“For a black cosplayer (not to be racist) she did an amazing job!” the original Tumblr post read. It was later was edited to include “I love her skin tone” after all hell broke loose.
Personally, I’ve always been stuck on those first few words: “for a black cosplayer.” As if the bar was set lower for us, as if we weren’t expected to perform on the same level as white cosplayers.
I lost track of how many times the post was liked, reblogged, linked to other websites — even now, nearly three years after the picture was taken, complete strangers will come up and reference it to me at cons, and it’s even come up in job interviews. My Venus became the unintentional face of the cosplay race debate online, an unwitting example of “Black cosplayers doing it right,” as if 9 times out of 10, black cosplayers were doing it wrong by default.
What kills me is that in person, nobody has the balls to say a word about whether or not they think darker-skinned people should cosplay lighter skinned characters — but online is a completely different animal. Online, I was “Nigger Venus,” and “Sailor Venus Williams” because I am black.
My nose was too wide, lips were too big, I had a “face like a gorilla” and wasn’t suited for such a cute character, because I am black. My wig was too blonde, my wig wasn’t blonde enough, or, my wig was ghetto because I was making it ghetto, by being black and having it on my head.
And furthermore, if I was going to insist on “ruining characters,” I could have at least picked one with black hair so it looked more “natural.” I should have worn blue contacts — but if I had, it would have looked ghetto. Because I am black.
I watched the documentary, even knowing that this might be giving credence to all of what I like to call “ignorant conscious folks.” You know the type well: these are the men and some women, who believe that everything, including their own mistakes, helplessness, insecurities and misgivings in life, are the fault of white men and their evil and manipulative black women cohorts. These are the folks that will in one hand hold black women up as queens of the earth but are also quick to sloganeer some misogynist, and occasionally violent language and action for those who fail to live up to their expectation of what a queen is suppose to be.
Through very real examples of black history and achievements were included, these scholars and historians also manage to weave a web of conspiracy, which makes black women into pathological figures who seek to harm the black man through their choices to obtain a degree and good jobs and homes. Throughout the film, Nasheed and some of the other historians non-historically asserted that black men are being emasculated by feminism, which teaches women to talk back freely and demand rights they don’t even need, and say that homosexuality only seeks to take black men out of their pants and put them into dresses. No, seriously, they really said that. Likewise, the “feminization” of the public education, which has not produced enough challenging “man work,” is the direct cause behind why women are obtaining higher degrees in education at greater rates than men, and why men have greater drop-out rates than women. Yup, that was in there too. So was the idea that the men are helpless in fending off all this sexual energy from these oversexed, European-minded black women, who are keeping black men away from their righteous paths.
After watching the first Hidden Colors documentary, I realized two things: First, my male friend who suggested this film to me is a freakin’ idiot, and now I suspect him to be a closet misogynist. And secondly, we must be in a real desperate state in our community for both knowledge and overall historical respect, if we are willing to promote these regressive gender roles and hyper-masculine ideas for the sake of black pride and power, even as these ideas tends to contribute to reasons why violence and abuse, among women in particular, are so pervasive and not taken seriously in the community.
And this is exactly why I refuse to watch the second Hidden Colors documentary, no matter how much praise it receives from those within the “conscious community.” I refuse to watch any nonsense, which trivializes the very real racial subjugation of black folks in order to promote a belief that the best way to uplift the community is through the continued degradation of black women. Despite what the documentary wants us to believe, our sexism and homophobia is not a triumph; instead, it is the continued recipe for how we as a community, stay losing.
**TRIGGER WARNING: sexual violence against women and girls, racism, misogyny**
Everyone is buzzing about Adrian Chen’s article for Gawker unmasking the identity of Michael Brutsch, better known as Violentacrez, a superuser who contributed to and moderated several of the creepiest, racist, and misogynist forums on Reddit. With reason: it’s a well-written and impressive piece of investigative journalism, and does important work unmasking someone who’s done a huge amount of harm–and the broader user and company culture at Reddit that allowed him to get away with it for so long.
