty as society judges it is a little overrated. Another phrase I like is "I'm not looking for somebody perfect, I'm looking for somebody perfect for me." That includes beauty. In my life, the longer I've been in a relationship with someone, the more attractive I find them... the more they become "my type". I'm single right now, but one of these days I'll find somebody perfect to me... and I hope to say to her that she's the most beautiful woman in the world... because I choose to see her that way. I can notice beauty as an abstract thing in movie stars, or someone walking by on the street... but I think there's a lot of power in CHOOSING to see the one you're with as the MOST beatiful. I agree with some of the things that society finds beautiful, but I think they overdo it in many areas (including weight and race)

I think there's a problem with saying there's some IDEAL image of beauty... the problem with that is at most one man and one woman on the planet meet up to those standards. So EVERYBODY ELSE has to feel bad? That's just dumb.

Now, as far as there being a bias in the culture toward lighter skin... this is one area where I think black women can hurt themselves if they paint with too broad of a brush. I personally don't feel this way... I don't look at skin color or race-related features, I think a woman of any race or culture can be beautiful. I'm leaning a little bit toward darker skin right now because that's my last "almost in love" experience... but if a white girl who is smart, sexy, and successful walks into my life... and if we click in all the right ways, and it's meant to be... then so be it. I could end up calling a black woman the most beautiful woman in the world for the rest of my life, or a white woman, or multi-racial, or whatever... to me, what race she is is not the point. WHO she is IS the point. And if the love of my life ends up being on the darkest end of black, then that's the color of skin that I'll find most attractive, forever.

Her skin, her hair, her smell... whatever she is, that will be the magical "best" for me. "Everybody else has to find their own, 'cuz this one's mine, and I love her."

So the implication that nobody appreciates the beauty of black woman is just not correct. : ) Ladies, there is a guy out there who wants what YOU have, no matter what that is... you've just got to find him.

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Now... voting with dollars... unfortunately, one of the disadvantages of being in the minority is that something like a boycott probably would not have the desired effect unless it was a business within the minority community, or for minority specific products.

So a black female boycott would be a lot more effective against BET than against NBC, for example. Re: music videos, a consistent campaign by well-spoken black women should eventually carry weight on any network, even one where you're not the majority, because you're the ones being objectified, your opinion matters. It won't work very well if the spokespeople come across as prudes or bitter... facts and statistics and studies about the psychological effects of negative portrayals in the media (stuff that pulls on the heartstrings, and allows anybody to put themselves in your shoes), portrayed by a warm and accessible spokesperson, and put into eighth grade English that people can understand... that would probably work best.

And I agree that there ARE negative portrayals of black women... I'm not a fan of the average rap video for those reasons.

So what else to do?

I think somebody should do a movie... kind of like "Shallow Hal", except with the image of black women being the issue, not weight. I'm not saying a comedy, this would probably be best addressed as something more serious... The main character would be a black woman, and the plot would revolved around how assumptions and placing people in boxes is crap, and how we all fit inside some boxes, and others not at all... and that we really should only be making judgments about INDIVIDUALS... and for the movie's main character, being put in boxes incorrectly creates unfairness in her life. But she partly learns to rise above the boxes, and partly educates some of those who perpetuated some of the images in the beginning... and one bad guy should "get away" in a way that makes it obvious they will hurt somebody else in the future with their ignorance... that kind of a story, or something roughly similar... that's something which would probably have a tangible impact. for starters...

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And in general, there need to be more movies where the "heroine" is a black female. For instance, imagine something like a twist off of "Thelma and Louise", with the main characters being a black woman and an Asian woman (or whatever combination works).

Or maybe a black female James Bond (without the mysoginy, of course).

Anonymous said...

hmm... yes i see a huge number of black women every day portrayed in a way they are so happy and willing to be portayed. They are called n*****s, b*tches, and h*s. They have little or no clothing on and are smiling and getting paid. This is in various industries too. It's sad that they've sold their souls and helped further negative images for visibility and money. It's an even bigger disappointment that they allow this to happen to them mostly by black men. If there was any self-respect within a large portion our community, two things would happen. Black men wouldn't be the ones involved in driving this image and black women wouldn't let this image be the one they are willing to portray. I frequently hear the response "but it's the man that is behind it all in the industries where this happens and we are not responsible for this we just do what they want because it makes money. Well I'm sorry to wake you up and tell y'all, the man isn't responsible for your actions, you are responsible. So let me say that you are wrong no matter which way you try to twist it to justify it. And as long as you keep making excuses and enabling the man to make a profit off of what you do to further negative images of black people then you are allowing yourselves to continue being a slave to the man. And if there is a slim chance you take any personal responsibility then you are wrong because then you help propagate an image that keeps us all down. Wake up!

Aimee said...

