Twerking, just like everything else that is specifically known to Black women is the latest thing for Whites to try to appropriate while simultaneously trying to police and shame its originators for doing it at all. Whites (and some Blacks as well) are approaching it with the typical White supremacist approach of overly applauding and worshiping whomever is the latest popular spoiled irritant of a White human being to try to do it, which in this case would be Miley Cyrus. Unlike when something Black men, or both Black men and Black women created/do is appropriated, where some Black men are bothered by the appropriation (i.e. The Harlem Shake), once it’s specific to Black women, some Black men no longer care and applaud and worship any and all non-Black (and especially White) women engaged in the appropriation. The latter is also a facet of White supremacy (and male privilege).
While the sheer act of someone who isn’t Black woman twerking doesn’t bother me theoretically, I don’t like its practical manifestation in a White supremacist society. The typical worship (by EVERYONE, even including some Black women) of anyone who isn’t a Black woman doing it, the mocking of Black women’s distress about it and indulging in entitlement and arrogance about the appropriation is the problem. It’s never just people “having fun.” Their “fun” always comes at a huge price for Black women (and Black culture)—reinforcing race and gender hierarchies.The oppressor consciousness tends to transform everything surrounding it into an object of its domination. The earth, property, production, the creations of people, people themselves, time—everything is reduced to the status of objects at its disposal.
Once the conversation is about Black women and twerking, the bigotry comes out in full force. I do not accept this bigotry.
No, I do not accept the sexism—the belief that something of interest to women irrespective of male attention or valuation/devaluation is automatically stupid and not worth doing or discussing.
No, I do not accept the misogyny—the notion that twerking can only be self-degrading since it cannot exist for any purpose outside of the dehumanizing gaze of men who choose to only see women as sexual objects, not full human beings engaging in a creative dance with a long Black history.
No, I do not accept the misogynoir—the notion that Black women twerking is “lewd” and “degrading” but White women doing (or trying to do) the exact same dance is “cute” and “classy” and that they should cash in, in attention, praise or actual money (i.e. teaching classes) on twerking while pretending that they do not know the racial double standard here. White privilege is why they can both appropriate and feign ignorance over the magnitude of what this appropriation is. White privilege is why they can continue to dehumanize Black women (while some simultaneously demand loyalty to a White supremacist feminist agenda, versus the intersectional feminism/womanism that we know) by pretending that we are solely objects to emulate—costumes to put on out of interest and then take off if situations get too sticky or portraying a certain form of Whiteness becomes more important or profitable. (See: Justin Timberlake, the male version of this).
No, I do not accept the misogynoir and predictable hypocrisy by Black men—the same ones who were angry about Whites appropriating The Harlem Shake (since Black men do this dance too) but write Black women off as “jealous” for commenting on the double standard regarding twerking (since Black men view this as a dance for women). Male privilege. The same ones who only have an issue with Whites when it is perceived to specifically impact Black men or all Black people, versus solely Black women, are the type of Black men that I’m speaking of. The same ones who endlessly excuse racism from famous White women (but never from a White man of any status) simply because they chase and sleep with non-famous White women are the type of Black men that I’m speaking of.
No, I do not accept the racist sexist classism—the idea that only “poor” and “ghetto” Black women dance this way, thus making it a “shameful” dance unless absolutely anyone of a different social status does it.
No, I do not accept the ageist sexism—the idea that only women of a certain age should dance this way and anyone arbitrarily too young is being a “whore” and anyone arbitrarily too old is being “immature.”
No, I do not accept the framing through the politics of respectability—the idea that this “shames” Black women in front of White people, and nothing matters more than the White gaze (which is racist because of WHO we are, not WHAT we do or do not do, anyway) and the pathway to White approval, which never comes nor should be a goal in the first place.
No, I do not accept the Christian theist idea, shaped by patriarchy, sexism and misogynoir—that somehow twerking—a dance with African roots no less—is somehow “evil” and thus wrong, when it is in fact White supremacist religious views, originally force-fed, now willingly embraced, that shapes Black intraracial opinions on dancing and writes off anything with Black roots, especially precolonial roots as “evil.”
No, I do not accept the White supremacist feminist rhetoric—that autonomy over one’s person, expression and sexuality as a woman, should only apply to White women, and in the case of Black women, doing the same thing is “unfeminist” (not a real concept in the first place as it implies feminist absolutism as a destination, not the journey and praxis that it is) or anti-feminist (which would only be true if feminism is solely gendered White supremacy). I reject the idea that Black women should exist solely as objects for White women to emulate or disdain while simultaneously shaming, to mask their White supremacist thought and endless White privilege, especially considering the history of Black bodies as objects of White power, profit and pleasure.