That said, I have some reservations about the piece and how it’s been received. While the behavior of Brutsch and other Redditors is particularly disgusting, it’s worth noting Chen writes for an outlet that’s far from innocent when it comes to racism and misogyny (for starters).
For example: In a piece Chen wrote last year about the”Jailbait” section of Reddit, Gawker included the very images of a 14-year-old girl (stolen from her hacked Photobucket account) that Chen rightly criticized Redditors as “pervs” for posting. Is disseminating these images, without any real journalistic rationale for them, somehow better or more justified when a media outlet does it?
This isn’t an exception with Gawker and other Gawker Media properties. This is the same outlet that gave Cord Jefferson the greenlight to write an article that sexualized the rape of a 7-year-old girl and was extremely insensitive and harmful to survivors of sexual violence. Earlier this year, Jezebel posted screenshots and detailed descriptions of a Libyan woman being raped. They refused take the images down in response to backlash, on the grounds that it would be impossible for them to report the story without those images…
The reporting on Brutsch’s actions and identity is welcome. But I can’t help but note that Gawker Media profits from the very culture Chen calls out of viewing girls and women’s bodies as public property to be exploited. Of course, Gawker is hardly alone in this respect.
So, I was really glad to see a fantastic article by Whitney Phillips, a scholar whose dissertation was on internet trolling culture, unpacking how Violentacrez’s behavior has implications beyond the harm he’s done individually. She points out that 1) troll culture is built on the assumptions of white male privilege, 2) individual trolls like Violentacrez are supported by a “host culture” whose values they reflect–in VA’s case, he was wholeheartedly embraced by fellow Redditors and tolerated by the highest levels of Reddit staff, and 3) there’s not that much difference between VA’s racist and misogynist trolling and the sensationalism of “corporate media culture.”
That’s right. You type in misogyny and “Misogyny in hip hop culture” is one of the first things you see. Like we invented the shit. And this is how it is interpreted. It’s how I responded to it. Like Chris Brown somehow acts alone. That we don’t live in a culture that judges, ridicules, dismisses and yes, hates women. We’ve seen this played out in the rise of the Republican party, particularly in the last year—Sandra Fluke, representative Lisa Brown in Michigan, and the introduction of transvaginal ultrasounds in Virgina. And then the focus of both parties on motherhood and the importance of that job at both political conventions. In other words, as Jenny Allen fabulously points out, if you are not a mother, are not on your way to being a mother, are not interested in being a mother then what the fuck are you? Bitch.
How do we separate Chris Brown out from that? From those actions. From that sentiment? Granted, if I give Chris Brown much thought—and sometimes I do, really focus on the anger that Chris Brown often, if not always, performs, and I become angry. I don’t like his music. I’m appalled that he has had any hit records (not surprised) after he beat Rihanna three years ago. That we are bombarded with photos of the two of them kissing at the VMAs a few days ago, making music together over the summer and on and on. No, I don’t like Chris Brown. I don’t understand him, his actions, the celebrity culture that enables him and his behavior.
But I don’t pretend that he acts alone or that his actions are solely individual ones.
Someone could and probably will argue that none of the things I’ve mentioned so far or will recount in the next paragraph are as terrible as domestic violence, actually mentally and physically abusing a woman. Maybe. Maybe. But, his actions, whether it’s screaming at a fellow artist, tattooing his neck in homage to a Sugar Skull/Day of the Dead MAC cosmetics image which does, eerily, look like an abused woman (yes, I heard this too), or tearing up his dressing room on a morning television talk show (with my beloved Robin Roberts!)…his actions are not separate from the woman-hating culture that I walk in everyday. And I mean everyday.
