Category Archives: Social Issues

Am I Sexist?

“What?  You think I wanted to do a bit with this asshole?  It’s called a career move, bitches!”

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It’s International Women’s Day, and I as I actively reflect on the substantial impact that women have had in my life, something I’ve been mulling over since the 85th Academy Awards is still circling the drain in my head. See, Seth MacFarlane hosted, and he delivered his sarcastic brand of genteel, macho humor on Oscar night.  I thought he did a pretty good job, which is why I was honestly disturbed when I found out that some critics were panning his performance as sexist.

I’m not going to recount his performance here, partly because it happened eons ago in internet time, but more importantly because there was nothing really new or surprising about MacFarlane’s material.  In fact, it was pretty damned tame in comparison to the jokes regularly thrown around on his own shows, and I LOVE that stuff.  And that got me questioning whether I’m unknowingly guilty of being some kind of male chauvinist.

That thought kinda chafes my self-concept since I actually consider myself something of an nontraditional feminist.  In fact, I sometimes feel as though I take gender equality more seriously than some women.  With that said, I stand firm on the belief that men and women are absolutely, positively, freaking different, and those differences lead to experiences that many of us encounter at some point in our relationships, at least in the straight variety.  Men are inconsiderate and women nag.  Men are insensitive and women are overemotional.  Men are unfaithful, or at least want to be, and so are women…but women are crafty little fucks, and men are too self-absorbed to notice.

Anyway, it seems only natural to point out these asymmetries for laughs.  If the joker happens to be a man, then his jokes will likely be from the typical male’s POV.  So when I hear a female comic joking about how men are pigs, I don’t get my vasa deferentia all in a tangle.  I say big whoop. It doesn’t mean that every man and woman fits neatly into those boxes, that they display those characteristics all the time, or that those traits aren’t socialized.  Regardless, the shit is real, and it can be damned funny.  Unfortunately, that rationalization doesn’t get me off the hook for enjoying the other side of MacFarlane’s guy-friendly humor, the side that glories in the female form.  He’s not alone in this, of course.

One of my favorite examples comes from the late comic Patrice O’Neal, who dared to wonder aloud why we don’t implement a National Sexual Harassment Day to let guys just get it off their chest, one day a year.  Buy a colleague some flowers or candy, engage in your normal small talk, then ask her if she wouldn’t mind playing a little flesh flute in the bathroom.  No harm, no foul, ’cause it’s Harassment Day!

I promise, it’s funny when he says it.

Look, there’s no doubt in my mind that we live in a sexist society, so does enjoying, promoting, and even creating that kind of humor mean that I’m an unwilling co-conspirator with card-carrying members of NO MA’AM? I don’t think so.  As a thinking man, I find comedy like that funny for two reasons.

First, the sentiment that he’s expressing is just embarrassingly true.  If you are a woman with anything remotely resembling a physically attractive attribute, please know that dudes have imagined kissing, groping, or otherwise manipulating said attribute ad nauseum.  And I mean that ad nauseum part literally. Dude could be about to leave the office with a 102 degree temp, but if you told him you were gonna give him a cubicle lap dance he’d probably sit right back down and reposition the trash bin just in case.  They’d never let you know that though, ’cause they don’t want you to think that they’re a creep…plus they probably enjoy the benefits of gainful employment aside from surreptitiously observing you from behind at the water fountain.

The second, more important reason why it’s funny though is because it underscores the pitifully comic way that men are constantly bombarded by their physical attractions.  That’s right, we’re the real butt of that joke. It’s like, “Ladies, we’re basically one step above Pavlov’s dog.  Throw us a bone, please.  We’re barely holding it together over here.”

Now am I saying that women have nothing else to offer us besides their bodies?  Absolutely not.  Am I saying that it’s cool to draw attention to their physiques just for a laugh, no matter the cost?  No way.  A catcall on the street ain’t a joke (though all male to female street commentary ain’t a catcall either), and a random sexual advance under cover of an insipid pick-up line does not the stuff of humor make.  What I’m saying is that when a man makes an artful jest, carefully constructed and thoughtful, but firmly centered on his lust for a particular woman or women in general, the joke is actually on him.  No matter what he says at the end, the true punchline is that he found himself in the presence of beautyan ethereal, intoxicating, inspiring substanceand the only thing that he could do to relate its effect on him was to string together some silly little words.

I’m not a sexist.  I’m just another schmuck that happens to be attracted to women, and even though that fact is sometimes the cause of great frustration, it always eventually makes me laugh.  The hope is that when it does, you do, too.

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Beauty, Fat and Lena Dunham

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I'm rich now, so fuck your eyes."

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I’m rich now, so fuck your eyes.”

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Everyone is NOT beautiful.  No amount of sensitivity training or cultural relativism can erase that fact…but it doesn’t seem to stop some of us from trying.  The questionable Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty” from a few years ago comes to mind.  Meanwhile, it should have been dubbed the Campaign to Ignore Excess Body Fat.  The good folks behind that hit campaign certainly had a valid point, in that women of all shapes deserve to be represented in media, but they didn’t fool anyone into believing that an extra 30 pounds of flab was the beauty equivalent of say, knobby knees or a widow’s peak.  Still, I’m all for realism and the projection of realistic body images for women and girls, and one woman is undoubtedly the champion du jour of said cause: Lena Dunham.

