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Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Guest Blogger: Tami

One of my favorite bloggers is Tami. Check out her analysis of the movie "Sexism in the City" and the issues surrounding it.
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Serenity now! Entitlement, Sexism, Racism... and Carrie


(Warning: "Sex and the City" spoiler included)

Yesterday I finally got around to reading the latest issue of Newsweek and Ramin Setoodeh's article "Sexism in the City," which suggests that criticism of the blockbuster movie is largely sexist. As evidence, Setoodeh ( a male) points to the movie's lackluster reviews that seem in disproportion to its box office haul and to what appears to be a rogue effort by male reviewers on IMDB to give "Sex" an artificially low rating. The writer wraps the article up with the media narrative du jour: "See, this is the sexism that Hillary Clinton was talking about!"

Speaking of which, it's tempting to draw the parallel between the "Sex" haters and the Hillary haters. Ms. Clinton argued that sexism took down her campaign. No way, taunt the Obamaniacs. Fine. But we can all imagine a lunch between Hillary and Carrie, perhaps at a diner somewhere on Manhattan's Upper West Side. What would they talk about? Were the guys who held up the "Iron My Shirt!" signs for Hillary the same ones who voted Sarah Jessica Parker the unsexiest woman alive? And were they the ones who refused to vote for Hillary at all? Carrie once said, "Man may have discovered fire, but women discovered how to play with it." And long ago Hillary said, "I'm not some little woman standing by my man, like Tammy Wynette." She was more like Carrie: too big for that.

I was a huge fan of "Sex and the City," the HBO series, but the big screen flick? Meh! Good, not great. It was nice to see the gang again, but the movie illustrated why you can't go backwards in life. When "Sex" debuted in 1998, I was single and 20-something in a big city and it was fun to watch single, carefree women, who lived in a bigger city with bigger apartments, cooler jobs, more money, better shoes and more sex with hotter guys. It was fun fantasy. By contrast, the 2008 big screen version was a little too much "Marital problems in the city" for me--not so fun, frivolous or carefree. It was an hour too long. The broad humor (including diarrhea and bikini waxing jokes) seemed out of place. And it reminded me of why the "Sex" series finale so pissed me off: No smart woman wants to marry the commitment-phobe who strung her along for a decade, cheating, marrying and divorcing someone else, and ultimately when he finally gets back around to said "smart" woman--leaving her at the altar. And no best girlfriend worth her salt would ever support such madness.

But my thoughts on "Sex and the City," the big screen version, are not the point. Newsweek's article using the film's reviews as evidence of the direness of sexism today made my bullshit meter clang like firehouse alarm, and this isn't the first time since January that I have found myself scratching my head at gender violations the media and mainstream feminists tell me I am to be outraged about. Once again, I am left wondering why there is such a disconnect between the equality I want and the equality some of my sisters want, such a gap between their outrage and my outrage.

I've been toying with the idea in my head that part of the schism relates to entitlement and differing expectations. As a black woman in America, facing race as a primary barrier to navigate, I am used to being "other," used to being underestimated, used to being ignored and dismissed, used to people saying ridiculously biased things, used to my culture not being understood, used to not being validated, used to being thought of as "less than." I have no expectation that any of these fruits of race bias will go away soon. I'll just succeed in spite of them.

This is a white supremacist culture. Race bias is pervasive, if not always overt or even intentional. We simply all learn (every American) that white = normal = good. It will take a long time before Americans as individuals are purged of this bias. In the meantime, those of us committed to anti-racism must work to take away the institutional and legal barriers that block people of color from life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yes, we need to work on hearts and minds, too, but even as we stand poised to elect the first black President of the United States, experience tells me that:
...Most white movie reviewers are not going to "get" the popularity and big box office returns of Tyler Perry's Madea movies (not sure I get it either)

...Some white people that I encounter are going to instinctively reach to touch my natural hair without my permission

...If I ever return to the corporate realm, some white person will no doubt mistake me for an administrative assistant rather than an executive

...White people will continue to praise me for being "so articulate" and not "even sounding black."

