Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ 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.”

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Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: Carrie Prejean and Beauty Pageants

May 5, 2009

Everyday it seems more and more scandals are popping about about Carrie Prejean, former Miss USA hopeful, and current anti-gay-marriage spokesperson. First, it was her ignorant fumbling response to her panel question during pageant. Second, came the news about her breast implants– they were paid for by Miss USA Pageant. Finally, today semi-nude photos were released, in an effort to mock her Christianity and paint her as a hypocrite. All throughout, Ms. Prejean has been running through the press circuit, defending herself and her position on same sex marriage.    

What Ms. Prejean says and represents is wrong. We should criticize what she said about same sex marriage the night of the Pageant. Furthermore, she says the following in response to the release of her ‘racy’ photos:

I am a Christian, and I am a model…I am not perfect, and I will never claim to be. But these attacks on me and others who speak in defense of traditional marriage are intolerant and offensive.

Its blatantly hypocritical to suggest that she is the victim of intolerance while simultaneously positing the immorality of GLTQ people marrying the person they love. She is also quoted perpetuating ridiculous stereotypes about how homosexuality is a “choice,” which (I like to think) is an antiquated idea and is harmful for the fight for equality.

HOWEVER. What is also flat out wrong is to call her a “b***h,” a “c***t,” and to degrade her body and the choices she makes with it. 

A day after the pageant, Perez Hilton, a Miss USA judge and gossip blogger, posted about the controversy, calling her a B—h and “Stupid C–t.” Besides throwing around these slurs, nearly every major media outlet has jumped all over news stories about her breast implants, and her “sexy” photos. Most of these news stories aim to belittle her for these decisions. I see a huge problem with this back-and-forth media jumble about Prejean. This preoccupation with every misstep she takes and everything she does with her body isn’t getting us anywhere. Her answer to the gay marriage question was wrong, offensive, and poorly argued. But the debate about gay marriage has nothing to do with Ms. Prejean’s breasts. Her answer may not be right or legitimate, but sexism is still sexism, and it hurts us all. 

Samhita at Feministing says the following about her breasts:

As a feminist, I hate when women’s breasts make the news, since it is rarely to uncover the sexism embedded within a system. The fact that Carrie Prejean got breast implants is not newsworthy to me. The fact that the California Pageant Association paid for them, well that is. Not because it is scandalous, but because it shows that pageants aren’t about highlighting women as they are or for their talents, but for their physical appearance and to make spectacle of a specific type of femininity.

I think Samhita nails it on this point. Her breasts aren’t anybody’s business– HOWEVER, the fact that the Pageantry Association bought them should indicate to everyone what their standards are, and how they judge femininity. This should be a huge red flag— that their image of a “real woman” is basically unattainable without body alteration. This pursuit of the perfect body and perfect femininity is seriously dangerous. Women are dying trying to achieve it. And we need to recognize that and think seriously about why women are still striving to parade themselves like dolls and commodities, in 2009.

Pageantry is a bad thing. I believe the world would be better without it. Beauty pageants honor nothing but one unachievable representation of femininity and physical appearance, while still trying to pretend they care about ‘talent’ and ‘intelligence’. Women like Ms. Prejean are socialized to believe their physical beauty is what matters. In fact, American society tells all women this; its just that some of us have the resources and networks to reject this. We can’t berate one contestant for her choice to get breast implants when the system supporting her is not only giving her emotional but financial support. 

Yes, Carrie Prejean is an offender. Yes, she’s a reinforcer of ignorance and stereotypes. But she is also a victim. A victim of a culture that forces women to construct their self-worth based on their looks, then degrades them when they do. In the glitzy world of beauty pageants, the picture ain’t a pretty one. But if we can switch the dialogue from the individual to the system, maybe we can get somewhere.

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.

Hipster Misogyny

April 15, 2009

I read Racialicious all the time, and they often talk about Hipster Racism– racist statements/acts/songs/movies that ‘hipsters’ do, and it passes in the mainstream, because they call it ‘ironic.’