Ms. Dunham writes, directs, and stars in HBO’s “Girls,” a show about spoiled and/or sociopathic white 20-somethings in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  Not to overgeneralize and imply that all young, psychologically disordered Caucasians have tons of sex, but as you might have guessed, they get down a lot.  This basically translates into Dunham getting nude like every episode.

And here’s why that’s apparently interesting: Lena Dunham is not beautiful. She’s not ugly, either.  In fact, everything about her physical appearance screams “average at best.”  Her face is nondescript, she looks to be about a size 10, and she jiggles in all the wrong places.  Read: wobbly arms, thighs, and back, but no real breasticular tissue of which to speak and an ass as flat as day-old champagne.  (If you’re not black or you’re the type of Latino that pretends not to be black, you can strike the last phrase since it probably just confused you.)

Like I said, she’s not beautiful.  But she is normal.  That hasn’t stopped some people from complaining with vitriol about Dunham blessing us with glimpses of her soft, pasty flesh though.  Reading their commentary, it would seem that only gorgeous women should be allowed to expose themselves on national television.  I can’t agree with them.  Art imitates life, and good art does it well, so I’ll add my voice to those who applaud Dunham’s brazenness.  Real life isn’t perfect and it’s a treat to see an artist who’s willing to reflect this imperfection in her work so nonchalantly.  The show is so much more genuine as a result, and I’m sure that she’s given every mostly average woman out there a confidence boost that they can use the next time they have hungover, daytime sex.

With that said, I’m gonna stop like 100 miles short of saying that Dunham is somehow a shining example of “real beauty.”  That’s absolute jollytime fuckery, and the people selling that dream are just as guilty of distorting reality as those who would have us believe that the only women of aesthetic worth wear a size 2 and have C-cups sculpted by Michelangelo himself.

I don't think this is what Rihanna had in mind.

I don’t think this is what Rihanna had in mind.

Hey, no one can claim that their standard of beauty is absolute.  It’s all up for debate, and we all know that the current Western ideal has been unequivocally weighted towards an unrealistic aesthetic.  That fact has negatively impacted those who don’t fit within the wraithlike Western standard in ways that are as malicious as they are profound.  I would never advance that distorted view of beauty.  What I’m promoting instead is the simple, yet somehow controversial notion that a body that is toned and proportional is more appealing than one that is flabby and asymmetric.

There’s plenty of room in this world for a diversity of sizes and shapes.  I for one have been known to appreciate a variety myself, and am certainly not a fan of stick-figures.  But there are limits, people.  If your torso sags like the jowls on a British bulldog when you remove your clothes, you’re fucking up.  If your ass looks like it’s stuffed with two Virginia Hams, but your stomach does too, you’re still fucking up.  If your back evokes images of piles of deli meat at a Super Bowl party, you’re fucking up and you’re making me hungry.  And for you so-called skinny girls, if your arms and legs are twigs but that gut of yours has you looking 11 months pregnant, guess what?  You.  Are.  Fucking.  Up.

No sane person expects perfection.  But I do expect you to strive for it.  When it comes to body composition, this means health-conscious eating and consistent, serious exercise, including the use of some frickin’ WEIGHTS, gods damn you not just running, jumping, or stretching on some glorified rubber rug called a yoga mat.  Unless you’ve been cursed with the physiology of a sloth, you will see results.  Promise.  Or, don’t do anything and just let it all hang out.  After all, you’ve got every right to do you.  Just don’t expect me to want to do you, too.

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Stand Up!

“I’ve got your good old days RIGHT HERE.”

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There are some topics for which controversy is entirely expected and perhaps even suitable due to their very nature. Abortion is one, and this makes sense when one reflects on the fact that a human life is arguably at stake. Universal health care is another in that it forces us to question the limits of government authority and responsibility. One topic that is absolutely undeserving of any controversy whatsoever in the 21st century is the value of chivalry, however. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either benighted, sexist, or both.

This brings me to a discussion I had on Facebook earlier this week.

Lawrence Adjah, a Facebook friend, was riding a Bay Area commuter train and noticed that there were women standing while male passengers sat. This grated against his sensibilities and as a man of action, he set about campaigning to get every last standing woman on that train a seat…which he did. Excited about the fruit of his efforts, he posted a picture of the results on everyone’s favorite social network.

All aboard! Next stop, gender subjugation!

The electronic ticker-tape parade began in earnest. Accolades from his female friends poured in, and one woman even invited him to come to Boston to “do work.” Well, I couldn’t take it. So I didn’t.

I posted a forceful reply, and although I used highly informal language since I was talking to a group of peers, my point was substantive. The next thing I knew, I was engulfed in a 24-hour, emotionally charged conversation with Lawrence, one other man (who sided with me), and several women (who definitely did not). Although things got pretty heated, I’m used to such scraps, so I walked away no worse for wear…until I saw that my comments had been utterly misconstrued and decontextualized on the Huffington Post.

It turns out that one of the many chivalry-loving women who had seen Lawrence’s post was Ms. Nancy Redd. As a writer and host for HuffPost, I suppose that this little skirmish in the Battle of the Sexes was too good for her to pass up. I mean, you’ve got Sir Lawrence, the White Knight in Shining Armor, multiple damsels in commuter distress, and even a readymade villain, yours truly. This is the stuff of which romantic reactionary dreams are made!

Nancy (and I call her by her first name because, believe it or not, I know this woman personally) proceeded to take isolated statements that I made and present them as fully independent thoughts, without including my milder supporting comments or the often insulting words of those who I’ll dub The Defenders of Feminine Virtue. For example, one woman implied that my comrade-in-arms and I were “diva dudes” who thought that we were too good for women, and another suggested that our beliefs were the result of (drumroll, please) our mothers’ failures. None of these women’s comments made it into Nancy’s piece…yet all of my Black English did. But who can blame her? Nothing says inarticulate and therefore worthless like Black English, right?

