Author Archives: mysocprofjones

Beer Summit for Black Woman?

Will the Black woman who was removed from Claire McCaskill’s town hall meeting on health care get a “beer summit” at the White House? Turns out she was reacting after a white woman snatched a poster of Rosa Parks out of her hand. The white woman then ripped up the poster. After the Black woman reacted, she was quickly removed from the town hall meeting. According to MSNBC, the white woman was not. McCaskill tries to explain what happened to the crowd, but quickly aborts that attempt as boos erupt from the audience.

Here’s the video–notice the freeze frame of the “angry Black woman.”

Obama, hello?

blfmstprof

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Julie and Julia

I found Nora Ephron’s portrayal of a 30-year-old blogger in Julie and Julia so offensive I’m going to indulge in an intergenerational critique. Generally I try to avoid harping on generational differences between women, associating it as I do with whiny middle-class white women suffering from a prolonged case of adolescent rebellion. But Ephron’s portrayal of Julie Powell, who created the Julie/Julia Project in 2002, a blog that described a year-long journey to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s epic “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” dismissed the continued difficulties of women seeking a purpose outside of the traditional roles of raising children and the newer imperative of making lots of money to prove that their self-sufficiency and independence is deserved.

Powell was a failed novelist who worked in a cubical at the lower Manhattan redevelopment project when she began her year-long project, which landed her a book deal, the rights of which were also sold to produce Julie and Julia. I didn’t read the blog—not many people read blogs back then, difficult as it is to remember this—but I did read and enjoy the book. Powell’s life as a childless 30-something woman who expresses no desire for children, whose career has stalled and whose ambition has become nameless spoke to me, as I spent my first year outside of academia struggling to build credibility as fledgling journalist. It was a pleasure to see Powell develop her own sense of legitimacy as a writer through her blog. I liked the portrayal of the complexities of her marriage in the book too, grateful for a story from a woman who seemed to be on equal footing in her relationship with her husband, despite the fact that she was rather lost in her work while he was on steady ground.

None of the pleasures of the book translated in the film, where Julie is a spoiled brat, who whines her way through a year of cooking as her husband, “the saint,” a title the character at one point disavows but the film ultimately endorses, lends his strong shoulder of support. A typical scene: Julie drops a stuffed piece of foul, sinks to the floor in a tantrum and slathers herself in the stuffing, which appeared to be pate- based. Meanwhile, her sage husband calmly fields a phone call from a reporter who wants to do a story on the Julie/Julia project, which the pate-covered Julie accepts, rising from the floor, but still sniffing, toddler-like.
One might conclude from the repetition of such scenes in the Julie segments of the film that Ephron lacks respect for women, but then there is her tender, thoughtful representation of Julia Child. In the movie, Child is a misfit of a woman who nonetheless blazes passionately through her life with little regrets, but one: She is unable to have a child. And since “one must do something,” as Child says in the film, she learns to cook, and brings the United States French cooking in the form of her book, her accomplishment offered to the world in lieu of her heart’s desire of children.

What then, is Julie’s blog, clearly not a stand in for a child? Given how it serves as a way for her to master and manage her own impetuous temperament, the blog seems like Julie’s pacifier. A child’s toy.

Indeed the contrast between Julia and Juila’s levels of maturity are so pronounced that the audience might have been shocked if reminded of the slight age difference between the two. Julia is 36 when the film begins, a mere 6 years older than Julie, which indicated to me that Ephron’s problem is with younger women of my generation. Rather than using the clear parallels between the women’s lives to tell an intergenerational story by comparison and contrast, the film simply finds a whining Julie undeserving of comparison.

Julie, the film suggests, who doesn’t long for children, revere her husband, or slog through the time-honored process of slaving away on an opus to see her words in print, does not have a life to be taken seriously.

htg03

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Classy (Black) Ladies: Why Some People Are Hating on Wanda Sykes

I came across this cartoon while reading the New York Times’ Week in Review this morning.

