Sunday, April 29, 2007

On Being Black and a Woman, Whichever is Worse

I'm a bit distracted. I won't say why, but let's say I'm not happy about it.

In my distraction, I ran across a link to these videos done by spokenlife on YouTube.

It's in two parts, and it's named On Being Black and a Woman, Whichever is Worse. She's commenting on the Imus scandal and its fallout. The fact is we all know that what Imus said rap and hip-hop artists have been saying and getting rich off of the same horrible comments for awhile.

It's interesting because, as I've written before, I was blessed with loving, great and hyper-protective parents. It was frustrating at times as a kid, but I realized pretty early in the game that they were protecting me for the right reasons.

I like how she ends it. If you've read my blog at all, you know how frustrated I've been with being judged by stereotypes. Even one or two people I thought close to me have done it. It's frustrating not being seen. It's frustrating having to go through the same tired conversations where a person expresses shock and awe that I have something close to a brain and have managed to use it. It's frustrating when people can't recognize that being able to take care of myself doesn't mean I don't need help (that black female Superwoman thing is a big, big burden and problem.) It's frustrating when just about every other race of women can express a range of feelings and emotions, but the range I'm expected to express is much smaller.

Anyway, I'll leave it at that. Listen to what she had to say. I particularly like the last few minutes of the video.

She's also got a few video replies. I haven't watched them and I probably won't, but just click over and there are other people contributing either positively or negatively to this conversation.

Part one:

Part two:

Oh Nunya from Queer Thinker referenced a blog of hers in the comments, but didn't link it, so here it is: Reflections On Race & Gender

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  1. Well, Jane, I thought the video was intelligent, eloquent and rightfully angry. I think that this video will be a watershed for her. She can go about her life & career knowing she's made a difference. In a sense, it has set her free.

    The coach was so eloquent in her reply to the remarks the day of the team's press conference. And then, rather than focus on her, they went back to Imus.

    I wondered why the media didn't talk to more women like the one in this video, or any of the women who I had worked with out of Washington DC (black female teachers, lawyer, and professional women), or any of the fathers of the girls on the team who'd worked hard to raise their daughters on the straight and narrow. That ridge --the S&N as we shall call it is hard. It's like walking on a slippery ledge. I know. I'm there now with my own kids. It's not fun. Often, they are resentful.

    And so I thought in addition to everything else that had transpired that we all lost a chance to hear people say things that might help to transform not only the way society seems black women, but women in general are treated.

    But videos like this are good. They get the conversation going, help to change us, helps build humanity.

  2. I don't connect first-hand with all of her experiences. However, I do very much connect with her experiences on being a black woman and having to fight tooth and nail to have people get over the lens they view black women through.

    It's actually hard not to become hostile as the same thing happens over and over again. When it repeats with dazzling frequency, you realize simply how deep it goes.

    I posted her videos simply to keep the conversation going and to maybe get it to people who'd otherwise not see it. It's up to them whether they will participate in the conversation either by asking or acting.

    Also, as to these women at Rutgers, it's sad that Imus, through his comments, basically took a huge crap all over their moment. It's also unfortunate that people didn't make the effort, it seems, to shift the focus back to where it belonged. It seems to happen all to frequently in news stories these days.

  3. Even though I don't relate to most of what she had to say and the pain she obviously feels, I think they were great videos. I think your posting this is very timely, since I just wrote a post on my blog with expressions pretty opposite of hers as a black woman, i.e. how I don't really care/think about gender that much and how I think it's relatively easy for me to brush off Imus and rappers. I think it's partially like you said--how did you grow up, what experiences you have in life, what kind of parents did you have--and it's also about self-esteem, which also relates to those questions. I know that, even if people are trying to include me in degrading sentiments about women or black women, they are really not talking about me when they use offensive language towards women, because I know who I am and what I have to offer, and because I see myself as an individual rather than in group terms. They can't make me feel bad about myself, and men who know me know better than to try and disrespect me. At the same time, I didn't have people trying to use me for sexual purposes as soon as I stepped foot in Kindergarten like the woman in this video says about her life. So, all I could think about while watching her videos was how I wish women could just get enough self-esteem to not take people who are really not worth their time and pain this seriously and let them affect them like this.

  4. Yeah, when I see her pain, I'm so glad that I was lucky to avoid people trying to use me for sexual purposes when I was young. I think that would really skew your approach to the world and be a massive impact on your self-esteem.

    I'm in another discussion on it where the replies are ranging from she's on it to questioning why black women are being cast as the victim again. The thing is if she was sexual abused when she was young she very much IS a victim. I'm not seeing why people have to personalize what clearly is a personal story.

    However, there is a theme of objectification and stereotyping that runs through it. I know those rappers aren't talking about me, but the fact that they've made careers of dragging down women sets the stage for others to do it.

    I get bent when people stereotype me. Now that's not as a hypersexual hood rat, but I do feel the black female stereotypes pressing in on me. When that happens, I most definitely fight back and now I'm much more aggressive about it than ever.

  5. I've always hated the words 'bitch' and 'ho' and their prevalence in songs, but oddly enough, I never thought of them as referring only to black women. I just assumed that all women were being targeted.

    And now that I've confessed to that bit of ignorance I might as well say that I've only learned how to pronounce 'Imu' -- not having lived in the U.S. for over 20 years and not watching t.v., I don't have a clue what this is all about, so off I go to find out...

  6. I guess it depends on how deep you want to go into certain rap/hip-hop lyrics. I mean in certain songs it's definitely directed squarely at black women versus all women. In some I think the insults are probably open game to all women.

    However, honestly, whether it's directed at black women or it's just an equal opportunity insult I don't think matters.

    Plus, it's about perspective. If you're a black female and you've grown up around black men who put down or abuse black women, that's how you're going to interpret it.


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