Has Reality T.V Re-defined the Archetypes of Black Women?

598477_10152033375699182_1917601437_n_zpsab087d0eThis past Sunday, my roommate and I attended a Blood, Sweat, and Heels viewing event, hosted by one of the cast members of the show: Demetria Lucas. This event got me thinking about the impact of reality t.v shows. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this particular reality t.v show, its really like every other reality t.v show out there: a bunch of beautiful women being petty, throwing shade & shopping, etc. Initially, before the show aired, my roommate and I hoped that this show would be more well-rounded than most reality t.v shows since the cast is full of  young, successful,  beautiful, black women who all seem to be doing quite well professionally. But it wouldn’t be Bravo or reality television, if the depiction of these women stopped here.

Instead of bashing Bravo and other networks like it, for constructing, producing, and airing countless reality t.v shows that perpetuate stereotypes of all races and genders, I’m simply interested in the fact that huge networks like Bravo have re-configured the Black Woman Archetype.There has been a shift in how black women are portrayed in popular culture and that is partly due to the fact that:  A.) Popular Culture/ Media has changed tremendously  B.) The networks have  re-defined new archetypes through the domination of reality t.v shows. Reality shows have changed the landscape of  television and exposed society to more Black women on television, which would be great if the scope of depiction wasn’t so limited.

Historically speaking, popular culture has perpetuated 5 major Black Women Archetypes (The Mammy, The Matriarch, The Jezebel, The  Angry Black Woman, and The Welfare Queen.)  Of course there are outliers, but most depictions of black women in popular culture have fallen under one of these categories. These  Archetypes are of course still prevalent, but on a much smaller scale.

The archetypes now at the forefront in popular culture, as I see it, are: The Hood Rat, The Bitch, The Jezebel, The Desperate Single,  The Bible- Thumper, and The Drunk. “The Hood Rat” is the black woman constantly shown screaming/ cussing in public and instigating fights. She is often depicted as crazy and irrational (i.e Momma Dee on Love and Hip- Hop Atlanta) . “The Bitch” is the black woman who often emasculates men and often speaks to/about people with little to no tact or regard to people’s feelings. She is often portrayed as angry and aggressive (i.e Mimi Faust on Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta.) “The Jezebel” is the black woman who is depicted as promiscuous (i.e Melissa from Blood, Sweat, and Heels.) “The Desperate Single” is the black woman who is depicted as unlovable, the one who feels she “needs” a man, and who often settles for mediocre men to compensate for her loneliness( i.e not a reality t.v star, but Mary Jane from Being Mary Jane.) “The Bible-Thumper” is the black woman who constantly quotes the Bible, is “married to Jesus,” and often hypocritically judges people for their “ungodly” behavior (i.e  Daisy from Blood Sweet, and Heels, and Phaedra from Real Housewives of Atlanta.) “The Drunk” is the black woman  often deemed emotional-unstable, the woman constantly drinking too much, and often shown in  embarrassing situations due to her inebriation (i.e Mica from Blood, Sweet, and Heels.) 

There is a difference between these women’s reality t.v personas and who they are in their everyday lives. In other words, regardless of who these women are, reality television forces them into the nearest archetypal box. Some of them go willingly, because these Archetypes mean major dollars for networks and cast members. And while they’re all getting paid, black women are left to combat the stereotypes and typecasting that is perpetuated by these reality t.v shows. 

I made the bold assumption that ALL adults were aware of the fictitiousness of  reality t.v shows. And I think the majority of people are consciously aware of this fact, but somewhere subconsciously, we get caught up/sucked in and forget that reality t.v shows are simply re-packaged sitcoms. Black women are the stars of numerous reality t.v shows, so what does that mean when networks like Bravo are predominantly viewed by white women? It means that instead of viewing an authentic depiction of black women, they are simply given the Archetype(s) deemed most entertaining and realistic by the writers, producers, directors,etc. Simply put, society gets a very limited depiction of black womanhood. Society then takes these unauthentic depictions of black woman and accepts it not only as reality, but tries to force all black women into these Archetypes.

In a perfect world, we would be represented on television  in a way that is authentic, consistently positive, and inclusive of various depictions of black women. But at the end of the day, we can not depend on nor expect popular culture, reality t.v, and anything in between, to have our backs. To begin with,  we must  stop supporting these sub-par reality television shows. Many black women watch reality t.v shows not only because they are entertaining, but because  to some extent we can relate, but  we are more than these few depictions. We must also engage in dialogue with our fellow sisters and others about ways in which reality t.v shows are problematic and enforce negative/harmful stereotypes.  Lastly and possibly most importantly, we must to talk to our youth: black girls and black boys about the difference between reality and reality television; they need to know and see that there are black women who do not fit the Archetypal mold.  They have to see that there is more. We have to prove that there is more.

