Sunday, October 14, 2007

Newsweek on Black Misogyny

Race & Gender: We're Not Gonna Take It
One woman's case opens a dialogue about black misogyny.

By Allison Samuels

Oct. 15, 2007 issue - Will 2007 be remembered as the year black women said "Enough is enough"? At no small personal cost, Anucha Browne Sanders stood up and demanded an end to the kind of abuse African-American women regularly tolerate from some black men. We are not "bitches" or "ho's," to be harassed sexually or otherwise, she declared.

It was a brave thing for an African-American woman to do. Our community is reluctant to talk openly about the problem of black men mistreating black women. Our leaders will rise up in unison against Don Imus for his detestable slur against the Rutgers women's basketball team. Yet they remain silent when Isiah Thomas says it's less offensive for a black man to call a black woman "bitch" than it is for a white man. Black leaders are justifiably in an uproar over the Jena Six, yet none rushed to West Palm Beach, Fla., this summer when an African-American mother in a public housing project was gang-raped. Nor did they talk about domestic violence when self-help minister Juanita Bynum told police in August that she'd been beaten by her husband, which he denies. Even rapper R. Kelly—still awaiting trial on charges of having sex with an underage girl in 2002—gets a free pass.

"We have to say 'No more'!" says author Terry McMillan, who's made a career writing about the complicated and sometimes strained relations between African-American women and men. "No other culture disrespects their women the way our culture does, and it has to stop. Black men have to start taking responsibility for being a part of the reason black women are so disrespected in the first place." McMillan has never shied away from challenging the ways black men portray women in film, videos and rap songs, but plenty of blacks—men and women alike—are loath to point fingers publicly. (For his part, the Rev. Al Sharpton finally weighed in late last week on the Browne Sanders dispute, threatening a boycott of the Knicks until Thomas apologizes for the "bitch" comment.)

The reasons for the silence are complicated, but mostly it's about not wanting to make things tougher for black men than they already are. (For the record, this reporter is conflicted about adding to the woes.) More black men are in jail than college, they face unemployment twice that of white men and they are subjected to plenty of negative media attention. So any additional attacks from black women are seen as betrayal. "We have enough people eager to attack us that we don't need to do it to each other," says rapper and actor Ice Cube, who was publicly taken to task by the Rev. Jesse Jackson for making fun of civil-rights icon Rosa Parks in the comedy "Barbershop."

Yet without open dialogue, nothing is solved. Two years ago, when Spelman College, a historically black women's campus in Atlanta, invited rappers to discuss misogyny in hip-hop, most of the big names declined. "So where does that leave us?" asks Beverly Bond, founder of the group Black Girls Rock, a nonprofit dedicated to raising young black girls' self-esteem. "There's not been a lot of willingness to talk about this until now, with Imus. It's a shame it took that, but finally rappers—if they are honest—understand the damage."

But can a radio host's firing or a basketball legend's loss in court continue to give rise to the voices of women that the Harlem Renaissance author Zora Neale Hurston once referred to as the "mules of the world"? "I was glad Imus got fired, and I was glad that a black woman won the case in New York," says 16-year-old LaTisha Johnson of Inglewood, Calif. "But I don't see that changing the boys I know or the rappers I see on TV. They don't think it's wrong, and a white man getting fired doesn't change that." But perhaps a black woman talking about it will.


Wolfgang Amadeus said...

My first thoughts of this article by Allison Samuels was whats going on here? It seems the article is trying to push for harder punishments on African American Males mistreating or degrading African American females. The voice Mrs. Samuels gives in this article although strong, gives little or no explanation on how to solve this ongoing problem. Simone De Beavoir also raises the point that women are looked down upon by men in "The Second Sex. The problem De Beavoir points out is that women aren't seen as individuals and instead reflections of men. The only solution that could be pulled from Samuels arguement to try to unite African American women would be to unite then through influence. De Beavior said it best in the second sex with "The proletariat can propose to massacre the ruling class, and a sufficiently fanatical Jew or Negro might dream of getting sole possession of the atomic bomb and making humanity wholly Jewish or black; but woman cannot even dream of exterminating the males."

In saying this Beauvir brings up the point that unlike most master and slave positions, females unlike other types of slaves have no way out. No rebellion could be made by women to destroy the male population because in doing so would destroy themselves. Only by organizing and uniting women as a whole can women ever fight for more equal rights and standpoints in society. If this does not occur then women are forced to live in the world that is described by Beauvoir. "Then from woman's point of view I shall describe the world in which women must live; and thus we shall be able to envisage the difficulties in their way as, endeavoring to make their escape from the spere hitherto assigned them, they aspire to full membership in the human race." The question is raised is it possible for women to not live in this world? Could a woman overcome all the challenges and degredation of society and rise above it?