...There will always be white people that feel the need to bring up civil rights issues, hip hop or "black things" whenever they talk to me

...The behaviors of black people, like...oh...say...the giving of "dap," will be exoticized and scrutinized and dissected into the ground

These things are annoyances--the dull aches of modern racism. I'm not saying they don't matter--they do--but the major aches matter more. I'm more concerned with making sure that my stepson's former classmates back on the majority black Southside of Chicago get the same high-quality education he is now getting in a majority white suburb in Central Indiana; or that young black women like Mildred Beaubrun don't have to die because men feel entitled to their bodies; or that black women get the health care they need to lower our higher-than-average mortality and disease rates; or that my brothers and sisters in places like Haiti are provided the same chances for immigration as people in other parts of the Western world. These things are important; that a white acquaintance of mine occasionally uses "nappy" as synonym for "unkempt" is low on the list of priorities. (Yes, I do check it when I hear it.)
I think being black in America has given me a certain level of serenity. You know the Serenity Prayer?

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

A warrior has to pick her battles and when you turn every annoyance into a grave injustice--you use up power that should be devoted to the war. If I, as a black woman, raged at every instance of race bias, I would be a very angry woman, indeed.

In this country and every other one, people cling to their groups. They favor what they know. Prejudice exists. It will always exist in some form or another. It is part of the human condition. If not race or gender, the prejudice will be about something else. I know that I will encounter it. I navigate around it the best I know how.

But many recent articles about the 2008 Democratic primary, even those written by feminists, express SHOCK that sexism is pervasive in America and outrage at even the most tenuous example of gender bias. There is an entitlement I find in the writing of second wave feminists like Gloria Steinem and Erica Jong and Linda Hirshman. They are entitled to what they want, when they want it.They are entitled to always have their efforts and needs exalted. They are entitled to always be validated. They are entitled to never encounter bias--minor or major.

The sexism revealed by Hillary Clinton's run for the White House did not shock me. As a woman, I expect to encounter sexism. I understand this is a male supremacist culture. Gender bias is pervasive, if not always overt or even intentional. We simply all learn (every American) that male = smart, powerful, competent leader. It will take a long time before Americans as individuals are purged of this bias. In the meantime, those of us committed to women's equality must work to take away the institutional and legal barriers that block women from life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In my mind, that means ensuring that women have control over their right to (and right not to) reproduce; that the wage gap is closed between genders (and races); that good childcare becomes available to all women; that women are safe from rape and violence; that good black men don't become so extinct that heterosexual black women can't find husbands; that girls--no matter where they live--have access to good educations and are accepted in any field they choose to pursue.

There will always be some jackass who thinks it is cute to yell, "Iron my shirt." Most men are never going to "get" a movie centered on female friendships and expensive shoes. The "shrill, nagging wife" meme will be around probably as long as men have wives. Some guys will continue to smarmily call women "sweetie" on the job. And the division of labor in your average American household will likely continue to be less than a desirable 50/50. These are the dull aches of being a woman. And they aren't going away soon.

Perhaps the schism between American mainstream feminists and feminists of color comes down to the different ways we move in the world and the different burdens we carry. Maybe the Steinems and Ferraros and Clintons, used to a certain amount of privilege, feel entitled to a life free of dull aches, while the hooks and the Walkers and the Braziles know such a life doesn't exist.

Should feminists of color lend our mainstream sisters some serenity? Or has pervasive racism lowered our expectations so that we fail to fight for what we deserve?

8 comments:

SagaciousHillbilly said...

That was really good. Perhaps we all need to be a little more gentle and kind to everyone.
I remember one time going off on a co-worker because he said something really dumb about some racial issue. I really insulted him in my tirade. The next day I apologized profusely to him because I realized that this was a good person who simply didn't know better and it would be much more beneficial to him and everyone else if I were to quietly and kindly explain to him what his misconceptions were and why what he said was inappropriate.
DIALOG! We must have dialog. This hillbilly is always waving the flag of "education." What better education is there than people talking amongst themselves and explaining thier perspective to each other.
What will it take for all of us to be able to do that without fear?

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hey there Daddy!

I didn't see the movie. It did not seem interesting to me AT ALL...I suppose I've seen those characters too much throughout my life to pay $10 for a ticket and $10 for parking to watch them for another 90 minutes.

What I have read on the blog, Anxious Black Woman that Jennifer Hudson played the stereotypical 'black' character ....she played the modern day Mammy who was so deeply committed to helping "Miss Carrie" with her problems and she was too poor to afford the life that "Miss Carrie" had so "Miss Carrie" bought her a purse... {rolling my eyes}

Now THAT is really tiring...

