Tag Archives: Feminism

Beyoncé, Booty, and Feminism

Close-up of Beyoncé

1990 Madonna called. She wants her whole steez back.

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Beyoncé is a superb entertainer. One minute, her voice is the piercing blare of a trumpet and the next, it’s the gentle lilt of a cello. Of course, her body is equally as flexible, just as exquisitely crafted, and almost as thrilling to witness. Unassailable talent allows her to occupy an enviable position at the peak of pop culture, and she’s used that lofty site as a promontory from which to speak directly to the hearts—and importantly the egos—of millions of females who have come to see her as the embodiment of the ideal woman: talented, strong, and sexy. Queen Bey is a feminist icon, and she deserves to be one. However, there are those who would have us believe that BEYONCÉ, her latest album, marks her biggest step thus far in a retreat from the forefront of the feminist movement.

I say that those people are either overwrought feminist pedants or overly inhibited conservatives. Or they’re idiots. ‘Cause you know, there’s always that element.

I mean, look, the woman made some songs about being a strong woman. OK, she made quite a few of them. Hooray! Also, she’s managed to have a ridiculously successful solo career for more than a decade, when most acts appear and then disappear so quickly that you wonder if that’s why they call it pop music. Hooray again! Oh, and she’s seemingly happily married to a really rich and famous guy and has a cute little daughter, too. So now all of this somehow makes her a standard bearer for modern feminism? Or at least modern black feminism?

I’m sorry, but no. All it means is that she is a woman who has lived the kind of self-determined life that the foremothers of women’s equality envisioned for their sisters and daughters…and that she’s aware of that fact. I don’t doubt that Beyoncé honestly wants to encourage girls and women to think of themselves as self-sustaining, dynamic beings who are fundamentally equal to any man, but Elizabeth Cady Stanton she ain’t.

Perhaps a parallel example will assist in illustrating my point.

After he helped invent gangster rap, but before he started making feel-good movies, Ice Cube made a lot of passionate, pro-black music. Was I disappointed as I gradually watched Cube melt deeper and deeper into Hollywood, to the point where he’s actually game to do comedy bits with Conan O’Brien, possibly the whitest looking dude ever birthed? Not no, but hell no, ‘cause I never once got his vaguely menacing, yet somehow cherubic visage confused with that of Stokely Carmichael’s.

In the same way, members of the Yoncé Ate Sasha school of thought need to relax and understand that by releasing this album and the accompanying videos she didn’t forsake some kind of feminist mission, because dude, she never had one. Beyoncé doesn’t owe little girls, working mothers, the queens at the MAC store, or anybody else anything except good music and a good show. To the extent that she chooses to inspire a sense of inherent beauty within young women or to write lyrics that help generate female self-confidence of any kind, it is a good thing. Her decision to tilt the content of her art a little more towards sex in the bedroom…or the kitchen…or the limo floor…does nothing to negate her expressions of feminist positivity.

I fail to see why anyone’s in a tizzy over Yoncé’s sexy lyrics and skintastic videos at all in the first place. Curse words. Who cares? Bathtub intercourse while inebriated. Zzzzzz. Fleeting shot of supermodel’s tongue grazing the upper half of Beyoncé’s right mammary. Yawn. Allusion to oral sex and errant ejaculate (see Lewinsky, verb). Getting there, but let’s not phone the Thought Police just yet. Multiple potential references to anilingus…OK, sure that’s freaky. But hell, it wasn’t even explicitly stated. That’s just my interpretation. Other artists get far nastier on a regular basis, with no playful metaphors or euphemisms acting as prophylactics during their aural sex romps, so the only thing I’m left with is the idea that this new album is shocking folks only because Beyoncé’s behind it.

That begs a question for all of you grooooown women out there: What’s worse, a sexist man who won’t let you fully realize your multi-faceted identity or a feminist woman who doesn’t want you to display more than one side of it? Recall Yoncé’s sample of author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminding us of exactly what a feminist is:

“Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”

So, even if Beyoncé isn’t leading the vanguard of 21st century feminist freedom fighters, forsaking her because she’s being just as loud about her sexuality as she’s been about female empowerment is unnecessary and unfair. In the end, it’s perfectly fine for her to sing of self-determination while shaking her fine ass in peek-a-boo shorts. After all, she woke up like this.