Bradley Brown said...

I am neither black nor a woman, so forgive me as my points may not have as much validity as some others. I do not think it is possible for women not to live in this world, they are every bit involved in society as man (not to be confused with being politically as important to some, unfortunately) and one half cannot function without the other. They are bound to men wherever they go. The objective for them should be, though, is to take the reins from men when they need to, and men follow wherever they go. For the black woman, I am sure it is hard to pick an opinion on the matter discussed in this article. I personally believe that the women should stick up for their rights no matter the case, as should anybody under those conditions, however, the black women also have their race to consider. In a utopian society, that should not matter, but alas, it does matter, and I have no place or the knowledge required to suggest a route for African American women to take. I will say I THINK it will do more good than harm for African American women to stand up for their rights. To prevent further decay of the black man’s image, maybe they should keep the debate on a low, maybe even local level, staying in black communities? Regardless of the case, as with everything, action must be taken or things will remain bad, or get worse for black women in this situation.

“Human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.” –Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

John said...

Race & Gender: We're Not Gonna Take It
One woman's case opens a dialogue about black misogyny.
Bravo Anucha Browne…and thank you Allison Samuels. I feel this is the way oppression needs to be addressed. Believe it or not, when black men use those degrading words towards black women they do not realize that they are insulting not only their girlfriends; indirectly they are also insulting their mothers and sisters. If black men don’t respect black women how could they find fault against those of other races who try or do the same.
Anucha Browne is right about the lack of community involvement. I feel is not only the duty of black men to respect black women, but the responsibility of the community leaders and schools to address such issues. Don Imus tried to put black women down, but only then is when the black community leaders intervened; he was white and the comments he made against that basketball team were not going to be tolerated, action was taken. Meanwhile you have a supercilious superstar black coach that feels is okay for black men to call black women derogatory words and expect it be tolerated but not the same case for white men. Just imagine the message that coach sent to both the black and white communities in special the young ones.
The idea of refraining from fighting back because “more black men are in jail than in college, that they face unemployment twice that of white men” and the subjectivity of negativity of media attention towards them is just asinine and absurd. Black women have the right to defend themselves and if black men are part of the predicament, then by all means it should be addressed no matter what.

I can appreciate that the action of both of those men brought about this discussion. I must say it is working, community leaders are getting involved and the media is covering it. My opinion is this, most of our problems today concerning women and women rights should to be addressed at home, by parents, and parents taking a more positive role in educating their children to respect each other and those not equal to them, if such is addressed then most of these problems today would be curtailed. Respect should be demanded at all levels. “Enough is enough”

I.C. Toowell said...

Respect huh?…I think it’s fair to say that respect is given out once dignity is established among one’s peers. I’m the first to jump all over someone for being disrespectful when comments are unwarranted, as for the case with Don Inus, but I have a hard time condemning a black male for saying crude slurs when black females do little to get away from the very image they speak out against. By no means do I feel that rappers, or black guys in general, are correct in their statements, it’s just the blame cannot be solely placed in their hands. The words thrown out there like “bitch” and “hoe” are quite unraveling and produce feelings of unworthiness, that is for certain, but what has the BET video girl done to change that? If black women want to change their universal image, why tolerate the shameful dancing and barely-there clothing of their peers on television? The black man isn’t the only one to blame, the culture is. An unpolished culture produces unpolished comments. Instead of blame being thrown around, how about a head-to-toe clean up of black mass media. The comments made by Isaiah Thomas were rash, of course, but were not too far off base. Black males, feel like it’s alright to throw out derogatory slurs at women, but in all fairness, where’s the push by the African-American women to change it?

peace and love said...

Allison Samuels’ “Race and Gender: We’re Not Gonna Take It” is another article ignited by Don Imus’s racist laced slur, rooting at a fight for African American women in America’s society. She brings up scenarios like Jena 6 for racism, but ties in the essence of the “looking over” of female crimes such as the Florida gang-rape story. Samuels’ is elaborating on how African American males treat African American females as the primary problem, as demonstrated in mainstream media such as rappers’ diction and movies like Ice Cube’s Barbershop. Her approach to the situation is almost similar to the Catherine MacKinnon and Martin Luther King metaphor in the sense that she’s taking the “I-It” relationship model and carrying it to African American males as the “I” and the African American females as the “It”. She’s taking a very broad prospect of problems with racism and sexism, but narrowing it down to the “I-It” relationship between African American men and women. She provides a solid support by using counterarguments as presented by Ice Cube, where he says African Americans have enough attacks against them and there was no reason to attack each other. Samuels recognizes that in order to progress the fight against racism, problems in the specific race need to be settled before collaboration.
Generally, I liked the article, but one line stuck out as an eyesore to me. She quotes Terry McMillan with saying “No other culture disrespects their women the way our culture does, and it has to stop.” I have a feeling this McMillan is not a very credible source because America as a country is fighting for women equality in political positions, writers like MacKinnon are trying to fight certain ideals of pornography, and women are fighting against the “stay in the kitchen” mindset. In some countries, women aren’t even allowed to work, drive, have children, or even speak out against a man. When Samuels added that comment in there, my mind went from “Alright, problems between African American females and African American males is obstacle number one” to “How in the world does the African American culture treat women the worst in comparison to the rest of the world?”

