A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf – A Summary

In an excerpt from her extended essay, “A Room of One’s Own,” author Virginia Woolf examines the obstacles and prejudices that have hindered women writers before the 20th. She deploys a number of methodologies: historical and sociological analysis, fictional hypothesis, and philosophy, to answer her initial question of why there have been so few female writers. She ties their minority status largely to socioeconomic factors, specifically their poverty and lack of privacy. Her main theme throughout the essay is that a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write creatively.

            Woolf also exposes the gender consciousness that she believes cripples both male and female writers. Most men she maintains, derogate women to maintain their own superiority and most women are angry and insecure about their inferior status in society. Male writing, then, is too aggressive, whereas women’s writing is reactive. Both genders obscure their subjects and instead focus on themselves and their own personal grievances. The writer of incandescent genius, Woolf maintains, rises beyond his or her petty gripes and attains a heightened, objective relationship with reality; the subject is the world, not the writer’s self.            She argues that the reason there were so few prominent, highly respected women authors before the twentieth century is because most women had not led lives conducive to creating great art or literature. She maintains that there was no actual body of notable women’s literature because, in the past, women did not have the education, the income, the privacy, the experiences of travel to broaden their world, or the time to write. Dominated by men throughout history, females have been denied access to education, independent travel, and to publication. Without income, women are totally dependent upon men.

           Women are responsible for bearing children, and in almost all cases have the primary responsibility for bringing them up. Few have the luxury of hired help. Although rewarding in many ways, child rearing allows for little privacy, independence and solitude, prerequisite conditions for writing, painting or composing. If privacy is nonexistent, interruptions block creativity. In this essay, she clearly states that what a woman needs is a room of her own and a guaranteed fixed income in order to write noteworthy fiction. Here she challenges women to become economically self sufficient in order to acquire the necessary intellectual freedom to create outstanding literature. She believed that the remarkable, the momentous could be found amongst the mundane details and occurrences of everyday life. She encourages women to write about all of the “minutely obscure lives” which men have ignored, and about themselves, their feelings and their reactions to the world around them.

The Legend of Sweetie Mae Brown – The Meanest Bitch in Town

In spite of her name, Sweetie Mae Brown was the meanest woman in Sugar Shack, Mississippi. She was big as a linebacker. She once picked Scooter Davis, who was six feet tall and two hundred pounds, up by the back of his neck like a mother cat would do to one of her kittens, and tossed him off her porch. She had beaten up on her last three husbands and was currently scouting for number four. The men in town lived in fear that she would put her roving eye upon them. The women in town gave her a wide berth because she had accused them of wanting her husbands when she had them.

Yeah, Sweetie Mae was a mean ass bitch. Mothers would use her name as a threat to keep wayward children in line. The religious would do the cross when she walked passed them. She lived in a raggedly shack on Dead End Lane. It didn’t matter how hard the sun was shining in town, there was no light on Dead End Lane. Spooky looking trees seemed to reach out and grab at you if you had the misfortune to walk pass surrounded her house. No one wanted to tangle with old Sweet Mae.

Every night, she would leave her shack and go to one the local juke joints and get her drink on. Her favorite drink was Jack Daniel’s, no chaser. After slugging down a few rounds, drunk and ignorant, she would proceed to harass anyone who took her fancy. One night it was poor Charlie Jones, whose only crime was to politely decline her request for a dance. Before Charlie knew what hit him, she had him trussed up like a hog for the slaughtering. Tossing him over her back, she threw him into the garbage can in the back of the joint. Everyone stared and then started drinking. Nobody in his or her right mind tangled with Sweetie Mae when she was drunk. They had come to think of Sweetie Mae as the nightly entertainment. Yes, this how Sweetie Mae rolled. She terrorized the citizens of Sugar Shack like this on a regular basis until the night she meet her match.

It was a typical night at Papa Charlie’s Bar & Grill, her favorite joint and Sweetie had just downed a pint of Jack Daniel’s when a stranger walked in. She was a pretty, petite thing with big brown eyes and a confident attitude so she immediately took everyone’s attention when she walked in and sat down. Especially Sweetie Mae. She hated women like her, with her womanly ways and little body. How dared that bitch come in her spot and take the spotlight! With Sweetie’s eye on her, the young lady sat down. A gentleman asked her if she wanted to dance. Since he was a cutie, she said yes, and to the small cramped dance floor they went. Sweetie Mae’s eyes got big. That bitch was dancing with Cletus Taylor, her future husband! Of course, Cletus had no clue about this, but that didn’t matter. She had marked him as her own and for that, that bitch was ‘bout to get beat down!

They were getting their juke on something serious when Sweetie Mae came up behind the girl, grabbing her by the arm. “Look ho, this is my man and no one fucks with Sweetie Mae Brown’s man!” she snarled down at the girl. There was complete silence in the bar. Cletus didn’t say a word. He didn’t want to be trussed up like poor Charlie. To everyone’s amazement, petite drew herself up and snapped back, “He told me he didn’t have no woman, and I know a man-looking bitch like you is not his woman!”The crowd watched in silent, thrilled amazement. Petite had game! Sweetie Mae’s mouth fell open. She couldn’t believe this little sawed off broad was talking crazy to her, Sweetie Mae Brown, the meanest bitch in town. With a quick move of her hand, she slapped the girl, knocking her against the bar.

