So what’s the draw? The Sisterhood creates a conflict between public politics, private realities, and personal taste. However, this war between the emperor’s coat of high culture and the everydayness of his nakedness is nothing new. This ongoing juxtaposition highlights the ever-increasing tensions between the “cultured” and the “ratchet”: the former drawing attention to so-called taste, tact, refinement, civilization, and genius, and the latter calling attention to the so-called vulgar. While the former is purported to arise out of the Geist–the intellectual inclinations–of our times, the latter is purported to spring forth from the worst of black culture. However, what better communicates the spirit of the time than the ratchet? And no, I don’t mean the ways that ratchet gets deployed to project a collage of derogatory meanings onto black women’s bodies. I’m referring to the ways that ratchetness often undergirds the ricocheting of raw emotions and missiles of unfiltered truths.
To uncritically bash The Sisterhood is to toe the expected party line. To demonize the show is not only an attempt to maintain a position of moral superiority, but an assay to construct and limit meaning for the audience—an audience that may, in fact, connect with the human qualities of the ratchetness therein. And trust me, I get the critiques regarding black female representations in media. This needs to be called out every day, all day—but not while asphyxiating black women’s complex identities with mythological notions of black women’s heroic genius. In short, binary oppositions don’t work. They set up “us”-versus-“them” politics, which are both totalizing and reductive. I think a better suggestion might be to think about the heroic qualities of black women’s genius–that is, if you buy this argument–as at times being a bit ratchet. Identities and tastes shift in shades of grey, not monochrome. That said, we don’t need another schemata. And we damn sure don’t need another exceptionalist social fiction to cancel out our complex subjectivities, which can neither be packaged nor wholesaled, by the way.
The Sisterhood is evidence of our obsession with brown women’s lives and our pornotropic desire to lift their curtains and see everything. In addition, it’s evidence of the fluidity between religion and culture and the myriad ways that each cross-pollinates the other, thus broadening, limiting, and confusing all kinds of meanings. An example of this is the construction of the “first lady” concept for the show, a Black Church conception structured in both politics of respectability and patriarchal dominance, aimed at constructing alternative identities–distinct from the hypersexual/sexual-savage trope–for black women, particularly during the early twentieth century. As with the FLOTUS, it’s a title of respect for wives in religious contexts that are often theo-socially hostile to women in general. With regard to black women, there’s a long history here apropos race, gender, sex, sexuality, respectability, and wifehood. However, I’ll save the politics of race, ladyhood, and wifedom for another day."
— The Feminist Wire’s (and Racialicious Crush alum) Tamura Lomax applies her brilliant mind to giving a greatly nuanced—and humanizing—analysis of TLC’s The Sisterhood on the R today! (via secretarysbreakroom)