"In R&B there was, is, and I hope will continue to be a way of thinking about love that is important to us as a community. As much as I enjoy hip-hop, I feel there is not enough rap out there embracing and affirming love that is about communication and accountability. You hear this when you listen to songs like Jackie Wilson’s “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher and Higher.” Jackie sings, and I paraphrase: “My life has been filled with disappointment, and things haven’t worked. And then when love came, I found that things began to work out, and I could face the world.” I think many of us are longing for a redemptive Black love in our lives. It helps us face the world."
"We teach girls shame; close your legs, cover yourself, we make them feel as though being born female they’re already guilty of something."
Some women wait for themselves
Around the next corner
And call the empty spot peace
But the opposite of living
Is only not living
And the stars do not care.
Some women wait for something
To change and nothing
So they change
"Smiling as a greeting is a caring gesture we all like to share. Smiling as a conditioned response to submission, compliance to others, objectification of oneself, or denial of one’s needs, is injurious to oneself as a complete human being."
Men who want to be feminist allies do not need to be given a space in feminism. They need to take the space that they have in society and make it feminist. That’s what women had to do in the first place, and women have fought much too hard for what little space they have to be giving it to men.
"Everyone likes black stuff when it’s not on a black person. Ask Elvis. Ask Led Zepplin. Ask the “Justins” – Timberlake and Bieber. Our music, asses, lips, hair, dance moves are all crass vulgarities until some non-white person “cleans them up” and “makes them accessible” by doing the exact same thing – but being white while doing it. And these days, you can be white and completely sincere about your love of R&B or Hip Hop or having a fat ass and society will still gladly put you on that “Oh, but a white person did it this time” pedestal – whether you asked for it or not. And they’ll go there “oooing” and “aaahing” as if your mentors and predecessors meant nothing. As if your pop n’ lock routine came to them mature and fully-formed like Venus from the sea foam."
bell hooks resources
Edit 13th June: a lot of the PDFs have been taken down from those websites. There’s a .rar of the 16 from 24 June here, thanks to classickk. If THAT gets taken down, send me an ask.
If you have any more, or alternate links just in case these ever get removed, feel free to add to the list. Pass the resources along!
- Ain’t I a Woman (pdf)
- Art on my Mind (pdf download)
- Beauty Laid Bare: Aesthetics in the Ordinary (google doc)
- Black Women Intellectuals (pdf) (from Breaking Bread: Insurgent Black Intellectual Life with Cornel West)
- Cultural Criticism and Transformation (pdf download)
- Cultural Criticism and Transformation (youtube video, part 1)
- Ending Domination: The Struggle Continues (youtube video, full)
- Feminism Is For Everybody (pdf)
- Is Paris Burning? (pdf download)
- Love as the Practice of Freedom (pdf download)
- Outlaw Culture (pdf download)
- Race and Representation (pdf download)
- Remembered Rapture: Dancing With Words (pdf)
- Selling Hot Pussy: Representations of Black Female Sexuality in the Cultural Marketplace. (pdf)
- Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (pdf download)
- The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators. (pdf)
- Understanding Patriarchy (pdf)
- Where We Stand: Class Matters (pdf)
- We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity (pdf). Also here.
Edit as of 24 June: list updated and alphabetized. Many thanks to wretchedoftheearth, elainecastillo, grim-dark, erosum and mmmajestic who all helped add links and resources.
Edit 25 June. Thank you andreaisace. (I keep each of these edit-notes so I and people who’ve seen the post know if I’ve added any and which since the last time they saw it. The links go to the post in which each link was given)
Dear Mona Eltahawy: You do not represent “Us”
It all started this morning when Kawlture suggested we feature the Foreign Policy issue cover on our blog, the Mainstream Media and the Orient. I was on my phone and could not see the cover clearly. At first, I thought it was blackface, but upon zooming in and reading the the featured article title by Mona Eltahawy, my eyes weren’t fooling me. It really was a woman covered in a black body-painted niqab.
They tell you don’t judge a book by its cover. But I, as an Arab-American Muslim woman, could not get that image out of my head long enough to even begin reading Mona’s article. I kept thinking about how the image degraded and insulted every woman I know that wears or has ever worn the niqab. The face veil is rooted in pre-Islamic history, and I’m not going to delve into it. If you want a more comprehensive read, I recommend Leila Ahmed’s Women and Gender in Islam.
