Gchattin’ #ForColoredGirls: Art, Tyler Perry and Everything in Between

November 13th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

So after having seen “For Colored Girls,” we knew that we had to post about it. No doubts. And since we were both itchin to say something, we decided to borrow our “Gchattin’ Glee” format and hash it out together.

Seen the movie? Join the conversation in the comments. 

Amber: For Colored Girls. Man, this is a deep one. We saw it a week ago and I’m still processing. I went into the theater skeptical that Tyler could pull it off, but hoping that he would prove me wrong. Needless to say, I was disappointed, and at some points in the film even angry. Overall I think Tyler’s adaptation of For Colored Girls failed to be true to Ntozake Shange’s original message. He completely missed the point.

Liz: It was Tyler doing Tyler with some poetry thrown in. And the poetry made it choppy even as I was mesmerized by the acting. He seems to have one narrative that he has to hit again and again…I remember thinking, why am I not crying? I cry on movies. Somebody starts crying and I’m tearing up. In this movie, I never did. Not once. And I think it’s because I was never invested in these characters. I don’t know them. Things just happen to them. I don’t think Tyler knows them either. He has a narrative and writes it, but it isn’t about real people. Does that make sense?

Amber: It does make sense. His stories are all very one dimensional and this movie, following the same trend of his other films, was lacking in substance and depth. He doesn’t take the time to develop his characters, he writes stories around them rather than telling stories through them, and therefore as a viewer, you never completely develop a connection to them. He tells you how you should feel about them the minute they are introduced and your identification with them never goes much beyond that. It’s funny though that you mention that you didn’t cry (and we know you are a crier. :-P ) because I have really been thinking a lot about Tyler’s audience. I didn’t like the film. You didn’t like the film. But so many people did. In fact, we may have been the only two in our full theater who walked out rolling our eyes. And although you didn’t cry, I know many many people who did.

Liz: Well, just to clarify, I’m not a weeper! I just do the silent tears. ;) But yeah, so many people seemed to enjoy it and I think it’s because Tyler can write a story. People say and do crazy things. You gasp, you laugh, you say “OMG!” There is a sliver of truth in many of his movies even as there are many moments of contrived and cliche plots/dialogue. And Tyler isn’t the only writer/director/producer to create those. But it’s hard to watch when he’s trying to tackle so many deep issues. And when he’s made so many movies with the same plots. His characters are the same with different names.

Amber: But people love him! Despite the fact that he so clearly repeats characters, storylines, and plots. This is what I am trying to wrap my head around. What is it about his films that continues to draw in the crowds? I mean, obviously the fact that “For Colored Girls” was his adaptation of the award-winning and highly esteemed “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf” is gonna draw in some folks, critics and supporters alike, not to mention the stellar cast….but those things aside, why does he continue to rake in the millions in spite of all the criticism?

Liz: It’s kind of like watching a soap opera on the big screen. Do you ever really cry on a soap opera? Do you ever actually care about the people? Not really…you just want to let your mouth drop open and wait anxiously to find out what will happen next. It’s solely about plot. Crazy plot. Like seeing a man with another man in the car, caught having oral sex. Your next introduction to him is as a husband. Gasp!

Amber: Yes. I hear you. Tyler’s movies are very much like soap operas, that is actually a great analogy. They are easy to get into, don’t require much thinking, and are mildly entertaining. Here’s my question though: Why then are we so frustrated by Tyler’s movies? Why do we care so much that he didn’t live up to our expectations? Why are we so quick to critique his “art?” The thing is, Tyler is a powerhouse in Hollywood and really the only writer/director/producer who makes films about and geared toward Black audiences (OK, not the ONLY, but right now I would argue that he’s the most consistent and visible). Therefore, I think his work inevitably carries a certain weight with it since he is one of few filmmakers attempting to tell black stories from black perspectives for black people, which is always a heavy cross to bear. It’s a tricky tricky ball game and the simplistic nature of Tyler’s films coupled with the way he has established himself in Hollywood makes him liable to fierce criticism. 