I think it is interesting that Tami mentioned that race was the primary barrier to navigate...many white women would say sex is the primary barrier that THEY must navigate...and some black women would say that class has been the primary barrier to navigate...

Thanks for sharing this!

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!
Lisa

Anonymous said...

OMIGOD -- I haven't seen the movie, but saw in the trailer that they had "pasted in" a black female character at a poor attempt at inclusion, I suppose -- e.g., the way all corporate communication directors include pictures of blacks, whites, etc. on brochures and Websites to let everyone know they are diverse . . Why not have written in the character of a strong, smart black female character who CARRIE worked for??????

MacDaddy said...

Hey, Lisa: It's so interesting that you brought up Tami's notion about the race factor. Here in Minneapolis, I hang out at this bar called The Times Bar & Cafe. Sometimes, sisters who used to work with me, or who got to know through my consulting work with non-profits, drop in and hang with me after work.

In conversations with different sets of sisters, I can't recall one of them putting sex or sexuality up front. They talked about what small role, or no role, black folks have on shows like Friends and Sex in the City, including the movie. It was more like black folks are just pushed to the end of the line, the back of the bus, if you will, all the time-- even in a city like New York. They mentioned that this was especially true of black women, but it was about us as a whole: how it was just like the tv series Friends, where blacks either don't exist or exist very little at all; how Jennifer Hudson was just a throw-in and when is the movie industry going to acknowledge that black folks are not just criminals but have real lives too: you know, involved in complicated relationships, have jobs where they have to work with their asses off to make their dumb ass, arrogant boss look good or have to fire a good friend, because she spends too much time trying to deal with personal problems and neglects her job, i.e., acknowledge that blacks folks have a life too.

Now, they may have NOT said some things, because I'm a guy, but I don't think so. They know me; and they say what they whatever they want anyway. I hope that made sense.

A.F. said...

Bravo!

I deeply suspected that someone was going to publish an article with this kind of bizarre logic, somehow comparing the S/C movie and the Clinton campaign: 'Carrie once said, "Man may have discovered fire, but women discovered how to play with it." And long ago Hillary said, "I'm not some little woman standing by my man, like Tammy Wynette." She was more like Carrie: too big for that.'

Is it just me, or would this reasoning be marked down even in a high school English paper?

This is a great, insightful post. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Kellybelle said...

So much good stuff in this post. You got me on the implausibility of a woman marrying a commitment phobe,who strung her along for ten years AND stood her up at the altar. Good point. But women like to pretend Prince Charming and the fairy tale will surmount any obstacle no matter what. thanks for pointing that out.

Also, I don't think calling SJP unsexy is sexist. It's more about white supremacy. She has been deemed by some as unattractive because she does not look like the typical beauty: small, button nose, big wide eyes, tall, busty, etc. I like that she decided she was beautiful and works with what she's got.

And I co-sign with all the travails of being a Black woman in a white society: the touching of the hair, being mistaken for a secretary, being called articulate for speaking my native language.

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

@ Daddy

That is interesting!

What I hear a lot is that many black people label different situations racism...a sista who doesn't get a promotion is saying it was racism when really it could have been sexism or classism...sometimes the ASSUMPTION is made that a person's actions towards them were simply about race...but they are actually speculating unless something was SAID to actually prove that those actions were not motivated by classism or sexism...

I've worked in education, in community service and in the corporate world and OFTEN I have seen black people get shafted because of race but more so because of classism...I saw that I was being treated DIFFERENTLY than other blacks...yet they would probably say to each other that they were being subjugated due to their race...I don't think many of our people are as keen on recognizing classism that is perpetrated by whites but they DO notice it when perpetrated by blacks...

@ Kellybelle!

I think that the reason why Sarah Jessica Parker was called unsexy is because she is a Jew ...and that's anti-semitism pure and simple...she does not look Aryan and is deemed LESS attractive...same thing with the girl Blossom (that tv show with the pre-teen actress who was Jewish)...and the girl in "Dirty Dancing"...Jennifer (somebody) *smile*

Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler are Jews and are both deemed unattractive also...

I think that often black people don't see anti-semitism because they are focused on the bigotry that exists against blacks.

Thanks for all of these great insights...this is a great conversation!

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!
Lisa

Cali Tejano said...

I must confess I liked SITC when it was on HBO, but I probably won't see the movie until it's on DVD or InDemand. I understand how these movies are about expensive shoes, clothes and relationships, but I don't understand why some of them also center on putting men down.