Archive for the ‘Personal’ category

You Should Know Jean Grae.

May 18, 2009

I posted this on Feministing a while back, but it bears repeating. I can’t get enough of Jeanie.

As many of you know, the hip hop/rap scene is yet another arena dominated by men. Especially after Lauryn Hill disappeared from the scene, there have been only a handful of known female MCs. Brave & talented women have been doin’ their things without as much coverage and props as their male counterparts. One of these lesser-known ladies is my personal favorite– Jean Grae.

After an early career in groups like Natural Resource & collaborating with successful male artists like Immortal Technique & Talib Kweli, Jean launched her own career. Taking her name from the X-Men character, Jean has commented that growing up she didn’t play with girls’ toys like My Little Pony; she played X-Men. She has put out incredible albums and critics have called her possibly the greatest lyricist. Yet she isn’t well known, and doesn’t make much money.

Record companies have repeatedly fumbled, not knowing what to do with a female hip hop artist who isn’t trying to be a sex kitten, who is just straight up doing her own thing and trying to be the greatest emcee. Her albums have leaked on the internet prior to being released, and she hasn’t been marketed with the respect she deserves.

 She’s had struggles with her label and the people managing her. One of her tracks, “The Story” off the Jeanius album is an incredibly honest flow on her experiences with abortion. Yet her label wanted to go ahead and make a video, without her in it, and changed the vibe of the song. Jean has tried to fight it, remarking,

“You couldn’t have a more pro-choice song. So now, in essence, what you’ve done is taken the choice away for the video for the song called “My Story.” I think it’s the most disrespectful thing ever.”

She doesn’t shy away from discussing the barriers she hits as a female emcee:

“The interesting duality comes from being female and immediately being written off saying anything—it’s: “Oh, she’s complaining again. See? And that’s why bitches shouldn’t rap.” It’s an interesting place to stand. It’s sort of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

Jean is ridiculously creative with her lyrics and her topics. She’s funny one second, and sensitive the next. Her songs are, to me, the most honest hip hop I’ve ever heard. She even did a song and video for sexual abuse/rape awareness that details a girl in high school attacking the school after continuous abuse that she endures:

She’s unique in the fact that she’s not interested in marketing herself as a sex symbol, but she doesn’t shy away from being a sexual person, with jams like “Love Thirst”: Okay, turn the lights out/no, turn ’em back on/Want you to see my backbone and my black tone / Start minimal, raise it to animal / please You’re no amateur / please me, I’m tangible

She has been pit against other female artists who have a “sexier” image but Jean remarks:

“If at the end of the day, you can rest and feel OK with yourself, that’s fine. Personally, I don’t do certain things. I read articles and they’ll pit me against Lil’ Kim like I’m going to smash them down. I never said any of that; I never said I didn’t like Kim or Foxy. I think the media places a slant on it: “Yeah, she’s so badass! She’s gonna beat them all up! She keeps her clothes on!” I mean, that’s just me. I don’t feel the need to do all that. That’s just not how I am. But if you’re comfortable doing that, that’s fine. I just happen to be doing some other shit. “

If there’s anyone who DESERVES to be recognized, and deserves to make a living off their flow, it’s Jean Grae. Jean is one of the most underrated artists ever. She’s smart, crazy talented, witty, strong, and sensitive. I HIGHLY suggest her music.

Other Jeanie quotes:

“It’s cool to have the naked girl if she wants to be the naked girl. We should be able to express our sexuality. My only problem comes when it’s the naked girl and no other girl. I can be the girl with her clothes on, with the book and the glasses. Because people wear clothes. It’s cold outside.”

“America is racist and people know it. I find it interesting when people are more blunt about it instead of sweeping it under the rug. A lot of people are fucked up and wrong. Sometimes the things that they think about will come out of their mouths. I was just talking to my mom the other day about how racism is prevalent and sometimes you feel it real hard. Especially in NY, we’re like “it’s cool,” but everything is not fuckin’ cool. We’re more of a “sweep it under the rug” type of city – but when you go down south, you know that it’s out there. We’re kind of fakin’ it here. You still can’t catch a cab here. I think that sometimes we’re surprised by a lot of shit that we shouldn’t be surprised by.”

Wackest Search Terms Part I

May 17, 2009

For bloggers, viewing what search terms people use to find your blog can be a scary, depressing, interesting, or fun experience. I thought I’d share some of the strange things people google in order to come across my blog. 

 

1) “sex between girls at 15 age” – lets hope this person wasn’t googling underage porn. Maybe just curious about youths discovering  lesbianism? Errr…

2) “what not to say to a feminist woman” – haha! Well, I’m glad someone is taking the initiative to not offend. I could give you a few pointers. “Feminazi,” “you’re being too sensitive,” “bitch,” etc. 

3) “depictions of masturbation” –  This is not that kind of blog!

4) “what do men want out of a woman?” – hey! if you figure that out online, let me know!

5) “white women black births” – umm…hmmm..

6) “lady gaga thinks feminists are angry” – yes, she does! sometimes, we are!

7) “women can vote” – yes, they let us do that now!

8 ) “rape or sex” – um. very serious distinction.

9) “do pageants promotes racism degrade women” – answer: yes.

10) “don’t hate me cause i’m” – ….beautiful? I don’t!

