Consuming Sugar: Kara Walker’s Marvelous Sugar Baby

Reflection of A Subtlety

Reflection of A Subtlety

Sugar has been one of the world’s most desired commodities since the 19th century, when it went from being a luxury item to a product of mass consumption. The demand for sugar fueled the trade in human beings to cultivate it. Abolitionists, especially English protofeminists, deployed the term “blood sugar” to try to curb the appetites of sugar consumers by making them conscious of the slave labor that produced it. By equating the consumption of sugar to “eating the other”—to borrow a phrase from bell hooks—anti-sugar campaigners reduced sugar eaters to cannibals who relied on flesh to sustain their cravings. These (brown) sugar cravings resonate in yet another way when we recall the sexual exploitation of black enslaved women by white masters of sugar plantations.

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SlutTalk

from SlutWalk Delhi

Picking up the momentum of over 100 demonstrations worldwide, SlutWalk New York is set to take place in Union Square Park today. The first SlutWalk march occurred in Toronto after a police officer told a group of students if they didn’t want to be sexually victimized, they shouldn’t dress like “sluts.” Kinda like the NYPD’s advice to women residents in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn where a spate of sexual attacks have occurred since March.

SlutWalk NYC is timely for other reasons too, like the victim-blaming that occurred in the highly publicized Dominique Strauss-Kahn case and the acquittals of NYPD officers Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata on charges of sexual assault against a woman (Moreno has since been sentenced to a year in prison for a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct). SlutWalk NYC organizers are planning to address both issues.

The organizers are also intending to address critiques of the walk, like the issues raised by Black Women’s Blueprint in an “Open Letter from Black Women to the SlutWalk” about its failure to address the concerns and acknowledge the histories of women of color when it comes to terms like “slut.” To be sure, black women have been called sluts, jezebels, hos … everything except children of God. And most times it doesn’t matter what we wear, where we are, or what we are doing. My own experiences of street harassment compelled me to support the aims of SlutWalk though I have not been able to attend an actual march yet. I do have trusted friends who are black women and who have participated in SlutWalk events. Black feminist filmmaker, rape survivor, and activist Aishah Shahidah Simmons delivered a powerful speech at SlutWalk Philadephia and Salamishah Tillet, professor, writer, rape survivor and Co-Founder of A Long Walk Home, delivered a stirring speech at SlutWalk DC. Tillet details the mixed-reception of SlutWalk in “What to Wear to a SlutWalk” and maintains that  “None of this negates the fact that SlutWalk has been the most successful protest against sexual violence in the United States since the birth of the Take Back the Night marches in the 1970s,” a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with.

The ultimate test for SlutWalk of course will be whether it can shape into a lasting organized movement made up of women and men of various ethnicity, sexuality, and nationality and committed to end sexual violence against women. In other words, it has to really “walk the walk.”

Spike Lee’s "She’s Gotta Have It" Turns 25

By Salamishah Tillet | The Root

On the hot night of Aug. 8, 1986, a line of young black people wrapped around the corner of New York City’s Cinema Studio 1, eager to catch Spike Lee’s much-buzzed-about debut feature film, She’s Gotta Have It. Eighty-five hot and sexy minutes later, they weren’t disappointed with      Lee’s cinematic achievement.

The following day, the New York Times review said that the movie “has a touch of the classic.” And the Washington Post praised its “rare quality: a sense of place.”

Continue Reading @ The Root

The Case of the "Killer" Lesbians

By Laura S. Logan | The Public Intellectual

Several African-American lesbians who fought back against an alleged attack spent time in jail and prison after being convicted of crimes related to the incident. Laura S. Logan looks at how press coverage of the group, dubbed the New Jersey 7, shaped a narrative about the women that portrayed them as predators rather than victims – a story at odds with how we usually think about LGBT people who’ve been harassed. In light of a recent popular campaign to end the bullying of LGBT people, Logan says, this case begs the question: It gets better for whom? Laura is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Kansas State University and managing editor of the journal Gender & Society.

Read @ The Public Intellectual

The Real Value of Rihanna’s "Man Down" Video

By Akiba Solomon | Colorlines

Nowadays, when I see the phrase “the controversy over” connected to a black pop culture moment, I tend to tune it out. Too often, the outcry smacks of Christian morality, bougie* respectability politics (“See, now this is what’s wrong with our community…”), and empty role model talk.

Plus, a lot of folks don’t closely watch or listen to what they’re critiquing.

Such is the case, I believe, with the video for Rihanna’s latest Loud single, “Man Down.” The video begins with a tense Rihanna perched in the upper balcony of a crowded train station. When she spots a tall man with a “buck 50” scar on his cheek (in this context, visual code for “badman” or gangsta) she shoots him in the back of the head then winces. Toward the end of the clip, we learn why the tearful singer “shot a man down, in Central Station, in front of a big old crowd”: Because the night before, at a sweaty dancehall, she sets physical limits with him and he retaliates by following her home and raping her.

Continue Reading @ Colorlines

SlutWalk: A Black Feminist Comment on Media, Messages and Meaning

By Tamura A. Lomax | WIMN’s Voices

If you’ve been boycotting newspapers, magazines, TV news and the blogosphere for the past few weeks, or if terms like “rape,” “slut” or even “sex” lead you to hurriedly put down the newspaper or magazine and turn the TV channel (as they do for my media-savvy grandmother), then you may not have heard about SlutWalk, a grassroots anti-violence protest movement that has piqued the international media’s imagination. It all began when a Toronto policeman told a group of York University students in January that if they didn’t dress like sluts, they could avoid being raped. (His comment: “You know, I think we’re beating around the bush here. I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this. However, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”) Little did he know his words would become a catalyst for mass anger and action – and much journalistic attention – throughout the world.

Media coverage has ranged from simple iterations of varying press releases to reproving op-eds. The latter is multi-fold. Some, like Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente, find the demonstrators to be solipsistic and out of touch with reality, while others, like blogger Aura Blogando, find the demonstrations to be systemically racist. I stand somewhere in the middle. Like it or not, both Wente and Blogando make valid points. However, the nuanced critique that SlutWalk requires is lacking, particularly regarding women of color (WOC).

Continue Reading @ WIMN’s Voices

Transfiguring Masculinities in Black Women’s Studies

By C. Riley Snorton | The Feminist Wire

Although there continues to be controversy regarding whether men can create black feminist scholarship, numerous black feminist theorists have argued for the inclusion of black men and studies of masculinities as components of black feminist thought and practice.  These debates are borne out of the relationships between racism and sexism, which have been important in figuring alliances across movements while also illuminating the tensions that emerge from privileging race over gender-based oppression.  Black feminist scholars, like Angela Davis, Barbara Smith, Hortense Spillers, Valerie Smith, bell hooks, Hazel Carby, and Audre Lorde, among others, have taken this up in their work.  However, the Combahee River Collective (CRC) Statement, a founding text in black women’s studies and a theoretical blueprint for numerous movements within the last several decades, is among the earliest texts to explicitly engage and theorize an inclusive black feminist politic. More than once the authors of CRC Statement make clear their commitment to a black feminist politic that does not leave out Black men, women, and children.

Continue Reading @ The Feminist Wire