Tag Archives: stereotype

Respectability Politics: 4 Hints Your Approaches to Empowering Black Communities Are Harmful

18 Jul

There’s a running joke about whether or not black people should eat chicken in public.

When I’d bring a packed lunch with chicken wings to the office, I’d laugh at myself as I heated it up in the break room, thinking, “Am I really about to sit down with a plate of fried chicken in front of all these white folks?”

Of course I would. The chicken stereotype seemed silly to me, but there were other stereotypes I worked hard not to portray. 

I used to viciously side-eye anyone who argued that twerking was empowering. I’d quietly shame people who enjoyed reality TV shows like Basketball Wives and Love and Hip Hop. And I preferred artists like Janelle Monae over Nicki Minaj because I thought Nicki was a modern day example of the Jezebel stereotype.

I didn’t like anything that made black people look like we didn’t have home training. I wanted society to see positive images, like the high rates of black college graduates or the thriving black business owners.

To me, people who embodied stereotypes were enemies to black progress. These were my respectability politics.

Respectability politics are rules used by marginalized groups to help assimilate and survive in hostile environments that aren’t as accepting of other cultures. These rules define acceptable behavior based on mainstream values. They define how to act in front of (white) company.

These politics are frequently found in conversations about how to tackle racism and anti-blackness in America and how to uplift black communities.

For instance, some black parents will teach their children to dress and act a certain way around police officers, in hopes that their children will not suffer the fate of children like Mike Brown and Tamir Rice.

With the exceptions of a few “news” personalities whose intentions no one can be too sure of (ahem, Don Lemon and Stacey Dash), respectability politics typically comes from well-meaning people who love and support black people. Our mothers, teachers, friends, favorite musicians, and relatives use them to better our communities and protect loved-ones from oppressive situations… Read More at Everyday Feminism.

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I’m Not Giving Hollywood Any More Money

15 Jul

Holly Transformers

I’m not a “movie person,” but summer always brings a few films I’m excited to see. However, after writing my recent article about Hollywood’s addiction to typecasting, I couldn’t walk into a theater without feeling guilty. Every time I purchased a ticket, my black feminist conscience would yell, “Are you really going to support an industry that doesn’t give a shit about you?”

I ignored her at first, but after the disappointments from the latest movies I’ve seen, X-men: Days of Future Past, Think Like a Man 2, and Godzilla—I’m officially done with Hollywood.

I’ll save my movie money for an industry that isn’t going to regurgitate stereotypes wrapped in lame, white-washed plots.

I have 3 reasons:

1. Hollywood doesn’t know what to do with women.

As a fan of all things alien and futuristic, Transformers is usually right up my alley. But third Transformers, released prior to the latest movie turned me off for good.

The majority of the time, the lead actress screams and runs from Decepticons in high heels. I’m watching the movie yelling “Bitch, if you don’t take off those heels and run like you got some sense.”

And can she do anything else besides scream, run, and act as the distraction while Shia LaBeouf saves the day?

So I refused to see the latest Transformers because I knew it would have all the same hackneyed motifs— and according to a few reviews, I was spot on.

I mean, is anyone else tired of the Damsel in Distress in action films?

Some of these writers need to take note from The Hunger Games series.

Transformers isn’t the only movie that could’ve utilized the female characters better. In X-men: Days of Future Past, the good white men save the day while the women and characters of colors sit and wait. However, in a 90’s cartoon version of Days of Future Past, it is actually Kitty Pryde who goes back in time to save mutants and humans from their horrible future. Xmen with a woman saving the day sounds like a cools concept. Especially considering Pryde’s mutation makes her untouchable, literally.

I love Hugh Jackman as Wolverine—but it’s time for a diverse range of characters to take the spotlight.

2. White = Universal

Where are all my black leading characters? Not in action films. Not in sci-fi. Not even in animated films. Oh that’s right: black characters are ghettoized into the black film genre, which currently includes the Think Like a Man series, Tyler Perry films (ugh), and whatever Kevin Hart’s currently starring in.

As for all the other people of color: Y’all don’t even get “race-themed” genres.

Yet, whenever all of the characters in a film are white, directors love to claim that “it’s not about race.” Films like Noah and the Gods of Egypt got a lot of pushback for their majority-white cast.

When asked about the lack of diversity in Noah, Co-writer Handel gives one of worst responses: “What we realized is that this story is functioning at the level of myth, and as a mythical story, the race of the individuals doesn’t matter. They’re supposed to be stand-ins for all people.”

And there lies the problem: white is the “stand-in for all people.” Only white skin can represent the whole of our society. This thinking is the very reason why movies are so white, why you hardly ever see Asian male characters in films outside of martial arts films (and Godzilla), and why Halle Berry is the only woman of color ever to receive an Oscar for Best Actress for a leading role.

Let’s get one thing straight: whenever a cast of characters is mostly white, it’s not an accident. If race really didn’t matter, then we would see more diversity. We live in an extremely diverse country with people of origins all over the globe. You just won’t find them on the screen.

3. We’re not humans, we’re stereotypes

talk about stereotypes a lot on A Womyn’s Worth. And I’m already over my word count, so I’ll be brief with this point.

The trailer of Dear White People, a comedy about stereotypes and white people’s discomfort with diversity, pretty much sums up my feels about seeing stereotypes on the screen.

 

If you want my in-depth commentary on this topic, check out my article, “Where Are All the Leading Ladies of Color?” which was featured on Ms. magazine’s blog.

Finally, I know my one-woman boycott doesn’t really make a difference in anyone’s life but my own. But imagine if every person of color stopped paying money for the exclusionary crap Hollywood puts out. Box offices numbers would drop tremendously, folks will lose money, and things would undoubtedly change (You know what they say: Hit them where it hurts the most—their wallets).

Representation matters, folks. Hollywood tells us that white people are the stars and the rest of us are just extras, brought in to uphold stereotypes and act as sidekicks. So I can no longer contribute to an industry that makes billions of dollars excluding people like me or making us look bad.

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