Monday, September 7, 2015

Some Things I'm Reading on the Internet

I wish I could disagree with this, but . . . yeah

A very useful perspective on respectability politics that I will immediately link for my students since we are starting a respectability project next. Yay!

This and the discussion between Brittany Cooper and Melissa Harris-Perry on her MSBC show might mess around and make me respect Ms. Minaj. But that irritates me because I don't want to. Of course, her refusal to be defined or controlled by any-freaking-body is probably why even people who don't really want to watch Nicki's particular methodology (read: ME) have to acknowledge some truth in her words, if not in her images.

My children's school seems to be increasing its clubs and I'm wondering if I could start a crochet group. Are there any children who would want to learn this skill? Would they scoff? And am I good enough to even teach them? There are a couple of other groups that have connections with the assisted living homes around; maybe some of the ladies there could lend their decades of experience.

Just watched this doc in my latest Netflix binge and found the information pretty horrifying (accurate and thorough? I don't know, but definitely horrifying). Is it wrong that I was also thinking that I should get in on all this money? Cringing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Straight Outta . . .

So, I took my last free moments before classes start to go to the movies. I saw Straight Outta Compton. There's so much to say about it. And I'm not even a hip hop head (to the great chagrin of some of my friends!) or from "the ghetto".  The commentary about institutionalized racism, poverty, and the value of free speech was really compelling. Also insightful was the underlining idea that these boys/men had skills that they crafted. Even though Eazy E wasn't actually a rapper to begin with, he was a master at marketing, whether it be drugs or music. And, as The Diva pointed out, Ice Cube is, fundamentally, a writer.

What's disappointing for me, though, is that there is absolutely no reflection or critique of the misogyny at the center of the music or their actual lives. The film seemed to me to be clarifying the reality of the lyrics. The violence they were rapping about was clear in their lives, and they were both the perpetrators and the victims of it. We hear the police use the same language that shows up in the group's music. But if the guns, death, and systematic oppression were worth clarifying, why wasn't there light shone on the female presence?

First, there is the namelessness of the many and varied women scattered around the film. They are scantily clad or undressed entirely ("nekkid" as Lewis Grizzard would say--"naked and up to something"). They are props, just like the dogs that showed up repeatedly. However, when there was a dogfighting scene, I thought, some people are going to be mad about that--but there won't be many who are mad that the women are recipients of violence, too; I mean, when the police drive a bulldozer or whatever that huge machine was through the door of the house, they blow a person across the room.  No one in the house is concerned, and I'm going to assume that law enforcement wasn't interested in her life either. So these women might as well be faceless, since they are interchangeable and strictly one dimensional. They are vaginas, mouths, anuses. It's the definition of thingafication. The film shows that misogyny, but the only focused attention it gets is 1) the scene when the manager tells Eazy to be more careful about sleeping around and  making too many babies, a nod to the his ultimate end; 2) the "bye Felicia" scene that is played for comedy. There's nothing that suggests that the objectification of women is problematic. We know that the cultural critique was happening, though, just like the criticism was happening about "F--- the Police" but it gets ignored in the film.

Secondly, amid the constant conversation about the crises with young black men and the layered jeopardy they face, black females keep getting brushed aside: "Wait a minute, we're dealing with something important here"--just like white feminists during first wave feminism. Yes, the police violence, community violence, systematic academic failures, and profiling of every sort is directed toward black males. But the film inadvertently highlights the degree to which black girls and women are also at risk in basically the same ways (and not for nothing, but compare black girls in school to white girls, and they are also in crisis academically and in terms of disciplinary profiling). They are in the same spaces as black men--in their homes, on the streets, at parties. When the shots ring out, the girls are not immune to being hit just because they are only a girlfriend or hookup. When Ice Cube is being slammed on the hood of a car, the police disrespect and threaten his mother, too. I also couldn't help but to think that when a mother's son is being beaten for no reason, it's happening to her too. Hurting my child is hurting me. I don't think that the film intends to make this point, but it was clear to me.

So, if what the film set out to do was make clear the ways in which NWA was offering political and cultural critique that was significant to it's historical moment, it does that. But it manages to do that without the self-reflection that twenty or thirty years could have brought.

I'm not a hip hop head, but this movie still has me feeling pretty gangsta.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

An alternate approach to dealing with racism in the form of a rant

Although I've been trying not to be pulled in, some of the--ahem--let's say, conversations about the Confederate flag and its related language, the South, and naming rights have pulled me in. There are just too many personal ties. People I used to know keep slopping sugar about how much they just love all their friends of every color, but they'll "just have to agree to disagree." There's all this talk about how none of this was a problem for years and years and there's only been unity. That is a completely illogical conclusion unless you've refused to listen for the last several decades. And I know that's not true for these people 'cause they've heard ME explaining things to them.

People need something to cling to, so, okay. Maybe people need to interpret the Confederacy "heritage" or whatever (of course, I'm a lifelong Southerner, too, but whatevs).

But here's what I don't get: Why the dismissal of people who say that these things are painful? Do they not believe it? Or do they just not care? "Suck it, people of color!"

And can they find some way in which their Christian ethics (plastered all over FB pages and such) jibe with their position?

Most of all, what I don't get is that you call me your friend. You say you care about me. You say you love me with the love of Christ. It's one thing to say that you think "outside agitators" are "stirring things up" but it's a whole other thing to say that a request for change is "stupid" and "oversensitive". But let's say that's true. I'm just hyperemotional (me, your friend, not the "outsiders")--how much does it cost you to just give a little on this? Does it cost less than hurting your friend? who you love?

