Sexism

This Woman’s Worth…

The Poster Children For Sending A Bad Message...

The Poster Children For Sending A Bad Message…

Over the last few years, the National Football League has been trying to attract women by having breast cancer awareness games, and fun events, like my friend Tashyra Ayers’ “Female Football Frenzy” benefit for the American Heart Association.

But it’s going to take a lot more than a bunch of guys wearing pink gloves and shoestrings in October and an appearance from a hunky wide receiver at a benefit to get the taste of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s latest move out of women’s mouths.

On Thursday, Goodell announced that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice would be serving a two-game suspension for abusing his fiancee’, now wife, Janay in an Atlantic City hotel in February. He’ll also be paying a $58,000 fine and getting some counseling. He’ll also lose more than $500,000 in game checks.

(Or as I like to call it, his Petty Cash…)

“This league is an entity that depends on integrity and in the confidence of the public, and we simply cannot tolerate conduct that that endangers others or reflects negatively on our game,” Goodell said in a letter he sent to Rice telling him of his suspension. “This is particularly true with respect to domestic violence and other forms of violence against women.”

This is a strongly worded letter…for a two-game suspension..

Okay…

But in some light of some other punishments meted out by the league on a few other, not as blatant offenses, I’m a little confused.

So let me get this straight.

In the NFL, killing dogs as part of a dogfighting ring, the offense committed by New York Jets quarterback Michael Vick, gets you first suspended indefinitely, suspended for four games once you’re reinstated, and earns you the permanent enmity of a whole lot of misguided pet lovers.

Shooting yourself in the leg at a nightclub, the offense that put former New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress on the hot seat, gets you suspended for four games.

Taking a fertility drug in hopes of helping your wife get pregnant, the faux pas that has Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis riding the pine, gets you suspended for four games.

But decking your fiancee’ in a casino hotel, dragging her into an elevator and making her sit through a press conference that probably made Kobe Bryant’s wife Vanessa say “Damn! That sucks!” costs you four games and about $500,000.

No wonder Janay Rice looks like she hasn’t got a damn left to give. If I don’t stop scratching my head so hard, I’m gonna need stitches.

Now from everything I’ve read about Ray Rice, the whole “beating the snot out of my significant other” thing is out of character.

But my guess is that it’s not as much “out of character” as it was “finally got caught”.

According to the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community, one-third of all women who have experienced a severe instance of domestic violence will experience another similar event in the same year. African Americans also make up one-third of the intimate partner homicides in the country.

I would be willing to bet my last dollar that Goodell took none of what I just mentioned into consideration when he made his decision.

Now let’s be honest here. The NFL has got a whole lot of issues. In addition to the whole “One of our teams is named for a racial slur” thing, the NFL has a culture of sexism bordering on misogyny.

There, I said it. And I meant it too.

From the cheerleaders for my beloved Oakland Raiders being forced to sue for their pay to the rather ridiculous hygiene rules placed on the Buffalo Bills’ pom-pom wielders, what women have to put up with to be involved with football makes my feminist skin crawl.

And don’t even get me started on the beer-and-testosterone-soaked shenanigans in the stands. Or the way that players use women like napkins. Or the fact that the marriage vows for most of the players should have written on an Etch-A-Sketch.

But if the league is serious about getting women (and their money) into the stands to keep the billions flowing in, it can’t afford to add “tolerance for domestic violence” to that mix.

Because like a woman who’s had enough, we’ll get up and walk away.

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What Becomes A Feminist Most?

The flexibility of feminism...

The flexibility of feminism…

I’m going to start off by apologizing profusely to those readers of The Mad (political) Scientist that were hoping to see the 2013 People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Awards as the first official post on our new WordPress.com site. The nominations have been made, the votes have been counted, and the Sluggos are all set…

But as I was getting ready to let you know who you, my readers, picked to get a figurative (not literal) punch in the face, I found myself involved in a discussion of feminism, feminists of color, and who gets to identify themselves as such….