Liz: He brings in the money. I didn’t used to be so critical about his movies. I like Diary of a Mad Black Woman. I found others funny and entertaining. And there are so few movies that showcase the talent of black women (and men) which For Colored Girls certainly did. But as movie after movie has come out, I’ve been more critical of him as nothing seems to change. I’m just kind of tired. And so I’m even more critical when his source material has so much potential, so much power and so much artistry. And although he gets props for what he has done, being a powerhouse means you’ll only get more and more scrutiny.

Amber: Exactly, as he begins to make more films and becomes more visible, people are starting to challenge him to step up his game and improve his craft. An adaptation of “For Colored Girls” was a HUGE undertaking, which shows that Tyler is attempting to expand himself, his stories, and his audience. But the thing is, if you are going to take on such a huge project with so much potential, it’s important that it’s done right and I think that the execution of the film suffered greatly from:
1. Tyler doing everything himself as you mentioned (Did he really have to write, direct, and produce?! Like really, dude…too much…and it showed)

2. His failure to capture and translate the powerful message of strength, beauty, vulnerability, and the wholeness of women of color expressed through Shange’s original work.

3. Telling stories about women through their relationships with men. This was a MAJOR fail, and perhaps most frustrating. His failure to centralize the stories and experiences of the women in the film ended up greatly changing the overall message and impact.

Liz: I think number 3 is directly tied to number 2 – he can’t capture the wholeness of women of color because he only tells the stories through their relationship with men. At the end of the movie, they stood as survivors, but not as agents (except perhaps Loretta Devine’s character who finally kicked her man out). And the male characters suffer too – they are incredibly one-dimensional. They are bad or good. They’re props. So the stories are seen through women’s relationships with men, decentralizing them, but what is it centralizing? These aren’t real male characters either.

Amber: Yes, I agree that all the characters were written poorly. But the fact that Tyler chose to emphasize the women characters’ relationships with the men in their lives in order to tell their stories is such a problem. The stories should be able to stand on their own, but when told through someone else, a relationship, or a situation, the person central to the story is diminished. So is the perspective. Like you so adequately put it, “at the end of the movie [the women] stood as survivors, but not as agents.” And it is clear that Tyler Perry was the storyteller, because he wrote himself all up in them.

Liz: How do you think he wrote himself all up in them? Break it down. ;)

Amber: Well, like we mentioned earlier, so many of Tyler’s characters are cliche and have also become staples of his films. For example, Janet’s character, and really that entire situation between her and her husband, has been done before by Tyler–the strong, independent, educated, financially secure woman who is also emotionally cold, distant, and generally unhappy, married to a man that she emasculates due to her many flaws of character. And the down low brother thing is just tired. The way that situation played out was so problematic and extremely frustrating.

Liz: Agreed. I felt so uncomfortable with those scenes. And when it turns out she has HIV I was cringing…because the way he writes it is so cliche (how many times can I use that word? many.) Seriously, a cough? Why the hell is she throwing in little coughs? That pissed me off cuz it just trivializes it by making it so silly. Sigh. The scene where Janet Jackson and Loretta Devine talk felt like a PSA – which perhaps shows that Tyler wants to reach women of color with a specific message, but is he even sure what that message always is?

Amber: To be honest, it seems as if Tyler hasn’t completely dealt with his own sexism. And it is evident through his characters. In this film, he blamed the women for a lot of what they were going through. Not only were shitty things happening to them, but in large part, he portrayed it as their fault based on bad choices and staying in bad situations. Even though the men were portrayed negatively, the women were blamed for the outcomes: Why did you let him in the house? Why didn’t you leave him when he beat you the first time? Why didn’t you use protection? If you would’ve shown him some damn attention and made him feel like a man, he wouldn’t be looking for men to sleep with….(?) Gaaah. I agree that he seems to want to empower or encourage women, but he’s unable to sift through his own prejudices and as a result his stories strip women of agency while blaming them for their problems in the same breath.