What bothered me most about Nancy’s post however, was not her tactless attempt to paint me as a buffoon. Instead, my real anger stemmed from the fact that she reduced my sentiments to “negativity and hate,” when at their core they were actually about equity. Notice that I wrote equity, as in fairness. Women and men are not the same (a truth that is often wonderful), but our differences do not necessitate a return to the bad old days of sexist claptrap like men walking on the outside of the sidewalk, arbitrarily giving up their seats, or I don’t know…keeping women shut in at home.

No. Caption. Needed.

Be not deceived. The idea that chivalry’s origins lie in the chauvinistic past are incontrovertible. I’ve discussed this idea before, so I won’t beat a dead horse, but suffice it to say that men treating women as if they are childish dependents, mental dwarves, or hapless semi-invalids is a very bad thing…for us all. The gender-based niceties that many enjoy so much are the beguiling flowers of a sinister tree with pernicious roots. Until these vestiges of societally supported sexism are purged, women will remain just shy of being men’s recognized equals. As Gloria Steinem said, “A pedestal is as much a prison as any small, confined space.”

Ladies, I invite you to hop off of that pedestal prison and stand up for what’s right. You’ll find plenty of good men ready to stand proudly right alongside you.

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Bitches Still Ain’t Shit

Bad bitch or not, somebody tell me when they start making lifesize Nicki dolls.

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This just in.  Though bitches have been around since before the days of Delilah and Salome, they’ve recently evolved into a higher, more refined form.  These creatures are reverentially known as bad bitches (canis femina superior).

Whether geneticists recognize this phenomenon or not, we’ve got Nicki Minaj self-describing as a “bad bitch…a cunt” down to “kick that ho, punt,” newcomer Azealia Banks serving notice that she’s a “bad bitch…that supply what your girlfriend can’t supply,” and Iggy Azalea proclaiming that she’s a “white girl [with] a team full of bad bitches.”  Hell, Rick Ross has a bad bitch that resembles a tote filled with currency.  (She’s a shapeshifter, too!)  In short, there’s a lot of bad bitches runnin’ around.  I wonder if all the hoes are scared that they’re gonna get crowded outta the market.

Enter Lupe Fiasco’s “Bitch Bad.”  If you haven’t seen the video yet, check it out below.

Lupe Fiasco – Bitch Bad from Gil Green on Vimeo.

The thrust of the song is that when “bitch” is used as a compliment, especially when combined with the contronym “bad,” it undermines emotional understanding between men and women.  Seems pretty uncontroversial to me, but after reading a couple of articles where cats took Lupe to task on his position, especially this one, I had to speak on this a little bit.

In the aforementioned critique, Brandon Soderberg of SPIN goes the extra mile to tell us that this song and video are “moronic” attempts at preaching to the choir.  According to him, we don’t need Lupe to inform us that bitch is bad and that lady is better, because hip-hop has sufficiently addressed that question and is already yawning. We’re on to “cunt” now, thanks to Azealia Banks.  And besides, he writes, “does any female want to be called ‘a lady’?”

Bitch, please.

Soderberg’s argument that this song is evidence of Lupe’s severed connection with the heart of current rap music is patently laughable.  I’ve already given multiple examples of the exact term “bad bitch” being (over)used by some of the most influential names in the genre, and if I’d had the chance to hit the strip club before writing this I would’ve been able to come back with like, a hot 97 more.  No lie.  I ain’t never told no lie, I ain’t never told no lie.

So, it’s Soderberg that seems out of touch. He points to Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” as an example of a track that “sensitively deconstructed” the use of the word “bitch,” but unless a sensitive deconstruction consists of using the word umpteen times, I don’t have a muthaeffin’ clue what he means.  But, in the spirit of generosity, I’ll assume that he meant to reference Jay’s “Bitches & Sisters” off The Blueprint 2.  “Unless you fucked a dude on his own merit and not the way he dribble a ball or draw lyrics you’re a BITCH!”  Preach.

Anyway, Hova in fact does a great job of contrasting sisters and bitches there. And yes, others have broached the topic over the years, too.  But what makes Lupe’s take interesting is the fact that he doesn’t explicitly tell us why being a bitch is bad, he shows us, via a nicely packaged fairy tale, that being a bitch must necessarily be a negative thing.  No matter how much attractiveness, independence and self-determination being a “bad bitch” might imply on a good day, it’s still associated with vampiric women possessed by a thirst for cash and attention.  That inherent dissonance is why the cats hollerin’ about bad bitches are the same ones screamin’ that they don’t love them.

When you tell a woman that a bad bitch essentially does all that a “basic” bitch does except maybe have sex with your homeys (unless you want her to do so, in which case she might be extra “bad”), you’re begging for a problem.  So, y’all keep sending and accepting those mixed signals.  Meanwhile, a generation of women are growing up believing that bad bitches are the shit…when they’re really just shitty.