Or at least that’s how it started. By the end of the day, I had read another piece that made me want to tell everyone having this discussion to shut the hell up…especially if you bought a copy of R. Kelly’s new album Black Panties. If that, or anything else from R. Kelly, is in your record collection, you don’t get to call yourself a feminist anymore. Period. I’m gonna need for you to shut your hypocritical pie hole.

(I like pie hole. I think I may use it more often.)

I’ll start from the beginning.

In case you’ve been in a cave in Afghanistan or pay no attention at all to pop culture, Beyonce’ released a new album on I-Tunes on Thursday. The magnum opus is only available on I-Tunes and includes 17 videos to go with 14 songs (!), many of which are apparently autobiographical. She released it without any studio promotion and because it’s on I-Tunes, directly to her fans. You’ll be able to find it at most record stores around the country on Dec. 20.

It’s actually not a bad idea on her part. Beyonce’ has already sold close to 900,000 copies worldwide and will be coming in to the Billboard 200 at Number One when it’s announced. My guess is that her promotional budget isn’t all that large on this and because she shot a lot of the videos while on tour, travel budgets weren’t that rough and tumble either.

While you expect a Beyonce’ album to ignite a lot of conversation, it’s only one type of conversation that’s kind of caught my interest: a conversation on feminism and women of color.

Editor’s note: I have not heard this album in its entirety, nor have I seen any of the videos in full. You can’t buy singles or individual videos from this album until Dec. 20. Since I don’t have the cash to plunk down on an album that will basically be a review copy for me, I’m not going to discuss the album itself at all. I will, however, be looking at the wider discussion of Beyonce’ and feminism that the album has initiated. So Beyhivers, stand down. I’m not in the mood and when we get to the second part of this piece, you’ll see why. 

I was at home watching a segment of the Melissa Harris-Perry Show on MSNBC when the connection between this album and feminism came up. Harris-Perry and her panelists made the argument that Beyonce’ stands as the entertainer’s “feminist manifesto”. Here’s the segment:

Now the main tune that everyone seems to have focused on in terms of giving Beyonce’ her feminist cred is a  tune that’s been referenced here on the M(p)S before, one we will refer to as The Song Formerly Known As “Bow Down”. For the new collection (I don’t know if I should call it an LP or a CD because you can’t pick it up terrestrially yet…) its been mixed with a speech entitled “Why We Should All Be Feminists” that activist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave as part of the TED Talks series and given a new title: “Flawless”.

So because I’m a glutton for punishment, and because Melissa Harris-Perry is someone whose opinion I respect a whole lot, I asked the question “Is Beyonce’ a feminist?” on my Facebook page during the latest East Coast Snowmaggedon Saturday night.

I think that the best initial response that I got to this question came from the lovely and talented Kellie C. Murphy, who blogs a lot about stuff like this. She said, and I quote, “Girl, just go stand outside right now with a key attached to a kite. You’ll go much quicker and easier…” She wasn’t totally wrong about that because,  let’s face it, Beyonce’ is the Third Rail of Black Entertainment. If you touch her, you will be electrocuted…

The answers I got were interesting…and also depended on your definition of feminism.

For the people who were in the “Beyonce’ is a feminist” camp, her new music is a feminist manifesto because it shows a woman who is using her ability to make her own choices to be a performer, a wife, a mother, and in the case of the song “Partition”, a woman who is willing to ruin a nice evening gown by letting her man get it a little messy in the back of the limousine. Anyone who doesn’t realize this is taking things a bit too seriously…or maybe academically…

From the Crunk Feminist Collective: 

“We need to stop acting like a radical feminist is the only kind of feminist to be. I mean look, I’m radical and committed to a robust structural critique. But I appreciate the good few liberal feminists in Congress who show up and actually fight for reproductive rights that can be on the books! As Meek Mill says, there’s levels to the shit. But newsflash – everybody didn’t go to college. So when women of color start waxing eloquent about how our grandmothers and mothers were the first feminists we knew and many of them would “never” use the term, I wonder then why we don’t understand Beyonce’s homegrown brand of feminism – one that honors female friendships, one that recognizes and calls out sexism and domination in her industry, one that celebrates the power of women. No, it ain’t well-articulated radical social justice feminism, but if you need a Ph.D. to be a feminist, then we’ve got bigger problems, folks. AND I’ll take a feminist that knows how to treat her homegirls before one who can spit the finer points of a bell hooks to me all day erry-day.”