Thank You For Being A Friend

May 3, 2009

Today is dark and rainy in DC, and its the perfect time for Hallmark channel’s Golden Girls marathon, in honor of Bea Arthur. I’ve been curled up on the couch glued to the TV. There has been so much already said by people more eloquent than I, but Bea Arthur was a wonderful comedian, personality, and somewhat reluctant feminist.

The Golden Girls is one of my very favorite TV shows, and its only been recently that I’ve realized amidst the puns, outrageous scenarios, and gaudy 80s dresses, there’s a whole lot of substance and progressive politics in that show.

Sure, many of the episodes can be awfully simplistic, but for a 30 minute sitcom from the 80s, most of it was seriously progressive for its time, and even today. The show dealt intelligently with homosexuality, racism, disabilities, sexual harassment, ageism, and even an AIDS scare, at a time when most Americans did not have any understanding of AIDS.

But perhaps the most influential of all is the fact that the Golden Girls completely normalized sexuality in older women. Sex is never shied away from; in fact it is a central part of the show. Blanche Deveraux’s escapades with men are the most standout, but each of the characters has her own plotlines involving being 50+, single, and dating. The show makes no excuses for this and allows these women to have relationships and flings. It realistically depicted widows and divorcees, who realized that after marriage and raising children, life and sex are not over. Few other movies or television shows even today can claim to do the same. We have the Golden Girls to thank for this. 

 

For more, check out The Kitchen Table’s Golden Girls Tribute, and Rebecca Traister’s for Salon.com.

Activism v. Professionalism: Floral Arrangements Edition

February 13, 2009

Last night was the night of a big event/reception/awards ceremony I’d been working on for the past 5 months. It was a recognition of young women who have made great strides in their sectors, and who have made a difference to the community. About 400 people were there, including Congresswomen and Obama Campaign people.

It was something my team and I had worked very hard on, and I was proud of it. I had never really done event planning before, and had little experience on it, and the past 5 months were a great learning experience for me. And it made me think about my future more and more.

I wanted to be a part of this event because it was a subset of a large Women’s organization that is pretty well-known in the area. I’ve been aching to get more involved in feminist/women’s issues in my spare time, especially since my full-time job isn’t really in that arena. Its what I want to do for my life’s work, so I wanted to start somewhere.

The experience taught me a lot about myself and brought up some questions– where is the line between Activism, and Professionalism? Are both equally important?

Barbara Smith writes, in But Some Of Us Are Brave (people, get this book if you do not have it):

That word ‘professionalism’ covers a multitude of sins. I always cringe when I hear anyone describe herself as ‘professional,’  because what usually follows is an excuse for inaction, an excuse for ethical irresponsibility. It’s a word and a concept we don’t need, because it is ultimately a way of dividing ourselves from others and escaping from reality.

This quote sounds harsh, and I don’t mean to relate my experiences to it, but I mean for it to provide a background. The entire time spent on this event planning was time not spent on anything nitty or gritty. It required no analysis, nothing grassroots, no activism, no real challenge to any system. The time was spent on picking a venue for a gala, picking caterers, finding a speaker, marketing, and–last but not least– flower arrangements.

I mention the flowers, because to me, it represented the biggest disconnect I had with the entire situation. Here we were, we were all ‘professionals’, adding this to our resumes– organizing something that would honor other professionals. This is not unimportant. Women’s work is underacknoweleged, and underpaid, and a ceremony honoring women who have done great things is a wonderful idea. It’s just…I believe there are better ways to tackle this, there are more people to help, more important things to be done, or things I’d rather be involved with.

It was 2 hours till show time. I took off work early to arrive at the venue and set up for the evening.  I asked what needed the most help, and everyone immediately said “the flower arrangements.” My understanding was that we just wanted to put some flowers on the tables with the food, to make them look nice. That this understanding was an oversimplification, is an understatement. There were different sorts of flower-holding vessels. There were different types of flowers. There were diagrams. There were water dynamic-based tactical strategies to get these flowers to float in a specific way.

I tried my hand at putting the arrangement together, but felt more and more awkward. I don’t know a damn thing about flower arranging. Or what people like to see at food tables at galas. Everyone else was critiquing the way the petals fell, the buoyancy of the bouquets, and I finally just said “…does it really matter?”

I felt like they thought I was from Pluto. How could the placement of the petals not matter? And I couldn’t help but feel like the whole argument was frivolous and privileged and out of place. And I was feeling like an alien. So I told them I really would be much more helpful elsewhere and got the hell out of the flower area. I hung up signs, took donations, helped people find their way to coat check, and the whole evening progressed very nicely.

I by no means mean to degrade what we did for 5 months, or that night. I met an amazing group of women who are bright, thoughtful, feminist, and creative. We celebrated women’s efforts in the work place, and the great advancements we’ve made. For this, I smile. But when it comes down to it, we really didn’t challenge anything, or make anything better for the average woman, or anyone really. The activism part of the equation was completely missing.

I hope very much that women who love flower arranging and gala planning, and honoring already prominent, successful ladies will spring forward and continue where we left off, to make hundreds of other ceremonies of this nature. They should do this work, because its nice and inspiring, if that’s where their hearts are. My own heart is a different story. I need to challenge conventional standards, I want to get my hands dirty helping improve average women’s lives, I want to address structural inequalities due to race/class/gender, I want to come at everything from an anti-racist, feminist perspective, I want to write, I want to listen, I want to act. If I’m not a professional, so be it, I choose grassroots anyway. And if nothing else, the experience taught me this for sure.