The Procrastinator said...

We were all taught when we were little that “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This article brings to light a very big problem between individuals and groups in this country that could very well begin to destroy this country. This issue is a very basic problem that has been twisted into a racial issue.
When you get down to the basics of this issue it is that African American women are being called wrong and derogatory words not only by white people but also African American men. The solutions should be if a girl doesn’t like being referred to by some of these words then they should do something about it and those men who are making those comments should be dealt with. However, in the past and still today women and pop culture are holding double standards. Last year Don Imus made a controversial comment towards the Rutgers’ women’s basketball team, a comment in which ended up getting him fired. But African American rappers sell millions of records with the same type of comments towards women in their songs. So a white male gets fired and African American rappers get money and fame for making the same type of derogatory comments towards African American women. There is no way that this can continue.
The court system can only do so much. The courts can fine or sentence people to jail for making these comments towards women and people can be fired, but it will take much more in order to get rid of this kind of disrespect. First, we all need to go color blind. African American women need to not allow African American men get away with making these hasty comments towards them while they cause a ruckus about a white male’s comments. If a woman doesn’t like being called something then they should do something about it, no matter what the race is. When we are able to go color blind and instead of looking a race and get down to the issue at hand then we can start tackling the issue of respect. Once everyone gains the respect for one another especially men towards women, I assure you this problem will go away.

Bryant said...

Don't mind me for not jumping on the bandwagon and preaching how this article was good, yet there were some flaws... That would just be a little too cliche' for me. Which was exactly what this article was for me... a little too cliche'.

First off, Allison Samuels very first sentence, "Will 2007 be remembered as the year black women said 'Enough is enough'?" wasn't much of an eye opener, but rather a been-there-done-that sort of thing. There really isn't much credit to give to Samuels, since Bell Hooks and Spike Lee have voiced this topic stronger than Samuels did. Bell Hooks has mentioned Black Females being oppressed many times before; for instance "Killing Rage". And the more the article went on, about African-American Female degradation in the media and entertainment, the more the creation of Spike Lee movies kept appearing in my mind. Spike Lee could present this issue in a matter of having many Americans with HBO, Cinemax, or Showtime the opportunity of viewing it. Not only does this take the ideas of Hooks and Lee, I think this also takes a MacKinnon approach.

But aside from Samuel's Article being another version of many others, African-American women experience the double-edged sword of race and gender. But without these struggles, Capitalism couldn't exist. That's how Capitalism works according to Marx: Capitalism works with the exploitations of others. Since America is a capitalistic society, then it would only make sense for the media and entertainment to exploit those of lower stature. Sure America is all about freedom and equality, but racism and gender issues has been around since the beginning of history itself. And since Capitalism is supposed to be the "End of History" according to Francis Fukuyama, then racism and gender issues will be around until the end.

Joe Gray said...

It’s horrible how men can treat women and get away with it but its not just limited to black males, its in every culture and race. Everyone who has ever been treated in such should stand up strong everyday and say no, were not gonna take it!

kingkong said...

First I think it is wrong what Don Imus said about the Rutgers basketball team, but I mean is it really that big of a deal? If a black person would have said something like that about a white person then nobody would say anything. Black males are wrong when they degrade women by calling them bitches and hoes, but it doesn't seem to me that the black women’s community is really trying to do anything to stop it. Turn on MTV and watch a rap video. The song is probably about degrading women and calling them names, but there are half naked black girls in the video and it doesn't look like they seem to mind. If black women want to see a change then I think they need to actually do something to change it then just complain about it. Also the comments made by Isaiah Thomas were wrong, but in all fairness not really the worst thing he could of said and rap videos and channels like BET make it seem ok to say things like that in the black community. So instead of just saying were not gonna take, I guess the next step for black women or women in general would be to take some action and actually do something about it.

GueveraGurl_But_Soldier'sSweetie said...

I agree with KingKong's comments on this to a watching channels like MTV or BET, it is possible and likely to see rap vidoes focusing on nearly-nude, dancing, black females, while the artist sings lyrics like: "Shur Your Mouth You Dirty Slut" (D-12 "Purple Pills")...and yet the album sales are out the roof in weeks!