(Maybe it’s a bias I picked up from spending so much time listening to the music of The Children Of The Corn, but I had a hard time getting past the Meek Mill section of this critique to get to the rest of it. When you shout out one of the Patron Saints of Rap Music Sexism, you kind of make it a slog…)

On the other hand, some feminists of color (and most traditional, read: “white” feminists) felt that calling Beyonce’ a feminist makes as much sense as calling me an astrophysicist. In their eyes, Beyonce’s brand of feminism is a corporate friendly one that advocates for her freedoms…and no one else’s.

Probably the most provocative essay I read on this came from the blog Real Colored Girls and it caught my attention because any essay that uses Pimp Theory as part of a critique on feminism is going to get the attention of a smart ass like me. The argument that the post “The Problem With BeyHive Bottom Bitch Feminism” makes is that…

Well, let’s let them say it…

“As womanists and black feminists, we have a responsibility to bring it with our cultural work which we will infuse, at all times, with an ethic of care and responsibility. The coontocracy of assimilationist corporate negroes is in full effect, riding for patriarchal capitalist agendas and having us believe that somehow Bey’s success is a step toward some dystopic vision of progress for Black women. There may be empowerment for some folks but by and large it is a false hope steeped in capitalism and individualism, supporting the escapist desires of rampant pornographic consumerism.”

(Can I tell you that “coontocracy” is one of my new favorite words now?)

 As I said toward the beginning of this piece, I can’t really talk about the good or bad of Beyonce’ because I haven’t heard all of it.
But I’ve been a feminist of color for a minute…and I’m a little concerned about the group of newly minted Feminist Beyhivers this album has spawned.
My question is, what happens when their new icon is no longer interested in female empowerment? What happens when Beyonce’, Blue Ivy, and Jay Z finally retreat to that private island that some of us wish they’d go to right now?

What I want my young sisters who are finally starting to embrace what women like Shirley Chisholm, Rosa Parks (didn’t know she was a feminist, did you?) and others have been fighting to get them to understand for years is that feminism is not a pair of Christian Louboutin pumps. It isn’t rolling around in the sand with your baby and your man. It isn’t million selling records. It’s a movement. It has been for a minute. It’s a fight to get poor women equal pay and the contraception they need to be able to choose when they want to have children. It’s making sure that they’re not scapegoated when they ask for help because some in society see their circumstances as problematic. It’s about making sure that they’re protected when they’re being abused and that their abuse is taken seriously.

In other words, It’s a marathon. Not a sprint. And it requires that you fight, really fight, for the sanctity of women and girls.

Some of us do that all the time. There’s an attorney named Gina McCauley who started a blog called “What About Our Daughters?” and has been known to go for the mattresses whenever young Black girls and women are threatened. There’s also folks like Sabrina Lamb, who got the folks at the Oxygen cable network to change their minds about a show called “All My Baby’s Mamas” featuring a rapper named Shawty-Lo and his band of baby mamas, by protesting, getting media attention, and showing the show’s advertisers the error of their ways.

But sometimes, feminists, even feminists of color, drop the ball. When Shirley Chisholm became the first woman to run for president, she was a woman alone. Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose partisans went so far as to say that Black journalists on the campaign trail were so in Barack Obama’s pocket that they received marching orders via telephone every morning when the former Secretary of State  ran for office in 2008, Chisholm was attacked on all sides with no support from the troops. When Michelle Obama was called a “baby mama” on Fox News, “fat” by Rush ‘Why haven’t you gone to Costa Rica yet?’ Limbaugh, and became the subject of a number of gorilla pictures by various right wing groups, the silence from feminists on her behalf was also quite deafening.

But none of that compares to how the group of girls who found themselves victimized by The Chickenhawk That Ate Chicago were treated…

She appears age appropriate at least...