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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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White Girls Have More Fun

Yeah, I know Maya Rudolph ain't white, but she passes better than Tim Tebow. So, whatever.

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Let me begin this missive by admitting that what follows is probably going to offend you.  I say that off top for two reasons.  First, I want you to know that I’m self aware enough to understand the delicate nature of the topic that I’m addressing.  Second, calling out the offensive nature of a piece semi-shields the writer from any subsequent fecal downpour.  It’s kind of like saying, “Hey, I told you that this one might make your ass itch.  Don’t blame me if you read it and got upset.  Matter of fact, I’m mad at YOU for reading it…inconsiderate bastard.”

Look, I can only expound on the truth as I see it.  And well, to be honest, lately I’ve been thinking that white women have a helluva lot of truth on offer.

Eh-hem.  Now that half of you have thrown your computers out of the window in fits of rage not seen since the CW cancelled “The Game,” I’ll continue.

When I say I’m seeing truth, I’m really talking about truth of being.  That is, living life in a way that is consistent with one’s authentic self, which leads to greater enjoyment, AKA fun.  I gotta say that in general, white women seem to be having more of it than their black counterparts.

OK, let me not overstate this.  I’m really talking about a specific part of living life, the part that has to do with love, sex, partying, and general good times.  Whether or not white girls are better at achieving positive work life balance or expressing their own political preferences vs. those of the patriarchy are for another writer to consider.  This is “Recognize & Realize,”  not “Feminism, Poetry, Pop-Culture, Sex.”  (Not that anything is wrong with that, in case the owner of that blog, Stephanie, actually reads this.  I mean, some of my best friends are feminists…)

I should also clarify things by saying that my comments are probably only applicable to educated women, too.  (Incidentally, educated in this context means having secured or on track to securing a college degree.)  Why?  Because those are the women with whom I’ve spent most of my time.  I’d be lying if I said that I could speak to the ins-and-outs (no pun intended) of blue-collar Beths and Bernices, ’cause well, I haven’t really gone there…that much.  All I know is that pound for pound, educated black women have way more stick up their butt, and like the late Bernie Mac said, “I don’t mean that in no nice way.”

A woman's body language can be so hard to read.

Beginning in high school, through grad school, and beyond, I’ve been amazed at the ease with which white women seem to live in their own sexual skins.  Hanky-panky doesn’t necessarily have a freakin’ timetable associated with it in Becky’s books.  It’s like you just say the right thing (or shut the eff up), pull the right levers, be there at there at the right time, and you’re off like a prom dress.  Ridiculously refreshing.  But dude, you could be trapped with a bougie black woman on an island after a zombie apocalypse has decimated 99.9% of the human population, and she’ll still make you wait ’til like the 4th date before she tosses off that grass skirt.  (Do y’all even realize how hard it is to make a coconut martini with REAL coconuts?)

I actually had a black woman tell me, after following up a very steamy initial encounter with a night full of nada in my bed, “You’re a great cuddler.  I wanted to do more, but I can’t go out like that.”  What the shit?!  Did the Great God of Blue Balls threaten to strike her down unless she sacrificed my testes on his nocturnal altar?  What kind of (un)fuckery is this?

Well, noted sociologist E. Franklin Frazier identified the roots of this problem back in the late 1950s.  In his seminal work, “Black Bourgeoisie,” Frazier let it be known that the black middle class was playing the assimilation game – hard.  Because they wanted so badly to be accepted by white folk, they actually tried to culturally OUT-white them.  This cut across multiple aspects of life, including the realm of morality.  As such, we developed the idea that a lady must never give in to desires of the flesh until – I’m guessing here – she can be reasonably certain that The People’s Slut Court would find her not guilty.  I’d argue that assimilation’s conservative grip on their panties is still quite robust and shit, 50 years later.