With only survival on her mind, the girl grabbed the nearest bar stool and started to beat the shit out of Sweetie like she stole her last pair of panties. Old Sweetie was laid out on the floor, with drool running out her mouth. Making her way to the entrance, the girl ran out and jumped in her car, speeding off into the night, never understanding the magnitude of what happened. The patrons of the bar cheered like crazy. Sweetie Mae had finally gotten her ass kicked! Sweetie Mae slowly got up from the floor, tears of humiliation running down her face. Oh the shame of it all! Her ass kicked by a girl who was five feet tall and a hundred pounds soaking wet! She would never live it down! She slinked from the bar, with her head hanging down, never to be seen by the citizens of Sugar Shack again.

A Hip-Hop Mystery: Whatever Happened to Choice the First Raunchy Female Rapper?

Way back in ancient times, an unknown female rapper burst upon the rap scene like a fiery comet and disappeared just as quickly. Her name is Choice and she released two albums in 1990 and 1992 but since then, nothing has been heard from her. Which is a shame because she was dope as hell.

While cruising these Google streets looking for information about her, I was excited to learn that someone created a Wikipedia page for her but the information is very scant. Her name is Kim Jones but her birth date is unknown. She’s from San Antonio, Texas but nothing else is known about her. It is almost like she never existed.

But she did exist and gloriously. I remember when I first heard her tape (yes, I am that old). It was the summer of 1990 and my girls and I would ride around listening to lyrics such as “I sucked his dick and all that shit. Rode the motherfucker like a pongo stick. We fell off the bed onto the floor. I grabbed the motherfucker and sucked it some more. That was raunchy as hell for 1990 and me and my friends giggled our asses off. Thank god it was no Internet and no Black men whining and complaining like a bunch of old ass cats about loose women while their own dicks have more mileage than a 1970 Camero.

She also made a diss track that dragged every big male rapper during that era to hell and back called “Payback” and it was a doozy. From Ice Cube to Too Short, she let their asses have it. Talked about their sexual skills, their looks, their pockets, their rhymes. Everything. Its a feat that has not been achieved by another female rapper as of 2020.

Unfortunately, she was ahead of her time and too much for the male dominated rap industry. She’s seemingly disappeared into the mists, never to be seen again and that is a crime against music history. And that is why I decided to write this article. To give this marvelous, bold woman her flowers while she’s still here. I hope she’s alive, happy and thriving, living her best life. Long before Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Megan the Stallion, and Cardi B come on the scene, a gal named Choice existed. These ladies wouldn’t exist without her. So bow down to this sister.

PS: Both of her albums are on ITUNES. Enjoy❤️❤️❤️❤️

The Policing of Black Female Sexuality

Another graduate school paper written in 2015

Abstract
The current paradigm concerning black female sexuality has been constructed from beliefs about black women that began as a result of white patriarchal ideologies established during slavery. These stereotypes about black female sexuality in particular have been used to shape U.S. public policy concerning social welfare and because of these stereotypes, black women have been blamed for passing down a “culture of poverty” from one generation to the next. This paper will discuss the policing of black female sexuality and pose the question: Why is black female sexuality considered dangerous to the status quo?


The Policing of Black Female Sexuality
It is a strange lot to be a Black woman in American society. She was brought to this country to be an unpaid worker, a concubine and a broodmare. Her body and her sexuality has been reviled but from the various brilliant shades of brown Black people come in, is curiously loved. This paper will examine the reasons for the policing of black female sexuality and why even in 2015, black women are not allowed to embrace their sexuality in the way white women are.


The Beginnings
The policing of Black female sexuality began during slavery. White males who were attracted to their slaves had to justify their attraction to them by labeling Black women as deviant, sexually aggressive creatures and whose sexuality had to be regulated. It also had to do with white male views on female sexuality. “Barbara Omolade asserts that the sexual stereotyping of black women’s bodies is rooted in colonialism. She argues that European male colonists read African women’s sexuality “according to their own definitions of sex, nudity, and blackness as base, foul, and bestial.” (Maurer, 2000).


This narrative fit very nicely with the “Cult of True Womanhood” in which white women were considered pure, dainty, innocent, and deserving of protection while the Back female slave was considered “primitive and incapable of chastity, purity, and moral virtue.” (Maurer, 2000). White men could then have unrestrained sex with the female slaves with no responsibility for their actions while protecting the virtue of white women.


Thus, the degrading images of black women being less than human and not worthy of respect was born. The hyper sexualized stereotype of black women as a femme fatale was used during slavery justify sexual relations between white men and black women, especially sexual unions involving masters and their female slaves. The black woman was depicted as a woman with an insatiable appetite for sex. She was not satisfied with black men and needed.”


Slave women were considered chattel and legally they had no rights so they could be raped with impunity with no repercussions. Often white male plantation owners would give their sons the “gift” of a young slave girl to be his concubines. “Nevertheless, as John D’Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman state in Intimate Matters: A Sexual History of Sexuality in America, ‘the rape of a female slave was probably the most common form of interracial sex during that time’.” (Rhymes, 2007).