She appears age appropriate at least…

On Monday while everyone was giving far too much thought to Beyonce’, I noticed a story from the Village Voice on my Facebook news feed. The story, done by Jessica Hopper, was an interview with Jim DeRogatis, the reporter that broke the story of what i’ll call R. Kelly’s Young Girl Problem.

While the subject matter caught my attention, I found the 11 times that the story had been shared by my Facebook friends even more interesting. When 11 folks in my circle of friends, a circle that includes journalists, activists, business people and even a few former pro athletes, are sharing the same article, it’s important. The number of share-ers has gone up since then.

And between the story itself, the legal documents, and the Chicago Sun-Times stories that had to be pulled off of Lexis-Nexis because they’re no longer a part of the newspaper’s archives, I made a decision. If you want to call yourself a feminist of any color in my presence, you’d better not be playing music from R. Kelly when you do it. I’d better not see a copy of Black Panties on your I-Tunes playlist.

That’s because we feminists let these girls down. Let them down hard. And I say this because this guy still has a career. If you’re gonna call yourself a feminist around me while dancing to “Step In The Name Of Love”, I’m going to invite you to go to Wrigley Field in Chicago and take as many seats as humanly possible.

The first that we as music listeners heard about Kelly’s proclivities was when Vibe magazine published a copy of the marriage license that he had gotten for himself and the late pop singer Aaliyah. The only problem with that is that at the time, Aaliyah was only 15 and Kelly was 27…

But a fax came to DeRogatis desk at Chicago Sun-Times that said that Kelly had been under investigation by the sex crimes unit of the Chicago Police for two years in connection with allegations that the singer had been going to his former high school and picking up young girls. He’d let them spend time in the studio with him or go to an event with him, and in exchange, he expected sex.

A lot of sex.

Sex in different ways…with different groupings…and with different kinks.

The videotape that featured Kelly relieving himself in a young girl’s mouth was on every bootlegger’s table in 2003. So we all knew about that and I even know a couple of people who’ve seen it.

But apparently that was the tip of the R. Kelly iceberg. There were other tapes. There were other girls.

One of them was forced to have an abortion. Another was so traumatized that she tried to kill herself.

All of them were young, Black girls. Girls who were probably told that if they said anything, they wouldn’t be believed.

The sad thing is, I can’t say that they were wrong to think that.

What’s always disturbed me about this case was the willingness on the part of the Black Community to blame the victims here. These girls were “fast”, as my Mom would put it. They knew what they were doing. They weren’t “really kids”. People need to let R. Kelly alone and let him live his life. They’re just hatin’…

It’s kind of heartbreaking to hear that kind of stuff when it comes to young women of color. But it wasn’t unexpected. My guess is that most of the female Children of the Corn I taught were young girls who got pregnant with the babies they were far too young to raise by someone who should have been told a long time ago that 15 gets you 20…

DeRogatis got that too. “The saddest fact I’ve learned is: Nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody,” DeRogatis said. “They have any complaint about the way they are treated: They are “bitches, hos, and gold-diggers,” plain and simple. Kelly never misbehaved with a single white girl who sued him or that we know of. Mark Anthony Neal, the African-American scholar, makes this point : one white girl in Winnetka and the story would have been different. No, it was young black girls and all of them settled. They settled because they felt they could get no justice whatsoever. They didn’t have a chance.”

Now I hope to never have to say this again, but here it is: There is no such thing as a 15-year-old girl who deserves to have her mouth pissed into by a grown assed man. It doesn’t matter what color the girl is. It doesn’t matter how old she looks. She’s still 15. If you’re over 16 and you’re pushing up on a 15-year-old school girl, that is wrong. You are wrong. You shouldn’t be doing concert tours. You should be doing time.

 And yet, R. Kelly walks free. There’s nothing that we can do about that because the legal system of the City of Chicago has spoken. Kelly was tried and found not guilty of 14 counts of Child Pornography in 2008. (He was never tried for the rapes.)

I’m sorry, but that’s just plain unacceptable to me.

