I only came across this performance today, and I thought it’s too good not to share: this is Kai Davis’ and Safiya Washington’s take on Hipster Racism, presented at the semi-finals of the 2012 Brave New Voices. To be clear: it is a performance, not a nuanced analysis of racism and the role it plays in gentrification, for example, and it does not have to be; it is still so spot-on in many ways... <3… You can find more “spoken word poems” by Davis and Washington here on Women and Media, for example.
“I’m a gladiator in a suit” is a sucky line.
When I first heard it, I thought: “I can’t possibly watch this show. This is like the worst episodes of Grey’s Anatomy combined [yes, another guilty pleasure - sadly, it has lost a lot of the "dark and twisty" appeal it once had...], where some of the pretentious, pseudo-quirky and yet, extremely tacky punch lines make your teeth hurt…” (yes, I am mean like that). However, I am now officially obsessed (…obsessed!) with Shonda Rhimes’ ABC show “Scandal”.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, “Scandal” is a drama revolving around the peculiar law firm of Olivia Pope in Washington, D.C. Pope and her associates are no “ordinary” lawyers, however, because they have specialized in “fixing things”. They “fix” the problems of their clients, which turns out to be a bit of a mixture of very ordinary legal defense tactics, public relations and crisis management, and simply political lobbying work.
Pope, a former student of Cyrus, the present chief of staff of the U.S. president Fitz Grant, had successfully worked on the latter’s campaign to get him elected, and had a job in the White House, before, presumably, her affair with Grant which developed on the campaign trail, made her quit. Obviously, lots of romantic and dramatic entanglements ensue, Shonda Rhimes interweaves flashbacks and uncertainties about people’s characters in this first season of seven episodes, and it’s a fast paced show you have to pay attention to. Also, Rhimes’ “thing” seems to be to have people talk really fast – something I quite enjoy, but which (as it did and does in Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, too…) can still be a bit of a drag, no matter how fast-paced, and sometimes amounts to rather tacky monologues that lack credibility and honesty, in my view.
So, why do I still like “Scandal”?
Being a little music-deprived lately, I thought about songs I like and how many of them could actually be called feminist. Well… um… The result wasn’t really overwhelming, but the songs I could think of are awesome (at least to me ;)).
I know there are tons of lists like this one out there and I am sure I’m repeating the listing of songs that make other people’s top tens on a regular basis, but anway: these are some of the ones I came up with… Obviously, this list is leaning very heavily towards Hip Hop/Pop and the US (which is simply due to personal preferences), so I’ll appreciate further suggestions :)!
Queen Latifah: U.N.I.T.Y. ["Who you callin' a bitch?!" / "You put your hands on me again, I'll put your ass in handcuffs."]:
I like Beth Ditto. No, seriously! Because she has an awesome voice, and is loud and colorful and smart and funny. Because Gossip make quirky music. Because Gossip isn’t afraid to say they’re a feminist band. Because Ditto is from Arkansas and has had the courage and strength to still be Ditto [trust me, that's a huge accomplishment - I am writing this post at Little Rock].
Also, and this might come as a bit of a shock to some of you, Beth Ditto is fat. Like, FAT. Not curvy, not chubby, not a little on the heavy side, but actually fat. What comes as no surprise in a culture of patriarchal fat-shaming and the enforcement of standardized beauty, Ditto is not known as that great voice from Gossip, or as that woman from Arkansas, or as that black-haired white lady who designs her own clothing, but mostly as that fat girl who sings quite well and wears tight clothing in public despite her weight. *pearl clutch*
You’d think that at some point the novelty would wear off, as I am quite sure that both Beth Ditto and everyone else already know that she is fat (if only because media outlets have been telling people for years now) – but nope. This is Gossip’s eighth album, and still the headlines of magazines’ supposed music reviews read like this one: “The Mega-Madonna“.
Looking on the bright side, one might have thought this could be an ode to the innovative mind or vocal strength of Ditto and not yet another hint at her weight, but: of course not. Andreas Borcholte, a man who has actually studied sociology and yet, seems to be unable to fathom the social dimension of the continuous and rather boring “FAAAAT!!!” puns in this article, cannot but write a “review” in which half of what he has to say about Gossip’s new record circles around Ditto’s weight.
Apparently going for the “How many fat-related word choices can I possibly include”-award [is that a thing? Someone nominate me!], Borcholte commingles Ditto’s music with her weight, calling the singer “weighty”, “opulent”, “Knutschkugel”, gives her height/weight stats, and, oh how very surprising, has to connect Ditto to Adele (because all fat chicks in public know each other or are somewhat alike, right?). At certain points, he provides a couple of lines about the actual record (*gasp!*), some anecdotes about the band, their views on Madonna, “homosexuality” and subversion, and, finally, a whopping two sentences of actual music evaluation in this review; but: the so very peculiar event here remains Ditto’s fat.
The male* gaze is certainly rather unsubtle in this piece, and the constant exoticization of a fat female public figure whose work can eventually be condensed to her weight, is not less apparent. I guess it is too much to ask of a music critic to write a nuanced piece about the actual music when a non-standardized attraction like Ditto can be gawked at. Thankfully, “Spiegel” linked the entire album – so you can be your own judge. It’s certainly more productive and instructive than reading yet another article about that fat girl who also sings.
Did I mention she was FAT? No, seriously:
Redundancy, repetition, redundancy. That’s what it feels like to blog about sexism and racism and, you know, all the other stuff, anyway. I keep repeating myself – and it’s not only I because I seem to have a tendency to do that, but because the world is not changing as rapidly as one might wish. Like, not at all… Did I say it’s not changing?
I have read the Hunger Games series last year while travelling. Apparently, it’s the New Hot Thing right now, and, despite the fact that it is a bit of a slightly altered version of other, more profound dystopian classics and, basically, teenage literature that is somewhat gloomy and yet, not gloomy enough for a scenario like this (for the sake of the kids, I get it), it also has all the mechanisms of pop literature that make you keep reading the books and entertain you well. Moreover, the one thing I really enjoyed about the books, is that they have a female lead for a change, that this female lead is described as having “olive skin”, “dark” hair and grey eyes, that there are multiple people of colour introduced as actual real characters (stereotypically portrayed in some cases, yes, but more endearing in others), and that things aren’t completely good v. evil, but more complex than that.
Now that we’ve entered the movie trilogy stage, guess what happened? We couldn’t possibly have a female lead that is also a woman of colour with “olive” skin, dark hair and grey eyes, so, naturally, the casting directors have given the role of “Katniss” to a white, blonde, blue-eyed actress who had to dye her hair brown to remotely resemble the actual protagonist. I thought she did a good job in the movie, but that does not change the fact that, again, characters have to be literally stripped of their colour to make them “majority-accessible”, and to make a film or book or whatever successful (and not an “ethnic” piece of art, whatever the fuck that is supposed to mean… oh, wait, I know what it means…).