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Niggas Embarrassed: Gwyneth Gets the People Goin’

Don’t make me get in my zone…

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By now, you’ve heard how Gwyneth Paltrow tweeted a picture of herself with Jay-Z and Kanye West on stage at the “Watch the Throne” concert in Paris with the caption, N**gas in Paris, for real…”  And you probably also know that said tweet ignited a firestorm of fuckery all over the internet regarding her right to use that word.  Basically, the anti-Gwyn squad’s well-trod argument goes like this: nigga is a word that has been at least partially rescued from its racist past and co-opted by certain black people for use as a self-referential noun.  There is a law governing said use.  In its strong form, only those who self-identify as black can access the word.  In its weak form, those who don’t necessarily identify as black but who possess sufficient African ancestry can use it also, e.g. Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and other Latinos.  White people don’t make the cut though, not even white rappers, unless they’re given a special dispensation by their local chapter of the NAACP personal circle of black friends.

Look, I’m just gonna put it out there and say that this line of thinking is naïve at best and hypocritical at worst.  It’s naïve because white people are presented with instances of black people using nigga on the daily.  The word is everywhere.  It’s on the lips of comedians, definitely in your favorite rapper’s lyrics (even the so-called conscious ones), and most importantly, it’s firmly embedded in the public conversations of everyday black folk on the train, on the bus, in the line at McDonald’s, and at school.  Why in the name of Strom Thurmond should any white person feel like they shouldn’t be able to utter that word when black people have made it seem as regular a part of speech as the slightly more common but only somewhat less annoying use of “um”?  The aural evidence suggests that they just shouldn’t care since we as black people apparently don’t either.

Nigga, nigga, nigga, nigga, nigga,

Damn fool.

Monkey see, monkey do.

— Da Lench Mob, “Ankle Blues”

Right about now, some of you are saying, “Oh, hell no.  Just because WE can say it, that doesn’t mean that all of a sudden Whitey has carte blanche to say it.  That word is OURS.”  And see, this is where I start going gorillas, ‘cause that’s just hypocrisy, and hypocrisy can get the fucking…Balzac.  Excuse my French (but I’m in France).  Either the godsdamned word is unfailingly vile and only holds one meaning in every situation, thus it should never be used by anyone, or it’s a word like any other, meaning it has a significance that can vary across time and context and as such its use should be evaluated on a case by case basis.  What you cannot do is mix both of these views on the act of using the word nigger – let’s call it niggerating – into one pot and serve that shit up like it’s some kind of indignity flavored gumbo.  If the word is hateful in all places and times, then it’s always wrong, no matter who says it.  Jay-Z and Kanye: wrong.  The kids in the fried chicken joint: wrong.  Me and you, your momma and your cousin, too: wrong.  And yes, Gwyneth Paltrow: wrong.  On the other hand, if the word may or may not be offensive depending on the circumstances, then we must evaluate each instance on its own.

I think it’s safe to say that only the most sensitive among us would accuse Ms. Paltrow of being any more of a racist than your average person.  She certainly doesn’t seem like a bigot, and she’s never shown any signs of hating black people, to my knowledge at least.  In fact, she seems genuinely happy whenever she’s photographed with her black friends, if that counts for anything.  If you agree with this admittedly superficial personality reading, then based on what I’ve written above there’s no reason to tar and feather her for niggerating.  Babygirl was just expressing her excitement about participating in a very meta experience with some folks who she really enjoys and who in turn apparently really enjoy being niggas in posh European capitals.  If you don’t like that they like it, then maybe you should get outraged at them.

I’m definitely in my zone…

Oh, and black people do not “own” that word.  If anything, we borrowed it from some really mean people who used to shoot it at us like so many bullets.  In reality, no one can own any word, but since they created it, I’d say that white racists are the ones with the biggest claim to it.  Fortunately, I believe in the mutability of words and language, so I support the notion that black people reshaped the word “nigger” into something new.  In addition to serving as a vessel of hatred, now it’s also one for love and laughter, as well as a simple synonym for “person.”

The fact that we were able to accomplish this transformation is either a testament to our resilience and ingenuity or to the deep internalization of someone else’s hatred.  Since we’re human, it’s probably both.  With that said, “nigga” is an undeniable part of African-American culture, and since African-American culture forms the basis of modern pop culture worldwide, “nigga” is now a piece of world culture.  Trying to mandate that black folks should be the only ones who can niggerate is therefore futile, dude.

But besides being useless, that stance is also lazy.  After all, the real problem that Paltrow’s critics have with her isn’t her niggerating.  Whether they know it or not, what they’re actually upset about is the idea that black people around the world can never really know the extent to which racism is rooted in the heart of any given white person.  Instead of addressing that fundamental concern though, they take a shortcut via censorship, fooling themselves into thinking that it will solve the problem.  “Hey!  Maybe if they don’t say it, then they won’t think it!”

There’s only one worthy response to that.  Nigga, please!

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You Say Azealia, I Say Azalea: Part II

You missed a spot…

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OK, so I’m assuming that you read my last post, which served to introduce you to the actors in the drama known as the Azealia-Azalea War.  If you didn’t, catch up here.  I’ll wait.  (Next time, read that shit when I post it and stop playin’ so damn much.)

We all up to speed now?  Brilliant.

Now there are those who would say that this disagreement is all about Iggy being some kind of hipster racist.  They say that because, well, young Amethyst (her government name) had the gall to refer to herself as a “runaway slave…master” in a reshaping of a Kendrick Lamar lyric.  OK.  Shit, I’ll admit that was foul.  Foul like, you might get invited to speak at the Republican National Convention foul — but Iggs later admitted as much.  As she said in her apology, she was trying to walk the line, but ended up linecrossing like a muphucka.

