Monthly Archives: January 2012
I think feminism should do two things:
1. Inform us about the culture we live in.
2. Empower us to make a variety of choices in it.
Whose responsibility is it to validate your existence? Whose job is it to pay attention to you? These two questions were on my mind as I thought about the role, if any; the White media should play in the lives of Black gay people. I also want explore the Gay Rights Movement, and the various groups that make up this collective movement.
I have noticed that some people, often Black, but not always, expect the White media, and White gays, to tell the stories of Black gay people. However, this is not a sentiment that I share. I do not need the White media, or the White gay community, to validate my existence as a Black gay person. I do not need the White media, or the White gay community, to pay attention to my life as a Black gay person. I believe that it is the responsibility of the Black community to pay attention to our community, and to validate the existence of our community. These are not jobs that can be performed by the White media or White gay community.
I do not want to suggest that the White media and White gay community can’t provide opportunities for the lives of Black gay people to be validated and paid attention, they can, and have many times. I’m thinking particularly of Patrick Ian Polk’s relationship with Logo. Here was an instance where a Black gay person paid attention to the lives of Black gay people, validated the lives of Black gay people, and worked with the White media, and White gay community, to utilize the platform they offered. There will, and has always, been these kind of working relationships.
My issue is with those who think that it is the responsibility of the White media, and White gay community, to create the Noah’s Arcs, to create the Rod 2.0′s, to be the Robert Jones Jr’s, to be the Staceyann Chin’s, that is not their responsibility, it is ours.
Many have argued that the Gay Rights Movement doesn’t focus on the issues and lives of Black gay people, but I think they are doing themselves and their community a disservice. We tend to think that a movement is a specific, tangible location that can be pinpointed to a certain location, but this is not true, or at least not in my mind. I believe that movements are anywhere we are, and that the first place we should look for a movement is among our own people. To suggest that the Gay Rights Movement is only a movement of White people, specifically White men, is to believe that the movement is only about them. Sure, they may have more access to the media, but since when did media attention become the defining marker of any movement? The issues that a movement seeks to address go on even when the cameras stop rolling, and when the websites aren’t receiving traffic.
I never felt like the Gay Rights Movement was only a movement of White people because I never looked to them to validate my existence or pay attention to it. I spend my time reading the writing of Black gay activists; I spend my time talking with passionate and critical Black gay activists. I could never come to the conclusion that the work these people are doing isn’t important simply because TIME Magazine, The Advocate, and Perez Hilton isn’t paying attention to them. I know The Feminist Wire is paying attention to these people, I know Rod McCollum is paying attention to these people, I know numerous publications geared towards the lives of Black gay people are paying attention to those people, to my people.
There needs to be a shift in the way that we look at things. I don’t believe in this White Supremacist notion that without the White gaze things are not taking place. Audre Lorde has as much to do with the development of the Gay Rights Movement as Harvey Milk. It is not up to White gay people to make that statement; it is up to Black gay people to make this statement. As I mentioned in the beginning, we have to validate our existence, we have to pay attention to us.
Black gay people are here, and we have always existed in the Gay Rights Movement. The crucial question now, as it always has been, is whether or not we are willing to see ourselves as being here. I see it, many other Black gay people see it, and I encourage you to see it as well.
Toni Morrison’s forthcoming novel, Home, now has a cover, and it is a beauty! The novel will be released this coming May, and I am super excited!
“An angry and self-loathing veteran of the Korean War, Frank Money finds himself back in racist America after enduring trauma on the front lines that left him with more than just physical scars. His home—and himself in it—may no longer be as he remembers it, but Frank is shocked out of his crippling apathy by the need to rescue his medically abused younger sister and take her back to the small Georgia town they come from, which he’s hated all his life. As Frank revisits the memories from childhood and the war that leave him questioning his sense of self, he discovers a profound courage he thought he could never possess again. A deeply moving novel about an apparently defeated man finding his manhood—and his home.”