A part of Alice Walker’s definition of womanism includes “loves dance” because of the very freedom that comes with creative and cultural expression with meaning and history, that’s also fun and includes the confidence that comes with physical, sexual and emotional autonomy.
How rare is it for twerking to be discussed…or actually anything involving what Black women do, think, say, write, create, believe or are…without bigotry, and sloppy, one-dimensional bigoted ideas as the basis of the discussion or the “critique?”
For Miley, appropriation is “fun” and games; Black women are costumes or “big booty hos” to her, not human beings. For Whites and Blacks/other people of colour, it can be viewed this way too, without context and disregarding the truth because of White supremacy; it allows such ignorance. I don’t have the luxury of disregarding the truth since I, as a Black woman, am the target of such bigotry. And, it will never be acceptable.
other things im never getting over include the first time i told my mom about the last guy i dated her first two questions were
and when i was like “what why does being part black even matter??” she said "white people don’t like to be surprised by blackness" and seemed genuinely extremely concerned bc richard is from texas and she didnt want me going to visit and getting straight murdered by his family or some shit.
and she told me about how when she married my dad her family was all worried and shit
like this is why i get pissed when people try to police my fucking identity
white peoples mamas dont get scared for them when they bring white people home, okay?
OH I just remembered something that pissed me off
I went to the doctors this morning to get my vyvanse prescription rewritten and it was his white nurse lady who rewrote it and she asked how to say my name
and then she said she messes up so many names “you know all the… black children that come here, their moms give them such”
and I was hoping she woulda used ANY other word
warsan shire is right:
“give your daughters difficult names. give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. my name makes you want to tell me the truth. my name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.”
I’m just getting madder and madder
i am as white as barack obama
congrats 4 ur facts
i have not once denied that i have passing privilege but i do not and will never identify as white
i dont know shit about my white family members ive met some of them a couple times when i wasl ittle and i dont know anything about them
what family do i spend every christmas and new years with? my belizean family. where was my family reunion held christmas/new years 2004-2005? belize. does your family have rice & beans and powder buns at thanksgiving? because mine does.
the only white member of my family that i have any close connection to is my dad
don’t you DARE come to my goddamn blog and ask box trying to police MY identity
bear with me as I work out my thoughts in this post—this may not be the most coherent or articulate thing, but I want to try to dump out some thoughts that have been swirling about in my head on this topic.
I want to use childish gambino as a case study, a concrete example I can return to in my discussion.
so—when I call out childish gambino, a black man, for fetishizing asian women, what exactly is that call-out encompassing, and how do I approach my motivations for such a call-out?
first, I do not think it’s possible to talk about his fetishization of asian women without talking about antiblackness and white supremacy. this isn’t just about asian women, and to call him out with only the intent of protecting asian women totally ignores the other people who are thrown under the bus by the implications of that fetishization and is, imo, an antiblack act.
blackfoxx, freshmouthgoddess, and frank-e-fighting-words have talked some about these dynamics: when black men fetishize non-black women of color, that fetishization is often not just at the expense of those non-black women of color, but also at the expense of black women. non-black women of color become preferred over black women—this fetishization, this problematic valuing of non-black women of color, is not just about non-black women of color, but also about the devaluing of black women.
I think this dynamic of antiblackness & white supremacy and this idea of black women being devalued becomes really obvious in this excerpt of the lyrics to childish gambino’s “kids (keep up)”, emphasis mine:
Finding you is like finding Asians I hate
But they say I got a fetish, nah I’m skipping all of it
Black or white girls come with a set of politics
That’s all I was saying
asian women become an alternative to white women and, more importantly, black women—while childish gambino, as a man, has the power to be misogynistic and sexist, as a black man, I don’t believe that he has the structural and institutional power to be oppressive to and devalue white women in the same way that he can be oppressive to and devalue black women. white supremacist society as a whole will find ways to value white women (over women of color), whereas white supremacist society and internalization of that white supremacy will find ways to further marginalize black women. childish gambino’s fetishization of asian women at the expense of black women, then, cannot be separated from white supremacy or antiblackness.