Well, our friend Ms. Azealia Banks wasn’t trying to hear Iggy apologin’ though, and she let it be known via Twitter…but only AFTER Iggy made the 2012 XXL Freshman Class cover.  That brings us to the second theory about the origin of this here catfight: envy.  Here’s an in-depth look at Azealia Banks’ opening salvos:

“Iggy Azalea on the XXL freshman list is all wrong…How can you endorse a white woman who called herself a ‘runaway slave master’?
Sorry guys. But I’m pro black girl…I’m not anti white girl, but I’m also not here for any1 outside of my culture trying to trivialize very serious aspects of it. In any capacity. *kanye shrug*”

— @AZEALIABANKS

Look, I can’t say what the truth actually is.  I don’t know these women personally, and Banks is totally right about the slavemaster lyric.  No doubt about that.  But why did it take an industry tip of the hat to your fellow newcomer for you to open your exquisitely fashioned mouth and say something, love?  When you couple this with the fact that Banks has also been vocal about her issues with Nicki Minaj, and most recently Lil’ Kim, her credibility starts to falter.

Then throw in the fact that her most publicized fracas before the one with Iggy was with white, female rapper Kreayshawn, John the Baptist to Iggy’s Jesus.  From where I sit, Banks was just itchin’ for an excuse to throw some verbal bullets Kreay’s way — homegirl did absolutely nothing to deserve the Twitter poison that Banks poured all over her mentions.  After all of that, Azealia Banks starts to look an awful lot like a highly talented, beautiful, potentially groundbreaking woman with some serious bitch tendencies.

It’s hard being blonde and famous.

Meanwhile, almost everything Iggy says off-stage seems level-headed and wise.  For example:

“People expect me to drag [Kreayshawn] through the mud.  I don’t need to and I don’t want to do that.  I think there aren’t enough girls in hip-hop…I want to be the number-one person, but I don’t want to drag people through the mud when I know how hard it is to be a female rapper.  I want there to be other people out there.  I don’t want to win by default because there is no one else.”

— Iggy Azalea

On the real, it makes my ass itch to see a white woman reach that higher plane while the sister seems to still be stuck at the gate.  (I know that’s a different kinda plane, but I like the metaphor.  Sue me.)

I mean, black women have it hard, y’all.  Blah, blah, overblown stat about proportionately more young American sisters being single.  Blah, blah, stat about filling in the shoes of black men who are overly incarcerated, gay or no damned good.  And finally, blah, blah, blah, stat about the overall detrimental psychological, economic, and social implications of being a double minority.  Seriously, even if some of the above has been exaggerated to the extent of borderline stereotyping, they deal with a lot.  And I don’t think that possessing some of the world’s greatest asses assets makes up for the shortfall.

In a strange twist though, the rap world itself is like a parallel universe of our own.  It’s a grotesque distortion, with white women occupying the place usually reserved for black women, i.e. the bottom rung.  In that world, it is THEY who are the double minority, trying to find a voice, then yell loud enough so that they can be heard over the din of the doubts and suspicions pumpin’ out their neighbors’ ovaries speakers.

Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t worried about Iggy.  Regardless of whether she’s better than her contemporaries or not — and for the record I have to say that although Iggy’s certainly got some skills, Azealia Banks simply has a tighter flow — Iggy is gon’ be more than aight.  Why?  Because she’s got something that pop culture has been dying to see: the looks of a hyper-European runway model (I’ve seen glass doors darker than her), street cred courtesy of Grand Hustle and (her man?) A$AP Rocky, plus some undeniable talent thrown in for good measure.

So, while she’s endured the trials of double minority status thus far, I predict that she’ll break through rap’s obsidian ceiling very, very soon.  Finally, the man from 8 Mile will have a queen with whom to share the Throne of the Great White Hope.

And where does that leave Ms. Banks?  She’ll be fine, too.  Even if she stays on her Euro shit and drops an album with hella EDM tendencies, she’ll blow up in Europe and make some noise with cosmopolitan white folks in the States.  If she scales it back just a little, she’ll be massive here, too.  Hey, Nicki could use some company, and Banks has way too much potential to be ignored.

But don’t take my word for it. Read what one of Banks’ fans had to say in a comment they left about her “212” video on YouTube:

“this may sound stupid but you heard it from me first – she’s like a black, female, Eminem, what a GREAT track…”

— 79effo

Parallel universes, indeed.

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You Say Azealia, I Say Azalea: Part I

Said the Hip-Hop Florist: “Which one do you want?”  “Yes, please,” I replied.

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Beyond the weird similarity of their names,  Iggy Azalea and Azealia Banks seem like versions of the same person, but from parallel universes.  This is a cool concept off top, ’cause it suggests that somewhere out there, there’s a white Scissorhands who makes indie pop tunes with old school hip-hop influences, writes about how utterly comprehensible women are…and is famous.

But, I digress.  These two have had a very public war of words going on for the last couple of months, and as as symbol of hip-hop’s race and gender conflicts I found the whole thing fascinating.  But, before I give you a war report, you need to be briefed on the combatants.

Banks is a 20 year-old native Harlemite who got the industry buzzing in 2011 when she released her single “212” (the area code for Manhattan).  The music for the track itself is a sample of a bouncy, playful, electro house song by producer Lazy Jay and sounds nothing like anything anyone might associate with Harlem…except for the ratchet-ass talk about “cunts gettin’ eaten.”  And when I say that, I don’t mean it the way I’d mean it if I were talking about the music of Houston-festishizing fellow Harlemite A$AP Rocky.  I’m talking ’bout the fact that this sounds like some straight-up fist-pumping, ecstasy-enhanced, White Folks ClubTM shit.  One listen tells you that this woman is a smart, artful rhymesayer in possession of an open mind that she’s filled with a buncha DIFFERENT shit.

