Archive for the ‘black women and sex’ Category

Getting Played By A Playa’

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Speaking of books…

I’m gonna break three cardinal rules here on the blog today which I work hard to abide by: don’t judge a book by its cover, never get into an argument about a book you’ve not actually read, and avoid raising a topic that’s sure to get people in arms when you’re dashing to get out the door and probably can’t stick around to see the fireworks through.

I can’t understand why black women have been on a stampede to buy Steve Harvey’s Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man. Even though the book managed to make the NYTimes bestseller’s list  for eight weeks in a row earlier this spring I probably won’t get to it anytime soon.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Steve Harvey. The comic. The entertainer. And on those four times a year I catch his show on the radio I like Steve Harvey the morning talk show host. Steve Harvey is a very funny man. He has a great eye and ear for black eccentricities. Steve Harvey’s also a smart man. harvey

He has figured out how in these tough economic times to parlay his floundering stand up comedy act into a more stable job as a radio show host where his new schtick is to present himself as a slick, streetsmart, non-nonsense, wizened, old skool ex-playa doling out keeping-it-real advice to desperate, lovesick women.

I’ll take folks’ word that there are women out there who need a book Act Like A Lady. I believe you when you say that there are women  who will go to embarrassingly foolish, desperate, scuzzy lengths to be with a man, to get a man, and to sleep with a man. I know a few such women. But do you really think Act Like A Lady will convince these women to wise up and make better decisions?

Even if I were single I’d probably pass on reading a relationship advice book by a thrice married man, whose last marriage ended in a messy and quite public divorce in which his ex wife reportedly alleged adultery and physical abuse against her and their son. It took a $20 million settlement to make her shut up. (Maybe she’s the one who should be writing a book.)  “I’ll fix you,” Harvey probably said to himself when he walked out the court. “I’ll get every last dime of that back by writing a book about relationships and proving that black women like yourself ain’t nothing but a bunch of ……..”

As for the title, Act Like A Lady, Think Like a Man. What is that suppose to mean? I know what the writer who says that Harvey stole her book title meant. But what does Steve Harvey mean?

Here’s what I’m guessing: Harvey’s book panders to the symptoms of our malaise. It doesn’t get at what causes women (and men) to do the wild, crazy, skuzzy things they do and do to each other. (Of course, I’m guessing here since I haven’t actually read the book.)

But I have read what sisterblogger What Tami Said has to say in her spot on commentary on Harvey’s book. I agree with her when she writes: I also wonder, with all the problems black men face today, whether Harvey’s time would have been better spent counseling the men he professes to know so well, rather than women.

Why doesn’t Uncle Steve write a book challenging playas like himself rather than writing a book to women who get played? If he really cares about the plight of black women and the black family, especially the fate of at risk children (he has a foundation that focuses on mentoring) then why doesn’t an old playa take what he’s learned and write to young playas about fatherhood and what manhood really means. Act Like A Man will do as the first half of the book’s title. In it a streetwise, but reformed ex-playa of an uncle like Steve Harvey might offer words of wisdom to pitiful males like 28 year old Desmond Hatchett who has 21 children with 11 different women.

Ask me why Harvey doesn’t write to the playas themselves. I’m glad you asked that question. Because playas don’t buy books. But lovesick women do. Beaucoup.

Finally, why in the world do black women continue to gobble up all this misogynistic dribble that’s being passed off to us by (business) men like Steve Harvey and Tyler Perry, dribble that’s being packaged to us as homegrown wit and kitchentable wisdom (the kind  usually transmitted from one generation to the next by women themselves)?  Why do we swoon over this stuff and buy it in the fistful when all it does is blame women for needing love and makes no commensurate commentary about men who exploit that innocent need? How can you trust a writer who doesn’t have anything to say about a system that profits on black women and black men being at each other’s throats and offers us no tools on how to build trust in our relationships?

But like I said, I haven’t read Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man.  And I should probably withhold judgement until I’ve read the book. Which I probably won’t do.

Final note. For what, imo, is an honest, intelligent, thought-ful book on why women fall in relationship traps and how we can avoid these pitfalls and what loving your womanself really looks like, see bell hooks’ Communion: The Female Search for Love.

