“Feminism, What’s Good?”: On Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj and “The Trouble Between Us”

Nicki Minaj

Before I tell you exactly why I am more than willing to serve Miley Cyrus’s public persona a Four Horseman shot of bleach, cyanide, kerosene, and antifreeze, let me make this clear.  I am a semi-fan of Nicki Minaj, but I am not a Barb.  Never have been, may not ever really be.  I’ve been openly critical about certain aspects of Nicki’s music, message, and the like.  Those are the facts.  Be that as it may, right is right and wrong is wrong.  And when it comes to the Nicki situation, Miley is wrong.  

While the world may have just seen two people having a public disagreement on stage, as a PhD student you tend to see things a little differently.  Yes, I saw the show go from the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards to the late 90s-early 2000s Source Awards in a matter of seconds.  But also considering the sociopolitical implications and constructs that brought about that moment on that stage, I also saw a metaphor for the ever-present issues surrounding the relationship of White feminism and Black women.  

And that’s where I’m irritated as fuck.  

I am a firm believer in the thought of the background always telling the foreground of any person, place, or thing.  So before we dissect what actually took place on the stage, let’s start from the beginning.  The foundation of the Nicki/Miley feud is actually a spinoff from a Twitter-debate (never really saw it as a beef, per se) from Nicki and Taylor Swift. Months later after Taylor and Nicki decided to play nice, Miley gave a pre-VMA interview with the New York Times where she discussed the Twitter situation between Nicki and Taylor.   In fairness, I will say that the blame of this problematic foundation does not just lie with Miley.  Joe Coscarelli from the New York Times is a raindrop in this shit storm as well.  Analyzing at the way Coscarelli framed certain questions to the point of possibly fabricating facts (I’m still looking for the receipts where Nicki exactly said “when a White girl breaks a Vevo record, she gets nominated” that was referenced in the NY Times interview), it makes sense why some aspects of the discussion warranted certain reactions from Miley.  But that is where it stops.  After shying away from leading questions about any direct personal statements Nicki did (or more than likely did not) say about her, Miley went into classic, white’splaining mode stating that one of the reasons she did not accept Nicki’s critique of the industry was because of the tone that she used.  In the interview she said the following key statements,

….People forget that the choices that they make and how they treat people in life affect you in a really big way. If you do things with an open heart and you come at things with love, you would be heard and I would respect your statement. But I don’t respect your statement because of the anger that came with it.  And it’s not anger like, “Guys, I’m frustrated about some things that are a bigger issue.”  You made it about you…

If you want to make it about race, there’s a way you could do that. But don’t make it just about yourself. Say: “This is the reason why I think it’s important to be nominated. There’s girls everywhere with this body type.”

[Coscarelli points out that she did say this]

What I read sounded very Nicki Minaj, which, if you know Nicki Minaj is not too kind. It’s not very polite. I think there’s a way you speak to people with openness and love…I know you can make it seem like, Oh I just don’t understand because I’m a white pop star. I know the statistics. I know what’s going on in the world. But to be honest, I don’t think MTV did that on purpose.  

Let’s pause here and tease this response out.  First off, I’m going to need for everyone to understand (Black, White, or whatever) whenever we talk about race-related issues, you are in for a multitude of responses and reactions.  They can range anywhere from light-hearted, to hurtful, to angry, to depressing, and everything else in between.  The reason for that is because there are a multitude of emotions that go along with race, all ranging from different places.  In the spirit of Kanye when he said, “The art ain’t always going to be polite,” neither will race conversations.  Given that logic, for Miley to say she doesn’t respect or accept someone’s perspective on a race-related issue because it sounded “angry” is dumb.  It is also, albeit, yet another example of a component within White supremacist culture–the policing of every conceivable facet of the lives of people of color including our emotions.   To clarify, I’m not saying Miley is a White supremacist.  But her thinking and reaction to all this (like others, including Taylor’s) is a byproduct of our society living under a White supremacist structure.  The audacity to say that you can negate and discredit someone’s entire argument based on the premise, not of it being untrue, but because it was spoken harshly is part of the construct of privilege only afforded to White people.  