Liz: Problematic to say the least. And it’s too bad. His source material does the opposite. The movie may have ended with the words “For Colored Girls who’ve considered suicide,” but lining up the host of (amazing) actresses to hug each other resolved nothing. It only left me disappointed and wanting to see the play performed on stage. Perhaps the one redeeming moment at the end was this song.

Amber: I hear you and I hope that more people have that reaction. I do give Tyler (minimal) props for wanting to do an adaptation of this play. He has definitely revived it in a way and I hope that the hype will get more people to read the book and hopefully seek out the opportunity to perform it and/or go see it on stage.

“WE are Family!”: A response to #NWNW

October 9th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink


Oh Liz,

This is indeed a layered topic and one that I had been pretty indifferent toward until you brought it to my attention a few days ago. But now, after having read several blog posts on the issue and having done a little research on the “No Wedding, No Womb” campaign, I can’t help but sit here with furrowed eyebrows and a clenched jaw.

In short, I think the #NWNW campaign is extremely offensive, misguided, and counterproductive. As you mentioned, it tackles a huge issue, but is overwhelmingly simplistic and offers a solution that is elitist, discriminatory, and inherently problematic. I guess I can respect Karazin’s motives (sigh), but this movement is fundamentally flawed for several reasons. Here are just a couple that have been floating around in my head:

1. The #NWNW campaign is not just heteronormative, it is downright heterosexist.

If the #NWNW campaign is advocating for strong two parent households and loving relationships why is there NO conversation about LGBTQ individuals in loving supportive relationships who have children or may want to have them in the future? Are they not important enough to be a part of the conversation? (Do you know what allows you to blatantly ignore or refuse to address issues that are pertinent to the everyday lives of others? When you can identify as a member of the privileged group.) Advocating for marriage before having children as a solution to the “crisis” facing the black family is a slap in the face to the millions of Black LGBTQ individuals in this country who are unable to get married because they are forbidden by law to do so. The campaign ignores the fact that the “traditional” notion of the familial unit within this country is constantly changing. By defining marriage as a union only between a man and a woman, #NWNW denies that familial structures within the black community have always been diverse and come in many different forms. It also turns this campaign into an elitist and moral one that promotes white middle-class heterosexual values (with religious undertones), and ties it with physical limitations on women’s choice and the female body. I mean, come on. Really, it’s just tacky.

2. The “Nuclear Black Family” is a myth.

“72 % of Black children are born out of wed-lock.”
OMG. Okaaaay. We get it. **rolls eyes** So, we like to quote statistics, huh? Well here are a few more for you:
-Suicide rates for African American adolescents have increased over 200% in the last decade
-African Americans comprise 40% of America’s homeless population and only 12% of the United States population
-Nearly half of all prisoners in the United States are African American
-Over 20% of African Americans do not have health insurance
-The poverty rate for Blacks is nearly twice that of whites
-Unemployment rates for Blacks are twice the national average
-In 2004, African Americans had the highest age-adjusted all-causes death rate of all races/ethnicities
Hurts your heart a bit doesn’t it (sigh).
I quote these statistics to make the point that looking at a statistic, some numbers, without context doesn’t allow you to have a deep and meaningful conversation about solutions. There is a whole lot afflicting the Black community and I just really don’t think that babies born to parents who aren’t married is the problem. It’s only a symptom of a host of institutional and infrastructural inequalities in this country namely health, socioeconomic, educational, and racial. Using marriage as a central focus to talk about the problems facing the Black community is moot. We need to be talking about strengthening individuals within our communities and advocating for the necessary state and federal aid, developmental programs, and support to do so.
And to be really real, the “Nuclear Black Family” is a myth, prevented by becoming a reality through many historical and structural forces i.e., chattel slavery (*Cues Paul Mooney* “FOUR HUNDRED YEARS”), Jim Crowe, employment discrimination, and the prison industrial complex to name a few. I’m not saying that a Black man and woman can’t be in a loving relationship and have and raise children together. Obviously, this can and does happen and it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. BUT, historically and culturally Black families have existed in MANY different forms—the “standard” mom, dad, and 2.5 kids is just one of them. And however we may try to deny it, this society privileges certain familial structures over others and it is reflected in the ways that we think about family and in the denial of rights and support to individuals who do not fit into the mold. We can’t all be the Huxtables…I’m just sayin.
I agree with you that a conversation about healthy relationships is very important, especially for our youth, but I think it needs to be a separate one and not held in the context of #NWNW.
And just to let you know, I’ve already bought my ticket for the “’oh hell no!’ bandwagon” and I’m chiiiillin on board, sippin’ a glass of wine, and giving a FIERCE side-eye to this entire campaign.