More Talk about God, the Bible, and (Homo)Sexuality

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

We could, I suppose, move on from the “Blame Blacks…Blame Black Homophobia” discussion and post a new topic today. But I’m not ready. And judging from the emails I’ve gotten, others of you aren’t ready just yet either to drop the discussion. This is one of those that we all need to chew on some more, both those who support and those who oppose same sex partnerships.

I want to believe that Something Within fills a void in blogosphere. It’s one of the few blogs  where Christian conservatives and Christian progressives, thinking women on the Right and thinking women on the Left, folks who go to church and folks who wouldn’t step foot in a church if their life depended on it can air their differences–with passion, but without insult and namecalling. I visit a lot of blogs and weigh in on some of them from time to time, but hardly any of them, at least the really smart ones, are blogs by folks who think much of religion. In fact, most of the blogs I visit daily are blogs where pelting Christians, Christianity, and especially the black church scores you lots of points. I try to set a different tone her on this blog.

So, I admit to you: this week is my first time as a black, a woman, and a Christian minister thinking out loud about the issue of gay marriages.  Strange, isn’t it? Life during all those years as an academic in liberal universities convinced me about the rightness/righteousness of standing against homophobia. But I never gave much thought to going so far as to support gay marriages. Until now. Until this week. Your comments these last few days  have forced me to dig deep and think about why not marriage and to find a way to explain to both myself and others why not marriage.

That said, let’s sit with the topic of gay marriages for another day or two.  Let me say that I appreciate the tone and the thoughtfulness of the comments here on the blog. (A few obnoxiously feral comments tried to make their way onto the board, but were deleted.)  I’m happy to see that both opponents and supporters feel free to speak their mind without fear of being slammed.

Here’s another angle on the topic to consider then.

My friend Ruby writes this morning in response to statements by marriage opponents:

Come on everybody. Our history of oppression should tenderize our hearts not harden it? We who know the bitter blows of oppression should be on the frontlines for justice not even because we agree with the issue but because our experience bend us toward what is right!

Perhaps that’s the issue, Ruby. There are many who do not put the gay rights movement and the civil rights movement on par with each other. Why not? Because they don’t see gay rights as a civil rights issue, perhaps? Because they see gay rights as a lifestyle issue and not a human rights issue, perhaps? Because they think homosexuality is a sin or just plain wrong, perhaps? Because they need convincing, as Therese says in her comment, that there’s a difference between same sex loving people demanding the right to marry and, let’s say, a blood brother and sister  demanding the right to marry, perhaps? Where is the line in the sand even for those in the LGBT community? What kind of sex and sexual unions do you oppose? And for Christian conservatives who write complaining that the word  “sin” hasn’t been used much around here when talking about homosexuality, what makes homosexuality a sin? Because the Bible says so? Come on, you and I both know that there are lots of practices the Bible deems reprehensible and unacceptable that modern Christians don’t take to the streets denouncing (e.g., divorce, sex during menstruation, eating pork, shaving your hair if you’re a minister). Why homosexuality?

Now students, you may pick up your pens and start writing…

Blame It On Blacks, Blame It on the Black Church, Blame It On Black Homophobia

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Hold onto your seats. This one took several days to write and is  longer than most of my other blogpiece.  But from time to time when dung is hurled at you you gotta put down your Bible and pull out your shovel. For those of you who read my blog for your classes on  gender, race, and the black church, take note. 

Scapegoating black people seems to be the thing to do these days.

Here’s one for you: Who do you think is responsible for the economic mess the country is in? That’s right. Blacks, along with other low-income/people of color are to blame for the economic meltdown we’re in and for bringing the global economy to a screeching halt.  If black and poor people hadn’t gone out and coerced banks into giving them subprime loans on homes they knew darn well they couldn’t afford, the country wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in. Never mind that the vast majority of subprime loans went to white, middle and upper income borrowers. Never mind that greedy Wall Street Investors were the major purchasers of and investors in subprime loan, and not Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

Here’s another for you. Whether Obama won or lost, was the rumor, blacks were going to pour into the streets in a riotous frenzy reminiscent of the riots of the 60s.  Now tell me: did anyone else notice the number non-blacks on election night who took the streets crying, yelling, and dancing a jig when the name of the 44th President of the United States was announced?

And now for the latest racial slander: Black people are to blame for ratifying Proposition 8, the California state ballot proposition that amended the state Constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman. Never mind that the demographic numbers don’t add up as Daily Kos points out, and that even if blacks had voted overwhelmingly against Proposition 8 other groups in California had already given the ballot the boost it needed to pass.