When you think about it, that probably isn’t so surprising since she’s a product of New York City’s famed arts high school LaGuardia, alma mater of Isaac Mizrahi, Slick Rick, Liza Minnelli…and Nicki Minaj.  From an early age, she was prepped to draw inspiration from an outside world that was inaccessible to most black girls in NYC.  I mean, she spent time listening both to Interpol AND Lil’ Kim as a teenager…which was like, three fucking years ago, in case you forgot.

After a failed deal with label XL Recordings left her depressed and detached, she picked up and moved to Montreal to regain focus.  Since “212” went planetary in 2011, she’s been storming Europe, working with Adele producer Paul Epworth in London and performing for cultural bigwigs like the King of the Vampires Karl Lagerfeld in Paris.  C’est la vie, and her new life really began once she catapulted herself out of the hood and, importantly, out of America.

Iggy, on the other hand,  spent the better part of a decade trying to land her amazingly melanin-deficient, yet seemingly ample ass in pretty much the exact muthaeffin’ spot that Banks vacated.  Growing up in Mullumbimby, Austrailia, she was a lonely, shunned elementary schooler who was introduced to 2Pac at age 13 and never looked back.  A year later, she was getting booed off stage at rap battles and…

Wait a minute. I want to pause right here and take a moment to have y’all reflect on how bad you must be to get the Sandman treatment in Arsefucking, Austrailia.  Think about that, seriously.  That’s like showing a newly sighted, formerly blind woman a painting you did and having her be so unimpressed by it that she pulls up her dress, summons the requisite muscle control, and takes a piss on that bitch standing up.  Horrible.

But now imagine how big Iggy’s femballs must be, ’cause she didn’t give up.

No, she kept at it, and using money that she saved from her commercial cleaning business (hustle), she moved to Miami in 2006 at the age of six-fucking-teen.  She made ends meet by both working illegally and doing illegal work, the latter consisting of credit card scams (hustle hard). All the while she kept at the music thing though she knew no one in the industry, that is until she bounced to Houston, got mentored, and finally started sharpening her darts, as the Wu might say.  Moves to Atlanta and L.A. followed, and at the start of 2011 she uploaded the homemade and fragrantly titled “Pussy Two Times” video to YouTube.  By August of that same year it was easy to see that our favorite Aussie was on the come-up, as she released the still vaginally themed but MUCH more polished “PU$$Y” promo video to fuel interest in her first mixtape “Ignorant Art.”

Listening to Iggy would provide most people with no clue that she’s from the twangy-ass Land Down Under.  I mean, babygirl straight sounds like a New York chick who spent a few years visiting her peoples down south or some shit…which she halfway is.  And that’s interesting, because Azealia Banks often sounds like a Harlem chick who spent years raving with white girls in Brooklyn…which she absolutely is.  It’s scary how much these two seem to have in common, which makes it all the more sad that they’ve got enough beef between ’em to host a barbecue.  With shrimp, of course…so Iggy can skew it.  ‘Cause she’s Australian.

Now there are a couple thoughts as to why this beef popped off.  You know I got my opinion, but since I’m past my 800 word limit for you ignorant bastiches, you’ll have to read the rest in a couple days.  That’s right, I’m DOUBLE POSTING within a week.  Yay, for you!  And for anybody making cracks about me not having written the conclusion of “Beauty and the Beast” yet, close your mouth ’cause nobody cares about you or your life.  Beautiful art takes time to produce, and so does this shit.  So just wait.

Devil Fingers Salute!

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Fists and Fury: Chris Brown and the Limits of Rage

Love...in a hopeless place.

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What’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever done?  Maybe you had one, two…maybe two more drinks than you shoulda had before whippin’ the front of daddy’s S-Class into the back of a K-Mart.  Perhaps Alex from Finance caught you fudging the numbers just a tad on that expense report from the last convention in Vegas.  You know, the one when you and Rick snuck away from the group to hit up Peppermint Hippo and he told you he left his corporate card back at the hotel…after ordering two bottles of Armand de Brignac and putting like 7.6 lap dances on credit.  Or maybe you did something that was a whole lot worse.  Maybe your biggest mistake was not only stupid, but also despicable.  If so, you’d be rolling in the deep with Breezy himself, Mr. Chris Brown.

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a dude sleeping under a rock in the Mariana Trench, you know that Chris was accused, plead guilty to, and was convicted of assaulting his ex-girlfriend Rihanna.  For this offense he was sentenced to five years of probation and six months of community service.  More importantly, he was rightly strung up by the public and the media and forced to endure a well-deserved gauntlet of castigation and ridicule.  Oh, and he was unofficially banned from the Grammys, which is widely touted as the biggest night in music.

That Grammy embargo was lifted this year along with the lid on Hell, apparently.  I mean, muthaphuckas was UPSET.  For many folks, dude’s appearance on that stage was like bringing a pork chop sandwich with melted cheese into the Holy of Holies…on a Saturday.  In their minds, Chris Brown should remain persona non grata for the remainder of his life, and anything less is a (gulp) smack in the face to women everywhere.  They would have us accept the view that the stain of domestic violence is one that cannot be erased from the abuser’s hands.

I believe in the primacy of justice in a good society.  Therefore, I cannot do that.