Anonymous said...

hmm... yes i see a huge number of black women every day portrayed in a way they are so happy and willing to be portayed. They are called n*****s, b*tches, and h*s. They have little or no clothing on and are smiling and getting paid. This is in various industries too. It's sad that they've sold their souls and helped further negative images for visibility and money. It's an even bigger disappointment that they allow this to happen to them mostly by black men. If there was any self-respect within a large portion our community, two things would happen. Black men wouldn't be the ones involved in driving this image and black women wouldn't let this image be the one they are willing to portray. I frequently hear the response "but it's the man that is behind it all in the industries where this happens and we are not responsible for this we just do what they want because it makes money. Well I'm sorry to wake you up and tell y'all, the man isn't responsible for your actions, you are responsible. So let me say that you are wrong no matter which way you try to twist it to justify it. And as long as you keep making excuses and enabling the man to make a profit off of what you do to further negative images of black people then you are allowing yourselves to continue being a slave to the man. And if there is a slim chance you take any personal responsibility then you are wrong because then you help propagate an image that keeps us all down. Wake up!

#1 Who are "you" and "y'all" who you believe you are addressing and "waking up"? Certainly not me or any of the other women at this site.

#2 By your logic, the reason we no longer have Stepin Fetchit and blackface minstrel shows is because there are no black people willing to perform in such roles--such images were purely a product of the willingness of individual black people to fill such roles. Surely your analytical skills are more sophisticated than to believe that the existence of propaganda is premised on the existence of some person somewhere willing to be stereotyped?

Please DO wake up, and start taking some responsibility for your OWN ability to make change, instead of engaging in the same tired excuse making for black men that you claim to reject.

Aimee said...

Halima said...

With issues of beauty standard at least, a good analogy of what is happening, is a house that is supposed to be demolished at some future point, white women are still inside the house and they are enjoying its benefits, however bw are on the outside and when they make a move to get in too, they are chided, "Why do you want to get in anyway, we are trying to see how we can pull down the house" ie we want to demolish ideas and notions that limit women value to their looks and the age of their ovaries etc.

Yet we can see that ww are benefiting from the ideals in place, regardless of whether these are healthy or progressive, indeed ww are still gaining in more ways than we could ever quantify by being the key beneficiary of the system in place however less than ideal it is.


This is an excellent analogy, because it also captures the role that many WW play in perpetuating this system and enjoying the privileges it grants them, even as some WW do criticize and reject it. There is often an unwillingness among white feminists to acknowledge that both are going on at the same time, and in particular, to acknowledge the racialized dimension of this tension.

It reminds me in many ways of the way that some BM will attack racism, and yet embrace "Mandingo/Big Black Buck" imagery, and resist efforts by BW to shed that kind of racialized sexual stereotyping, because they gain a benefit from it.

Because both BM and WW simultaneously face discrimination and enjoy certain priviliges from their place in the system, we as BW do have to be careful in relying on them as allies, which you have addressed. We have to remember that we don't always share the same interests and struggles.

foreverloyal said...

The "condemned house" is an interesting analogy.

Aimee said...

D said...

Now and Then . . . If a Kenya walked into my life and everything worked out, I would be quite happy to spend the rest of my life with someone like her . . . On a different note, in an interview and in a magazine article, I've seen her say twice "in real life, I prefer black men... there's just something I like better about them..."... which makes me wonder what the complete (and real?) story is there.

Frankly, I think the "I prefer black men" reassurances issued by Sanaa Lathan post-"Something New" reflect the sort of social pressures that are put on black women to always make it clear that they "don't want nothing but a black man!" I remember the outrage BM expressed when their (in the words of Toni Morrison) high yellow dream child Halle Berry appeared in "Monster's Ball," and then started dating a WM in real life. I think Sanaa was trying to head off similar outrage by making it clear that she would never, ever "really" cross the color line, but it didn't work: "brothas" still turned on her and labeled her a "traitor" and a "sell-out" simply for acting like she enjoyed being touched by Simon Baker (who wouldn't--LOL!)

Mo' Better Blues - Well, it's a Spike Lee flick ... As a broad generalization, it seems like the movie started with the female roles in all the negative stereotypical places, and ended with them less so . . . neither girlfriend was really portrayed as an equal to him... but that was part of the plot which resolved itself a little when Bleek chose one, got married, settled down, and became a good father. If you look at what the director focuses on, the movie is really about Bleek, and the portrayals of everyone in the movie are pretty much through the lens of their relationship to the main character...

I think Spike is talented, but he isn't great with female characters, which I think reflects his own conflicts as much as anything else.

Out of Africa - This one stands out because there really are no main female black characters that I can remember, and there probably should be, as most of the movie is in Africa. Even though it's mostly about white people in Africa, it seems like in real life, black women would have been part of the story more.

This is actually pretty typical.

Cider House Rules - I'd be interested in the opinions of all of you on this one... The only black female character was Rose . . . I guess my question is that should the whole script have been re-written so it didn't show a black woman in such a negative situation? I don't think so... to me, it fit the plot and intent of the movie, and there was nothing gratuitously negative about the portrayal of black women... Rose had her own kind of strength, and I remember feeling like I hope she found a happy life down the road.

I've never seen this one, but now you've got me curious! I have to say that for me, I've never judged imagery by it's "negativeness vs. positiveness" per se, but more so by it's "trueness vs. falseness." I know that's an incredibly subjective standard, but I don't think the point is to have every BW portrayed as a lovely and flawless saint--but simply as real woman, among a full panoply of portrayals of real women.

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