And, it does appear from the videos that Black women like this kind of attention.

It is my belief however, that prehaps the females in this video only behave this way because in a twisted sense, it's the only way they recieve any pretending to own up to the names they are being called, the stereotypes, and the illusions, and be just want the singer/songwriter wants them to be in order to gain some form of respect in the media.

Think about it, how many times have you seen Beyonce on TV singing about her own sex appeal? How many times have you seen a black feminist on TV talking about the issues?

Who do people pay more attention to? Beyonce.

On a Side Note.....What is suprising to many people though, is that in fact, one of the best-selling, most imitated African American Rap artists of all time had a very powerful counter message to all African American males who refered to their women as "bitches and hos":

"And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it's time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don't then we'll have a race of babies
That hate the ladies that make the babies
And since a man can't make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So would the real men get up
I know your fed up ladies, but keep your head up"

Who sang this song? Tupac Shakur, arguably the best-selling Rap artist ever on the market. And he didn't have to degrade women in his lyrics to do it.

So maybe their is a choice for Black Women who dance in rap videos after all?

Anonymous said...

Black women and women in general do not need to do anything to get respect it should be given without any stipulations attached to it. Just because rap videos are saying these nasty derogatory words does not make it all right for Isaiah Thomas to do the same to a coworker. I'm shocked at the women in these rappers lives that don't stand up and question this language. Most usually the successful rappers have good mother relationships. Most don't have a father figure in their lives and they degrade the black women and not the men that were not around for them when they needed them. It is sad to see that it takes these horrible incidents to get these issues talked about. Why does it take something like a public figure to say something stupid for black women issues to be seen in the media. These issues were around before Don Imus and Isaiah Thomas and hopefully will help in the progress of treating black women with respect.

Anonymous said...

I am reminded here of a Jay-Z lyric in his remake of the song Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love): “Males shouldn’t be jealous, that’s a female trait.” Black and white rappers alike are the some of the worst kinds of media expressions out there today. They say the most despicable things about women, each other, and people in general. No one gets left out of the verbal degradation. And yet rap is one of the most popular genres out there! Hell, even my iPod is full of the stuff. But why do we love it? Is it because of the universal hate? Take Emenim for example. He was a popular white rapper whose dominate lyrical themes revolved around plots to kill his girlfriend. Young girls across the nation fell in love with him! My little sister even had a poster of him in her room. It’s almost as though the hate is such a part of common life, people have come to accept it as the norm. As for Sanders and Samuels, I think bell hooks would have ascribed the phenomenon they’re witnessing in black misogyny as a symptom of the civil unrest many black men still feel.

Anonymous said...

Ok. I can see where this woman is coming from when she says that black men are objectifying women. And I agree with her; rather it be in rap videos, movies about black culture, and even in court cases such as the Isiah Thomas court case where he was accused of verbally harassing a black woman. But the truth of the matter is, is that every culture has cases of objectifying woman. A majority of the objectification of woman comes from white people in all actuality. And its not just black men objectifying women in the media, it is a culture that other ethnicities have taken part of too. You don't only see black rappers on the t.v. talking about “smackin’ a slut,” or “pimpin’ a ho,” hip hop has done this with white, Mexican, and even asian culture. I think this is actually a pretty big issue because when kids see things like this on the t.v. they think that they can talk like that and its ok, but of course its not. I think that freedom of speech crosses the line when it discriminates against an entire gender. So to complete fix this image problem, I think that everyone no matter what race or gender you are should stand up against this.

sara early said...

out of all minorities, I think that black women have the most to deal with. Not only are they a minority, but they are also female. In today's country, I'll admit, things have gotten better, but we must keep up the progess. As a female, I know how hard it is to live in today's society, I could hardly imagine if I was also a minority. Some of the smartest, most wordly women that I have ever met have been African American. They understand things that white women never will, and probably would never want to. I have a lot of respect for them, and I know that most other people do too.

Anonymous said...

After reading the following article I am reminded of a play that I recently read in my political theory class called, The Eumenides. One of the main themes in this play is the struggle of the female character throughout. The struggle of women throughout history has been a major concern in structuring who and how people define themselves today; furthermore constructing a movement of people towards feminism thought and actions. In this particular play I believe feminism is addressed very clearly, especially by the male character Apollo, who seems to think the male species is the superior race and are better than females. When I read this article I wanted to compare the two. The black male species as referred to in the article is condescending to the black females in their society and calls them names. This I believe is a way for them to try and keep “their” women in place, and make them feel as if they are not worthy or of the same status and the black man. The struggle of the black woman is hard enough without having to take any crap from the men in their lives, this has been true for many years and it is all a result of the male species wanting to dominate “their” women.