Think back again to that stupidest and/or darkest deed of yours.  Now imagine that instead of it being someone’s moderately embarrassing  joke on Thanksgiving, or a grimy spot blessedly obscured by the sands of time, it occupies a massive stage, leering at you beneath an ever-blaring spotlight.  While this description fits Chris’ situation perfectly, it also applies to those of hundreds of thousands of other African-Americans who made mistakes big enough to put them in the grasp of the grinder that is the American criminal justice system.

According to the Independent Committee on Reentry and Employment, up to 60% of the formerly incarcerated in New York State alone are still unemployed one year after they make it home.  On top of that, many states don’t allow those with felony convictions to vote, thereby denying these individuals of the very essence of citizenship.  Once you consider the fact that black males are incarcerated at a rate that’s seven times higher than white men, the Instagram I’m sending should be hittin’ the top of your goddamned feed.  One man described his utterly pitiful situation this way: “You can’t get a job. You can’t vote. You can’t do nothing even 10 or 20 years later. You don’t feel like a citizen. You don’t even feel human.”  This is changing, but not nearly fast enough.  Whether it’s due to a warped sense of morality or a willing indulgence in vengeance, too many people refuse to give these individuals a second chance, and that ain’t justice.  That’s just bigotry wearing a self-righteous mask.

I am in no way suggesting that we should just toss homeboy’s offense into the sea of forgetfulness and pretend that it never happened.  While none of us were there and as such cannot know exactly what went down, we know that Chris admitted to wrongdoing.  And since he’s a celebrity, what HE should know is that his personal life will always be somewhat public.  (Sorry, kid, but that’s the cost of doing business.)  As such, I have no problems with reporters asking him questions about the incident and its aftermath or comedians taking the piss out of him during routines.  But banning him from any public appearance?  Blowing up Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere with rants that suggest his Grammy appearance and win were like, the equivalent of Bull Connor hosting the BET Honors and winning an NAACP Image Award?  I think notly.

Dude is trying to pick up the pieces.  Keep in mind that he was 19 years old when this went down and that he’s still only 22, attempting to deal with the onslaught of a force that won’t take “I’m sorry” for an answer.  Take a second and reflect on how befuddled thou were in thine own mind at that age, then give Chris Brown a similar chance to learn from his mistakes and become a better man.  Yeah, he occasionally has verbal and electronic outbursts, or breaks a window or two, but this is to be expected from a still maturing human.  As long as he keeps his hands on a mic and not on a woman, we should let this man live.  Odin knows, none of us are without sin.  So back away from the stones, or don’t be surprised if that glass house of yours suddenly gets a little draftier.

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Sex Shooters: Social Media and Female Self-Esteem

If you're gonna post a scandalous Facebook pic, THIS is how to do it. We miss you, Apollonia.

Men spend an inordinate amount of time in the pursuit of encounters with sexy women.  These encounters need not be in the real world, of course.  I mean, I don’t have to tell you which industry is responsible for the big, beautiful broadband world we live in right now, do I?  Hint: it involves naked people having sex.

But guys don’t need to satisfy our sex fix with explicit material.  Women in sexy outfits, making sexy faces, hinting at sexy things that they might do will work just fine (while we’re in public, at least).  Lucky for us, ladies seem more than happy to quench our thirst for this stuff, and the rise of social media has provided them with a huge hose to like, drown us in T&A.  Sorry, Yeezy, but that’s a beautiful death.

From the crazy number of entries to American Apparel’s 2010 “Best Bottom Contest” to sites like ilikecurves.com (lots of pros, but plenty of amateurs in there), women love to let us know that they look sexy.  And I love that they love it.  I just wonder why they love it.

Don’t get me wrong.  It makes my day when I see some fine ass lady has posted a picture of herself with a come-hither pucker on some juicy, shimmering lips, rockin’ a body-hugging dress so tight it appears to be a strange but erotic skin mutation.  Freakum dresses are wonderful, splendid gifts from the gods and are right beneath leggings and biking shorts as the greatest fashion innovation since…well…clothes.

I’m just sayin’ though, it’s like you just walked up to everybody you’re cool with and said, “Me and my girls went to the club last night and I was lookin’ tatalicious: check out these blatant, semi-lesbian photos!  But wait, there’s more!  If you click right now, I’ll throw in this trunk-rattlin’ donk shot – tilt your laptop a little and you might even see some cheek pokin’ out!”

I loves it, but why are there SO many semi-scandalous pictures of you at the club?  And of you in your bikini at the beach?  And of you in your bikini at the club on the beach?  I’m not buying that you got dressed and took those pictures for yourself, etc., etc.  That argument barely holds water in the real world and the whole goddamned bottom drops out the bucket when you extend it to posting photos on Facebook.  By definition, when you put that image on a social network, YOU WANT AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE TO SEE IT.  At least the ones in your personal network.

If you ask me, there’s such a preponderance of this behavior because a big segment of women want desperately to be sex symbols.  It validates their self-image and shores up their self-esteem.  I actually feel somewhat silly writing that because it’s not too controversial of a thought, really.  Women know that men like attractive, sexually interesting (and interested) women, so why wouldn’t women want to appeal to that desire?  We all do what we need to do to feel wanted, no matter the context.  We all want to know that we contribute to the world in some way and to be recognized for it.

Of course, most ladies also want to be respected professionals, venerated spouses and adored parents, too.  No one is denying or minimizing that fact.  It’s just that until recently, as crazy as it sounds, it was a lot easier to be a great ad executive or professor or mom than it was to be a pin-up girl, at least for a big audience.