second, while I do not excuse any of childish gambino’s words or actions regarding fetishization of asian women, I still do not pin him as the originator of any of this fetishization—he bears the responsibility for what he has done in perpetuating stereotypes about asian women and perpetuating fetishization of asian women, but it is white supremacy here that is the ultimate root cause of the problem. fixating on how black men perpetrate anti-asian acts is a fixation on the symptom and not on the fundamental problem. the symptom is still something that needs to be addressed, but fixating only on the symptom does not tackle or address the actual problem and further serves the cause of white supremacy by playing into its divide-and-conquer rhetoric that pits poc against one another.
third, while calling out people of color who fetishize people of color is not, in itself, an anti-[poc group] action, there’s still a fine line between a fair call-out and an anti-[poc group] call-out. if I were to fixate on childish gambino’s fetishization of asian women without paying similar attention to white fetishization of asian women? that’d be sketch. which is not to say that there’s some sort of quota system, but things start becoming antiblack when we focus only on how black people perpetuate x without considering how whiteness perpetrates, perpetuates, or originates x, for instance.
so—when poc fetishize other poc, the call-out is insufficient in just addressing the fetishization in itself: we need to consider how white supremacy and antiblackness play into that fetishization, how that fetishization is a reflection of both. if people are fetishizing black people, that fetishization, imo, still comes with white supremacy and antiblackness: what’s the root of the ideas of desirability? where do the stereotypes about black sexuality and physicality come from? imo that fetishization will be tinged with antiblackness that needs to be addressed.
racial fetishization in the united states is indivisible from white supremacy and antiblackness, and when we talk about fetishization, especially intra-poc fetishization, we must talk about whiteness and antiblackness. we must talk about how whiteness has constructed hierarchies of desirability that impact different groups differently, particularly along black & non-black lines. we must talk about how whiteness has a hand in originating stereotypes about sexuality and physicality. we must talk about antiblackness and how antiblackness structures desirability/nondesirability, how antiblackness shapes the stereotypes that fetishizers have about black folks.
I don’t think it’s possible to decenter antiblackness, because it’s impossible to decenter the hand that white supremacy has in desirability politics, and it’s impossible to separate white supremacy from antiblackness.
but, well. these are just some preliminary thoughts, and I’m really open to discussing them, making corrections, making amendments, making addendums. I doubt I’ve fully covered the full sense of discomfort that I got over many of the replies to this post or the feeling of discomfort I got over the follow-up post, but I guess this is a start.
(and yes, I haven’t touched on colorism—that’s a whole, huge issue in itself that probably merits a separate post.)
The white man-boy is the most important cultural figure in America today.
But, allow me to make a case that the ‘white man-boy industrial complex’ is producing ways of being and knowing the world, particularly for white men, that threaten the social interests (if not rights) of women and people of color in contemporary American culture and little critical attention is being given to this phenomenon.
What do I mean by ‘the white man-boy industrial complex’?
I mean the lucrative constellation of industries that produce movies, television shows, music, books, magazines, advertising, and a range of other products that have made popular the idea that white guys today are refusing to grow up, retreating to fratriarchal spaces and ‘man caves,’ reviving racist and sexist humor with irony, and seeking liberation from women they imagine as trying to castrate them (usually metaphorically).
The white man-boy market was initially a niche, but now must be seen as defining ‘the mainstream.’ The white man-boy industrial complex sells its wares to white men of various social classes. Socialized around the idea that masculinity is a style performed through conspicuous consumption, these men range in age from awkward teens, to twentysomethings who may imagine themselves caught up in a quarterlife crisis, to thirty- and fortysomethings who may be trying to ironically hold onto their youths while denying that that is what they’re up to.
it’s not okay
cultural appropriation is never okay
i remember in october there were still hipster pictures of black girls dressing up as ~native americans~ for halloween
still not okay
when you get kpop/jpop groups blatantly ripping off black american styles/dances
but i think people, well particularly white people are less likely to call that out because they don’t want to come off as racist or they don’t know how to approach it or w/e but it’s still not okay.
and while some cultural exchange is natural the problem with the harlem shake thing is bigger bc it’s being completely plucked from its context and is eclipsing the actual record of the thing & white ppl are profiting off of this decontextualized thing
here’s an article i wrote about it cuz im kinda braindead rn but i explained it better — http://tmblr.co/ZCKrWyeOPsai
and i have no idea about voguing but
is that like a significant part of your life
idk i’m tired but i hope some of that answered something
& the harlem shake situation isnt technically cultural appropriation bc it’s not even the original thing that’s being appropriated, it’s more like cultural co-opting & rebranding but its still problematic