I remember over a year ago I somewhat promised myself that I wasn’t going to use my blogging voice to delve into the torrid cyber-battles between black women and black men. One relatively well-known black female blogger (who come to find out we have tons of friends in common and she’s dating a grade school classmate of mine) took to Twitter following a few of my blog posts on this topic of black women and men, and called me some faux-intellectual Cornel West wannabe. One of my most popular blog posts that I touted as a black male intellectual manifesto got circulated on a few sites and more or less downed by black women as being patriarchal and heteronormative and generally seen as me being full of myself.
The odd thing is that I went back and read one of those posts and my general sentiments are the same: at times, online, black women write with a voice that subsumes all other voices, particularly that of black men. As a black man, that bothers me, it vexes me so! Let me be clear, I don’t believe in marginalizing anyone’s voices which means I vehemently believe that black women are entitled to their own voice. But that also means, black men should have a voice as well. One of the main issues I had in the past with black women bloggers on this issue is that while many of them can run a list on the ways in which they perceive black men put them in some box, in the same sentence they do the same thing to black men as well.
This leaves me confused.
On one hand black women bloggers seem to argue for gender parity, and I’ll even throw in justice as well, yet in the same article seem to attempt to quell the black male voice on the basis of retributive justice. All the while opining about how “there are no good black men out there,” to which I want to reply who would want to be with you if all you do is put down the whole gender. Now, to be totally fair, this particular black woman seems to dominate the black blogging world when topics such as this arise. I can safely and happily say, I don’t run into these types of women in person, but honestly, who really has conversations like this among their peers unless you all are already friends. Not to mention, as I approach 30 and most of my friends have passed the 25 year mark, I see more and more people getting married–in their same race–so I ask what really is all of this conversation really about.
So, I see this article from Clutch online magazine, a relatively popular website that often times has been a launching pad for black women bloggers, writers, journalists and of the same ilk, about the breakout hit ABC network show “Scandal.” This show, for all readers who still haven’t watched at least one episode, centers around Olivia “Liv” Pope a “fixer” lawyer with her own law firm and team, played by actress Kerry Washington and her torrid love affair with the married President of the United States Fitzgerald “Fitz” Grant. The week to week plots are based on typical Washington scandals in which Liv is asked to “fix” as need be, and there are a few major subplots that have threaded themselves throughout the balance of the show.
Oh, and yes, the president is a white male and Olivia Pope is very much a black female.
Granted, the author of the Clutch article “Such A Big Ego: Why Some Black Men Have a Problem With ‘Scandal’” led off her article with saying this was based on an unscientific poll that found 76.21% of black men do not like “Scandal,” I have to be honest and say I have yet to meet one black man who doesn’t like “Scandal.” And the one reason why I think all the black men I’ve met, seen on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram like “Scandal” and watch it totally debunks the crux of the author’s main point: Olivia Pope is fine as hell!
But these anti-Scandal black men are a wily bunch. Oh yes, they are. They realized that they couldn’t continue to post pictures of Kim Kardashian on Monday, quote little Wayne talking about “bet that bitch look better red” on Tuesday, break down all the reasons why white women stay “#winning” on Wednesday, then complain about a black woman being in love with a white man on Thursday.
So, what’s the new tactic? Slut-shaming.
Forget that President Fitzgerald Grant III is white, they proclaim all aflutter with their hands clasped to their heaving bosoms. It’s that he’s MARRIED!
The author goes on to give more examples of how black men objectify black women, but suddenly when it comes to Olivia Pope somehow the conversation changes. In all fairness, those examples that she gave are correct. Many black men I know objectify black women, but I’d make the argument, black men who have no problem watching the latest Twerk Team video on YouTube or who wait for the day their WorldStar Hip Hop video goes viral probably aren’t part of the target demographic who would watch “Scandal” in the first place. Out of my peers in this mid to late 20s, early 30s demographic, it’s full of black men where the man in the “Tip Drill” video swiping the credit card down a girl’s butt crack is more a memory of our college days, than some archetype of objectifying women.
Men and women, or should I just be bold and generalize by saying people, operate more on a maturity scale rather than lock into these hard and fast stereotypical gender roles. At one time or another, women all sit around and objectify the male models that they see and want. I mean honestly, I grew up in an era when Morris Chestnut, Boris Kodjoe, Tyson Beckford and Shemar Moore could do no wrong. And on the flip side, black men were convinced Halle Berry, Gabrielle Union, Robin Givens, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long and Regina King were divine gifts from the heavens above. It happens, it always will happen.