In the words leading up to the last paragraph, one could easily don their cape and swoop down to save Miley with the argument of, “Oh but Miley is just a celebrity.  Why should we give thought to what she says about race?”  That would be valid had not Miss Cyrus alluded that she was in some way knowledgeable of the topic stating, “I know you can make it seem like, ‘Oh I just don’t understand because I’m a White pop star.’  I know the statistics.  I know what’s going on in the world.”  Lesson for the class: The minute you purport yourself as having some kind of empirical knowledge on a subject matter, whether it’s good or not, that puts you up as a candidate for critique.  That is just what is happening in this moment right now.  

Furthermore, let’s also consider the source of these statements.  Seriously, who the fuck is Miley Cyrus to have any kind of nerve in policing Nicki’s tone?  In writing this piece, I have gone through the timeline of all of Nicki’s tweets on the situation.  In not a single one did she curse, call anybody out of their name, or whatnot (before you shout, “But Nicki called Miley a bitch at the show,” hang tight, we’ll get to that in a second).  Yet Miley is saying that her tone was too harsh and not spoken out of love hence why her truth is unacceptable?  This is coming from a girl who prides herself in constructing a “not giving a fuck, I stay true” attitude, will flip you off for no reason, and whose basis of all the promo commercials she did leading up to the VMAs was the fact that she curses so much.  This girl wants to apply respectability politics to a situation that didn’t even involve her to begin with?  

*hits the Quinta B step*

I CANNOT!!!!!!!!!

So, now that we have analyzed the background of this case, let’s deconstruct what happened in the foreground at the show.  By now, we pretty much got the gist of what happened.  After that trash ass joke about police brutality from Rebel Wilson (whom is on the list to be dragged at a later time along with Viacom’s overall bullshit for this particular award show), Nicki won for best Hip-Hop video for Anaconda.  The speech started off as light enough, giving props to women and men taking care of themselves.  Now here’s where it gets sociopolitical for me.  After shouting out different folks, Nicki went on to thank her pastor.  At the core of this feud between Nicki and Miley was the issue of the role of Black respectability in responding to social issues.  For Black people (and most White people), there is nothing more respectable than a Black person talking about some good ol’ Christian religion.  For Nicki to talk about her pastor could give her the appearance of being the “respectable” person Miley tried to say she should be when expressing herself  From there, Nicki deviates her attention from her wholesome persona to addressing Miley head-on, “And now back to this bitch that had a lot to say about me in the press the other day.  Miley, what’s good?”  The very second when Nicki said, “And now back…” was a powerful, key moment.  The structure, again, of this entire issue has been the policing and dictating of Black emotions and responses.  When Nicki showed she could talk about “respectable” things in one moment and then square up the next, she resumed ownership in her range of emotion.  Going back to what we mentioned earlier when we examined the background, due in part to the White supremacist structure of our society, people of color are not often afforded that opportunity to express themselves in various ways.  When we are, the results can range from being socially detrimental to physically deadly.  For Nicki to do so publicly knowing the social backlash she will endure (being classified as ghetto, a hoodrat, trashy, classless, etc.) should be acknowledged.   Furthermore, given her possible frustration with such a system (she did make mention to White media and their tactics in the midst of her Twitter feud with Taylor), I can understand why she would come at Miley so hard at that moment.  From the start of the incident stemming with Taylor, people have been very critical of her harsh tone while she did not use any curse words. No matter if her language was profane or pure. she would still carry the burden of the Angry Black Woman label.     It is pretty much a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.  

But the sociopolitical applications do not end there.  Miley’s response was a social statement as well.  While Miley did congratulate Nicki on her award, the sincerity is questionable at best.  Miley did so with a dismissive attitude, telling her “Congratufuckinglations,” flipped and twirled her fake dreads around her finger, and offered further condescending indirect chastisement about Nicki’s response.