Admittedly, I don’t live in California so this never reached my ballot. But I have been known to use my moral capital to challenge homophobia in the black community.  But the decision by some to blast black people for Proposition 8 for being homophobic is stupid and morally self-defeating.

Let’s get this out the way now: I am on record for opposing discrimination against gays and lesbians. That said, however, I do not endorse the notion of same-sex marriage.  Civil unions I can endorse with all the rights and privileges thereof, marriage I can not. Marriage, as in matris munium, is between a man and woman. All other pairings are unions. Perhaps I’ll change my mind in the future. Perhaps not. But I’m committed to keeping the lines of communication open and revisiting whatever prejudices and traditions I’ve inherited that need scrutiny and that keep me from being the best friend I can be to gays and lesbians. But I tell you, it’s hard to keep my heart open when the strategy of groups supporting same-sex marriage seems to be to blame the black community for Proposition 8 and to blowtorch the black church for every wrong done against the homosexual community.

wedding bandsListen, the black community has its share of homophobia to attend to, but Proposition 8 passed because gays and lesbians and those who opposed the bill did not do their homework.

Opponents of the bill failed to build coalitions and bridges with communities whose help they needed to defeat the bill. They failed to make black and brown people see what makes gay rights a civil rights issue. They failed to persuade black and brown people that the struggles same sex partners face is similar to the struggles black and brown people face.  They failed to convinced black voters that those in same sex committed unions deserve the same rights as heterosexual couples.  They failed to persuade black voters why they should care about the rights of homosexuals and how the fates of homosexuals and blacks are intertwined and that to help one is to help the other. They failed to  convinced black voters that homosexuality is not a sin. What’s more,  everyone involved failed to show how profoundly counterproductive homophobia within the black community is in light of the grip HIV/AIDS has upon our community.

We tried to do all of that, the LBGT community will probably insist. Try again, I say. Proposition 8 says that you failed. You didn’t get your message across. Try again. You want to convince the world that this is a civil rights issue. Then follow the example of  generations of civil rights workers. Regroup, rebuild, realign, and reframe your moral argument. No, I do not believe that the success or failure of the movement rests solely on the shoulders of the LGBT community. Supporters from within the heterosexual community absolutely must lend their voice to challenging homophobia in the heterosexual community.  One thing is sure, however, you won’t win the voters you say you need by bullying and slandering them.

The black church is the real culprit, some claim.  Conservative black preaching incites black voters into believing that defeating same-sex marriage legislation as their Christian mission.  There’s no denying a sexist, ethnocentric, heteronormative worldview of the ancient biblical world has been passed down to us and that many readers are wont to believe that the world behind the text is the world we’re supposed to get back to. Thank God for prophets, preachers, and informed readers who know that God does not call us to reenshrine the bigotries of the past but to devote ourselves toward working toward a more just future. Hence, while some have seen in Scripture prooftexts for racial slavery and women’s submission, others have seen in the same texts cause for revolt from tyranny and injustice. Here’s what I know from being a black woman, a minister, and an activist in the black church. Trashing black (male) preachers and launching postmodern diatribes against the black church won’t get you very far if your goal is to transform the church and root out deeply held prejudices. Blasting the black church only pisses folks in the church off, both women and men. Believe me, you don’t want to piss off church folks. Like most religions Christianity is quite comfortable with “us” vs. “them” ways of dividing up the world and religious folks are quick to arm themselves with militant piety when they sense their faith is under attack.  Blasting the black church will only get you so far.

Civil rights workers of the 60s faced a similar similar challenge when you consider that many of those hurling epithets at them from across the picket lines and and setting dogs on them before hauling them off to jail were God-fearing white Christians who were convinced that God created blacks inferior to whites. But picketing and targeting white churches and exchanging insults with white racist Christians was not recognized strategy of the movement.  King and others sought out and built coalitions with empathetic white Christians who shared their vision of a beloved community. King’s 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail” written to white preachers who castigated King for a campaign they considered ill-timed and unnecessary is an example of an activist deft at using moral arguments to fight moral arguments. The black church, despite all its warts, has meant too much for too long to too many black people for any of us to think that mocking and blasting its members is a wise strategy. Be a civil rights movement and figure out how to change hearts as well a laws.

