From Lorde to Macklemore, it’s a sentiment that’s galling for its popularity: white artists need to stop using the wealth signifiers of rap music to gesture at their self-important “anti-consumerism.” What Allen misses as she washes rims in a kitchen decorated only with bottles of champagne is that it’s not anti-consumerism when it only targets one type of consumer.
Rap owns a unique history soundtracking the triumph of financial success in a country that long barred black Americans from that success. It shouldn’t be an opportunity for white artists to wax superior. Beyond poor taste, it’s the myopia of latent racism that’s more anxious about gold chains on a rapper than an Armani tie on a hedge fund analyst.
Similarly, Lily Allen’s response to sexist industry demands for thinness becomes entirely ineffectual when it lashes out against women who succeed despite those demands. Allen is not savily critiquing the world of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Miley Cyrus, she’s resentfully bemoaning not getting to enjoy the same success.
“Hard Out Here” is the opposite of Mileywave. Instead of using black women as props to further her career, Allen blames them for its stagnation. In full-sleeved dresses Allen mocks her inability to twerk amidst women of color in body suits who launch into exaggerated dance moves, licking their hands and then rubbing their crotch. Her older white male manager tries to get to her to mimic them. Meanwhile she sings, “Don’t need to shake my ass for you/‘Cause I’ve got a brain.” Cut to black women shaking their ass, so much for sisterly solidarity."
If you only read one take-down of Lily Allen’s shitty new music video, make it this one.
The Musée des Beaux-Arts Shows its Colonial Hand in Inukt Affair by Joseph Henry (October 31st, 2013)
An Analysis of the Inukt Boutique by Chelsea Vowel (October 30th, 2013)
Yesterday I just felt nauseated by this story. But after reading Henry and Vowel’s insightful critiques, it feels like a step in the right direction. School these assholes.
White Feminist Fatigue Syndrome by Brenna Bhandar & Denise Ferreira da Silva (October 21, 2013)
EDITED TO ADD: Just noticed the original quote used ableist language, so I edited it.
…so yes, we are grateful, and yes we are humble and we are shy to complain when we’ve been acknowledged thusly- BUT HOLY SHIT AND HOLY COW- we’ve been plowing our field on the margins of weird culture for almost 20 years now, and “this scene is pretty cool but what it really fucking needs is an awards show” is not a thought that’s ever crossed our minds.
3 quick bullet-points that almost anybody could agree on maybe=
-holding a gala during a time of austerity and normalized decline is a weird thing to do.
-organizing a gala just so musicians can compete against each other for a novelty-sized cheque doesn’t serve the cause of righteous music at all.
-asking the toyota motor company to help cover the tab for that gala, during a summer where the melting northern ice caps are live-streaming on the internet, IS FUCKING INSANE, and comes across as tone-deaf to the current horrifying malaise.
these are hard times for everybody. and musicians’ blues are pretty low on the list of things in need of urgent correction BUT AND BUT if the point of this prize and party is acknowledging music-labor performed in the name of something other than quick money, well then maybe the next celebration should happen in a cruddier hall, without the corporate banners and culture overlords. and maybe a party thusly is long overdue- it would be truly nice to enjoy that hang, somewhere sometime where the point wasn’t just lazy money patting itself on the back."
— Statement from Godspeed You! Black Emperor upon winning 30K Polaris Prize. Respect.
Great read today.
I have stopped blogging, haven’t I? It wasn’t planned and it certainly doesn’t feel definite. Yet, I have a grand total of 5,678 unanswered emails. No hyperbole, this is the figure accumulated in all 4 of my mailboxes that I stopped checking a couple of months ago. In the past week I’ve gotten half dozen or more media requests about Hugo Schwyzer. Did I have something to say? What did I think about him quitting the internet? I wasn’t even aware he had quit until the emails started coming in. I had to google and trace back the footsteps of the writers who had been covering the on going debacle. I stared at the screen trying to muster some reaction other than “Oh, it has come to this”. And then, I started to frantically search for the apologies, the accountability, the mea culpas. I searched in vain because I am not interested in his apologies or his accountability (LOL as if there was going to be any to begin with). No, I wanted to find the apologies from every editor in a major publication that gave him a paid gig so that he could become the “Hugo Schwyzer brand” (LOL again, he called sexting and dick pics “off brand”). I wanted the media that celebrated all the page clicks his filthy faux feminism brought in to publicly acknowledge their role in creating the toxicity that enabled his rise to fame. I wanted Jezebel’s Editor in Chief, Jessica Coen, to acknowledge how she contributed to this disaster every time she banned commenters protesting his presence. I wanted her and his editors at The Atlantic and Jane Pratt from xoJane to look at us in the metaphorical eye, and say “I am sorry”. I was expecting some sort of ethical acknowledgement of the role that the media they manage played in his systematic abuse of any dissenters. Women like Blackamazon, like brownfemipower and countless others he systematically belittled and demonized deserved the public apology. The women, and it is no coincidence he systematically picked on Women of Color, whose lives he insulted and put down deserved this apology. Even I deserved better considering how he went through back channels to have me removed from blogs and publications where I contribute to because I dared criticize his posturing and tales of redemption.