Cartoon by Steve Kelley The Times-Picayune

Cartoon by Steve Kelley The Times-Picayune

This cartoon put me into a momentary rage for a number of reasons.

First of all, Wanda Sykes was just down-right funny at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner.

Secondly, I am tired of the silent conversation we are having about race, class, gender and Michelle Obama. I’ve been traveling a good deal lately and have overheard more than my fair share of these conversations in cramped airplanes and somewhat less cramped airport bars. They go a little something like this: “…and how about that Michelle Obama. She is just so (a pause to search for the right word)…classy.”

Now, I’m a big Michelle Obama fan too. I love her style and her arms. But I don’t love how the the word “classy” is silently standing in for a a host of other words often used to describe the type of Black woman that Michelle Obama is not i.e. the term used with alarming frequency at the moment: ghetto. In short, Michelle Obama is not a “ghetto chick” (or any other equally derogatory term used to describe poor, Black women) and that’s why so many ladies (and men) –white and Black–love her.

It is the casual illustration of this hierarchy of Black femininity that put me into my momentary rage. Sykes is a comedian. Her jokes, like those of Stephen Colbert, who provided an expert performance at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner during the Bush Administration years, are open to criticism. But to say that she has no class is to critique her performance as a particular type of Black woman. To dismiss her in this way is to say that the loud, aggressive, (lesbian) Sykes is somehow less of a respectable woman than the reserved, resilient, and appropriately ladylike Michelle Obama. It is to say that Michelle Obama is “good” and Wanda Sykes is “ghetto.”

And that is not funny at all.

blfmstprof

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Why I Love Black Women

Two words: Wanda Sykes.

If you haven’t seen Wanda Sykes at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner take a moment and check it out. The only disappointment: no riffs on Obama’s weak public stance on gay marriage.

blfmstprof

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Filed under African Americans, marriage, Proposition 8, TV, Uncategorized, women

Obama Says No to Barbara Walters’ ‘Girly Dog’ (or why I still want a woman to be President)

I am happy that Obama will be our next president for a number of reasons. Really, I am. His recent interview with Barbara Walters actually did a good job of reminding me why I am confident in Obama’s ability to handle the challenges facing the US. For once, I got to see Obama without the horns trumpeting in the background announcing the first, honest-to-goodness, real-life, responsible Black man. Not only does he love his wife but he loves his kids too! And, he has a job! Seriously, who’s not tired of this narrative (please don’t answer that…I know half of America is not tired of this narrative).

Still, as much as I liked the interview, I have to say that I was not at all amused by Obama’s casual display of a kinder, gentler sexism near the end. He talks about not wanting a ‘girly dog’ that ‘yaps’ and ‘sits in your lap.’ Now, I don’t tend to like those types of dogs either but Obama has got to know that dismissing something as girly is just, well, a bit sexist. I can tell that he thinks it’s cute and I’m sure others will swoon over his display of manliness but the whole thing just served to remind me why I still want to see a woman in the White House. And no, Sarah Palin doesn’t count.

Check out the girly dog comment here:

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No on H8

Jeffrey Lowery and David Kramer, domestic partners from Fremont, hold candles in Dolores Park. (Mike Kepka / The Chronicle)

Jeffrey Lowery and David Kramer, domestic partners from Fremont, hold candles in Dolores Park. (Mike Kepka / The Chronicle)

After days of feeling beat up and bruised, the gays, as we’ve been described on numerous radio call-in shows this week, took to the streets to yell, scream, and dance. I cried on election night and felt those tears once again when I turned the corner and saw hundreds of people streaming into Dolores Park. The cheers were passionate and the signs were funny. One of my favorites: I moved to California and all l got was this lousy ballot initiative! I was like, me too! The plan is to take the fight to Sacramento and to the steps of the Mormon Church, which reminds me of another sign that read “No more Mr. Nice Gay!”

blfmstprof

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Sarah Palin on Foreign Policy

Sigh.

htg03

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