Well, I was looking up bands today, and found an awful instance of Hipster Misogyny. For those who don’t know, I’m pretty into music– of all kinds. I’ve heard Crystal Castles’ songs a couple of times and I dug a few so I checked them out on myspace. Well, they are selling THESE t-shirts. This picture is all over their website:

 

Wow! Violence against women is so hilarious and hip! Awesome.

Not. This is disgusting.

Same old Stereotypes about Feminism

March 21, 2009

I was reading Entertainment Weekly when I came across this quote from Lady GaGa

”I think it’s great to be a sexy, beautiful woman who can f— her man after she makes him dinner,” she says. ”There’s a stigma around feminism that’s a little bit man-hating. And I don’t promote hatred, ever. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate women who feel that way. I’ve got a lot of gay women friends that are like, ‘Put your clothes on.’ People just have different views about it. I’m not wrong. I’m free. And if it’s wrong to be free, then I don’t want to be right. Things are changing. We’ve got a black president, people.”

Not that I expected much from this random pop artist, but really? Feminism is about hate? That’s the oldest lie in the book. I really wish people wouldn’t make comments about feminism when they don’t know anything about it, and when they can’t open up their minds a little more. 

Not to mention the rest of the tangent she goes on. Feminism is about hate, and she doesn’t promote hate, but its cool if you do. Like gay women. They hate men and want her to keep her close on. You know, like a regular ol’ man-hating frigid feminazi. Oh, and she’s right because we have a black president. Whaaaaat? I have no idea where she was trying to go with this but it just reinforces all the negative FALSE stereotypes about what feminism is and who feminists are. So all these little girls looking up to her are going to think feminism is stupid. Siiiigh.

Feminist Movies: Water Lilies

March 15, 2009

I just finished watching a French film that was selected at the Cannes in 2007. It’s called Water Lilies, and its a sort of coming-of-age film, as told through the eyes of three 15 year old girls. The main story line deals with homosexuality and discovering that as a young girl. Its really one of the most honest depictions I’ve seen– and what else is great is that there is really no male perspective here. There’s pretty much only one male character and he has virtually no lines, and is really just a side story, a catalyst for interactions between the 2 main girls.

I’d recommend it to anyone, its poignant and honest.

Rihanna

February 20, 2009

I just learned that TMZ released a photo of Rihanna’s face taken by the police after being violently attacked by Chris Brown.

Now I had no misunderstandings about how TMZ was above anything like that. But I will say I am even more disturbed by TMZ than I was before.

As women so much of our lives are invisible. Anonymous. We are a monolithic Other, we are not thought of when the people in power make laws, policy, stimulus packages. Our “issues” are not discussed, our rights cast aside in favor of “saving money” or “focusing on something more important.”

But as soon as something becomes “media worthy”- whatever that means- Our images are used without our permissions, without our voices, to become sensationalized and reproduced for public consumption.

What happened to Rihanna happens to so many women every day. In every community, every demographic. But we choose to ignore this fact so often, we choose to not think about these women, but when it happens to a superstar, we are hungry. This woman, who did not choose to have this highly personal painful situation so highly publicized. Did not ask to become the “face of domestic violence.” Did not ask for her image to be used to sell magazines so the wolves can eat up her pain and use it for their own entertainment and text the latest gossip to their friends.

To release such a disturbing, triggering image so that people can click on it, say their “Ewwww”s and get on with their days– that is negligence and insensitivity and sexism in the highest form. It is her pain, and it is the pain of all of us who have had this done to us, or who live in fear of it, or have loved ones living in fear of it.

I hope we can have productive conversations out of this. I hope that if something comes of this, it will open people’s eyes and maybe encourage more action and more people to speak out. I am glad some people are noticing the issue of domestic violence for the first time– but not in this way.  The solution is not to comment on blogs saying how either she “deserved it” or “black men are crazy like that.” Or write things like how “she has such a beautiful face, its a pity to see it like this!” Or to get “grossed out” and move on with our days. We need to acknowledge that this happens to women who are not famous and who are not ‘beautiful.’ And it can happen anywhere and to anyone and we need to address it in our communities and fight against it. And to respect that this famous woman did not ask to be dissected in this public way. We must hold ourselves accountable to these women and help them, and listen to them. And tell our men it is not acceptable and you will be held accountable for your violence.