Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch...


Hello loves! It's been ages, but I promise there's been a good reason! This year has been a wonderful messy amalgamation of projects and plans that have completely bogged me down. But it's a great problem to have so I can't complain. 

As you might remember, last year I was named as the inaugural fellow for Bitch Media's Writing Fellowship in Pop Culture. Additionally, I'm a month out from the due date of my dissertation for my MA in Mass Communications. All that's on top of my day job! Unfortunately that meant my blog has been a little neglected of late, but it doesn't mean I haven't been writing and reading and learning. I've published some essays I'm very proud of with Bitch Media, and there are more on the way.

"Racebending rebooted franchises allows us to add diverse perspectives to the existing canon of culturally significant narratives, present minority characters in a way that better reflects our varied experiences, and escape the material dangers that a single story can present."-Reboot and Rally: The Revolutionary Opportunities Inherent In Reupping Franchise Favourites
To hear pop culture tell it, no man has ever unabashedly loved a Black woman without "taming her" first. It's significant to have a Black woman who embraces her inner "savage" be acknowledged as the prize that she is: beautiful, successful, ambitious and not at all in search of a partner. 
-Performance Anxiety: Why I'm Here To Watch Drake Worship Rihanna
While Wiley is right that art reflects life and vice versa, she skipped an essential step: Art is meant not just to reflect life, but to comment on it. To distill a universal truth about the mundane lives we live and supply us with a greater understanding of ourselves. The artist’s responsibility is not simply to reproduce the violence that exists, but to deconstruct it. What did this season of OITNB add to the conversation about police brutality that hadn’t already been said? How was this plotline any different from a simple reproduction of Black trauma?-On "Orange Is The New Black" and the Destruction of The Black Body
The stories we tell about ourselves do not exist in a vacuum. As I often say, pop culture is a feedback loop that is both sustained by and contributes to the ways we see ourselves as a society and in relation to each other, so it’s frightening to know that at a cultural level, Black women are considered inconsequential, that our stories exist as incidental to those of white men and women. As Mary McNamara wrote at the Los Angeles Times, “These characters should not be used as seasoning or garland to give a white man’s story a little spice, a little color. They should be telling their stories too, in ways that don’t call for the ultimate sacrifice quite so often.” Television’s boast of increased diversity is meaningless if its stories reinforce the trope that Black female characters are expendable. -When Visibility Isn't Enough: Abigail Mills and the Failed Promised of "Sleepy Hollow"

I have two more wonderful essays in the pipeline and a magazine feature for Bitch Magazine about performative misandry in online feminist spaces (hence Beyoncé.) In a month I'll have graduated and be free to finally start my secret project that I won't divulge here in case I change my mind. This year has been hectic and stressful but I've gotten to write about things that I'm passionate about and be guided by wonderful editors who helped make me a better writer. I'm excited for what 2017 will bring for me, but honestly I'm just trying to get through 2016! I'm so grateful that even though I haven't posted in months, people are still here everyday reading the things I've written and finding value in my work. It's part of what gives me the confidence to pursue my writing professionally. Onward to the new year!



Thursday, 23 June 2016

#GYMTW: On Black Women And The Capitalist System

Fuck You Pay Me

Critiques of black women and capitalism without first properly locating their position with the capitalist system are incomplete, disingenuous and pointless. Discussions about capitalism and who benefits from the existing social structure cannot be flat. They must be intersectional and take into account the varied ways in which capitalism affects people at different levels of society. Everyone is against capitalism when black women demand payment of the money that they worked for, but is happy to support from the ground up, policies and legislation that would funnel wealth back into the hands of the most wealthy.