But is there not to come a point where some of the childish objectifying on both sides does come to an end? I would think so. I talk to my
play little brothers, both college athletes from time to time about what they expect in a relationship. When they were younger I tolerated the random “bitches and hoes” conversations, but as both of them get older and mature, I started questioning them: so if all you talk about is “bitches and hoes” obviously you don’t want a grown woman? The point being, don’t expect to be with a mature woman when you, as a man, still possess gross immaturity. Yes, some women will put up with it in hopes you’ll grow out of it, but there will come the day when she will want you to actually grow up.
To the author of this article I simply say: isn’t getting black men to think about marriage the whole main point?
I’m not sure if this article was to be taken lightly as a tongue-in-cheek genre, or if the author is serious. If and only if this author is serious, I have some serious contentions with what was written. I go back to the opening about this being an unscientific poll; what fictitious black men has she machinated for the sake of raggin’ on black men this early on a Friday morning? So this lets the reader know that this is clearly just one woman’s opinion.
Toward the middle I get confused all over again. She complains about black men objectifying black women, which implies black men shouldn’t objectify black women–okay, makes sense to me. But in the larger corpus of black women voices concerning such topics, the main goal is to get black men thinking about marriage in the black community (i.e. marrying black women.) She writes:
While their brethren, and themselves, are free to pursue and fetishize about any Sue, Becky and Kimmy that crosses their path — because black women are so demanding, fat, lazy, unsupportive [insert derogatory label here] — any sister who isn’t beating a drum in Leimert Park with dreads down her back or a TWA (Teeny-weeny afro), is a race traitor waiting to spread her legs for the massa.
Let them tell it.
I swiftly discard that exaggerated criticism because it is so obviously steeped in feelings of emasculation and instinctive powerlessness that it would take much longer than a sweep of social media to peel back all of the layers and address its core
I ask the question, again, what fictitious black man is she talking about that prefers the soul sister imaged here in Leimert Park. Honestly, I know more black men who appreciate the “Olivia Pope” style than that of some neo-Angela Davis or the black woman with locs in her hair. Not to mention, most black women I know have no problem perming their hair or wearing a hair piece as they see visually necessary. Above all, I consistently have problems when black women bloggers project “emasculation and instinctive powerlessness” onto their gender counterparts and fail to unpack it; it can be perceived as willfully ignorant, pejorative, engaging in broad generalizations and it comes off as lazy and salacious writing for the sake of being sensational. Because, if I went on a rant and made a blanket statement that “black women who write like this are neo-femiNazis who engage in a homoerotic life philosophy because ‘they can’t get no man’ and joined the ‘I don’t need no man’ club” then I’d be seen as a masculinist, narrow-minded, hegemonic, patriarchal, heteronormative black man– and they’d be right!
Speaking for myself and through my personal lens (not on behalf of black men everywhere), I tried to suspend my issue with Liv having this affair with a married man–who happens to be the president of the United States. Yes, my heart fell a few times as through flashbacks Mellie learned of the affair, and even more devastatingly learned that her husband really didn’t love her. Now yes, Mellie actual love for Fitz has come into question a few times since this love triangle has unfolded, but I think it’s safe to say that when a wife finds out there is a second woman and she actually loves her husband, it could be a death blow. Irrespective of all of that, Olivia is a sidepiece, a First Sidepiece though.
This is also a show for the sole cause of entertainment. There was no groundbreaking barriers attempted to be breached with the creation and production of this show. This was not some “All in the Family” or “The Cosby Show” show where this was the first time an interracial couple was displayed on television. What bothers me about Savali’s article is that she 1) criticizes men for being hypocritical on the one hand objectifying women and another touting marriage when it comes to a black woman being interested in a white man and 2) she cuts across the field to the following
This is about hyper-masculinity, patriarchy and possession. For once, a black woman is depicted on-screen who is one self-reliant, skilled, bad-ass business-woman capable of making her own decisions based on choices independent of black male control — and she chose a white man.
More importantly, she chose love with all its drama attached — no racial qualifier needed. And attempting to slut-shame black, female viewers into turning the channel just proves that a lot of egos need to be adjusted for deflation.
For once, it’s not about you, sirs. And that’s okay, you’ll live. We’ve being doing it for years.
