I think the way that [Scandal creator] Shonda [Rhimes] writes, it’s very clear for me. I think Rowan has become a voice for Shonda. I think that particular character can say things that other characters in the show just are not in a situation to say. For all of the diversity in Scandal, no one else would be sitting in a room wearing a T-shirt and chains and call a Southern white Republican president a “boy.” And it’s those kinds of things that Rowan has the freedom to say that nobody else could say within the confines of the show. … For the audience it’s all about the shocking joy — if you will — of hearing somebody actually say those kinds of things, especially a black male on television.
I once told a joke about a straight person.
They came after me in droves.
Each one singing the same:
Don’t fight fire with fire.
What they mean is: Don’t fight fire with anything.
Do not fight fire with water.
Do not fight fire with foam.
Do not evacuate the people.
Do not sound the alarms.
Do not crawl coughing and choking and spluttering to safety.
Do not barricade the door with damp towels.
Do not wave a white flag out of the window.
Do not take the plunge from several storeys up.
Do not shed a tear for your lover trapped behind a wall of flame.
Do not curse the combination of fuel, heat, and oxygen.
Do not ask why the fire fighters are not coming.
When they say: Don’t fight fire with fire.
What they mean is: Stand and burn.
I know I’ve told this story before, but my abusive ex refused to let me take birth control. I was on the pill until he found them in my purse.
I went to the Student Health Center—they were completely unhelpful, choosing to lecture me about the importance of safe sex (recommending condoms) instead of actually listening to my problem.
Then I went to Planned Parenthood. The Nurse Practitioner took one look at my fading bruises and stopped the exam. She called in the doctor. The doctor came in and simply asked me: “Are you ready to leave him?” When I denied that I was being abused, she didn’t argue with me. She just asked me what I needed. I said I need a birth control method that my boyfriend couldn’t detect. She recommended a few options and we decided on Depo.
When I told her that my boyfriend read my emails and listened to my phone messages and was known to follow me, she suggested to do the Depo injections at off hours when the clinic was normally closed. She made a note in my chart and instructed the front desk never to leave messages for me—instead, she programmed her personal cell phone number into my phone under the name “Nora”. She told me she would call me to schedule my appointments; she wouldn’t leave a message, but I should call her back when I was able to.
And that was it. No judgment. No lecture. She walked me to the door and told me to call her day or night if I needed anything. That she lived 5 blocks from campus and would come get me. That I wasn’t alone. That she just wanted me to be safe.
I never called her to come to my rescue. But I have no doubt that she would have come if I had called. She kept me on Depo for a year, giving me those monthly injections in secret, helping me prevent a desperately unwanted pregnancy.
I cannot thank Planned Parenthood enough for the work they do.
"Ghetto Woman" by Janelle Monae Is Everyday Womanism
"Ghetto Woman" by Janelle Monae on her epic 2013 album, The Electric Lady is an incredible womanist anthem. (Listen here. Lyrics here.) It speaks to Black women’s experiences and philosophies where race, gender and class oppression are factors. And while the Black feminism articulated within the academe matters too, songs like this add to the notion of music as a source of womanist scholarship for Black women without access to such spaces, and all Black women, in general.
This song is a tale of intersectionality and one about freedom, love, admiration, respect. She reclaims the word “ghetto” and rejects its use as a misogynoiristic (and classist) slur against poor Black women but instead as a recognition of both Black women’s strength (and not as the societally abusive Strong Black Woman stereotype) and vulnerability (i.e. "and when you cry don’t you know that ‘I’ am crying with you?" and "when you cry, don’t you know ‘we’re’ right there crying with you?").
In this song, Black women are subjects, not objects, and not relegated to any one stereotype but are full human beings. When she sings that the Ghetto Woman "came to change the face of every room" and it’s mentioned right after "who said the ghetto’s just a place where queens dance naked on the moon?" I see an acknowledgment of all of the types of power of Black women, not only sexual and spiritual, but emotional, intellectual, creative, familial/communal, cultural, maternal/parental etc. Thus, as with all of her songs, there is no sexual shaming and respectability politics in place of actual feminist politics; hers is encompassing and intersectional. (I mean, think of the fact that her song “Q.U.E.E.N" is an acronym that stands for Queer, Undocumented, Emigrants, Excommunicated, Negroid. So incredible!)