The idea that black women were more sexually immoral than white women was reinforced by slavery. “Slaves whether on the auction block or offered privately for sale, were often stripped naked and physically examined. This was done to ensure that they were healthy, able to reproduce, and, most importantly, to look for whipping scars – the presence of which implied that the slave was rebellious. In practice, the stripping and touching of slaves had a sexually exploitative, sometimes sadistic function. Nakedness, especially among women in the 18th and 19th centuries, implied a lack of civility, morality, and sexual restraint even when the nakedness was forced. Slaves, of both sexes and all ages, often wore few clothes or clothes so ragged that their legs, thighs, and chests were exposed. Conversely, whites, especially women, wore clothing over most of their bodies. The contrast between the clothing reinforced the belief that white women were civilized, modest, and sexually pure, whereas black women were crude, immodest, and sexually deviant.” (Rhymes, 2007).


The Exploitation of Black Female Sexuality in Advertising and Film
The portrayal of black women as amoral, sexual deviants had its beginnings in slavery, was used during the Jim Crow period, and was used in modern times to entertain and sell products and advertising was a great medium to do this. Although the Mammy stereotype was used to sell everything from food to soap, the depiction of black women as sexually free whores was a common theme in selling products. “A metal nutcracker from the 1930s depicts a topless black woman. The nut is placed under her skirt, in her crotch, and crushed. Were sexually explicit items such as these made in the image of white women? Yes. However, they were never mainstreamed like the objects that caricatured Black women. The seamy novelty objects depicting white women were sold on the down-low, the QT and always hush-hush. An analysis of these racist items also reveals that black female children were sexually objectified. Black girls, with the faces of pre-teenagers, were drawn with adult sized buttocks, which were exposed. They were naked, scantily clad, or hiding seductively behind towels, blankets, trees, or other objects.” (Rhymes, 2007).


As society entered the early 1970s, another way of exploiting the sexuality of black women was the image of the supersexualized black female protagonist and heroine in film with black female characters being portrayed as prostitutes or women using sex as a means to get revenge on those who wronged them or their families. These films are now called “blaxploitation” and were a very popular genre of film during this time period amongst black people. Although these films claimed to be about the black experience of living in the ghetto, these movies were produced and directed by predominantly white males. “Daniel J. Leab (1976), the movie historian, noted, “Whites packaged, financed, and sold these films, and they received the bulk of the big money. The world depicted in blaxploitation movies included corrupt police and politicians, pimps, drug dealers, violent criminals, prostitutes, and whores. In the main, these movies were low-budget, formulaic interpretations of black life by white producers, directors, and distributors. Black actors and actresses, many unable to find work in mainstream movies, found work in blaxploitation movies. Black patrons supported these movies because they showed blacks fighting the “white establishment,” resisting police corruption, acting assertively, and having sex lives.” (Pilgrim, 2002).


Public Policy and Black Female Sexuality
Stereotypes about black women’s sexuality were also used against them during the eugenics movement of the early 20th century. “Stereotypes about black women’s hyper-fertility fueled the call for government regulation of the reproduction of non-whites” (Maurer, 2000). Public policies and public management practices at both the state and federal level supported this movement and its policies lived on after its demise (Maurer, 2000). By 1970, “20 percent of all married black women in the United States had been sterilized and accounted for 43 percent of sterilizations funded by the U.S. government” (Maurer, 2000).


During this time period, the image of welfare changed from deserving white widows to black women who had children to get a check. This change was once again by the stereotyping of black women as promiscuous breeders whose fertility must be regulated. Single mothers, in particular, black women who have children and no husbands violate the patriarchal dominant sexual norms of American culture. Although massive changes in popular culture in the last fifty years have challenged the understanding of sexuality, the sexual morality of mothers without husbands is still suspect.
When single mothers find themselves in need of financial assistance from the state, the government is in a position to dictate changes in sexual behavior in exchange for financial aid.

Contemporary welfare policy explicitly aims to convince women to marry and not produce children out of wedlock. If receiving public assistance and pregnant, a mother-to- be is spoken to about future birth control options and whether or not does she wants to undergo tubal ligation (Weedon, 1999). Social welfare programs in this country have been used, since their inception, to control the sexual behavior of program recipients. Yet, people who apply for other types of government assistance such as unemployment compensation, are not faced with marriage incentives or family caps. Control of sexual behavior through financial assistance has only been attempted through welfare, the public assistance program intended for poor single mothers (Adair, 2000).


Public policy rarely acts completely independently from public opinion. Public opinion polls confirm that Americans are less supportive of spending on welfare than on other types of assistance to the poor, such as social security benefits. Many researchers have tried to discover the source of this disdain for welfare. Race clearly plays an important role in shaping public views about welfare. Jill Quadagno’s, The Color of Welfare (1994) solidly establishes race as a driving force in the history of US welfare politics. Racial inequality in the US has created an economic system in which America’s poor are disproportionately black and Hispanic. This in turn means that racial minorities are disproportionately likely to need welfare assistance. The history of welfare provision in the US is also a history of the governmental response to racial inequality.