Meanwhile, white women found the pill in the 60s and never looked the fuck back.  I have to stop here and say that black men bear at least half of the fault for this, with all the “slut” this and “ho” that.  Dudes, if you continue with the double standards, you’re only gonna continue fucking yourself.  Literally.  But sistas, you gotta meet us half way.

Understand that no one is looking for the “Girls Gone Wild” experience.  OK, some people are, but those people are all named Colin and under the age of 25, or they’re over 35, named Eugene, and are registered sex offenders.  What is cool is the idea that folks can get together and feel free to let their hair down, do what they wanna do on their own terms, get it crackin’, or not.  ‘Cause by the way, the “not” can be cool too, sometimes.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, somewhere out there somebody just let out The White Girl Yell.  Whooohooo!

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Death to Chivalry: Notes from a Bearded Feminist

Death Knight

Maybe chivalry is actually UNdead?

Less than four decades after Roe vs. Wade, the thrust of the entire feminist movement is facing death by the most unlikely hands—liberated women.  I think a short history lesson is in order here, because I’m afraid that some of us may not remember how things went down.

Once upon a time, there were men and women, and the line between the two couldn’t be more distinct.  When a man liked a woman he pursued, wooed, and courted her.  Once she was his, the man’s romantic overtures could just as easily disappear as not, while the woman’s work as his de facto maidservant was just beginning. Her only comfort might be the fact that her husband was obligated to protect and sustain her and her children both physically and financially for life…at least in theory.  For generations these traditions were supported by Western society as a whole until, after a protracted struggle that began in the late 19th century and arguably reached its climax in 1973, women decided that enough was enough.

Sadly, less than four decades later, the very progeny of the women who stood up to men in defense of their rights are threatening to throw away the boon of that hard-fought war.  I’m talking about the fact that though most educated women will tell you that they’re strong, independent, and loving it, many continue to have the strangest affection for one of the most insidious tools of oppression ever created by man (and I do mean man)—chivalry.  You may call it being “old-fashioned”, or “traditional”, but it boils down to good old sexism, simple and plain.

At its core, chivalry is about the protection of property, and ladies that property is you.  Doors should be opened because you’re too weak to do it yourself.  Jackets should be draped over girly shoulders because you can’t brave the elements as well as we hardy menfolk can.  And men should always pay for dates because we need to proove that we have what it takes to support you once sign your life away to become our mother-whore.  (After all, when you pick up a stray at the pound, they make sure that you can feed and shelter the flea-bitten cur, don’t they?)  When viewed in the light of truth, how can any sane woman support chivalry’s existence?

The problem is that so few people have the stomach for truth.  (See my earlier note, “The Policy of Truth,” for more on that topic.) It’s much easier to think of chivalry as a set of quaint customs that demonstrate devotion and honor than as enablers of sexual discrimination and objectification. After all, it feels damn good to have someone treat you like royalty. If you can grab a free meal twice a week with absolutely minimal effort, then why not do it? If you can take a trip to some exotic destination on someone else’s dime, why not? I’ll tell you why not: there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Chivalry breeds resentment like you wouldn’t believe in the un-fair sex. The man that consistently drops his credit card for you will be looking for you to drop something of yours in return, and if it doesn’t happen, you’ll be labeled a gold digger. Actually, even if you do make like Beyoncé and let him get you bodied, he’ll probably still label you a gold digger. Now, maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t give a damn. It’s only fair that in exchange for my valuable time, I get something in return.” For any whores reading this, please persist in that thinking. It’s a completely appropriate mindframe for you. Unfortunately for the rest of you ladies, that philosophy only serves to reinforce the mistrust that many men hold for women but tend to keep to themselves…or use to inspire platinum-selling albums.

It’s time for strong and enlightened 21st century women to take their rightful place as the torchbearers for sexual equality. Chivalry was a necessity in the past because it served to bring a modicum of humanity to female-male relationships. Now that most Western women are in control of their own lives, it’s time to move forward. With that said, please don’t misunderstand me: men (particularly white ones) still have a tight grip on the reigns of power. If we don’t abandon the last vestiges of the old broken, oppressive sexual system though, this will never change.

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