“First Comes Love, then Comes Marriage, then Comes the Baby in the Baby Carriage.” #NWNW

October 8th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

So Amber,

I was reading the latest post on The Crunk Feminist Collective, a call for a “No Uncle No Uterus” campaign, and was thoroughly confused for a good minute till I realized it was a critique on another campaign, “NWNW.” And I had no idea what that was.

Thank goodness for Google. Turns out it means “No Wedding, No Womb” and is a campaign of 100+ bloggers writing in support of marriages before pregnancies in black communities.

And it’s apparently created a stir (I love the blogosphere). In my googling discoveries, I’ve found various critiques: one reporter writes, “Regardless, the bloggers associated with “No Wedding, No Womb” aren’t focused on the outcomes for children. The campaign is instead telling black women how they should act sexually. Reducing women to their childbearing capacity is right there in the title: Wombs are blocked off until matrimony.” Another writes, “While Karazin’s heart is in the right place, I have to agree that equating marriage with familial and economic stability is wistfully wrongheaded….I think what Karazin’s trying to get at, in our sound-bite culture, is that poor women, all women, need to value themselves enough to protect themselves from the avoidable pitfalls in their already difficult lives.”

Here I think are the critiques: having a campaign for marriage does not solve poverty; it does not address the institutional and historical causes for persistent poverty; it shames women and promotes a narrow view of family.

So first off, yes to all of the above. Making marriage the solution to poverty and violence is not a good solution. Marriage alone can not solve the inequitable policies hurting families (whatever those families look like). Nor does placing the responsibility solely on women solve anything. There is an element of “slut-shaming” to this, mostly because where are the men in this solution? What’s their responsibility?

But with all that said, I don’t necessarily want to jump on the “oh hell no!” bandwagon against NWNW. I wouldn’t sign up to blog for them, but when criticizing their campaign, neither do I want to deny that there is something going on when 72% of African American children are born out of wedlock. That “something” is not just one thing (or two or three), but I am hesitant to completely dismiss a discussion on marriage and relationships.

I don’t like it when ten year olds ask me “do you have kids?” before asking me if I’m married (or even have a boyfriend). I’ve written before about teenagers’ views on relationships and the brokenness of their understanding. Many of these teens come from families that do not have a solid two parent relationship – whether married or unmarried. In order to understand how to relate to one another, they need to see other strong relationships.

Let me be clear: there are hundreds of issues flying and dancing around this statistic. I think NWNW is too simplistic, lets men off the hook and ignores wider social and political problems. And really, it’s just another tired story about what black women need to do that CNN will probably run with analysis from a panel of “experts” (yay Steve Harvey!). And then there’s the whole issue of it being heteronormative…

But I do think it’s okay to ask (along with a million other questions), how do we solve gender/relationship/family issues on a personal and social level?

Let’s have a holistic approach to understanding the problems facing our children, young people and families. Let’s understand that marriage is only a good solution if it is healthy and stable – and fighting against that health and stability is sexism, racism, classism, all those damn “isms” and the policies that go with them.

And there are fantastic single moms and dads (aunts and uncles and grandparents) who raise healthy, supported children in this world. And there are married couples who don’t. For a variety of reasons. But, how do we address all those reasons? Is there just one campaign or solution?

No. It’s complicated. And so deep. I don’t know how to unravel it all….