Welfare was designed to keep deserving (widowed or abandoned) white mothers from entering the workforce. But after federal regulations limited state discretion in the 1960s, these same regulations were attacked for allowing morally suspect black women to remain out of the workforce. Welfare has a long history of being used as a tool to reward or punish impoverished single mothers regardless of race. While some policies seem to have been designed only to confer benefits in accordance with recipient race and immigration status, other welfare rules (midnight raids, for example) were used to control behavior of single mothers (Quadagno,1994).
An important change in welfare policy was made in 1996 when AFDC was replaced with TANF. Temporary Assistance to Needy Families introduced block grants, thus reintroducing significant state control over program administration. Strict time limits, family caps, permanent exclusion for even minor drug offenses, and work requirements were all presented as tools for the states to use in reducing their welfare rolls. Under TANF, the explicit primary goals of welfare are reducing welfare dependency and encouraging heterosexual marriage.


Sex and the Language of Welfare

The language used in the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) that created TANF reveals its patriarchal, paternal intentions. Take the name of the act, for example. It states that welfare reform as primarily being about the failure of personal responsibilities of the women who receive welfare. A number of other explanations of the poverty of single mothers could have been entertained: women, on average, are paid less than men when they do engage in wage labor; women are more likely than men to take lower paying part-time or temporary work to accommodate family responsibilities; the cost of quality, reliable childcare makes low wage labor even less attractive to single mothers than it otherwise might be to employees without children; single mothers often do not get financial or emotional support from the fathers of their children (Abramovitz, 1996).

But welfare reform as it currently exists is not about ending the feminization of poverty, not about holding Corporate America accountable for failing to pay living wages, and the failure of society to help provide for the basic needs of its poorest citizens. It is about punishing and controlling the poorest segment of the American population for being poor and not adhering to traditional “moral” values.


“Personal responsibility” is a supposedly neutral phrase. Yet, the way that it is used in the PRWORA is distinctly biased against poor black women. The phrase pretends that poor single mothers have the same range of opportunities and choices as any other citizen (even though reality suggests otherwise). The use of this phrase implies that the misfortunes of poor black single mothers are the result of irresponsible choices. To use it in this fashion ignores the range of responsibilities that poor single mothers do have (protecting their children in impoverished and sometimes dangerous neighborhoods, nurturing their children emotionally often without help of a partner, providing for children’s educational needs despite impoverished school districts) and focuses instead on the ‘responsibility’ to take low wage labor.


Further, the title of PRWORA implies that work opportunities are being offered to welfare recipients. This is not true. In reality, the legislation calls for limits on the length of time recipients can receive welfare benefits, and mandated employment, and limits on educational opportunities for welfare recipients. Clearly, the lawmakers who crafted this legislation were not interested in simply providing work opportunities for the single mothers on welfare. PRWORA addresses welfare recipients as failed women in need of strict behavioral guidelines from the government (Abramovitz, 1996) and the assumptions underlying language are clear. Welfare recipients are poor because they have failed to marry (Abramovitz, 1996).

Character flaws, including sexual promiscuity and lack of devotion to the traditional institution of marriage, are to blame for the poverty of single mothers. The way to fix this problem is for the government to encourage poor women to get married. These “findings” presume that welfare mothers are heterosexual, that marrying the (probably also poor) father of her children will bring financial security, that the decision to depend on a man (husband) for financial support will bring financial security, and that the decision to depend on a man (husband) for financial support is morally superior to relying on the man (the state).


Why does welfare reform language begin with value laden statements about traditional marriage? The assumptions underlying language are clear. Welfare recipients are poor because they have failed to marry. Character flaws, including sexual promiscuity and a lack of devotion to the traditional institution of marriage, are to blame for the poverty of single black mothers. The way to fix the problem is for the government to encourage poor black women to get married. These “findings” presume that welfare mothers are heterosexual, that marrying the (probably also poor) father of her children will bring financial security, and that the decision to rely on a man (husband) for financial support is morally superior to relying on the man (the state) Abramovitz, 1996). Whether or not the single mother wants to be married is outside the realm of this discussion: that she should marry is a moral imperative. The public assistance programs designed for other poor populations (Unemployment Insurance, Disability Insurance, and Social Security) do not promote marriage as a way out of poverty. This solution is only presented as appropriate in a program designed with poor single women in mind.


The concern with the marital status of welfare recipients is deeply rooted in racial politics. Blacks are less likely to marry than whites. Black families often violate the normative white middle class nuclear family structure, and conservatives have long seen this violation as an indicator of moral failure and as a problem that needs to be solved with government intervention.


The “Purpose” section of PRWORA explains that the legislation is intended to “…end the dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage” (“Personal responsibility and,” 1996). Lawmakers are aware that nearly all welfare recipients are single mothers. By using the gender neutral phrase “needy parents,” lawmakers willfully ignore reality, reinforcing the norm of the two parent heterosexual household. This willful ignorance allows lawmakers to pretend that “dependence” is not based on gender specific assumptions (Fraser and Gordon, 2002).