She drops these concepts of “hyper-masculinity, patriarchy and possession” all of which are the basis for a doctoral dissertation, and then at the end says “for once it’s not about you, sirs” which I contend, if it’s not about us and truly about the black female character, then lets address one of the elephants in the room, and one that you brought up: Olivia Pope is a mistress. Let’s take interracial aspect of the relationship out of the question, and let’s take black men and all their B.S. out of the equation as well and whatever projections both sides can throw at the other and look at it from a purely sociological perspective and beg the question: what does it mean for the central character to be a [black] woman in a relationship with a married man? Frankly, I think there is something to be discussed here. To sweep that under the rug for the sake of taking sucker punches at black men I think is a bit lazy and dare I say petty. It could be perceived that Olivia Pope’s love affair with Fitz was nothing more than a plot device for this author to just do nothing more than take pot shots at black men collectively–just because she can.
In the grand scheme of Shonda Rhimes’ writing, as I said before, I more or less overlooked this. I’ve been a fan of “Grey’s Anatomy” from the beginning, I peeped into “Private Practice” occasional and even gave “Off the Map” a try as well. The interracial couples abound and the torrid affairs abound as well. One of which was the affair in “Grey’s Anatomy” that the former Chief of Surgery Richard Webber who had an affair with the mother of the titular character Meredith Grey. Forgive me if I am mistaken, but I don’t recall outrage surround the black man sleeping with a married white woman, and if so, certainly not placed in such a category. To quote Savali:
Don’t get me wrong, if President Grant were black and Liv were white, black women would not flock to Scandal. I freely admit to that. It wouldn’t matter how empathetically and compassionately their love was depicted. It. would. not. fly. Not in this life or the next. Those same deep, racial fissures that would turn some women away from that inverted plot are clearly causing resentment in some black men and that’s understandable. I get it.
I get that no one is allowed to objectify black women but them. [the author's own emphasis.]
Okay, that’s fine if black women reserve the right, the voice, to objectify themselves, you’ll get no objections from me. However, the same courtesy should be extended toward black men as well. If that’s the case, you don’t get to ogle at shirtless men you see on magazine covers or make brash attempts to emasculate men as seen fit. And if I can push it a bit, if black women, generally speaking, reserve the right to objectify themselves and themselves alone, then I take umbrage with the intellectual objectification of black men as hyper-masculine, patriarchal, possessive, “steeped in feelings of” emasculation and instinctive powerlessness. If black women, as a collective body want to embrace the Kwanzaan concept of kugichagulia and participate in the naming of themselves, speaking for themselves and defining themselves rather than being named, spoken for and defined by others, you’ll have no objections from me. But, I be damned if we as a community allow black women to put forth this self-fulfilling prophecy that “black men ain’t sh*t” and proceed to define black men as “emasculated” but yet and still expecting this certain warped standard of feminist interpreted manhood.
I want to be clear, my issue is not with the person-hood of Kirsten West Savali, I don’t know her nor what she stands for and what her personal life looks like, but her article, to me, seems to be what I perceive as wrong with the black blogging community as a whole. We prefer short pithy blogs (certainly not this 2,500 word plus I’ve been plugging away at) that neatly throw out these concepts and we don’t unpack them. I’d certainly be interested in a response from the blogger if I have in anyway misconstrued what her intent was, but to drop such weighted commentary without a lot of supporting evidence, not to mention the unscientific poll, leaves one open to such criticism.
I wrote “For Black Male Intellectuals Who Have Considered Suicide When Black Women Were Too Much” in November 2010 on the heels of the “For Colored Girls” movie from Tyler Perry and amidst gender wars in the black blogging community that were being kicked off left and right. I wrote it on the heels of black feminists who had no problem calling me out on Twitter, using my government name, while still tweeting from anonymous accounts and having locked invite only blogs, yet still saying they want to engage in dissenting conversations. I wrote it on the heels of a contemporary having all of her minions start to blast me on Twitter just because they could, yet couldn’t figure out why they were still single. I wrote it on the heels of sharing war stories with other black male bloggers about how rough some of the black women bloggers could be.
Two years and a few months later, I still feel the same way; I conclude with the same sentiments as I did two years ago. It has nothing to do with my lack of growth in those two years, I’d like to think my writing had grown and I’ve certainly experienced what feels like a lifetime since I wrote that article. Nevertheless, many of my sentiments still exist two years later because the situation at large hasn’t changed much, if at all. If my overall tone comes off as patriarchal, chauvinistic or hyper-masculine, I’d encourage one to re-examine the filter through which they are understanding. I will not apologize for my manhood or my masculinity, nor will I allow my maleness nor my male sexuality be twisted, defined and warped into any woman’s concocted standard as she sees fit. This is who I am, and I be who I be. I be damned if I let anyone define who I am.
That’s it and that’s all.
Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL