Friday, May 20, 2011

...With Malice Toward Black Women

A popular trope on the Internetz is how paranoid black women are when it comes to how we are perceived by the larger society. Black women are often told WE are the ones suffering from the delusion of being attacked by the media; WE suffer from the delusion anyone pays attention to us, other than the stalwart black men who love us of course (duh!); and WE are the ones who see enemies where none exist.

The stereotype of black women being angry, jealous, incompetent, and hard to get along with are served up weekly on 'The Apprentice' (from what I've read, I do not watch the show). The straight up hot mess that is the 'Real Housewives' franchise - again I have not watched any of the shows but the media saturation is so pervasive with this type of show, one would have to abstain from all forms of media (internet, TV, smart phone, computers, newspapers, magazines, etc) to escape having a nodding acquaintance with this kind of 'entertainment'- black women are constantly shown in a negative, lowest-common-denominator light. Don't even get me started on the music videos and rap music and ghetto culture!

Psychology Today vs. Black Women

Media matters! How black women are portrayed in the media matters! I was already disgusted by the NPR and AP coverage of the floods in Mississippi which seem to include the most poverty stricken women whose pictures and on-air interviews are cringe worthy; then there was the reaction by some to the mEssence cover featuring Wendy Williams; and then this absolute junk science foolishness by this so-called 'evolutionary scientist'! This man uses supposedly 'objective' survey of British adolescents to declare black women are less attractive than everyone else on the planet. And the Psychology Today publishes this tripe online! Their excuse for publishing the author's article is they don't exercise editorial review with their online articles and since they didn’t pay for the article, it should not assume the article reflects the opinion of PT; even though it appeared (briefly) on their website.

Apparently since the man publishes online articles with PT on a regular basis, they allow him to publish his opinion without reading the article prior to publication. It's not like this person hasn't published controversial articles in the past, he has; yet PT has decided exercising editorial discretion when it comes to junk science claims put forth by their authors is perfectly acceptable standard operating procedure. There was enough blowback early enough on Monday for PT to tweak the title of the article before finally removing the article (there was so much traffic the site crashed) without comment. Of course you can find screenshots of the article if you look.

I used to think PT was reputable publication online and hardcopy, however, their recent covers resemble nothing as much as a glossy fashion magazine! For me PT now carries as much intellectual weight as TMZ or Bossip.

Oh Great and Powerful Oz…err DSK

The media storm surrounding the alleged assault in New York by the former director of the IMF will be instructional. In the media capital of the US (if not the world), a perfect storm of media frenzy is taking shape. A rich, powerful, white guy who is/was a leading contender to be the next president of France is accused of sexually assaulting a poor, immigrant, black woman who worked as a ‘chamber maid’.

The French media has already published her name and the names of her family members. The US media has already visited the apartment building where she lived in Brooklyn and spoken to neighbors to get background on her. REALLY, they went to where the woman lived?!?! I say lived, because her lawyer has said it was necessary to move the woman and her child from the building because of the stalker-razzi (press).

So now her neighbors know she was assaulted. Privacy, Privacy, wherefore art thou, Privacy??

The rich guy has his defenders; they question why in the world would a man like Strauss-Kahn; who, at least in theory, can have his pick of women for consensual relations; force his attentions on an unwilling BLACK woman? Never mind rape is not about sex. Never mind rape is about power. Implicit in the statement is why would a man of power and influence even take notice of a poor black ‘chamber maid’? I guess this person is wholly unfamiliar with the history of sexualized violence against black women specifically, in this country and women in general around the world.

Media Tricks and Obfuscations

The negative framing of the complainant has already begun. The media tells us she is a single mother (reports are her husband died); they have discovered she is {gasp!} a Muslim; they want to know why she went to his room alone (blaming – how original); they are speculating she is part of an international conspiracy to ruin Strauss-Kahn and dash his plans of becoming the next president of France.

What are her motivations they wonder?

What are her motivations? I’d say a desire for justice.

I expect the media will be as salacious and crude as they can. I will not be surprised to see them turn up the titillation factor to get people to click on their websites or buy their newspapers and magazines.

The question is can the one woman withstand the media firestorm? Media does not care about a routine story of a man allegedly assaulting a woman. Crimes like this happen every day; a fact the media finds largely unremarkable. This case, however, has it all; money, power, class, race, immigration, international monetary policy, presidential aspirations, and at least in the short term, the opportunity to pit one system of so-called journalism against another (US vs. France).

Can you see a movie coming out of this, or at least a two-part episode on Law and Order SVU? {sigh}

What the coverage will obscure is the right of this one black woman to her bodily integrity. What will be glossed over is the idea the larger society has that yet another black woman is falsely accusing a white man of rape (Duke, Brawley, etc.).

The subtext of debates about what happened is the belief (1) no one would bother to rape a black woman and (2) black woman cannot BE raped.

Who will protect and defend black women? What institutions and media concerns gather to protect our collective backs? Pay attention because many fake allies and false friends may just show their true intent either by what the say or by their conspicuous silence.



Sherry said...

Yes Ma'am, those comments have annoyed the hell out of me as well.

Southland Diva said...

Hello Sherry!

Thanks for stopping by!

I think it's very important for bw to be reflective about comments like this, not just reacting to the surface of the media reports, but also understanding how black women are framed/portrayed in the media.


Anonymous said...

You seem pretty obsessed with black men.

SouthlandDiva said...

@ Anon

Throw a rock...hide your hand