I realize that I've switched to second person here. That's how crazy this making me. So I've decided that neither logic nor pathos is going to work. I give up. Have your racist idols. They mean more to you than relationships and compassion and "love". I give up. I know you're going to argue that they're not racist and neither are you. That's not logical, but enjoy it anyway. I tried to remember that my silence wouldn't protect me, but losing my righteous mind and having a stroke is more than I'm willing to give you. Never-freaking-mind.  That is my official position.

So, instead, I'm reading Yo Is This Racist?  It's much better than working my way into a stroke.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Girls, girls, girls

So, I stumbled upon the Billboard Awards pre-show and tried to watch. I could only get through a few short minutes, though, because I had all this commentary and no place to put it. It was practically making me itch. What else is there to do in these circumstances except to blog?

The host made much of Beyonce and Taylor Swift’s open use of the the F word. Just as I was trying to remember the few lyrics I might know from “Drunk in Love” the word “feminist” splashed across the screen. I’ve tried to put aside my academic elitism and be more open to the idea that Beyonce is a feminist star. Seriously, I just can’t get there. There’s so little nuance. The idea that “girls run the world” might be nice, but it’s not a reality. I mean, girls don’t even run this country. Then, Swift says that feminism is only now mainstream and she believes that it will continue to have an impact for the next few decades. I’m hoping that she wasn’t actually saying what I think she was saying because it sounded like she was saying that feminism was some tiny, fringe movement until this moment—you know, when Taylor Swift arrived on Earth. And what’s going to happen after feminism has its moment? When its impact ends after “the next few decades” will the country/world go back to its June Cleaver aspirations? I’m not sure what she meant exactly, but again, it seems short-sighted. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t discount the ways in which the likes of Beyonce and Swift intersect with third wave feminism. But I also wouldn’t put either of them at the center of the movement simply because they sing songs about breaking up with their boyfriends.

Nicki Minaj then says that she doesn’t believe women have to be anyone’s girlfriend, and the host points out that Minaj isn’t afraid to be overtly sexual. I can’t begin to unpack the complicated ways in which Minaj both undermines and bolsters feminism’s concept of gender equality. But I do know that her consciously constructed public persona makes me uncomfortable. In part, this is because I’m not sure that such overwhelmingly sexualized rhetoric emerges from a desire to express oneself; I suspect that it is just another response to the same male-centered ideas that generate lots of other ideas about who women should be.

Then, there is Meghan Trainor and her declaration that she’s bringing booty back. The host notes her refusal to be fat shamed. Ok, yeah. But every single time I hear that line I think, “Hello, Miss! Some of us never lost it!” Many women of color have always known that there’s value and beauty in a curvy hips and round bottoms and thick thighs. Why would Trainor, in particular, be the chosen one to bring it back? I am totally giving her the side-eye.
I think perhaps all of my internal dialogue is a sign that I'm old . . . . 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Late to the game

So, I guess everyone else on the planet already had this realization, but I was watching a Grey's Anatomy rerun after watching a DVR-ed Scandal episode and it just dawned on me that Ellis Grey/Sally Langston was paired with Thatcher Grey/Cyrus Been in both shows.

I get all excited about these kinds of TV connections. Of course, I didn't Google it, though, so there's a chance I'm totally making this up . . . .

Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring Reading?

The semester is coming to a close soon (yeah!) and in a conversation with a friend, I realized how little I've been reading for pleasure lately. I'm thinking that I should be reading something I really love as I gear up to read lots and lots of what may be very questionable student writing. Books have been such an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember; it feels weird to realize that this has been so reduced. It makes me kind of sad. I think that one of the reasons I'm bad with directions is that I was always reading in the car. Other children were watching the scenery go by or looking for punch buggies (it was the 80s and pre-Kindle/gaming systems). In the last year or so, I've started books that I didn't finish--that never used to happen. For sure, I don't have time to waste on books that I don't actually want to follow to the end. Still, I used to get lost. I miss that.

So, I want a book that will excite me. I've read two or three that I liked enough to teach. I guess it hasn't been that long since I've fallen in love with words on a page. Come to think of it, there's been a couple of non-fiction ones, too.  I'm hoping that another book will make me want to stay up nights. Tell me: What should I read?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Link Love--You want to read this

I can't exactly find the words I want to say about this, but I'm moved by some of the language in it. Love or unlove. Seeing all children as whole people. I want to govern myself by this principle (I'm pretty sure I don't too much of the time, but still . . .) Anyway I thought I'd share:

Friday, January 23, 2015

RBOC--start of the year, start of the term

  • My afternoon class is always turned up to 10. It's a rare semester when that class is sedate or quiet. Last semester, a group of them yelled my name and commented on my outfit each day when I came into the room. This term, they mostly stared at me like they were bored. Second week of class and I've already had to give the evil eye/you're pissing me off look to a student taking out her phone. Questions hang in the air like a bad smell. I may have to start eating chocolate during class before it's over with.
  • I've exhausted most of the television series I wanted to watch on Netflix. That makes me sad. Binge-watching Netflix has become quite dear to me. I started Twin Peaks, since I didn't watch it originally. I don't know if it's worth continuing. We'll see.
  • The department somehow ended up with several first year students who don't have a composition course to enroll in. All of the sections are full, so new ones have to be created. But a number of students came begging to be overloaded into my sections. They balked at the idea of finding a class taught by a different instructor. A couple said that the material I chose for my classes was right up their ally. That made me feel really good, especially since I often feel like the work I do in the classroom means nothing to anyone but me. Of course, I still sent them out of my office to find another class.
  • The pastor of the church we attend asked the membership to fast this month. Skipping meals gives headaches, so I was going to fast from sugar. Then I made a cup of hot tea and the honey was coming out too slowly. So I used sugar. Then I decided to fast from candy only. That's probably not really what the pastor had in mind, and it's probably rather pathetic, but it's the best I can do. And since there people keep leaving mini-chocolate candies on the lobby desk, it's not a small thing to resist.