So I say to my fellow travelers in the Feminist Tribe, do you think that you can apply the considerable energy you’ve spend discussing whether or not Beyonce’ is a feminist into trying to get some justice for these girls, even if it’s symbolic?

Because you see, we owe them that. And the note has been overdue since 2008…

Once you go black…


I remember when Sarah Palin first became John McCain’s presidential running mate. She was an enigma to most of us because the last thing that we in the lower 48 do is pay a lot of attention to who is running that State Up North and To The Right. So while the Republicans thought she was, and this is quoting one of the magazine covers she graced back then, “The Hottest Governor in the Country”, the rest of us simply said, “Sarah who?”

But from that moment on, we’ve learned so much about Sarah Palin she’s practically family. Granted, she’s the Black Sheep of the family, but she’s family nonetheless.

We were there when she sent out the press release that let everyone know that her daughter Bristol was pregnant, something that has led to a radio show, television appearances, and as a stint as the poster child for abstaining from sex before marriage for teens. We were there when she went out on a bus and showed the entire world that she slept through American History class. (See the post “Me, My Horsey and a Quart of Beer” on this blog…)

And now, we’re learning that not only was she possibly the most unprofessional news reporter in the free world, but that if she had actually made it our of Alaska, her reporting style could have set female sports reporters back at least 50 years.

In the new book The Rogue: Searching For the Real Sarah Palin author Joe McGinnis tells us a whole gang of things that we may not have known about La Palin. Things like she’s done a little cocaine. Like she’s messed around on her husband Todd both before and after they got married. Like she got it on with former NBA star Glen Rice when he was playing for the University of Michigan in the Great Alaska Shoot-Out and she was a sports reporter covering the tournament.

it’s that last one that seems to have gotten the most notice.

(I could make some snide remark about how this makes sense considering that Rice played for Michigan and guys from Michigan have really bad taste, but I’ll try and leave the whole Michigan/Ohio State thing out of this.)

In any case, the reason why the tryst, which took place in her sister’s college dorm room according to the book, is getting so much notice is because (a) Rice admitted to it, (b) he’s black, she’s not, and a lot of Palin’s political rhetoric implies that she believes black men problematic and (c) when you go around wagging your finger at people who engage in the kind of behavior you appeared to have engaged in yourself, the word “hypocrite” starts getting thrown in your direction.

Naturally, those who are Palin partisans have labeled the book “petty”, and filled with lies and innuendo. Even the New York Times Review of Books, not a publication that LaPalin would read frequently if her television interviews are any indication, have panned the book.

But good or bad, people are buzzing about it.

Now to be honest, part of the reason for that buzz stems from the fact that Sarah Palin is about as likable to some people as a bad case of poison ivy. Some folks don’t think she’s very bright. She’s kinda irritating because she believes that we all ought to aspire to live in a land where only the rich have health insurance, the poor deserve to be there, and folks like her should have a say on whether or not you have a kid.

So being able to give her grief about her Black Man Fetish (according to the book, not me) is probably some folks’ idea of fun.
But I really could have gone my entire life without knowing about her peccadilloes.

However, I am really, really glad that she didn’t decide to stay in my line of work. Having someone who would sleep with a potential source, especially when that source was a college kid and they’re a professional journalist, working with me would be a nightmare I don’t want to think about.

You see, once upon a time I was a sports reporter. I covered the Phillies and the Eagles for WRTI, Temple University’s Public Radio Station. I had always been a big football fan, so naturally I wanted to cover the Eagles game when they played my favorite team, the Oakland Raiders.

The Sports Editor, a guy who I really liked otherwise, told me that I had to cover a Temple football game before he’d let me cover the pros. So I did. But he didn’t let me cover the Raiders game despite my being more knowledgable of professional football than most of the GUYS in the newsroom.

I then asked if I could cover the Eagles/Miami Dolphins game. Again, I was told that I had to cover another Temple football game before I could go and cover the pros.

(Did I mention that Temple’s football team was simply abysmal in the early 1990s? Those two games added up to six hours of my life that I’ll never get back!)