Facebook, Twitter and now Instagram, where the artsy sexy pics go to live, have changed all of that.  Today, a woman can show everybody that’s she’s a mother AND a MILF, electronically gushing as compliments like, “OK WERK IT GUUUURRRL” and “Damn!  Tell Craig he betta treat you rite!” just stream in.  Cherie, the second year med student, need only tag herself in the mechanical bull shot with her girl Peaches to hint at how sweet a night out with the two of them might be.  Dude, who needs King, FHM or even Playboy when you’ve got the muthaeffin’ News Feed?!

Again, I’m all for it.  Self-expression, especially semi-nude self-expression of the female variety, is a moral imperative.

In fact, just to show my commitment to this noble principle, I’m inviting all you ladies to post your sexiest photo to www.facebook.com/scissorspeaks or tweet it to @scissorspeaks.  The one who gets the most positive comments will win a date with me and I’ll interview you about your experience for an upcoming post – you’ll get to tell errbody how it really is.  But here’s the catch: you’ve also gotta include a picture of you when you first wake up.

What, no takers?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.

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Punks Jump Up…

Yeah, I know the song ain't from this album. Sue me.

The other week, one of my boys sent a few friends a YouTube link.  He introduced the clip by telling us that it incensed him, but knowing how frequently this particular friend often worships at the temple of hyperbole, I was prepared to be interested but not necessarily agitated.

I was wrong.

The clip is called “Recognize Bloody Loco ASAP” and it’s little over a minute of what some might call male posturing, some might call pure fuckery, and others might call just another day on the New York City subway.  All of the above are correct, by the way.  I suggest that you watch it, but in the event that you don’t want to risk going banana nut apeshit on the next fool that throws you the hairy eyeball as a delayed response, I’ll kindly summarize it for you.

Basically, the whole thing consists of a menacingly(?) monikered youth named Bloody Loco loudly informing a thirtysomething man we’ll call “Sweater Guy” of his complete lack of fear, his desire to engage in fisticuffs and above all else, his utter devotion to ensuring that everyone on that train recognizes his name …”ASAP!”

Throughout Mr. Loco’s rant, Sweater Guy remains calm and collected, occasionally tossing in an ironic comment or two, but obviously doing his best to tune out the aural rapist confronting him.  This is an impossible feat, of course, since Bloody’s incessant barking is well…incessant.  Seriously, I’d rather have two hungry babies with diarrhea and chicken pox duct taped to my head all day than listen to this poster boy for lead poisoning for 20 minutes.

What is this crap all about?  Why the need to hoot, holler and pound one’s chest?  Why is obnoxiousness of this sort equated with masculinity?  Sigh…

Actually, I don’t have time to go into the effects that a lack of positive male role models, glorification of criminality and internalization of stereotypes has had on poor, urban youth.  If I did that, then I’d have to get into brainstorming possible solutions and whatnot, and let’s face it: y’all fools got acute ADHD.  So, let’s just acknowledge that the issue exists and that there are some good reasons for it.  Having done that, the question becomes how am I, as a grown ass man striving for consciousness, supposed to react when faced with a situation like the above?

From where I sit, I’d say that Sweater Guy pretty much had it right.  No matter how much somebody like that is pressing on your last nerve, it really doesn’t pay to respond in like manner.  For one, it might escalate the situation beyond a battle of words.  Y’all remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, right?  Nobody really wants to get bombed, but some idiot might just go nuclear if he feels backed into a corner.

Plus, if a cat is proud enough of his immaturity to be actin’ a damn fool in public like that, it stands to reason that he probably has a lot less to lose than you do.  Maybe he ain’t scared of going to jail.  Maybe he knows his boys are chillin’ on the next block and Big Mook just looooves to jump periwinkle-wearing muphuckas like you.  Maybe he’s too much of a punk to swang them thangs and as soon as you beat his ass, he’ll go pop the trunk.  Regardless, none of these outcomes are good for you, my urban professional friend with a wife, two kids and a mistress who’s blackmailing him.  Unless it’s unavoidable, just don’t do it.

By the way, I practice what I preach.  The other day, I was out on a date and I got up from my seat to find someone to take our order.  (Already a bad sign.)  There were no dividers on the bench, so as I walked away, some dude decides he’s gonna take my seat…despite the fact that he saw me get up and was now sitting right next to my date.

After coming back to the table, the lady asked me if I wanted to stay or leave.  I told her that it was entirely up to her, knowing that if she decided to stay, I might find myself on a collision course with Fuckhead Johnson and the Underachievers.  I wasn’t about to huff and puff, but dude had made a physical incursion into my space, so he would have to answer for that.

But what do you know?  Babygirl just slid me a reassuring smile, elegantly rose from her seat, and elected to bounce.  There are a few takeaways from that experience.

First, when someone “tests” you, think of it as a test of discipline and not a test of manhood.  My emotions would likely have led to broken glass and maybe broken jaws instead of what turned out to be a really nice evening.  Second, having well-grounded people by your side solves like 90% of the equation.  If my date was one of those women that wanted a little “thug” in her man, she might have actually encouraged the stupidity.  Booooo.  Finally, certain contexts just attract knuckleheaded idiots.  If you go to spots frequented by assholes, expect shitty situations.

So remember these words the next time some punk tries to flex on you:  You owe it to yourself to let it go…unless you know you can beat his ass and get away with it.

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