Black Girls Be Thinking: Ms. Badu, Fetishes and Sexual Freedom

I dont know how much you keep up with pop culture but I try to maintain a balance of detachment myself.  Because I find that so much of the pop “news” is dribble that does not enhance my life, grow my mind or touch my heart. So I avoid it.  But every once in a while something happens that actually does something to me.  And this is one such instance.

The Flaming Lips did a song featuring Erykah Badu called First Time I Ever Saw Your Face.  I had never heard it until the video was released.  I follow Ms. Badu on twitter because she is awesome (Ok let’s be clear I am an Erykah fan but this will not affect this post).  I saw her tweeting a lot and retweeting a lot of tweets and I wondered what it was all about.  I then remembered that some had folks had tweeted that Erykah had lost her mind because of some crazy video but I still had not watched it.  Again, being a fan I respect her artistry and just thought these people didnt get her.  But then I read this:

http://www.twitlonger.com/show/hno30u

For those that dont like to click or read lol, the highlights are, “You showed me a concept of beautiful tasteful imagery( by way of vid text messages) .  I trusted that. I was mistaken. Then u release an unedited, unapproved version within the next few days” and “Consequently, brother, As a human I am disgusted with your what appears to be desperation and poor execution. And disregard for others . As a director I am unimpressed . As a sociologist I understand your type. As your fellow artist I am uninspired. As a woman I feel violated and underestimated. ”  So not wanting to be biased I checked out his Twitter.  He released this photo and said:

“here’s @fatbellybella and me.. You can’t see but I’m actually holding a gun to her head making her look at the camera”

After reading that I was like What Happened!!?!? And I just knew I had to see this video even though people were describing it as graphic, perverse and disturbing.  So I watched at work because I was too scared to watch it before bed because I am a self-proclaimed scaredy cat.

I waited until everyone in the office was gone and I watched it.

I am posting a link to the video here BUT

THE VIDEO IS GRAPHIC! WATCH AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION!

(Just copy and paste the link in a new tab because its acting up right now) http://perezhilton.com/tv/Flaming_Lips_Ft_Erykah_Badu_First_Time_I_Ever_Saw_Your_Face_NSFW/?id=01c9503174b06&autoplay=false

For those of you that watched, it was intense right?  Some were calling it beautiful others were calling it soft porn.  I remain conflicted.  I believe that a woman’s body is beautiful; the softness, the form, the strength. Its all very balanced and beautiful.  But as Americans we are taught that nudity always equals erotic, which it doesnt.  Why cant we look at a nude human body and see it as we see a butterfly or a hummingbird, just truly in awe of another creature’s aesthetic appeal.  And as a Black woman I am even more confounded because my body has been turned into so many things by so many people; Sexual, Menial, Unattractive, Mysterious. What am I supposed to be and what am I supposed to do?

This is a question of art vs. porn and sexual fetish vs sexual freedom.  And thats what makes Ms. Badu so unique and so important in this conversation.  Not too long ago I read a statement that Ms. Badu wrote in response to people calling her all kinds of ridiculous names because she has three children by three different men.  In a nutshell she replied that she is raising strong, respectful human beings, that she loved each man she conceived a child with and that she’s fine. In other words, Mind Yours! I respected her so much because who are these people to tell her how to use her body and how to raise her children.  This all goes back to freedom of choice and sexual freedom.

I also went down an internet rabbit hole (you know where you click one link on lolcats and 5 hours later you are on a site about illegal prostitution) and I came across a Tumblr called F*** Yeah, Feminists! and they were criticizing another Tumblr because its “fetishizes” women of color. So I checked out the blog and I was wondering if there was something wrong with me because I found the images beautiful.  Yes some of the women were nude but it was tasteful and the women were so beautiful.  And these are photos they either took, posed for or posted so they must have wanted them to be seen.  Was I missing something I asked myself.

So I ask where is that line between being fetishes and sexual freedoms? What if I make a sexual choice and someone else makes it their fetish? Should that even matter to me?  If I find me in my nudeness glorious but someone else makes it dirty whose to blame? Should I even care?

Yes, that’s the ultimate question. Should I even care?

 

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Black Girls Be Thinkin: How Trayvon turned me into a Womanist

Its been 78 days since Trayvon Martin lost his life had his life stolen and somewhere in that 78 days I went from being a feminist to a womanist. Im not exactly sure when it happened but somewhere between the outrage, the fear, the questioning and the pontificating, it happened. No. Maybe it was the conversations at work, with family or friends that did it. Nope. I dont think that was it either.  I think it was walking behind my 13 year old brother in his hoodie knowing that some fearful and deranged racist could see him as a menace that did it.  And falling head over heels in love with my then manfriend’s 3 year old son didnt help at all.  Not even a little bit.

Yoko Ono once said that “Woman is the nigger of the world.” To which Pearl Cleage asked, “So what does that make the Black woman?… Double Nigger… Nigger-nigger” This dichtomy, or lack thereof is what informed the creation of womanism.  Alice Walker defined Womanist as:

1. From womanish.  (Opp. of “girlish,” i.e. frivolous, irresponsible, not serious.)  A black feminist or feminist of color.  From the black folk expression of mothers to female children, “you acting womanish,” i.e., like a woman.  Usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous or willful behavior.  Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered “good” for one.  Interested in grown up doings.  Acting grown up.  Being grown up.  Interchangeable with another black folk expression: “You trying to be grown.”  Responsible.  In charge. Serious.
2. Also: A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually.  Appreciates and prefers women’s culture, women’s emotional flexibility (values tears as natural counterbalance of laughter), and women’s strength.  Sometimes loves individual men, sexually and/or nonsexually.  Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female.  Not a separatist, except periodically, for health.  Traditionally a universalist, as in: “Mama, why are we brown, pink, and yellow, and our cousins are white, beige and black?” Ans. “Well, you know the colored race is just like a flower garden, with every color flower represented.”  Traditionally capable, as in: “Mama, I’m walking to Canada and I’m taking you and a bunch of other slaves with me.” Reply: “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
3. Loves music.  Loves dance.  Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit. Loves love and food and roundness.  Loves struggle. Loves the Folk.  Loves herself. Regardless.
4. Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.

That is such a beautiful and comprehensive definition to me.  And the more I thought about Trayvon, the more womanism made sense to me.  Feminism caters to white middle and upper class women whose only oppression is that of their sex.  But what about those of us who could compete in multiple events in the “Oppression Olympics”?

Feminism causes one to choose and that is something I simply cannot do.  As much as I support equality for women I wouldnt survive without the Black man.  Even aside from my own personal and sexual preference, any male child that comes through my body will inevitably be one.  So I must stand up for their humanity as well. The lives of my future children depend on it.

So Rest in Power Trayvon. And Thank You.