I despise his ideology. This is no news to anyone. However, here’s where things get murky and difficult and not easy to express coherently (mostly because it is difficult to put into words the source of so much of my anger and disappointment): even more so than despising his ideology, I despise the culture that enabled him. I despise the TMZ of feminist media that “reports” our issues and sells us a lip gloss version of our politics and gives space to people like him so that he can shit on us and tell us how we should take it in the face while he puts Women of Color in “their (our) places”. This is how White Supremacy works and I am pointing all my fingers at Jezebel and xoJane and The Atlantic and every other publication that paid him to publish his repulsive opinions. The shame is on each of you and not merely on his cock shots or pathetic sexting. The shame is on every editor that thought selling women like Blackamazon or brownfemipower (or even my fucking self) for page clicks was a worthy trade off. Each and every one of those editors that knew what he was, how he acted and how his misogynist racism operated behind the scenes has played a part in this. And you get to “represent” feminism. You are the filters of who gets published and who doesn’t. You are the ones that hold the doors and set the agendas. The dick pics are also on you. You helped create the monster, now I hope you enjoy the money shot. And don’t say you weren’t warned. Countless others aside from myself had extensively documented his antics, his skeevy politics, his racism, his misogyny. But he brought the page clicks. At our fucking expense. Sisterhood! Yay!
Herein lies another problem with this toxic media environment that supposedly represents feminism: if you protest too loudly or not using the right platitudes or if you go after the gate keepers, you can forget to be included. You can forget mainstream gigs, book deals, mentions, promotion. You become “a loose cannon” (something he apparently called me for writing about him). You will never know this because other people won’t tell you in your face. They just stop talking about you or your work does not get promoted or you are confined to a very small niche, left to the “discontent bunch”. You are “difficult”. The fact that Hugo Schwyzer, white knight extraordinaire, defender of the likes of Amanda Marcotte against a “horde” of mean Women of Color was paid to write about feminist issues while someone like brownfemipower was confined to the category of “trouble maker” is testament of these dynamics at play. I insist, the media that paid him to write, plus every gig, speaking engagement, interview, authoritative quote, TV appearance he did on behalf of feminism is a slap on the face of every Woman of Color he belittled and worked against.
There is no justice in him leaving the internet (LOL as if, mark my words, he will be back and probably with a book deal). It would have been justice if those who make money under the banner of feminism had not given him a space to begin with. Justice is when we collectively acknowledge that someone’s ideas are not fit to represent our politics and we do not reward them with celebrity and promotion. It would have been justice if, instead of giving him a space, those publications would have hired Women of Color to amplify the voices he worked so hard to silence. Leaked dick pics and grimy sexts are not justice, they are just a sordid confirmation of what many of us already knew.
I stopped blogging a couple of months ago because I felt like a merchant of pain and death. I can only write about those topics that I know first hand and they almost always come with pain. I wrote about my own dead, the dead I carry on my shoulders. I always write about the pain that we experience on a daily basis and then, one day, I felt dirty. I felt that all this death and pain, in the culture we live in, is not honored but turned into a commercial affair. I felt I was selling my dead for the opportunity to become a “brand”. I never wanted to be a “personality”. I wanted to change the world. I wanted no other undocumented migrant to ever have to carry another dead on her shoulders. I wanted to make it better. Then I realized that we live in a culture that celebrates the smut brought to us by the likes of Hugo Schwyzer and my pain has no place in that culture. This feminism, these politics of the left that have been co-opted by the mere commercialization of our grief. “Take it up a notch! Drive the page clicks!”. Those of us who write and have bills to pay are forced to partake in this culture of death. Some of us delude ourselves thinking that one day we won’t have to write about the pain, we will be able to write about whatever we want because we are now a “recognizable brand”. We buy into the myth of bootstrapping our way up the media food chain so that we can become the gatekeepers and then “things will be different”. But they are not and the price becomes too high to pay. In my case, I felt the trade off was the memory of everything I hold dear and sacred: life and my loved ones. I couldn’t do it anymore, at least for a while. Now, I write this and realize that Hugo Schwyzer’s popularity is a direct cause of our pain. He got to be a protagonist in the history of feminist blogging, even celebrated by some; Women of Color get to fill the supporting role of killjoys and discontents. His leaving the internet (no matter for how long) is no justice for us because our lives, our pain and our dead are still not honored.
There is so much truth in here I can hardly bear it. (bolded parts for my own personal purposes)
I read this when Flavia Dzodan first published it almost a week ago now and can’t shake it. Can’t shake how much truth there is in it, and now, how prophetic it has proven to be. I’ve been thinking of these dynamics (not necessarily in the context of this male feminist who I have long since decided to actively ignore and avoid at all costs/these specific conversations) but rather the myth of online media not reproducing the same skewed, racist power dynamics that exist(ed) in the mainstream media, or in academic spheres, or what have you.
Been thinking a lot, a lot, about who takes up space online and why.