The themes of emotional support (which are conveyed as mother/daughter, sisterhood, and community; ahem, womanism), challenging how the media and greater popular culture exploit the image of Black women and the respect for motherhood are present. Further, she presents two senses of the “spirit” that speak to more than one articulation of womanism, which is great. She mentions that her mother prayed. That specifically connects to theism. But she also mentions love itself as a powerful force, a “spirit” that can “lead” this Ghetto Woman, and that doesn’t need a theistic attachment to be womanist.
In Alice Walker’s original definition of womanism in In Search Of Our Mothers’ Gardens, she mentioned a Black woman as womanist: "Loves music. Loves dance. Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit." I believe this allusion is purposeful on Janelle’s part. While I’ve not seen her use the word “womanist” (though she speaks out on sexism, for example) almost everything she sings—almost word for word at times—references womanist politics and ideas. The moon theme, as a concept of escape, peace and evolution exists in this song and very very strongly in another song on the album, “Sally Ride,” as a sense of womanism and afrofuturism can be found in her work. Even in “Ghetto Woman” she mentions "oh Ghetto Woman hold on to your dreams, and all your great philosophies…" This is acknowledgement of the epistemology from lived experience and intersectional perspectives that shapes very organic Black feminism and womanism, often outside of the academe.
The best part is that this song is actually about Janelle’s own mother. Yet it speaks to the lives of many Black women. My late mother, though Jamaican, lived in America for most of her adulthood and though people deemed her “respectable” was a poor Black woman who worked hard, didn’t have a college degree and fits into the narrative of this song. My mother had some beliefs that were very traditional and some that were incredibly not. I remember at church (not a theist now, but as a child I had to attend church) when I was 12, several adults complained to her that I was “too smart” which basically meant a Black girl who has confidence should be suppressed at an early age. When I attended the adult bible study class (the kids’ class was too easy for me) and got questions correct or challenged adult Black men on incorrect interpretations, they wanted me silenced. My mother did not reprimand me though. I definitely credit my late mother for that incredible womanist act. That tiny incident plus early exposure to The Color Purple by Alice Walker, “U.N.I.T.Y." by Queen Latifah and "Keep Ya Head Up" by Tupac were defining moments in shaping my politics at an early age—living intersectionality before I knew the term.
If my pathway to feminism had started in college with that White supremacist, Eurocentric, hideous, anti-interesectional drivel type of feminism that is a repellant to many Black women, I would be like some Black women today who think that feminism is for White women and that we only have racial issues, not gender and a bunch of other intersectional ones. I am so thankful for my mother and these other early womanist influences. Because…wow; I feel like I dodged a bullet. So when I listen to “Ghetto Woman” I think of my late mom at times and how her very organic, non-academic actions, not so concerned with labels, was everyday womanism. In fact, the phrase “everyday womanism” is redundant. Alice Walker herself said that a womanist is feminist, only more common. The word “common” is double entendre there. “Common” as in the everyday philosophies of the Black women outside of the academe are more abundant in number (of course, since everyone can’t be in the academe) and “common” in that they are “everyday” not “elite” in terms of accessibility. Womanism is about and for the everyday Black woman.
Janelle sings truths about Black women’s lives so I resent people trying to strip that away from her music. I believe one can truly enjoy someone’s music and still accept that the context does not speak to one’s own life in totality or even at all. I mean, people praise cishet White men (like Macklemore) for singing about LGBTQ experiences that these men don’t know shit about, yet at the same time want Black women’s music to be “universal” before they are willing to try to enjoy it. Janelle wants everyone on Earth to experience her music, she said so herself. But that enjoyment does not have to occur through erasure.
Black women are regularly critiqued via binaries based on the politics of respectability (which speak to White supremacy, patriarchy, sexism, racism, misogynoir, colourism etc.) and people try to use Janelle as a “respectable” example in order to shame other Black women. Yet, here is “Ghetto Woman,” a song praising the very Black women regularly shamed, both interracially and intraracially. Janelle is not here for the politics of respectability. Further, she wears tuxes/black and white as an ode to the working class, as a uniform, not because she thinks women who show skin are “bad.” (I mean, in “Q.U.E.E.N.” she does rap "they keep us underground working hard for the greedy, but when it’s time pay they turn around and call us needy." Ode to the working class.) Did she not work with the legendary Erykah Badu who previously walked down a street completely naked for almost an entire video and regularly embraces her sexuality? (Although Erykah also gets the “respectable” cloak of protection over other Black women.) People need to actually pay attention to the creativity and power conveyed in Black women’s music. A start would be by not using some Black women—ones who are directly challenging respectability politics anyway—as tools to shame other Black women, via patriarchal binaries. Further, I promise that sexuality is more than who shows skin and who does not. It is not that simple. Janelle makes that clear in “Primetime" on her album. And in her song, "Givin’ Em What They Love" the line "she followed me back to the lobby, she was lookin’ at me for some undercover love" is pretty suggestive. She does not seem to have shame regarding sexuality.