My disclaimer: I’m posting this without feeling entirely comfortable with it. With every sentence I write, another sentence pops into my head that problematizes the one before. But since this blog is really a conversation, I’ll consider this post only the beginning.

Sex, Lies and….Teenagers

July 26th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Oh Amber,

So deep. I spent a good chunk of time reading the conversation swirling around Crunktastic’s post and was reminded just how deep it really is. We’re broken – whether objectified or “friend”ified, our notions of gender and each other are broken. We may start to figure out one piece of the puzzle and suddenly we notice the big gaping hole that we didn’t know was there.

I’ve been thinking about youth and gender. Recently, I have consistently been confronted with many teenagers’ screwed up ideas of gender, sex and relationships.

So many boys talk about girls as objects for their pleasure, and they are so unaware of the falseness of this idea that they will do so with women (me) present. They claim to respect women, but they’re operating with an inaccurate definition. A definition taught to them by peers, music, movies and tv shows, and left unchecked by parents and society.

So many girls rely on boys’ attention for self-esteem. Nothing breaks my heart more than to see girls fall into this trap. They’re self-worth has been mutilated – what happened to slapping that boy who dared to touch your ass – like he just thought he could?

Both end up hurt. The boys as much as the girls. Neither know anything about relationships. Did you ever see “When Harry Met Sally?” Harry tells Sally that men and women can never be friends because the “sex part always gets in the way.” Well, when your hormones are raging, your self-esteem is shot, and your concept of “womanhood” and “manhood” is skewed, then sex most definitely gets in the way.

Sometimes I think we focus so much on preventing STDs and teenage pregnancies that we pass over all the other issues related to teenage sex (and why many are having sex) – self-worth, the worth of others, the value of relationships and what they actually look like. Don’t get me wrong, sex ed is important, but so is their emotional and social health.

And yes, media has a lot to do with it. And home. They get these images somewhere and if they aren’t taught how to filter, they buy into what’s being sold. And it hurts them.

And left to themselves, they will grow to be adults who know nothing about relationships.






** I should note that I speak very generally (“they”) but obviously, like any other group of people, teenagers have varying experiences. In this instance, however, I wanted to go general rather than specific.

Blogging as Therapy (Cont): The Feminist Friend Zone

July 16th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Liz,

I can relate to your story all too well. If I had a dollar for the number of conversations about “Feminism” that I’ve had with men in the past couple years, I would be one wealthy sista…ya dig? They are conversations that need to happen and many times when both parties are “trying to understand, [them] listening to you and [you] to them” it can be very fruitful and a lot can be learned.

BUT, my friend, how does all of this translate when it comes to dating these men?

I thought that I had put this topic to rest (at least for a little while) and found peace and contentment in seeking my “wholeness.” As you may recall, in my earlier “Blogging as Therapy” post, I emphasized that “wholeness” is the ultimate goal—but let’s be real. Getting there is a journey all on its own that is much easier said than done. So as I continue to tread along this path, how do I deal with all the obstacles (to achieving said wholeness) along the way?

What reopened this pandora’s box (of sorts) was a blog post that I read on The Crunk Feminist Collective entitled, “Dating While Feminist: Anatomy of an Intellectual Affair,” which I found via my boyfriend in my head, Marc Lamont Hill’s, twitter page. This post is completely different from the “F*cking While Feminist” interview with Jaclyn Friedman that I posted on several weeks ago. Although I found Friedman’s interview entertaining, I must admit that I didn’t really identify with it. While reading this post on the CFC, however, I found myself rolling my eyes, laughing out loud, and giving the author, Crunktastic, a fierce, “Okkkkkaaaaay….” *snaps*

In the post, Crunktastic shares a snapshot of her own experiences with dating and in effect, highlights what many single, successful, educated women who identify as feminist go through on dates with single, successful, educated, brothas who identify as the same. She writes:

You and a brother meet at an academic event. Perhaps you’re both guest panelists on some discussion about Black life, culture, or politics. You hear what he has to say and think to yourself depending on your needs at the time, “The brother is intelligent, articulate, and cute to boot. I wanna get to know him better.” And if you’re honest, you probably also think, “Wow. He could get it.” The brother sees you and thinks (apparently, and I’m most certainly speculating), “Wow. She’s attractive and really, really smart. Probably couldn’t pull her though. I don’t have enough degrees [money, etc, etc]. There are basically three types of dude reactions in this scenario: dude A will ignore you entirely. Dude B the educated, but intimidated jerk will attempt to diminish you to make himself feel better. Dude C has home-training and considers himself progressive. He respects strong, intelligent women. His mama probably is one. So he befriends you. For you, it’s the start of a beautiful friendship with tantalizing possibilities. For him, it is and will only ever be friendship, because he perceives that you are more intelligent and accomplished than he. And that makes you friendable, but not datable, and certainly not f*ckable. Why the two are mutually exclusive is absolutely beyond me.”

Gaaah. So deep. Friend Zoned Feminist = no fun. I must say that I have seen this time and time again–guys who are interested in working out all of their personal ish with you (the stuff that they don’t really feel comfortable talking about with their boys, i.e. emotional baggage, insecurities, and vulnerabilities) and fostering a deep emotional connection without the committment or much reciprocity. As one commentor put it, “Doing girlfriend duty, without the girlfriend benefits.” Hmph.

So, what is a feminist to do? And more importantly, what is the real conversation that we need to be having here? Successful, motivated women aren’t the problem. It goes much much deeper than that…

Ugh. All I have is questions and very few answers. But, at the end of the day, I can honestly agree with Crunktastic–“Dating While Feminist*” is DEEP, to say the least.

*Sort of

Blogging as Therapy Vol. 1: Male Privilege, Dating, and Feminism

June 15th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink


Liz,

I’ve been in a bit of a funk (#Glee!) lately. I must admit that said funk is a contributor to why I haven’t posted for several weeks. There are so many topics that have been swimming around in my head, but to actually sit and write about them has proven to be pretty daunting. With that said, it’s no fun being in a funk and sitting around thinking about how you are in a funk just makes it worse. We kind of started this blog, on the “blogging as therapy” tip and if you don’t mind, I think that I’m going to take it back there for a little while.

As a first post on this “blogging as therapy” series, which is bound to become a trend (due to the funk), I’ve decided to tackle a topic that has become an extremely relevant part of my everyday life and that one reader (s/o to JCH!) suggested we publicly consider—the complicated intersection of male privilege, feminism, and relationships between men and women (platonic and otherwise). Deep (But really though, I just always want to talk about this. Let’s be real.)

I recently read an interview done by The Sexist, a blog on Washingtoncitypaper.com that focuses on sex and gender in Washington, D.C., entitled “Fucking While Feminist.” In the piece, Amanda Hess, blogger for The Sexist, interviewed feminist activist and author, Jaclyn Friedman.

In the interview Hess asks Friedman several questions about the difficulties of “dating while feminist” including whether or not she has a “feminist litmus test” that she references when getting to know a guy. Overall, I thought the interview was pretty light-hearted and entertaining, and I do think that Friedman brought up some very interesting points that I have considered in regard to my own interactions with men.

I don’t know if I would quite label myself a feminist for my own personal reasons, but I am one to actively challenge traditional understandings of gender and societal roles assigned to men and women. With that said, sexism has definitely become an important factor for me in forming relationships with men and to be honest has proven to be a very real source of frustration. How does one compromise? IS there a litmus test?

I recently attended a panel discussion on Black Male Privilege put together by the Brecht Forum in New York City. The panelists included Marc Lamont Hill, Associate Professor of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University; Byron Hurt, award winning filmmaker, anti-sexism activist, and essayist; R.L. Heureux Lewis, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Black Studies at the City College of New York; and Mark Anthony Neal, Professor of Black Popular Culture at Duke University & author of “The New Black Man: Redefining Black Masculinity.” The discussion was organized and moderated by Esther Armah, international award winning journalist, playwright and radio host of Wake Up Call & Off The Page (WBAI 99.5 FM).