While I’m at it: singing black civil rights protests songs won’t win you any points with black people nor lend moral weight to your fight. Get your own protest songs. Why mock our beliefs but steal our music (which draws from our beliefs)? gender

If for no other reason the toll AIDS/HIV has taken our community demands that the African American church look at how homophobia inspired by the church’s teachings has contributed to AIDS/HIV infection and death rates in our community.  At the same time the LGBT community has its own housecleaning it needs to do. Confronting the racism and white privilege within its ranks is one.  Why are elite white gay men the ones always the spokesmen for the movement. Where are the black LGBT members and what role do they play in the setting the direction of the movement? If Jasmine Connick, a black lesbian writer from California, is to believed “it’s been common practice for the gay community to hire black faces, temporarily, to convince blacks to support gay marriage.”  But that’s just about it. And then there’s the hawkish single issue fanaticism of some within the LGBT community that can be a big turnoff.  The “accept  homosexuality or else” posturing of many LGBT members leaves one with the impression that power not justice is the ambitionof this group and privileging one sort of difference over another is what many are after.

Finally, the question that’s blowing up blogosphere seems to be, are black people homophobic? Not all black people, but, yes, many are. Are black people more homophobic? Than who? Aliens? White people? Brown people? Disabled people? No. Here’s what I think.  The working poor as a group tend to be more socially conservative, which includes being homophobic, than those who are wealthy and well-educated.  For all the reasons sociologists can probably explain.  If black people are more homophobic (and I’m not convinced they are) it’s not because they’re stupid and other people are smart-er.  Perhaps it’s an indictment on us all that despite all the marches and speechifying that’s been done, those who continue to hold out in opposing same sex marriages and same sex unions have not been made to see that (homo)sexuality is not simply about sex and power, but love and commitment. Something even heterosexuals will agree is mysterious, elusive, and constantly in need of renewing. Maybe it’s not that black people are (more homophobic). The movement to change the minds and hearts of people to its position failed to persuade enough people. Try again. That’s what it means to be a movement.

Sex and the City

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

A reader-friend of mine sent an email this weekend asking when I was going to blog about “Sex and the City”?

My response:

Sex and the City?
Sex and the City?
Sex and the City?

Meaning: You’re kidding, right?

Meaning: I never bothered to watch the television series. Why would I plop down hard-earned money to see the movie?

It seems that my friend and some of her friends were planning a ladies’ night viewing party for the film’s opening night (May 30th). “The girls and I are getting all dressed up with advance tickets to pretend to live like these women for two hours,” she wrote. 

“Sex and the City”? What am I missing here?

Don’t get me wrong. I like sex. And I am definitely a city girl. Heck, I was once single, in my 20s, and living and working in New York City. Of course, that was a couple of decades ago. Still, I remember. But I don’t get all the hoopla over ”Sex and the City.” Too, too, too… what’s the word? Too much angst, especially sexual angst, for my patience. Perhaps I’m showing signs of my age. If I am, so is the cast. Don’t let the lights and all that make-up fool you: the film’s stars are ancient by Hollywood’s standards — Sarah Parker and Kristin Davis are 43, Cynthia Nixon is 42 and Kim Cattrall is 51! But I digress.

My friend’s response:

“That’s amazing, there’s so much focus on the needs of women (in the movie) I was for sure you would have insight!” She went on to insist that the movie was about more than men, sex, shopping, and stiletto shoes. It’s also about friendship.

That last sentence was supposed to get to me. And it did. She knows I’m a sucker for a movie about women’s friendship. But still I wasn’t convinced.

I sent another email with the prayer: Please Lord make it so that even without being a fan of “Sex and the City” I can still do a pretty credible job talking about “the needs of women.


My friend wrote back later raving about the movie.

So did my teenager daughter who managed to slip in with some friends to see the movie. How did I find out? She sent me a text asking for 30 extra minutes over her curfew because “Sex” was longer than she expected. I nearly broke my neck trying to get out my house to go and find my child before I caught on to the fact that she was talking about the movie.

So, ‘fess up: have you seen “Sex and the City,” the movie? Did you enjoy it? Do you and your girlfriends identify with the sassy ladies of “Sex and the City”? What am I missing? By the way, did “Dreamgirls” Jennifer Hudson appearance add enough color to give the movie the realism and diversity some complained the television series lacked? Just wondering how women of color rate the movie and what they get from it.