The track for this song is so upbeat and amazing. The lead in to the song (stellar drums at the end of “It’s Code” on the album; you’d need to have the album to hear it) is so powerful and let’s me know that she’s about to tell a story about Blackness. The fact that the sound changes from what sounds like hands beating a drum to a more modern, somewhat more computerized sound makes me think of the physical journey through time of both music and Black womanhood. And being that her music easily has the sound of the past and present as well as futuristic vibes, I remember once again that her perspectives are not linear.
"Ghetto Woman" is a great song in every way. This song is just another one of the amazing songs of this beautiful work The Electric Lady that I’ve called a womanist epistle many times. It really is. I feel inspired, loved, valued, listened to, connected with and respected by her music.
ALL HAIL THE ELECTRIC LADY
When did Martin Luther King get transformed from a revolutionary civil rights leader that the FBI feared into a teddy bear that only says “I Have A Dream” when you pull the string?
The quotes read “Who knew in 1984…that this would be big brother…and the zombies would be paying customers?”
In the secret presentation, the agency ironically uses an image from the iconic Apple Macintosh ad aired during 1984 Superbowl, which referenced the dystopian novel by George Orwell, “1984.”
Since the media began publishing the 1.5 million documents leaked by Snowden, it was revealed that the NSA, along with other state-surveillance agencies, are recording 5 billion records a day on the location of cellphones across the globe, snooping on virtually everyone’s metadata (calls, location, duration), paying millions to phone companies like Verizon and AT&T to access their data and hacking the phones of 35 “world leaders”.
Everyone who carries a cellphone generates a trail of electronic breadcrumbs that records everywhere they go. Those breadcrumbs reveal a wealth of information about who we are, where we live, who our friends are and much more. And as we reported last week, the National Security Agency is collecting location information in bulk — 5 billion records per day worldwide — and using sophisticated algorithms to assist with U.S. intelligence-gathering operations.
The National Security Agency can easily defeat the world’s most widely used cellphone encryption, a capability that means the agency can decode most of the billions of calls and texts that travel over public airwaves each day, according to published report citing documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
I fuckin HAAAAAAATE the SNAP challenge.
Congress is so detached from the people they make policy about.
"omg people actually run out of eggs"
DID YOU NOT UNDERSTAND POVERTY BEFORE YOU DID THIS.
There’s something really sad about the fact that the only way democrats can fathom fighting against food stamp cuts is through the SNAP challenge. There’s an implicit messages that bother me that say
- Poor people are so invisible that they can’t even be considered to illustrate the realities of their own experience.
- We know living off SNAP is difficult but only care when “good” people live under similar conditions.
- Poor people are pathologically bad and are deserving of this harsh SNAP reality. But middle class poverty tourists live off a SNAP budget for one week and we all crowd around and revel in how commendable, humble, courageous and strong they are to slum it like those poor folks.
There are literally millions of people doing the ~SNAP challenge~ every day not by choice
How about ask them how hard it is
force them to adapt. make them do it for a year.
MAKE THEM DO IT FOR A YEAR.
In month five, take away their cable.
For two weeks in winter (but liveable conditions by poverty standards) take away their heat.
In month eight, take away their vehicle.
In month ten, take away their oven.
In month eleven, take away their stove.
For the last month, take away hot water.
They have to hold their sick and feverish kid all night long, worrying about the fever spiking too high, because it will literally destroy the tiny fragile equilibrium they have to get the bill for the co-pay.
They crack a tooth and can’t afford to fix it until finally they have to have it yanked by one of the few dentists that accept state insurance, after months of pain and fever and inability to eat what food they can afford.
They miss an appointment because they couldn’t get to the office on time (since the car is dead and they’re bussing if they’re lucky enough to live in a place with buses). Their assistance is cut, and they’re lucky if they keep it at all.
The SNAP challenge is weaksauce and it frustrates me to see people doing it lauded when they keep every other piece of comfort and security.
This reminds me of disability simulations. :-/