Today, those who are fixated on the niqab believe that focusing on what a Muslim woman wears is what defines her thought, her intellect, her capabilities, her sexuality, her gender, her very existence. It’s a narrative that’s been framed by the West and fed by the likes of Qasim Amin and even Hoda Sha’rawi. FP’s decision to choose this photograph of a naked woman with a body-painted niqab embodies this problematic narrative in more ways than one:
- This inherent sexualization of the niqab through the pose and exposure of the female form revives the classic harem literature and art, presenting the Arab and/or Muslim woman as “exotic” and “mysterious,” but still an object. An object lacking the agency to define herself, thus defined by others.
- All of the women close to me who wear the niqab do so for different reasons. One friend only wears the niqab when she goes protesting because she feels comfortable in it. Another friend has worn the niqab, against the will of her family, since she was 14 out of her own free will. The representation of the niqab as splattered body paint on a naked woman degrades the decision of women who wear the niqab as a choice.
- The feature of an Arab woman’s article on the front cover does not justify the editorial choice to use the image. Mona Eltahawy was notoriously owned during a debate over the niqab ban in France, where she took the position in favor of the ban. Her stance on the niqab is convenient to the narrative being perpetuated by the problematic image.
But I digress. On to Mona’s article, titled “Why Do They Hate Us.” As a writer, I’m aware that editors sometimes propose titles, but they usually inform writers of that change. At least, that was my experience with Foreign Policy (it was a piece they never published). However, immediately, the title sets off an alarm: the use of the first-person-plural. The first-person-plural can be appropriately used when the speaker has been elected to speak on behalf of the group they are speaking on behalf of. In this case, the “They” being Arab societies and “Us” being Arab women. Mona’s self-appointed representation of Arab women is neither professional nor accurate. While I sincerely value the freedom of self-expression and have not one problem with her expressing her views, but to do so on the behalf of all Arab women is enraging.
Her article presents a summary and background of the treatment of women in the region, paired with statistics and specific examples of cases from countries throughout the region, fluffed with emotional rhetoric, ending with a call for fighting against injustices. Every now and then, a different image of the nude woman with the body-painted niqab interrupts the commentary, fueling the rage all over again.
She includes bits like:
“I’ll never forget hearing that if a baby boy urinated on you, you could go ahead and pray in the same clothes, yet if a baby girl peed on you, you had to change. What on Earth in the girl’s urine made you impure? I wondered. Hatred of women.”
“The Islamist hatred of women burns brightly across the region — now more than ever.”
“But at least Yemeni women can drive. It surely hasn’t ended their litany of problems, but it symbolizes freedom.”
“We are more than our headscarves and our hymens. Listen to those of us fighting. Amplify the voices of the region and poke the hatred in its eye.”
The entire article is framed in a way that portrays Arab women as helpless, and in need of rescue and protection. It’s a convenient narrative for FP’s mostly Western-based readership. No mention of Tawakul Karman, Zainab and Maryam al-Khawaja, etc.—women who rose through the revolutions and were present in the public sphere during protests and demonstrations, standing alongside their compatriots demanding change and an end to injustices of all kinds. These women stood up as individuals and not as self-proclaimed representatives of Arab women.
Mona points to “hate” as the source and cause of the injustices committed against Arab women. She scapegoats the rise of the Islamists, but Maya Mikdashi debunked that argument a couple months ago:
“Gender equality and justice should be a focus of progressive politics no matter who is in power. A selective fear of Islamists when it comes to women’s and LGBTQ rights has more to do with Islamophobia than a genuine concern with gender justice. Unfortunately, Islamists do not have an exclusive license to practice patriarchy and gender discrimination/oppression in the region. The secular state has been doing it fairly adequately for the last half a century.”
Yet, she entirely neglects the socioeconomic roots of gender inequality, the rise of authoritarian regimes in a post-colonialist context, the remnants of dehumanization and oppression from colonialism, the systematic exclusion of women from the political system or those who are used as convenient tools for the regime. There is more to gender inequality than just “hate.”
The true fight should be against the monolithic representation of women in the region, illustrated by an over-sexualized image of splattered black paint over a nude body. This does nothing to rectify the position of women in ANY society.