Controlling the reproductive behavior of poor women is a key part of this discourse about welfare. The purpose section of PRWORA continues, listing blatantly patriarchal goals: “to prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies (“Personal responsibility and,” 1996). There are no other federal public assistance programs in the US that promote abstinence and contraceptives as a way out of poverty. Middle class women are encouraged, through tax breaks, to reproduce. This language of controlling reproductive behavior is used only within the context of programs design for poor black women.


US welfare policy is based on the set of patriarchal assumptions that lawmakers hold about marriage, reproduction, and appropriate gender roles for poor black women. These patriarchal assumptions are evident in the history of US welfare policy, and in the language of current welfare policy. Sex has everything to do with welfare and the policing of black female sexuality.


Conclusion
The paradox of being a black woman in American society is a quandary in swirling emotions. From the moment they were brought here, they have been used to build up the image of white women from a certain economic class as inviolate: beyond reproach. Sexually, they are considered on the low end of the social and economic totem pole in American society, but from research and reality, they are the origins of mankind. Perhaps this is the reason for the stereotypes: the realization that if it was not for this woman, the world as society knows it, would not exist. That for all of the black woman’s lowly status, she is needed because societies would cease to exist if she disappeared. Black female sexuality is powerful; so much that American society has shaped social welfare policy because of them, for better or worse.

References
Adair, Vivyan. (2000). From Good Ma to Welfare Queen: A genealogy of the poor woman in American literature, photography and culture. New York: Garland.

Abramovitz, Mimi. (1996). Regulating the Lives of Women: Social Welfare Policy from Colonial Times to the Present. Boston, MA: South End Press.

Fraser, Nancy and Linda Gordon. (2002.) “A Genealogy of Dependence: Tracing a key word of the US welfare state.” The Subject of Care: Feminist Perspectives on Dependence. Eds. Eva Feder Kittay and Ellen Feder. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.
Maurer, S. (2000). Embodied public policies: the sexual stereotyping of black women in the design and implementation of u.s. policies. Journal of Public and International Affairs, 11(Spring), 150-166.
Pilgrim, D. (2002, July). Jezebel stereotype. Retrieved from http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/jezebel.htm
Quadagno, Jill. (1994). The Color of Welfare: How racism undermined the war on poverty. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rhymes, E. (2007, May 18). A ‘ho’ by any other color: The history and economics of black female sexual exploitation.
The United States Congress, (1996). Personal responsibility and work opportunity reconciliation act of 1996.
Weedon, C. (1999). Feminism, theory and the politics of difference. Malden: Blackwell Publishers.
Wyatt, G. E. (1997). Stolen women: Reclaiming our sexuality, taking back our lives. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Yarbrough, M., & Bennett, C. (2000). Cassandra and the “sistahs”: the peculiar treatment of african american women in the myth of women as liars. The Journal of Gender, Race & Justice, 3(3), 626-657.

Misogynoir and Sexual Abuse in the African-American Community

Another paper from graduate school

Abstract

This paper will discuss misogynoir (hatred of black women and girls) and whether hatred of black women and girls leads to higher instances of sexual abuse and rape amongst them. This paper will also discuss the two gaps in the literature selected for this project and how can writers develop further research on this subject.

What is Misogynoir?

            Misogynoir is a term I discovered about two years ago after reading the blog Gradient Lair written by queer black feminist scholar Moya Bailey. She defines misogynoir as anti-black misogyny in which race and gender are entwined together to cause hatred of black women. Does misogynoir really exist? I think so. Misogyny is hatred and contempt for all women, whilst misogynoir is a particular and invasive hatred geared specifically towards black women and girls that is often perpetrated by black men and women. Misogynoir is why a known sexual predator like R. Kelly is embraced by the black community and why Janay Rice was blamed for being knocked unconscious on an elevator by her then fiancé, Ray Rice and subsequently dragged off the elevator by him cave man style.

            Misogynoir in the black community is a social problem that is having a devastating effect on relationships between black men and women. Example: In 2009, Asia McGowan, 20, of Ecorse, Michigan was shot and murdered by Anthony Powell, 28, of Detroit, Michigan in a classroom at Henry Ford Community College, both of them black. He then committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. This was not a lover’s murder-suicide because Mr. Powell did not know the victim personally.

He only knew her through the various YouTube videos she had posted, discussing her life.  He targeted this young woman because she was a black woman and he hated black women.  “This was a targeted killing of a Black woman by a radicalized Black man who frequented YouTube and rallied his hatred of Black women and other things. He only kills himself when the police come up on him. Bottom line is we discovered it’s a whole bunch of these Black dudes out here who are radicalized like that.” (“The black woman,” 2014).

            As a writer who spends some part of her day perusing the social media for possible writing opportunities, I have learned that the level of hatred for black women is at an all time high. All one has to do is type in “Why Black Men Hate Black Women” in Google search, and 4,600,000 results pop up. There are YouTube pages dedicated the altar of anti-black women worship and countless articles have been written on the undesirability and trifling nature of black women.

As a black woman with two black daughters, misogynoir is a depressing concept. This hatred of black women is probably why sexual abuse statistics amongst black women and girls are so high. According to the Black Women’s Blueprint, “In 2007, approximately 40% of black women report coercive contact of a sexual nature by age 18 (National Black Women’s Health Project). A more recent and on-going survey by Black Women’s Blueprint reveals that number is closer to 60%.  For every Black woman that reports a rape, at least 15 do not report (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2009).” (“The truth commission,”).