My journey as a Feminist Educator continues, and I am pleased to share my classroom adventures. At the end of each nine weeks I give my sixth graders an opportunity to reflect on what they learned over the course of it. The unit we covered this nine weeks was film, which is one of the five categories of the media. Each nine weeks I break down a different category of the media with my students.
Here are some of my Media Studies student’s reflections:
“I really like this 9 weeks, we have done movies. Which I really enjoy, some of my favorite movies were Good Burger, Jumanji, Beverly Hillbillies, and the Lion King. We saw some stereotypes and some cliches in the movies, but we wrote them down and we discussed them in class. Mr. M has really did a good job trying to make us less stereotypical. Ever since he told us about stereotypes I have been doing my best to not use them when judging something. I have even made a Facebook page about fighting and challenging stereotypes. I hope people will learn that stereotypes make other people not feel accepted and hurt people too. So that’s why I am trying my best to keep people from using stereotypes. So I am really enjoying my nine weeks, so I hope our next 9 weeks is good.” – Ashley Jones, Age 11
“I liked learning about films this nine weeks. We watched a lot of films and were identifying stereotypes in gender also race, class and wrote down the genres we noticed. I also learned about film. I learned the genres in film too. We also learned about ageism and cliches. I learned that cliches were things that happen in film that are overused. I’ve always seen cliches in film, but never knew what they were called. I have really enjoyed watching the films. I have noticed films have many stereotypes and rely on stereotypes.” – John Michaels, Age 11
“This has been quite an interesting, and quite a long nine weeks. I was always an internet guy, never really interested in film. However, this nine weeks has taught me to look at films in a whole new way. We learned about how films are made. What processes they go through. The history of it. I learned a lot of new things this nine weeks. I also learned that films do profit from both promoting stereotypes and making fun of them. An example of this is Monsters vs. Aliens. At one point the president screamed a high, “girlish,” shriek when scared. This is supposed to be comical, saying that a boy being scared is funny. I never realized how many great films rely on stereotypes.” – Gavin Williams, Age 11
“These nine weeks have been memorable and fun. Mr. M is fun because he finds fun, and entertaining ways to work. I love the idea of watching films and writing down stereotypes: race, class, gender all while watching a movie. From this you benefit learning to challenge stereotypes and you enjoy watching a movie with your classmates. It’s also good to look for these issues in movies because then we can apply it to real life. I love media studies. I have absolutely not a single bad thing to say about it. I learned more than I could have learned in all my classes combined. I learned how to critique a film. I learned how to automatically notice a stereotype. There is something about learning stereotypes that just stays in your brain.” – Keema Alesdo, Age 11
“I have learned a lot this 9 weeks. I look at movies differently. I have learned to evaluate, identify, and analyze aspects of film. I learned about the film rules and how they constantly change. I feel as if people are, or were, planing ideas of sexism, racism, classism, and ageism. I seehow certain jokes in movies that seem hilarious could harm and/or hurt another’s feelings. I analyze how a film depends on stereotypes and I try to go against that. I have enjoyed this quarter. I think that film is more than you think. A film is an idea that can grow into a problem or something awesome. I can’t wait for next quarter.” – Jose Vargas, Age 12
“I really enjoyed learning these nine weeks. One thing I noticed is that there is no film I have seen that incorporates zero stereotypes. All the films have stereotypes that may be rendered harmful. I strike to make a movie with no stereotypes. The most stereotypes used were gender. They depicted women as weak and men as strong. Though this was not always the case. In How To Eat Fried Worms the girl was amazing at archery. All in all it was a great 9 weeks.” - Kameed Jaloui, Age 11
“In this nine weeks I have learned a lot. I realized how sexist movies are. Women are usually in the background. Are all women supposed to worry about fashion? Not all girls scream. At least, I saw some girls standing up against stereotypes. Second, I learned about ageism. Why are the younger ones always stubborn? Why are older people having strict personalities? I don’t understand why young people can’t be wise! Also, I learned about cliches. I never realized how many movies copy the little things.” – Eric Campbell, Age 11