Considering the subject matter, their physical positioning of where Miley and Nicki were in relation to each other, and the language used reminds me of everything discussed in Winifred Breines’s The Trouble Between Us where Breines talks about the social and personal conviction of checking discrimination and marginalization of one group (women of color) within an ideological movement structured to address discrimination and marginalization of another group (women).  On television you see Nicki standing on one part of the stage and Miley is across from her, with a mosh pit of a couple hundred people between them.  While Nicki is going off on her side, Miley can give this cool, dismissive attitude with her fake dreads because she is in a protected place where Nicki cannot get to her.  No wonder she’s unbothered.  She doesn’t have to be bothered.  Had we removed the mosh pit and there was nothing more than space and opportunity between them, we might have seen a different reaction from both parties.  This can easily be seen as a metaphor for the volatile relationship between White feminism and women of color.  With Nicki being the example of women of color who try to be outspoken against intersectionality issues concerning race and gender and Miley being the example of some White feminists who are dismissive towards those issue, the mosh pit is the barrier of racial privilege that divides the two groups.  It is what protects the Mileys from the Nickis.  It is what allows the Mileys to flick and flip their appropriated, costumed culture around for the world to see much to the outrage of the Nickis.  It speaks to the issue that while womanhood can bring women of all races in one arena, the intersectional issues of race is what keeps us on different stages.  

Miley was dead ass wrong and tried it speaking out of turn in regulating somebody’s reaction.  While Nicki certainly could have addressed the issue another way, I will not condemn her for doing what she saw fit. Having people constantly police your presentation before they get to your point (if they are even willing to hear it) is infuriating.  This is especially frustrating from someone who supposedly calls herself a feminist so you would think she would get it.  But how do we fix this problem?  Right now, I ain’t got the answers, Sway.  But I think having these kinds of conversations is critical.  Acknowledging that there is a problem from both white feminists and women of color instead of being dismissive is key *coughs Facebook*.    It is what could lead us to cultivate solutions to simultaneously eradicate sexism and racism.  

Feminism, what’s good?

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We Still Slinging Knowledge….

Recently, a few scholar friends and myself got together and created a collective book discussing issues of race, gender, education, mental health, and media.  The catch?  We’re discussing scholarly issues using non-scholarly language.  So within the same book you’re likely to see a reference to bell hooks AND Bobby Schmurda.  Or Bayard Rustin AND Trindad James.  No kidding.  To purchase a copy for $15.00, please send an email to ignorantintellectual@gmail.com.  We also have cool buttons too we’re selling for $5.00.  Get into it and #getignant

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The Ballad of the Post-Racialism Bullshit

trying to make be believe

because OUR president is Black

that equality is here

so they can have my voting rights back

 

trying to make me believe

because OUR president is Black

that equality is here

so they can take the quota back

 

trying to make me believe

because OUR president is Black

that equality is here

so they can take King’s dream back

 

that the price of my mind

is on the struggle sakes rack

$25 mill on the tag

can’t we see through that?

that my schools have to go

yet they won’t let me in their doors

and when they do, it’s a limit

that they keep suing schools for

saying, “oh that’s not fair.

because the president is black. 

he’s done enough for those people.

he’s pulled up all their bootstraps.”

what if i straightened my hair?

what if he pulled up his pants?

we’d magically change our status

we would be given a chance

and let’s ignore the fact

riding a Benz from a hoop

as Mr. West has said

i’m still a nigger in a Coup

white women are enraged

about this unequal wage

but low-key

they’d still make more than me

depending on shade

oh the shade my shade

plays in our daily lives

since they gave us a black president

they can also give us lies

 

trying to make me believe

because OUR President is Black

playing with toy guns in Wal-Mart

means that i’m shot in the back

that a hoodie is a threat

when you’re armed with snacks

jaywalking costs your life

so does loose cigarette packs

this shit ain’t Martin’s dream

this our reality

that i’m still subjected to

police brutality

from cradles to caskets

from playpens to prisons

profits from infancy to inmatehood

the American vision

 

trying to make me believe

because OUR President is Black

there’s no need for me to fight

because i’m not under attack

but if America has changed

why do i feel chains?

not the ones on your ankles

but the ones in your brain?

we say we live in a time

where race means nothing anymore

we’ll if that’s the case

why am i still followed in the store?

if that’s the case

why am i still beaten till i’m sore?

trying to use my rights

to protest my fight

against moral double standards

my people’s daily fight

 

trying to make me believe

because OUR president is Black

we good, let’s clear the hood

and take those ghetto slums back

“let’s give them all the police

they asked about for weeks

let’s build new condo spots

let’s clean up all these streets

let’s have a whole foods here

let’s have a day spa there

let’s charge them over their checks

let’s raise up all the bus fare

let’s force them over yonder

so they’ll never bother

to come back home

they’re not welcomed back at all, Mr. Kotter”

displacement through replacement

of all our residents

 

but it’s all good

after all

WE have a Black President

Sit Down, MotherFather

A few blog posts ago I commented on how American Feminism begat Fuckboyism in our society.  In said post, I mentioned in the last paragraph, “And how about single motherhood?  Yes, that too can be considered a bi-product of feminism begetting fuckboyism.  Shouting to the mountaintops how we can do bad all by ourselves will leave us doing just that” (February 2014).  On Father’s Day, I want to tease that little piece out for a minute.  And it’s not just the holiday that is bringing on this discussion.  While minding my business in the grocery store, I happened upon this little gem in the card section:Image

Two things must be recognized before I break how I break.  1) This card is very real.  I actually was in the Giant and saw the card with my own two eyes and 2) This is not the first time a card like this has been printed.  In fact, I went off about this same shit last year on IG:

Image

(Yes, I charged my phone after I took this screenshot)

But based on the way the internet is going nuts this ‘go round about this old issue all over again, apparently “y’all ain’t hear me though.”  I’ve read post after post from both sides who are either for the card or against the card.  While I understand what the card may have been attempting to do, I’m still not here for it.  The thing is when card companies (especially Hallmark since they are like the holy grail of holiday validity) make these kinds of cards, they are quietly sending messages about the state of our society.  The message I’m getting from the Mother’s Day card on Father’s Day leaves me with a few questions.  The first pertains the idea that this is a unique issue in the Black community.  If you were to look anywhere else in the card section, you would only find this kind of card under the Mahogany brand.  Okay, Hallmark, we get it.  We get that we have a painfully publicized history of absentee fathers within our community.  But guess what, there are other races that have the same problem as well.  It may not be as sensationalized and publicized, but it is still a problem nonetheless.  Haven’t you been watching Teen Mom 234 lately?  Where is their card?  The second question is what is the ultimate point we are trying to make with these kinds of cards?  Cards on holidays are meant for celebrations.  What exactly are we celebrating in this case?  The fact that Father’s Day can be a painful reminder of what you don’t have?  Are we celebrating brokeness?  Looking at these same cards in this same section for Mother’s Day, I did not see not one card that was a Father’s Day card for Mother’s Day.  With that being said, I’m STILL confused as hell as to why we are doing this.  Thirdly, while I get that having a card like this may be a type of moral alarm clock meant to “wake up” people about the issue of fatherlesness in the Black community, are we aware that this can also be a snooze button of sorts as well?  This is where the feminism part kicks in with “normalizing fuckboy behavior” (The Read, Break Babies, 2014).  To me, making a grand declaration that you are “playing both roles” with the feminist idea of “women can do it all” won’t inspire men (who probably ain’t worth shit anyways if we have to have this conversation in the first place) to step up, but moreso continue to step to the side.  As a man, why should I even bother to try to take my place if you’re clearly already taking it for me?  Furthermore, I think it sends a fucked up message to our kids as well.  For little boys, it increases the likelihood that when they get older and have children for them not to be present in their lives as well.  This stems from the idea that “Well, if my momma played the mother and the father, so can shawty.”  For little girls, it further perpetuates the myth single parenthood is the only parenthood.