            While looking for five articles that addressed the social problem of misogynoir and sexual abuse against black women and girls, I learned that very little research has been done on this subject. As a matter of fact, when I typed in misogynoir in the various psychology databases, on Walden University’s library website, I received zero results. So I typed in misogyny and found five articles that do not address the problem of misogynoir and sexual abuse but does explain why misogynistic attitudes exist amongst African-Americans.

In the article entitled Race, Class, Gender: A Constellation of Positionalities with Implications for Counseling written by Debra A. Harley, Kristine Jolivette, Katherine McCormick & Karen Tice, they discuss how race, class, and gender are social constructs that are a constellation of positionalities ( how they are positioned in society) that determine how an individual is placed in society (Harley, Jolivette, McCormick, Tice, K. 2002) and how counselors have stereotyped marginalized groups of people when seeking counseling. Since black women are on the bottom of the totem pole of American society in regards to their economic, social, and beauty status, they are looked upon as expendable and their issues ignored, even while seeking treatment for various issues. Black women are also stereotyped by negative stereotypes about their sexuality. Women of color, in particular, black women have been categorized by the dominate culture as domineering bitches, and perceived as sexual beings who have little modesty, virtue, or intelligence (Harley, Jolivette, McCormick, Tice, K. 2002). Black women have also had to deal carrying a triple burden of degrading perceptions and are the marginalized and less protected segment of American society (Harley, Jolivette, McCormick, Tice, K. 2002).

In the second article entitled, Myths About Pimps: Conflicting Images of Hypermasculine Pimps in U.S. American Hip-Hop and Bisexual Pimps in the Novels of Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim written by Josef Benson, he makes a powerful first statement: “The traditional image of the urban U.S. American pimp functions as a powerful symbol of Black hypermasculinity throughout contemporary hip-hop culture. This image perpetuates entrenched stereotypes that characterize Black males as violent, rapacious beasts and Black females as hypersexed, valueless mules.” (Benson, 2012, pg. 429).

Mr. Benson discusses how hip-hop music’s assimilation of the pimp had done more hard to African-American culture than good because of its image as a white slave owner who keeps his black women in check. “The hip-hop pimp not only has the power to control women through the use of violence, but also by possessing a hypermasculine, hypersexual appeal hypnotizing to women. He views women as commodities—slaves—dehumanizing them to assume the role of the powerful White male slave owner.” (Benson, 2012, p. 431).  By viewing black women and girls as commodities, not actual human beings with feelings, it makes it easier for sexual predators to feel no remorse or even feel that these victims deserved their abuse because of their subordinate position in the African-American community.

The third article entitled Controversial Rap Themes, Gender Portrayals and Skin Tone Distortion: A Content Analysis of Rap Music Videos written by Kate Conrad, Travis Dixon, & Yuanyuan Zhang, the authors discuss colorism, another social problem in the African-American community in which lighter skinned black women are thought of as prettier and have more value than darker skinned black women.  Music videos on television seldom show women that look like the rappers’ mothers and as of late, only mixed race or white girls are cast as the leading ladies of rap videos, systematically shutting out black women.

“Often colorism is an issue the Black viewers face whereby individuals with lighter skin may be given advantages over those with darker skin” (Conrad, Dixon, & Zhang, 2009).  In a community filled with strife against black women, colorism is another tool that has been used to divide lighter and dark skinned black women while at the same time, brown skinned women in the middle, neither light nor dark are ignored.  Misogynoir pits black women of different hues against each other in the fight for crumbs from the table of Black patriarchy. When darker skinned black women are victims of sex crimes, the black community turns a blind eye.

The fourth article entitled Perceptions of Misogyny in Hip Hop and Rap: What Do the Youths Think? written by Ruby M. Gourdine & Briana P. Lemmons, the authors discuss hip-hop music’s influence on the younger generation of African-Americans and believe that hip-hop in its current form is detrimental and adds to misogynoir with lyrics disrespectful towards women encourages a rape culture in which black women and their bodies  do not belong to them but to black men. “If women are portrayed as being abused and symbolize persons who can be mistreated by males, this gives a troublesome message to the youths (both males and females) that women are not valued.” (Gourdine & Lemmons, 2011, p. 70). At my daughter’s grade school, there have been instances of sexual harassment with young boys telling young girls what sexual acts they would like to perform. The vast majority of the children in her class listen to hip-hop artists such as Chief Keef, a local Chicago rapper who raps about money, drugs, and women in the most derogatory terms.  These young men have internalized these lyrics and are acting out.

The last and final article is Misogyny and Madness by Robin Post. It is a review of the book Women and Madness by Jane M. Ussher and she discusses the book and how women are often categorized as mad or crazy because of misogyny. Labeling women mad is viewed by Post as an attempt to control, suppress, or punish women. “The stigmatization of dissatisfied or unconventional women as mad in this perspective serves to dismiss them, to ensure that women will adhere to prescribed social roles, and to protect the power of men.” (Post, 1993). Due to the devaluation of women’s roles in society, she believes “that women who adhere to conventional social roles may also experience mental health problems.” (Post, 1993).