I began my writing career calling out Dr Dre for his misogyny. My friendship with Jay Z began when I reviewed Reasonable Doubt and called Jay out for his hyper-capitalism . I was not ‘calling out’ Nas by telling the truth about dpz writing whole bars (ne songs) on Untitled. I was telling a truth to someone who thought Nas’ most radical verses were his own. They were not. I’m unsurprised that these men have circled around their lie. I’m unmoved by the misogynist threats I’m receiving in open forums (last night Just Blaze tweeted I should be “bled out”). But I am done. I may not be done talking about this (unsubscribe to my feed if you like, I reserve the right to block who the fuk I want), but I am done with hip hop and men who collude to silence women. And done with women who are happy they’re not me. Don’t worry. You could never be.
Just this past weekend, in a workshop with 8-9 year old boys in Brooklyn, NY, one young boy bragged about his girlfriend being “cute with a big butt.” The other boys laughed. I stopped him in his tracks and challenged him about his comment right in front of the other boys and men in the room. The moment he made his comment, he probably did not think that a man would challenge him for making such a trite, objectifying statement. The question is, where did he learn that having a cute girlfriend with a big butt was something to brag about publicly, and that by doing so it would gain him social acceptance and approval from the other boys and men in the room? It starts with poor “fatherly” advice from men like Too Short, who felt that his recent comments in a video posted on XXL.com would go unchallenged - especially by men.
While the comments Too Short made may strike some boys and men as funny and conventional male thinking, they are not. But unfortunately, too many sexist men in positions of influence and power reinforce to young boys what acceptable masculinity looks like. Too many men are teaching boys - at home, at school, on the playground, through porn culture, sports culture, military culture, fraternity culture, police culture, and mainstream media outlets like XXL - that physical and sexual aggression toward girls and women is okay.
This has to stop. And it stops when men who care about girls and women speak up and voice our disapproval and take action when we hear misogyny out of the mouths of other men who do not represent us or our view on manhood. If you are a man who strongly disagrees with Too Short’s comments and find them disturbing, then please sign this online petition and share it with your male friends.
it makes my stomach turn that everytime i am going to the DR, i always have to face some group of non-dominican black men before i even get there, because while im in the airport gates waiting area, they will watch me like im some vulnerable animal and they are fucking hunters. eyes following me everywhere i walk, sit, as i talk. coming up to me to ask, “youre dominican, arent you?” with silly grins on their faces, eyes lighting up as they imagine what other “goodies” they will find once they finally deplane?
because those….theyre there specifically FOR our female bodies. sex workers and otherwise—whoever they can get their hands on, really. (ladies, watch out if your man goes to the dominican republic without you lol)
when you work at hotels they all ogle w tongues out, pestering you to give them attention, along with the white men who are there for the same…its like we’re part of the hotel packages, you know (sometimes we literally are)?
and its always out of some “look at these exotical mixed black girls” shit.
and some “look at these foreign creatures who i view as above any of the black women back home” shit.
everytime i see photos of rosa acosta or yaris or arlenis sosa or any of the other dominican models who have had so much success in the u.s. for simply being the “average black dominican girl”, the same average black dominican girls that dominican men suck their teef at and use and discard?
all of these thoughts come rushing in my head.
the fact we are NOT appreciated by dominican men. and then those who “seem” to appreciate us only do so out of some perverse racist (or internalized racist), mysoginist inclination?
i know they say nadie es profeta en su tierra, but,
lose while neglected or lose while fetishized.
You may be wondering what all the fuss is about, anyway. After all, if I wasn’t paying attention to the content of these songs before, why bother now? And if I am so unhappy with salsa, bachata, and reggaeton, why don’t I just stop listening? No one is forcing me to lip sync these lyrics.
The thing is, what first caught my attention about the lyrics of “Lamento Boliviano” was their eerie familiarity. The angry, drunk, amor-stricken man at one’s door is not a musical folktale, but a reality, both in the Americas and across the world—and it is one that I have lived. Popular music informs and reflects how we see ourselves and relate to one another as a society. That a music’s lyrics are violent and misogynistic is troubling and telling in a time when man on woman violence is so prevalent in the places where it is popular. I could easily go back to ignoring the content of the songs I listen to—in Mexico or any country—but I would be ignoring key landmarks on the worldscape of oppression.