 

In closing, before you single mothers out there hit me with the, “you don’t know what it’s like” and all the bitter baby momma bullshit, allow me to clarify.  I am not saying that single mothers should not be praised for their efforts and sacrifices.  I am the product of a single mother.  But in doing so, they should be praised JUST as single mothers on days designated for them (i.e.- Mother’s Day).  Growing up, my mother made it very clear to me that while she was a single mother, I still had some fatherly figures I could look to if I so chose.  She didn’t come at my with that “I’m your mother and your father” bullshit ever. Looking back now 21 years ago when my parents divorced, I can understand why and am appreciative that she didn’t do that to me or my sister.  Am I totally free of daddy issues?  Absolutely not.  But where I am thankful is that I did have some semblance of father throughout my life.  Even now.  So with that being said, I celebrate and salute all the men who step up as fathers and assume fatherly roles.

Why Cassandra Joi Doesn’t See It For Mary Jane

I’ll speak my truth.  When I first saw the promotional advertisements for a new show called Being Mary Jane, I was excited.  My soul rejoiced like the ratchets when Booise came home with a “Yaaaaassssss, here is a show where a Black woman has a career AND a nice house.  She a bad broad.”  *insert a twerk to I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T*

I counted down the days when the show that I knew I was going to LOVE was going to appear.  While I didn’t catch the premiere, I still caught the show through the blessings of DVR.  The first few minutes of the show were pretty good.  I appreciated the disclaimer in the beginning stating that this was only one story of one Black woman; not the entire story of all black women.  When we got to the big reveal of the main chick being the side chick, that’s kind of when I emotionally and mentally checked out of the story.  By the time we got to the end with her plan of creating a child with freezer burned sperm, I was pretty much done.  I didn’t give up too much on hope, though.  I rationalized with fanciful fallacies that maybe the first showing had to be intense.  The series would be better, I explained to myself.  So there I was, watching the second, third, and fourth shows.  What I learned from the experience, lying is wrong.  Lying to yourself is wronger (yes, well aware that’s not a word but I’m telling the story here).  What bothered me the most was the constant storyline of dick chasing Mary Jane was doing.  Your know how they say first impressions are lasting impressions?  That quote can apply to television as well.  When we first met Mary Jane, in the very first scene we saw her in, there was dick involved.  We didn’t know she was a successful television journalist.  We didn’t know she was the glue trying to hold her trifling family together.  But we knew she had an affinity for fuckboys.  One being married and the other into the committed non-commitment relationship.  Two of the worst kind.  So with that being my first impression, it’s no wonder why my hope for Mary Jane wasn’t lasting.

I know that those who know me (be it on social media or in actual living and breathing life), may be thinking, “But, you love Scandal, though.  It has the same premise.  What’s the difference?”  I get it, there is a similar mistress storyline for both shows that I love to loathe.  But there is a fundamental difference in the sidechick sagas between Mary Jane and Olivia.

We didn’t know about Olivia’s dick chasing until towards the end of the premiere episode.  When we first met Liv, we knew she was a fixer.  It was her job to make the imperfect appear as perfect.  But in order to keep Olivia palatable to audiences, I guess, there had to be a downside to her.  In literature, it’s called a heroic flaw. But again, not being introduced to that off the break makes all the difference in how you receive and perceive her character.  Furthermore, in Olivia’s case, she knows she’s wrong for doing what she’s doing with Fitz.  She’s tried to make it right, she’s tried to make him right.  Not saying that what she’s doing is excusable.  I just have a thing for people who can admit that they’re wrong, stand in their wrongness, and will at least try to attempt to make it right.  I appreciate that so I thusly appreciate Olivia.  Additionally, Olivia does what few mistresses (real or fiction) do when it comes to recognizing who shares in their trash: She puts the blame on the mister.  She’s not offering up any Clean-Up Woman clichés of “Well if you was doing what you were supposed to I wouldn’t be doing your man” or any of that shit.  She doesn’t justify her wrongness.  She’s trash and she owns her trashiness.

And now, for Mary Jane.