Black women who are feminists or women who are unconventional are often labeled crazy or angry in the African-American community. Black women who decide to lead a different life than the path ascribed for them are threatened with violence or actually killed like in the case of Asia McGowan.

There are several gaps in the literature related to misogynoir and the connection between misogynoir and the sexual abuse of black women and girls. As stated previously, I could not find any articles on the subject and had to improvise by finding articles on misogyny in the Black community.  A great way to bridge this gap is to get in contact with African American female social science professor and interview them to find out their thoughts about misogynoir and whether it is a link between misogynoir and sexual abuse and ask them what would be the best way to conduct research on this subject. After doing that, formulate the research question. The question should be: Does misogynoir or hatred of black women lead to higher cases of sexual abuse of black women and girls? In a society that devalues all women and has placed the black woman at the bottom of the ladder, it is no wonder that misogynistic thought patterns exist in the black community. If someone wants to destroy a community, the first weapon of war is to attack the women and girls.

References

Benson, J. (2012). Myths about pimps: Conflicting images of hypermasculine pimps in U.S. American hip-hop and bisexual pimps in the novels of Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim. Journal Of Bisexuality, 12(3), 429-441. doi:10.1080/15299716.2012.702627

Conrad, K., Dixon, T., & Zhang, Y. (2009). Controversial rap themes, gender portrayals and skin tone distortion: A content analysis of rap music videos. Journal Of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 53(1), 134-156. doi:10.1080/08838150802643795

Gourdine, R. M., & Lemmons, B. P. (2011). Perceptions of misogyny in hip hop and rap: What do the youths think?. Journal Of Human Behavior In The Social Environment, 21(1), 57-72. doi:10.1080/10911359.2011.533576

Harley, D. A., Jolivette, K., McCormick, K., & Tice, K. (2002). Race, Class, and Gender: A Constellation of Positionalities With Implications for Counseling. (English). Journal Of Multicultural Counseling & Development, 30(4), 216.

Post, R. D. (1993). Misogyny and Madness. Psyccritiques, 38(10), 1061-1062. doi:10.1037/032668.

The black woman guide to dealing with radicalized black men hating black women online. (2014, March 11). Retrieved from http://dreamandhustle.com/2014/03/the-black-woman-guide-to-dealing-with-radicalized-black-men-hating-black-women-online/.

The truth commission on black women and sexual violence. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.blackwomensblueprint.org/sexual-violence/

Gender Analysis of My Life

   From a graduate school paper written in 2015

The concept of gender is a fascinating concept in American society.  The reason it is so fascinating is because it is so fluid.  This year a man who was thought of as one of the manliest men in sports came out as a woman. Bruce Jenner was an Olympic sports hero, father to several children and married many times but he is now known as Caitlyn. I’m not quite sure if he is telling the truth because I have my own personal thoughts about his transformation but it has been eye-opening. It shows that for some, womanhood is based on superficial qualities such as hair, makeup, and clothes and as a woman who has been a woman for almost 45 years, it is maddeningly insulting. This paper will discuss gender and how it has affected my life. It is a tale filled with mishaps, mistakes and many trials but it is also a story of perseverance.

Gender affected me from the moment I was born. I was the youngest of three children born to my mother and I was the longed for baby girl. I didn’t feel any pressure as a little girl but I was swamped with a bunch of dolls, doll houses, and other toys marketed towards little girls. And although I enjoyed and still to this day love dolls and all things considered girly, I wonder now as a woman did my mother do me a disservice by purchasing only toys for girls. It would have been nice to receive a train set or some Tonka trucks.

I was a questioning child, the type who asked a million and one questions that no one wanted to answer. I remember asking my mother why boys can do certain things like stay out later or have sex with a bunch of girls and no one will say anything but if a girl did those things; she would be labeled a slut. She told me that is how society is set up and I was around twelve at the time. I just looked at her because it didn’t make any sense to me then and it still don’t. The boys in my classroom were some smelly dumb creatures and I didn’t look at them as superior in any type of way. I decided right then and there I was going to live my own life and if anyone didn’t like it, I wouldn’t care.

Around this same time, I read a book that would change my life and shape my views on gender: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. It is the story of Scarlett O’Hara and it is set during the South at the beginning of the Civil War. I loved the character of Scarlett because she was the first female anti hero I had ever read about. She wasn’t a nice person. She didn’t have any close female friends because she looked at women as competition for men. She didn’t like her sisters and she would steal a beau from a girl in a minute. She was two faced but men loved her. What is funny is that she didn’t really like men too much either because she thought they were silly. Due to the social constraints of the era she was born in, she couldn’t show her true self so she learned to be the best Southern belle in Georgia.

I think I loved her character so much because she was everything I was taught not to be. Selfish, self centered, in every way a true bitch but she generally got everything she wanted while the nice girls got ignored. For a little black girl reading this book, it was eye opening because black women are taught to self sacrifice and put their needs on the back burner. In the black community, the thoughts of men come first and black women are not supposed to be heard.