The backlash to both Beyoncé's Formation and Rihanna's Bitch Better Have My Money indicate a racial bent in the opposition to the fair valuation of labour. In the video for BBHMM, Rihanna and her women of colour #goonsquad kidnap and torture the wealthy white female wife of a white man who is later revealed to be an accountant who stole Rihanna's money. At the end of the video, it is heavily implied that Rihanna dismembers and kills "The Bitch," as he is styled. Opposition to the imagery largely centered on violence enacted on the white woman as a means to harm the "true" culprit, the white man. What these critiques did not acknowledge was their implicit assumption that the white female character was not also complicit in the theft of Rihanna's wealth. But as Lauren Chief Elk points out in her work with Yeoshin Lourdes and Bardot Smith surrounding GYMTW:
"White women are the biggest beneficiaries of white men's historical wealth. When we begin to really dissect what pay inequality means we have to look at it intersectionally. When thinking about wealth redistribution it's important for white women to look at their position to women of color, and examine how for generations they have also exploited us and gained huge advantages off us."
Many people took issue with the line "I just might be the next Bill Gates in the making" in Beyoncé's Formation, citing it as a reflection of Beyoncé's desire to simply replicate systems of oppression through capitalism pioneered by white men. But a black woman possessing the kind of capital that Bill Gates does is so far and away from what the capitalist system imagined for itself as to be a mini-revolution in its own right. As far as I am concerned, wealth transfer to black women in a capitalist system is reparations.


Monday, 2 May 2016

Meditation, Anointing and Anger in Beyoncé's #Lemonade


There's very little that I can add to the conversation about Beyoncé's latest visual masterpiece, Lemonade. The pros, cons, dos and don'ts have already been talked to death, and all the best things have been said. But truthfully I'm more interested in how Lemonade makes me feel. I want to interrogate the reactions I had to what I consider to be one of the most profound pieces of work ever created by a black woman, both artistically and economically.

I watched Lemonade, end to end, on my own. I turned my phone off, silenced my notifications, and paid attention to the journey that Beyoncé had decided to take me on. I watched in awe as black women congregated and communed with each other as Beyoncé lay bear her own feelings and tapped into universal truths about existing both black and female. I cried as a Mardi Gras Indian blessed a dinner table full of empty chairs; places set for people who could never join the offering.

Much has been made of Becky with the good hair; an attempt by white women to find something recognizable to latch onto in a sea of womanhood both public and commercial, that for the first time, deliberately excludes them. But Becky is beside the point. Because the point is that Beyoncé sees us. Beyoncé sees and acknowledges black women and our struggles, and she centered her art around affirming our hurt, our pain, our suspicion and our betrayal. Beyoncé made an (another) album about being a black woman, and the pain and joy that it can entail.


Guiding us through the stages of grief, Beyoncé weaves a story of pain, heartbreak and most of all anger, that is all too familiar to black women. Routinely, we are labelled as crazy or unpredictable without acknowledgement of the abuse that warranted that reaction. We are betrayed and told his infidelity is our sin to bear, we're mocked for our attempts to become the women the world holds in high esteem. Lemonade explores the blatant lies and half-truths that black women are forced to swallow and the pathology we are cursed to bear. But most importantly it justifies the delicious destruction born of righteous and justified anger. It allows our anger, ever stymied, always dismissed, to bubble over, froth and foment, and acknowledges it as a valid reaction to repeated abuse. As Ijeoma Oluo writes in the Guardian:

This expectation of black women to suffer in silence is passed from generation to generation. Beyoncé explores this inheritance unflinchingly: "You remind me of my father - a magician, able to exist in two places at once/In the tradition of men in my blood you come home at 3am and lie to me."

And it is this inheritance that Beyoncé rejects throughout Lemonade. She refuses to suffer in silence, and instead delves deep into the hurt and betrayal that has rended her life and her love apart, and encourages us all to do the same. She rips our generational burden to shreds and sets herself and us, on a path to redemption through shared communion. The hurt she explores here is real and familiar; an old prophecy passed from mother to daughter and back again, repeated ad infinitum until it fulfills itself. It is a battle we prepare for from the moment we are old enough to distinguish our blackness.