Sunday, 13 February 2011

On things we are not allowed to say…

by Reni Eddo Lodge, cross-posted from No Comment.

It’s always good fun to see white men pass big fat swathes of unfounded judgement on the black community- in particular, black women. I usually steer clear of conservative or right wing blogs as they tend to leave a nasty after-taste, but I was intrigued when Tim Montgomerie, editor of leading political blog Conservative Home, tweeted a link to a post from Graeme Archer. A ‘brilliant piece’, he tweeted, ‘on what we are and are not allowed to say’. I respect Montgomerie’s commentary, so I clicked, assuming a piece on state censorship, or freedom of information. What I got was a thinly veiled attack on the black community, our make-up, and a hand wringing lament on fatherless homes.

Last week, 20 year old aspiring hip hop dancer Claudia Seye Aderotimi tragically passed away after travelling abroad to receive silicone injections in her buttocks.

Archer’s post, entitled Don’t Look Now’, ended with the gem ‘Why mustn’t you say these things? Oh come on, do I have to spell it out? You haven’t mentioned ethnicity once. But you will be called a racist.’

His knee-jerk desire to blame this tragic case entirely on the black community is really quite worrying.

Graeme Archer doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He blames Hip Hop when he should really be blaming the patriarchy. Hip Hop is predominately misogynistic because its control is in the hands of men, who regard women as little more than oiled up, jiggly, rotund decoration for their pleasure.

The unique thing about the patriarchy is that allows men from all cultures to band together and sneer at the women who go to great lengths to fit their arbitrary definitions of what’s acceptable, and what’s not. Archer is right when he describe the misogynistic nature of Hip Hop as ‘a machine which is used by its owners to enrich themselves, to set out their desired norms regarding female behaviour and appearance’. I blogged about that a few weeks ago. But he loses all equality points with his discriminatory stance on black women’s bodies and the black community as a whole. His offhand comments about black women’s ‘over-inflated backsides’ reveal an ugly misogyny that he tries hard to disguise at the beginning of his piece. I’m a black woman, and I have news for him- some of us don’t undergo surgery to gain our big backsides- we are naturally shaped that way. It’s just that this body shape is now held up as the aspirational ideal- kind of like playboy bunnies and big breasts. And, as we have enough hassle from the extreme objectification of our bodies in these videos orchestrated by black men, we could do without the wrinkled nose disgust about black women’s body shapes from white men like him.

Personally, I miss the days when Hip Hop was like this, rather than the commercialised rubbish beamed out on MTV Base. The body fascist patriarchy manifests itself in all sorts of subcultures. Each hold different specifics but the crux of the message is the same- women, you have to be this body shape to be perfect.

Shame on you, Conservative Home. If you wanted astute analysis on this tragic case, plenty of black, female writers would have been happy to contribute. Maybe even a young, black, female writer- the unfortunate target audience of Hip Hop’s ugly machine. Perhaps then the post would have focused on the very real problem of body Hip Hop’s body facism, rather than descending into an arm flailing, wailing lament about ‘kids these days’ from an out of touch old fogey.

Archer’s comments on Hip Hop’s ugly, inhuman machine are entirely misappropriated. Its patriarchy’s machine we should be worrying about. Conveniently, he fails to mention any cases outside of Hip Hop culture that detail women undergoing cosmetic procedures with fatal results. This is a symptom of impossibly achievable ideals that are sold to women as aspirational. It’s horribly tragic, and the ideal doesn’t just exist in the black community. Maybe cosmetic surgery related deaths outside of hip hop culture probably doesn’t fit into Archer’s ‘self-destructive black community’ narrative that he’s so eager to promote. Instead, he makes disjointed connections about teenagers on the top decks of buses and fatherless homes. Graeme- I grew up in a black, fatherless home with plenty of boundaries- and those boundaries made me the person I am today. You can take your undiscerning, unfounded generalisations, and piss off.

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