Going into adolescence was hard for me because as a budding black feminist in a neighborhood seething with hyper black masculinity, I clashed with the young men constantly. I refused to stay in my place as a black girl and after I became a teenage mother, I still refused to hang my head in shame. Why should I be ashamed for being a young mother when the same boys talking crazy had children scattered all over the neighborhood and in several other zip codes?

But it wasn’t easy for me. Although I am a strong willed individual, those stereotypes got to me and I didn’t do anything with my life until I was twenty six years old when I got my GED. Eight years later, I walked across the stage as college graduate, receiving a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Sociology. Now when I look back, I feel so stupid for allowing others to get into my head and mess with my self-esteem. But it is not easy for most teens, especially a teen that had been sexually molested and thought her self-worth was her body.  I tried to fight against gender stereotypes as a teen and failed miserably, not understanding that it wasn’t my fault that people are judgmental fools.

Gender hasn’t really affected my life too much professionally because I have always worked in a field that is heavily female dominated, the clerical/administrative field.  However, the cattiness of women in this line of work is mind-boggling. I currently work at a company in which women e-mail the project manager to tattle on other women they think is dressed inappropriately. My goodness that is the pettiest stuff I have ever seen and I have worked in this field for eighteen years. But since women are the gatekeepers of patriarchy, I should not be surprised.

Well that is my gender story. I am a mother of two daughters and a son. My daughters are just as strong willed as their mother and they shatter gender stereotypes daily and my son is an empathic soul when it comes to gender issues. So I guess I have done a good job as a mother although some would say not because I am a single mother who didn’t conform. But so what?

An Ode to Some Childhood Buddies – Barbie Doll and Friends

When I went to college, one of the first classes I took was Women and Gender Studies.  How could I not resist learning about the history of women since I am a woman?  My professor was named Dr. Jean Peterson and  she was a cool hippie chick from back in the day, complete with graying jet-black hair to her waist and she was so laid back she was practically horizontal.   However, a couple of weeks in her class, I was dismayed to find out she was not a fan of Barbie Dolls because she, as a feminist felt they contributed to low self-esteem issues in young girls in American society.

My collection of Barbie and Friends

I was totally amazed by her attitude because I loved and still love Barbie and not once when I was a child thought I would look like Barbie when I grew up. Because cause she was a doll and how could I possibly look like a doll?  She wasn’t real. Even at that young age, I had more sense than that. I have been a prolific reader since I was a child and Barbie and friends were props for my overactive imagination.  When I was into Greek mythology, my dolls were transformed into Athena, Artemis, and Aphrodite and several of my mother’s silky nightgowns were turned into Greek robes for them.   When I read “Gone With the Wind” (at the age of ten), I learned to make hoop skirts for my dolls and reenacted the burning of Atlanta without actually setting the house on fire. 

But Dr. Peterson had her reasons. During the course of the class, I learned why Dr. Peterson had issues with Barbie (sexism and the branding of the skinny white chick with impossibly unattainable body) and although I respected her opinion a great deal and she had a PhD and several other degrees, to me, blaming a doll for self-esteem issues in young girls and women was a little too much.  I blame parents and society for making young girls and women feel bad because they do not live up to the womanly image that American society has memorialized as the epitome of beauty.  Every woman is not slim or tall with blue eyes and long flowing blond hair and guess what? Who gives a fuck?  It is hard enough being a woman in a sexist society without driving yourself crazy trying to be something that you are not.  A woman has to be happy and secure in her own skin to be truly complete.  But I will always love Barbie, Christie, Skipper, Starr, Kelly, Candi, Darci, Sydney and all my girls from childhood.  They kept a little girl’s imagination flowing and I will forever thankful to my favorite Plastics.

Memories

In the months since my brother’s death, my emotions have been a kaleidoscope, ranging from the deepest of grief to fear.  My mother gave birth to three children and I am the only one left. That’s real deep isn’t it? I have no one to grieve with: most people don’t know how to deal with emotions, particularly the emotions that come with death and at times, I have felt so alone. Even with being a mother who has children living in her house.

Back in December, I learned that my brother was missing. Then he was in the hospital and then put in a nursing home. In January, I learned that he was dying and on February 10, 2020, he crossed over. Just like that. That quickly, that quietly, and with that, my brother became an ancestor.

Randy, my second oldest brother died February 7, 1994 and February 10, 2020, Larry died. Our mother died back in December of 2006 and now it’s just me. Notice I did not mention a father and I will not. At this point, it doesn’t matter but many would disagree.

My little family is gone and all I have is memories and pictures.  Like the time Larry came over drunk and rowdy and my mother and I beat his ass. Or the time Randy had some Sea-Monkeys and I poured a cup of sugar in the fish bowl to see what would happened (they died naturally and he was mad as hell). Or memories of going to work with my mother during school breaks. Memories that have made an indention on my brain that I cling to. The memories that keep my people alive in spirit if not in body.

Currently, the world is experiencing a pandemic and for 2 ½ months, Chicago was under quarantine. During that time, I had nothing to do but think and grieve. And that it is what I am currently doing now and will continue to do so. Only a demon will pretend to be blowing sunshine out of their asses when deep down in their heart, they are hurting and I’m not a demon. Will I be showing my entire ass, no, but if you see me lost in thought, smiling or teary eyed, I am thinking about my people.