So after putting myself through another Temple football game, I asked for the newsroom credential for the Eagles game. The Sports Editor told me that he didn’t think it would be a good idea if I were allowed to cover the game because “girls don’t go to these games to cover the game…”

I went to the News Director, taking the Sports Editor with me, and told the both of them that either I get the Eagles credential, or they’d get to me my attorney and the EEOC when the discrimination lawsuit goes to trial.

I got to go, but the message was really clear to me: If I was going to cover sports, I’d have to kick the whole professionalism thing up another notch. I don’t wear button down shirts unless I have a sweater on over it. If I wear a skirt, i’ll also wear tights instead of panty hose. I’m friendly to the men I interview, but I don’t flirt.

In other words, I make sure that these guys know that I’m there to do a job, and while I know this job may require that i kiss your ass a little, I won’t be giving you head. That’s a far too intimate act that I don’t like you enough to even consider doing. Besides, you’ve got a wife and a whole lot of groupies for that.

Or, if you’re Glen Rice, you have Sarah Palin.

On that note, some Parliament/Funkadelic…

Where my girls at?

There’s this lady that I have been arguing pretty strenuously with on a listserve I belong to about Sen. Barack Obama’s winning the Democratic nomination over Sen. Hillary Clinton.
I can’t count the number of times that she said Obama’s win was a coup (which I disuputed by saying that he wasn’t Jean-Bertrand Aristide and this wasn’t Haiti) or the number of times that she called him a sexist because he had played by the rules and defeated her girl.
After she told me how much I owed feminism for my career as a journalist, I said that I didn’t actually owe feminism shit because their brand of feminism (read: old-school white feminism) had failed consistently to address the issues of women of color like me.
But i’m a person who believes that everyone deserves a second chance, so i’m about to give those old school feminists, many of whom would beat my ass if they could, a shot at redemption.

You may recognize this piece of tape as Fox News’s latest attempt to put a target on the back of Sen. Obama’s wife Michelle just in time for the November elections.
While I had no problem with the story itself, which was a story about an anti-Obama documentary that someone is about to put out, I did have a problem with the chyron.
Baby mama?
BABY MAMA?
What’s up with that shit? Who approved that, and why aren’t they out looking for another job?
Well, I’m guessing that the reason this person is still employed is the fact that no one is speaking out about it. Squeaky wheel gets the grease. If the wheels aren’t squeeking, the gas can stays inside.
The first thing that hit me after seeing this, especially in light of Fox News’s whole “Dap as Terrorist Fist Bump” thing, is that Fox needs to be schooled a little on African American Urban Vernacular.
You see, in order for Michelle and Barack Obama to be “baby mama” and “baby daddy” respectively, they would have to be unmarried. In fact, people in that situation are generally no longer in a relationship with each other anymore. Since the Obamas are not only a married couple, but a happily married one from all appearances, this doesn’t apply to them.
The second thing that hit me was the sound of my “sexism buzzer” going off. I have yet to see anyone labeled as a “baby daddy” on Fox News or anywhere else for that matter.
So, I thought, where my girls at?
Whenever Sen. Clinton found herself beset by the forces of sexism, I’d get some interesting email in my email box. The National Association for Women would send me release after release to proclaim their frustration at the latest sexist evil perpetrated against her, and for good reason. Sexism is bad and should be squelched whenever possible.
Now in case you haven’t noticed ladies, this is a blatant case of sexism. Add this to the other attacks that Fox News has launched on Michelle Obama since her husband started inching closer to the Red Button, and the boycott machine should be warmed up and ready to go.
But instead, I’ve noticed what can only be described as a deafening silence.
Because of this, I can only come to one conclusion: if a white woman gets attacked, you’re all on it. But if a woman of color finds herself being smacked around by sexism, she’s on her own.
So much for sisterhood, huh?
Thus the need for a chance for you all to redeem yourself. I want to see the NOW propaganda machine in all of it’s glory. I want to see boycotts mounted, press released issued, statements made. Get on it!
Otherwise, you’ve just proven my point and have proven to me that you are, in the words of my homey Keith Olbermann, “The Worst Persons in the World.”