Thursday, February 10, 2011

Black feminist book club: Wait….When Did I Become the Black Dick Keeper?

This year, I pledged to read more black feminist writing and I invited What Tami Said readers to join me. Right now, our Black Feminist Book Club is reading When and Where I Enter by Paula Giddings. I welcome guest submissions on the content and themes of this book.

Yesterday, Brown Girl Speaks wrote about the notion, which Giddings refers to in her essay on Ida B. Wells' anti-lynching campaign, that black women are responsible for or to blame for black male sexuality. Today, Andrea Plaid discusses how that thinking has survived.


written by What Tami Said guest contributor Andrea Plaid

Moms and I had another round-and-round discussion about this—I’d swear that it started when I developed breasts. A distilled version:

“The woman’s role is to say ‘no’ to the man, to keep him at bay,” she’d start. “It’s not like the man doesn’t try to get his way, but it’s the woman who needs to say ‘no’ until he gives her a ring, at least. Then, she has something to back her up when she’s having sex with him.”
“But why should I have to keep the man at bay” I’d ask. “Why can’t he keep himself at bay?”
“Because the man wants what he wants. It’s his nature,” Mom would state. “It’s up to the woman to civilize him into wanting to be married. If not—and the woman just lays up with him and has babies by him—he just used her, spreads his seed, and keeps going.”
At this point in The Sexual Message, Moms would illustrate her point by telling me about the Black girls who lived on her block, when she was a tween and teen, who became single teen moms. (Some context: Moms came “up North” from Mississippi during the Second Great Migration when she was 10. She grew up in mostly to all-Black neighborhoods, mostly because of de jure segregation that was slowly shifting toward de facto segregation. She graduated high school in 1963.) Moms and the girls would hang together, Moms would say, but she knew she wasn’t going to “let some boy use her like that.” (She’d add that, because of that singular decision, her girlfriends—and their children—never quite achieved the Black Middle-Class Dream. Moms knew this because she’s seen them over the years.) She’d talk about how she would sit under my “scoundrel” uncles at the table—they were much older than she was; (Moms is the youngest daughter out of 13 kids)--and would listen to how they talked about how they used women and knew no man would talk about her like that. Then she would underline her point by talking about The Bet: a group of Black men, including my late father, wagered that one of them would literally get Mom’s panties. (Yes, the actual proof of the event was to show the group her panties.) My father took on the challenge—and ended up taking my mom an engagement ring. And, my mom would brag, she didn’t have me until after they were married. Moms would also point to my sister’s birth as another example of the privileges of birthing after marriage, of doing it The Right Way.

In other words, her advice was infalliable--her life was proof of it.

Music Thursday: Banned BET videos edition

Since we're talking about black women and sexuality this week, Ciara's "Ride" came to mind. The song, featuring a sinuous vocal over a dirty, grinding beat sounds good at full blast in the car or on the dance floor. I often listen to it while vacuuming--makes cleaning seem sexier. But, as you may recall, controversy was sparked last year when BET refused to play the unedited "Ride" video, ostensibly because it is too sexually suggestive.

Now at the time of the kerfuffle I hadn't seen the video, but imagined it must be pretty XXX. I mean, BET has never been afraid of barely covered jiggling booties or songs about sex. Folks have been bumping and grinding on BET since K-Ci did his first body roll with accompanying "Oooooh, yeah!" And black women's sexuality has been continually exploited by male performers on the channel. So, I thought, Ciara must have lost her damned mind in "Ride."

And then--long after the controversy had cooled--I saw the video:

This is what made the BET powers that be clutch their pearls? A clothed performer dancing aggressively and singing about sexual prowess using double entendre?

Renina at New Model Minority said it well:
What does it mean that BET refuses to play Ride because they arguably find it too sexually suggestive?
Why is this video banned (or simply not being played) but the 5011 other rap videos with ubiquitous half nude, anonymous video vixens, and video extra’s get major rotation?
Here are some of the songs that you can vote for this week on
Bobby V. ft Plies “Phone #.”
Rick Ross “Aston Martin Music.”
Gucci Mane “Remember When.”
Is Black women’s sexuality being displayed on her own terms a threat that compels BET to react with censorship.
Wait till you See my Dick” is cool but Ride ain’t? I mean blood, the simulated orgy scene?
#ummhmm. #youain’tgottaLieCraig.
Sexual double standard?
It's enough to make you think the ghost of A. Philip Bruce is making decisions at BET--that a black woman owning her sexuality (rather than having it served up or conquered and controlled by black men) is a dangerous thing.


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