Finding A Place In the Hip Hop Ecosystem by: Jon Caramanica

A couple of hours after the Grammys on Sunday night, Macklemore sent a text to Kendrick Lamar, whom he had just beaten out for  best rap album.

“You got robbed,” the text read. “I wanted you to win. You should have. It’s weird.” He added, “I robbed you.”

As a private act, this was a love letter, a way for an artist to honor a peer. As a public act — Macklemore posted an image of the text on his Instagram account, although it’s unclear whether it was with Mr. Lamar’s knowledge — it was a cleansing and an admission of guilt. Not only did Macklemore want to show respect to his fellow rapper, he wanted the world to know that he understands his place in the hip-hop ecosystem and that he is still careful where he steps.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, the Seattle duo that has spent the last year upending the rules about how hip-hop interacts with mainstream pop, won four Grammys on Sunday night, for best new artist and in three rap categories (best performance and best song for “Thrift Shop” and best album for “The Heist”).

The rap awards were the most tortured, for artists and observers alike. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have experienced a very peculiar sort of hip-hop fame, one that has little to do with approval from the center of hip-hop, and it has unfolded largely without black gatekeepers, a traditional hallmark of white rappers through the years. Instead Macklemore & Ryan Lewis jumped straight from the independent hip-hop underground to the pop charts, which has left them scrambling to shore up their bona fides retroactively.

So when he bests Mr. Lamar — and Jay Z, Drake and Kanye West — for a rap award, he makes sure he kisses the ring. “I robbed you” is a strikingly powerful phrase in this context: a white artist muscling into a historically black genre, essentially uninvited, and taking its laurel. This is the entire cycle of racial borrowing in an environment of white privilege in a nutshell: black art, white appropriation, white guilt, repeat until there’s nothing left to appropriate.

To many, that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were nominated in the rap categories at all was an affront. Hip-hop purists love a good debate about boundaries and who gets to police them. (Almost certainly Macklemore was one of those purists, until he couldn’t be anymore because of his fame.) Last week The Associated Press reported that the two were almost eliminated from competition in those categories altogether by subcommittee members who felt they were, in essence, too pop — and, presumably too white. Like a border militia tasked with passing judgment on infiltrators, those voters attempted a sort-of Grammy version of jury nullification, to no avail.

The idea was, of course, preposterous. Part of accepting hip-hop’s growth into a pop music juggernaut is to accept that its edges are fuzzier than they once were. “The Heist” is undeniably a hip-hop album, though Macklemore’s songs have more in common with those by rappers like Flo Rida or Pitbull, dance-music-friendly artists who are rarely heard on traditional hip-hop radio. But Flo Rida and Pitbull  are not white.

The rapper Macklemore performs onstage during the 56th Grammy Awards on Sunday. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
The rapper Macklemore performs onstage during the 56th Grammy Awards on Sunday. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

And part of consuming the Grammys is to accept that when it comes to niche categories, chaos will reign. (The Grammys are one of the few remaining contexts in which hip-hop could be called niche.) Voting in these cases remains a catastrophically broken process. Last week  Complex published an article by a Grammy voter detailing some parts of the system, which included this behind-the-scenes tidbit passed from one voter to the next: “be careful about greenlighting an album by someone who was really famous if you don’t want to see that album win a Grammy.” Macklemore isn’t more famous than Jay Z or Mr. West, but the nature of his fame is different — it’s likely to have registered with a wider swath of Grammy voters who would be comfortable voting for him in a way they might not have been for Mr. Lamar.

Presumably Macklemore didn’t text his feelings to the others he bested, either because they didn’t need to hear them or he doesn’t have their numbers, or both. Of the three, only Jay Z was in attendance, though mostly to perform with his wife, Beyoncé, and later dance with her in the aisles as Daft Punk performed. He also won the Grammy for best rap/sung collaboration, with Justin Timberlake.

Mr. Lamar, the least well known of that category’s nominees, “deserved best rap album,” Macklemore added in the comment section of the photo he posted. But note that he didn’t say album of the year, another category in which both were nominated (and lost to Daft Punk). If Mr. Lamar made a better rap album than Macklemore did, then didn’t he make a better album over all? Or was Macklemore ceding the traditionally black category while keeping his claim on the broader one? (Eminem has won the best rap album Grammy five times.)

In his effort to be gracious, Macklemore was uncomfortably splitting hairs. As has so often happened in the year or so since he emerged as a pop force, an act that was presumably meant to be selfless and open-minded instead came off as one of self-congratulatory magnanimity. It’s the same problem that bedevils him with “Same Love,” his song about marriage equality, which he performed at Sunday’s awards ceremony (accompanied by Mary Lambert and, perversely, a wild-eyed Madonna) as the soundtrack to 33 weddings, gay and straight, over which Queen Latifah officiated. It’s an almost messianic song, and a deeply self-serving way to discuss an issue like equality.

In interviews, Macklemore speaks readily about his position of privilege and the role it has played in catapulting him to fame. But incidents like the text to Mr. Lamar reinforce the narrative of Macklemore as tortured intruder, keen to relish his success but stressed about all the shoulders he’s had to step on along the way. It’s a transparent ploy for absolution, and a warning of robberies to come.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/28/arts/music/finding-a-place-in-the-hip-hop-ecosystem.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

The Myth Of The Absent Black Father by:Tara Culp-Ressler

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published new data on the role that American fathers play in parenting their children. Most of the CDC’s previous research on family life — which the agency explores as an important contributor to public health and child development — has focused exclusively on mothers. But the latest data finds that the stereotypical gender imbalance in this area doesn’t hold true, and dads arejust as hands-on when it comes to raising their kids.

That includes African-American fathers.

In fact, in its coverage of the study, the Los Angeles Times noted that the results “defy stereotypes about black fatherhood” because the CDC found that black dads are moreinvolved with their kids on a daily basis than dads from other racial groups:

black fatherhoodCREDIT: LOS ANGELES TIMES

In some cases, the differences between black fathers and white or Latino fathers weren’t statistically significant. Nonetheless, the fact that there’s no dramatic drop-off for African-American fathers is still a surprising revelation for some people.

Considering the fact that “black fatherhood” is a phrase that is almost always accompaniedby the word “crisis” in U.S. society, it’s understandable that the CDC’s results seem innovative. But in reality, the new data builds upon years of research that’s concluded that hands-on parenting is similar among dads of all races. There’s plenty of scientific evidence to bust this racially-biased myth.

The Pew Research Center, which has tracked this data for years, consistently finds no big differences between white and black fathers. Gretchen Livingston, one of the senior researchers studying family life at Pew, wasn’t at all surprised by the new CDC data. “Blacks look a lot like everyone else,” she pointed out.

Although black fathers are more likely to live separately from their children — the statistic that’s usually trotted out to prove the parenting “crisis” — many of them remain just as involved in their kids’ lives. Pew estimates that 67 percent of black dads who don’t live with their kids see them at least once a month, compared to 59 percent of white dads and just 32 percent of Hispanic dads.

And there’s compelling evidence that number of black dads living apart from their kids stems from structural systems of inequality and poverty, not the unfounded assumption that African-American men somehow place less value on parenting. Equal numbers of black dads and white dads tend to agree that it’s important to be a father who provides emotional support, discipline, and moral guidance. There’s one area of divergence in the way the two groups approach their parental responsibilities: Black dads are even more likely to think it’s important to financially provide for their children.

Dr. Roberta L. Coles, a sociology professor at Marquette University, has also researched black fathers for nearly a decade. Her most well-known work includes The Best Kept Secret: Single Black Fathers and The Myth of the Missing Black Father: The Persistence of Black Fatherhood in America. Like Pew, Coles has also found that even though black dads may be less likely to marry their kids’ mothers, they typically remain involved in raising their children.

In an interview with the Grio this week, Coles explained that she’s invested in continuing to challenge the prevailing stereotypes in this area. “It’s important to get it out there that that’s not the whole picture,” Coles noted. “People need to know there are men out there trying to do their best.”

That’s the same reason that Kenrya Rankin Naasel recently published Bet On Blacka collection of essays in which African-American women share their stories of being raised by great fathers. “For years, we’ve all been bombarded with statistics that scream our men are not up to the important task of fathering,” she explained in an interview with BET about her project. “Ultimately, I hope that Bet On Black challenges the rhetoric about our families and changes the conversation to one that celebrates rather than denigrates.”

Despite the concrete evidence to dispel the prevailing assumptions about black dads, the conversation is still dominated by headlines like “What’s the Problem with Black Fathers?” and “Who’s Your Daddy: The Epidemic Of Absent Black Fathers.” President Obama hasdrawn some criticism for repeatedly delivering speeches about the importance of fatherhood to nonwhite audiences. And this past fall, when Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s two-year-old son tragically passed away, the media wasted no time falling back on all the stereotypes about irresponsible black dads.

The resistance to the research in the field may speak to the fact that racially-motivated stereotypes are particularly hard to break out of. For instance, despite the wealth of evidence disproving Americans’ assumptions about welfare recipients, the deeply-ingrained myth of the “welfare queen” remains.

Source: Think Progress

Why “Being Mary Jane” leaves me feeling less than Merry

I usually don’t keep up with t.v sitcoms/series, but because I’m an avid Gabrielle Union fan, I’ve been keeping up with her relatively new series, Being Mary Jane. And although I enjoy the plot, characters,etc, at the end of every episode, I am left feeling disheartened and disappointed at the realities that Mary Jane faces. I’m left feeling saddened at the fact that I know so many Mary Janes. Don’t get me wrong, Mary Jane is strong, beautiful, self-sufficient, and has a great career, but so many of the themes touched on in the series reflect problems I see daily in the lives of woman I know and love.

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I’m pleased to see a depiction of a black woman that is not over-sexualized and somewhat steps outside the narrow depiction of African-American women on television. I love that she has successful women of color in her inner circle. I love that her parents are still married and seem to have a healthy relationship. I like that she has a successful career and seems to be doing well financially. She’s strong, yet vulnerable, and as a woman of color, its nice to have that difficult juxtapose included in the show, especially since many women of color struggle with that balance, myself included.

Even with all of things I like about the show, there is a reoccurring theme that spoils it all for me. As harsh as it may sound, I am extremely bothered by how desperate Mary Jane appears to be. Its hard for me to watch  Mary Jane struggle with her yearnings for love and attention. It would be so powerful for the writers to allow Mary Jane to discover and acknowledge that it is her own love and affection she is so desperately seeking. She is willing to settle for less when it comes to love, rather than being alone.So often, I have seen this theme played out in the lives of women I love dearly.  I once wrote, “I’ve watched the strongest of women be broken down by the weakest of men.”

I can’t help but question the messages shows like this send our young girls of color.

This show teaches that as black women, we must do whatever it takes to obtain the love we think we deserve from a man, even if that man is already in a relationship or married and/or not capable of giving us the love we deserve. But even on a deeper level, is it implying that we are so undesirable and unlovable that we must do whatever it takes to attain even the slightest inkling of love? Does it teach us that we must settle for mediocre love, because mediocre love is better than the no “love” at all? This show dedicates so much time to Mary Jane maintaining the love of a man, but neglects to put any emphasis on her finding some much needed  self-love.

As I watch this show,  this particular theme continues to  re-surface in my thoughts and haunt me after the show is over. Why is this such a common theme in the African- American female community? How does this mindset reflect relationships in the African-American community? Rates of Marriages?  Teenage pregnancy, etc? I’m not making the bold assumption that a lack of self love is directly correlated to these topics and/or statistics. I am simply wondering how this theme reflects the stark realities women of color face on a daily basis.

Check out this Similiar Article on For Harriet

Book Review: The Awesome Girl’s Guide to Dating Extraordinary Men

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A few weeks back, I was perusing one of my favorite blogs   For Harriet, and read an article titled 10 Books Released by Black Women in 2013 You Should Read.  Usually I stick with classic authors like Morrison or Angelou; I’m not too familiar with relatively new Afro-American authors like Ms. Carter, but I thought I’d try something new and bought this book.
Here’s 10 reasons why you should also read The Awesome Girl’s Guide to Dating Extraordinary Men:

1. She’s a young black , female author, so of course, we want to support our fellow sister.
2. This sister can write, seriously. Her plot, characterization, use of flashbacks, all that literary jazz, is on point. Plus the plot twist at the end of this novel definitely throws the reader for a loop.
3. Her characters represents a broad spectrum of the black women we all know. There’s the conservative/Christian sister, the  rocker/wild/lesbian sister, the bougie/all-together sister, the semi-crazy sister with locs/major relationship issues,etc.
4. There was actually a plot to this novel. Not simply a lot of sex or vulgarity disguised as a plot, which I often encounter when I attempt to read Black “Romance” Novels.
5. The book really isn’t about finding an extraordinary man. It’s really about 4 women finding themselves, discovering peace, all while juggling work,life, and one another. Its really a coming-of-age  novel for women in their late 20’s/ early 30’s.
6.  The characters and the events that take place in the novel are hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud one too many times in public. So thank-you Ms. Carter for making me embarrass myself by laughing/ talking under my breath while reading your novel in public.
7. A good author makes you feel a full-range of emotions while reading their work. This novel had me laughing hysterically, teary-eyed, enraged to the point where I  was ready to jump in the book and fight someone for one of the main characters, teary-eyed with joy, and every emotion in between.
8. Her novels has quotes like ” Never put your life on hold for a guy. Your life is your biggest project and it should always be your number-one priority.”  Umm can we can an “Amen” on that one, please?
9. And call me superficial and/or basic, but why wouldn’t I want to read a novel that is bright orange, with cute lipsticks on the cover? Exactly.
10.  I actually procrastinated reading the last 20 pages because the novel was that good. I honestly didn’t want the novel to end, so I prolonged finishing the novel for about a week. It’s literally a page-turner; I read the first few 100 pages within the first couple hours of having the book.

So Thank-you Ms. Ernessa Carter for your creative mind and this wonderful novel.

Why Are Black Women so Angry?

Just last week, I was talking to my roommate about problematic,internet platforms like worldstarhiphop. Alas, this week, Marc Lamont Hill hosted a  panel on Huff Post Live to discuss how  worldstarhiphop normalizes and incentivizes violence amongst people of color. I was extremely excited because 1. I have been voicing my concerns about this website for years now and 2. Professor Brittney Cooper is all that and a bag of chips and I couldn’t wait to hear the valuable thoughts she’d bring to the discussion.  The discussion panel also included RhymeFest, Professor Shayne Lee, Filmmaker Mandon Lovett, and T.V personality Amanda Seales.

**Sidenote: I’ve done a pretty good job of avoiding the Sharkeisha video. I refuse to watch it because I have no desire to support worldstarhiphop nor the unsettling pathologies videos like this perpetuate. So of course, they opened the discussion with footage of the fight, in which, I was angry, because I had done such a good job of avoiding the fight. I digress.

So I’m watching the panel discussion, I’m agreeing with half of what’s being said and disagreeing with the other half, the usual. At some point Professor Cooper aka Proffessor Crunk (check out her: http://www.crunkfeministcollective.com)  brings up the valid point that violence initiated and carried out by a black man against another black man is taken with a higher rate of severity and call to action than violence initiated and carried out by a black woman against another black woman. She supported this notion by pointing out our culture’s reaction to the Sharkeisha video. We have laughed, shared the video amongst co-workers, and snickered when watching this violent video. I am curious as to why violence between black women is taken with a grain of salt?  What pathologies have developed in our culture where this behavior is basically encouraged by the prospect of internet fame?

Anyways, at this point in the discussion, all hell broke lose. RhymeFest found it somewhere deep in his patriachial-filled heart to raise his voice at this sister while asking her, “Why you so mad?” She held her own,obviously, and stated her point very clearly and informatively.

But to RhymeFest and to everyone else who can’t understand why Professor Cooper and womanist like myself are mad, here’s a glimpse into the reason: Black women are constantly being silenced and asked to stay in our place. These messages are sent explicitly through our interactions with black/white men and implicitly through racially-charged stereotypes that impact society’s perceptions of us. We are hardly ever allowed to express ourselves, our struggles, our pains, without being typecast as the “Angry Black Woman,” even when these expressions are valid and grounded in sound rationale. And in the select platforms we are given to express our opinions, such as this, we are asked to back down and think of the greater good before our own (which is what we have been known to do since the beginning of the African-American family.)

Rhymefest accused Professor Cooper of bringing division to the “good fight.” The “good fight” being the fight against violence in black communities aka the fight to end violence amongst black men. If there is division, which there is, it is because many black men  refuse to acknowledge the experience(s) of the black woman. They refuse to support our fight, simply because they can’t wipe enough patriarchal, misogynistic, and sexist crust out of their eyes to see merit in our struggles and in our attempts to surpass these struggles.  It is as if they feel our success will put theirs in jeopardy.

Why are we constantly asked to be silenced? Why are we constantly asked to validate, support, and uphold the black man, when there is no reciprocation? We are not asking for validation, but so much as a mutual understanding of the under workings of oppression, sexisms, etc that influence black women’s lives daily. It is not that we do not love our men, our community, and our kids, it is that we no longer find it advantageous to put our experiences aside for the sake of the community. We are better than that and we deserve more.

So yes, we are angry RhymeFest and we have every right to be.

http:/http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/worldstarhiphop-violence/52d0424478c90a7d3800048d