I went to the discussion skeptical about the fact that there were no women on the panel (except for Armah serving as the moderator) and eager to hear what was to be said because panel discussions on Black Male Privilege just don’t happen. Apparently, lots of other individuals felt the same way, because the place was packed. I arrived about ten minutes before the discussion began, and it was already standing room only. Armah began by asking each of the panelists if they thought Black male privilege was real and if so, how would they define it. Two and half hours later the room was still full, the discussion was still going strong, and I left feeling a little more hopeful about the Black community generally, and relationships with men in particular.

Going into depth on the panel would require a whole other post to do it justice, but a significant theme that each of the panelists continued to emphasize was that feminism is not just a women’s movement, and sexism is not just a women’s problem, it affects all of us. Although there are many benefits to privilege, there are also many limitations and constraints, which may be easier to ignore, but are just as damaging (interdisciplinary/cultural studies 101, but we are quick to forget). It is when we start to recognize the parts of ourselves that we are forced to repress and the ways that we are still put into boxes, even while claiming privilege, that we can truly begin to see that with these constraints none of us can ever really be whole. And really, what more can you ask for out of life than to be whole, intact, complete—fully content with who you are and in the ability to express yourself. Wholeness is the goal.

With that said, in searching for my wholeness, I would like to think that I have become a little more patient with individuals who are also searching for theirs, that is unafraid to be introspective and challenge their beliefs and opinions. So when it comes to friendship and dating, it may sound cliché, but I think an open mind goes a very long way.

Nightline Airs Foolishness: “Why Can’t a Successful Black Woman Find a Man?”

April 28th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Liz,

Do remember my first post about relationships? Well, fast-forward two months and Nightline comes out with this bs—“Why Can’t a Successful Black Woman Find a Man?”

*SIGH*

You can find the rest of the program (about 8 parts long) on youtube. Honestly, I didn’t watch it all. I got through the first 15 minutes and couldn’t stomach the rest of it (I really don’t know why I did it to myself in the first place. Smdh.) Black women just can’t catch a break. Society and the media are just always so ready to “tell us about ourselves” (today’s topic of choice, character flaws…really?). I am also just sick of this never-ending conversation. I need a break.

Melissa Harris-Lacewell recently wrote a response on The Nation to this foolishness and I have to echo Jill Tubman on JackandJillpolitics.com, in saying that she is my hero. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I have pasted one of my favorite quotations below:

“…even if we accepted the simplistic framing of an extant marriage crisis offered by the program, Nightline was stunningly simplistic (even for mainstream media) in its response to the issue. The solution offered most frequently in Wednesday’s conversation was familiar: professional black women need to scale back expectations. Black female success is an impediment to finding and cultivating black love. Hinging heavily on humor and black female desperation, like so many other conversations, articles, and news programs before it, this conversation missed the opportunity to offer a thoughtful analysis of structural, sociological, historical and political realities that serve as an impediment to fruitful partnerships between black men and women….Ultimately this panel did little more than shame, blame and stereotype black women. It offered few original insights and called into question that continued relevance of Nightline as a source of meaningful social and political information.”

**Snaps**

Stay strong, sistas and keep (Naomi Campbell) walking it out.

Private Party (Part 2)

March 3rd, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Amber,

You know what one of my biggest peeves is? Someone asks, “do you have a boyfriend?” and when I answer “no,” they ask, “why not?”

Why not? How am I supposed to answer that? It’s a dumb question, because either it’s asking, “what’s wrong with you?” or “why haven’t you just picked a man, any man?”  (It could be asking instead, “do you have a girlfriend,” but I’m of the opinion that no one asking me why I don’t have a boyfriend has that in mind.) To the first, it’s telling me that it must be my “fault” that I’m single. And to the second, it’s telling me that being single should never be an option. Being single isn’t a choice, it’s a dire situation.

(The last time someone asked me this, I answered “I don’t need a man,” which never sounds very good. Sigh.)

I stand firm that sometimes being single is the best choice, and certainly is when faced with “settling.”  Because you’re absolutely right; we too often try to find our value in someone else, and so never actually know our worth.