In fairness of this critique, I will make these points early.  Yes, Olivia did knowingly getting with a married man as opposed to Mary Jane unknowingly getting with a married man.  Yes, Mary Jane did have a hint of remorse in the beginning as seen in her first encounter with Avery.  But that’s where it stops for me.  The grill upon which I lay my beef with MJ is in Episode 4 titled Mixed Messages was her speech about being “No. 2.”  If you haven’t seen it, check it out here.  *DEEEEEPPPP EFFFINNGGGG SIIIIIGHHHHH*  What gets my soul sizzling about this mess is that she’s giving this fluke ass number 2 speech in front of a bunch of impressionable little girls.  We already have a huge issue with girls struggling to reach their full potential, battling the red tape of sexism (throw in racism, too, if you’re Black) on a daily basis.  Don’t justify your skanky shenanigans in a disguise of motivational speaking.  Don’t make that okay for them with that Mokenstef Mentality.

I guess what pisses me off the most about Mary Jane more than Olivia is that her story is sooooo close to sooooo many other stories I’ve heard/seen before.  Want to know why?  Because this is nothing but art imitating life.  And in said life, shit like this keeps happening because nobody ever places the blame where it really needs to be: WITH THE DUDE.  We’ve been through this wayyyyyy too long, ladies.  There is no sense in getting mad at the other woman (depending on your situation, but even then).  She didn’t choose to cheat on you.  That fuckboy of husband/fiance/boyfriend did.  But I guess until we as women get that clear, we’re just going to keep giving these writers more materials for these shows to give me more reasons to be pissed.

 

And that is why I don’t see it for Mary Jane.

Uncle Ruckus

dear white people,

i don’t hate you

i hate white supremacy

i hate the system built

to punish me

for

my hair

my lips

my nose

my skin

with hatred i cannot see

my beauty from outside or in

a system that tells me daily

that i’m the wrong shade

to have the aforementioned attributes

that OUR God made

so to “fit in”

(or try to)

i change

my hair

my skin

my nose

my lips

but then i see praises hailed to white women

with my face

plus ass and hips

i don’t hate you

i hate white supremacy

i don’t hate the person

i hate the mentality

i hate the bullshit about

“post racialism” or “neutralization”

oh, wait.  you really mean

“assimilation?”

where my culture is only valid

if it’s based in the foundation

that white supremacy is right

staple of success in our nation

i hate the system built

creating Black and African division

adding fuel to the fire

through telling lies to our vision

because in Africa, they see us on shows

like Basketball wives

in america

we see swollen bellies covered in flies

and when the television goes off

and when we meet face to face

we don’t see our brothers and sisters

all we see is a disgrace

i don’t hate you

i hate white supremacy

that profits on imprisoning

the male version of me

that waves shiny new townhomes

outside of the city

while they finally upgrade the resources

we’ve complained about repeatedly

trying to make me believe

because OUR president is Black

that equality is here so

they can take my voting rights back

trying to make me believe

because OUR president is Black

that equality is here so

they can take the quota back

trying to make me believe

because OUR president is Black

that equality is here so

they can take King’s dream back

i don’t hate you

i hate white supremacy

i hate white supremacists

who look like me

same hair

same nose

same lips

same skin

same appearance on the outside

different hate from within

because you have to understand

all white supremacists aren’t white with white hoods

some of them aren’t white at all

and come straight from our hoods

sell out is what they call them

but how i was taught

you can’t sell out of an idea

that you never even bought

dear white people,

i don’t hate you

i hate white supremacy

i don’t hate the person

i hate the mentality

i don’t hate you

i hate white supremacy

while you may not understand my struggle

just respect it please

there is a difference.

You’ve Got Time

One of the biggest mistakes we make in our own thinking and decision making is thinking that “we don’t have time.” We don’t have time to think. We don’t have time to dream. We don’t have time to compare and consider. The truth is, we do have time. We each have our own time that God designates for us to be who we will and do as we will in life. The problem is when we don’t take that time and think where the rushed and brash decisions can harm us. So, slow down and think about things. Dream about things. Say yes. Say no. Plan things. Pray about things. You’ve got time.

I came up with this and wrote it in my dream book (yes, I have one of those) back on November 2, 2013.  Opened it this morning and it was the first thing I saw.  Wanted to share with you fine folks.