Which got me thinking in all kinds of directions. I feel like I’m constantly talking to people about relationships – who’s in one, who’s not, why, who might be soon?  The future is on everybody’s mind. And it’s not just the future of relationships, it’s the future of so many things. If we don’t have a job (ahem), we wonder when we will. If we do, we wonder when we’ll be able to find a better job. If we’re in grad school, we wonder what will happen next. Where will we live? What will we do? Who will we do it with?

It’s all just one big blob. Which makes me ask the question: Is it possible to only live in the here and now? Carpe diem, and all that crap. People are always saying, live in the moment! But I’m wondering is that really possible? Or is it merely wisdom that no one can use until they’re 40?

I don’t think I can go through the day without wondering what may happen next week or next month. How do I “celebrate the woman I’ve become” when I feel that there’s so much more to come? And just as “looking for love” is code for someone to fill the void, we can fill our void with the search for success, status or that future in the clouds. If just that one thing would change – that job, or that person, or that big break – life (and me) would be perfect.

I feel you on the need to learn who we are and how to love ourselves, but sometimes all those other things just crowd in and I want it all fixed. The relationship, the job, the life.

How do I seize the damn day?

(I feel like I just turned this into a therapy session and I’m on the couch. My bad.)

Private Party (Part 1)

February 24th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Liz,

You are absolutely right. It has been two years, and I love that even though so much has changed, the conversations haven’t stopped. ☺

I must admit that when we decided to start this blog, I already knew what the focus of my first post would be…

RELATIONSHIPS.

Ugh. “Why,” you ask? Well, because no matter how hard I try to escape the conversations, the thoughts, and the propaganda I still seem to be bombarded. Relationships—they are the hot topic around the water cooler, the main plot of too many of my favorite sitcoms, a source of angst for a growing number of my closest friends, and don’t even get me started on Valentine’s Day in New York City (smdh). So, I’ve decided that instead of avoiding it, I am going to face this bad boy head on (no pun intended).

Yes, relationships, coupledom, “love.” As a single recent college graduate attempting to put the craziness of undergrad behind me and transition into adulthood (whatever that means), I am finding that as I think more and more about my professional future, I can’t help but also seriously consider the future of my personal life—and I am beginning to realize that it can be a bit dangerous.

At a very young age, most women are taught that “finding love” is an essential part of life. As young girls we planned out and discussed our wedding days, we thought up names for our unborn children (a boy first, and then a girl), we fantasized about meeting our perfect significant other, first dates, and first kisses. Over time, those innocent fantasies and daydreams become an integral part of our being—a void that we long to fill. We go through the motions and play the dating game all the while hoping that we will come across “the one,” but under the pressure of our ever ticking biological clocks and for fear of ending up alone, too many of us end up settling. We settle for partners who are selfish, partners who are dishonest, and partners who stress us the hell out (a lot more often than they make us smile). And yet, we hold on to them. Instead of letting go, we hope for change and better times, while knowing deep down that we should just walk away. Smdh.

(Is a piece really still better than none at all…in 2010?)

**side eye**

Why do we do this over and over again? Why do we settle? And more importantly, what is so scary about being…alone?

Why do we need someone else to complete us? Why are we so willing to love someone else before learning to love ourselves? That’s the real question and the difficult answer to face. The problem isn’t that we are looking for love, the problem is when “looking for love” is code for looking for someone else to fill a void—looking for someone, to make us forget our insecurities. We all need people to count on, to support us, and to hold us up when we are feeling low, but it is so important to be able to find wholeness, confidence, contentment in ourselves. I think it’s time we stop holding onto unhealthy relationships because we are too afraid to face our own personal demons. We need to learn who we are and to love ourselves before we can truly love someone else. It’s not easy, but it is so necessary.

Girl, I’ve been thinking about this for waaaaaay too long and the thoughts are still swimming around my head, so this is just the beginning on this topic. Sigh.

In the meantime, India always knows what she’s talking about.

In peace–

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