I don’t typically blog about pop culture. Pop culture is not my forte. I am not comfortable commenting on anything pop-culture-related. I am breaking my rule for this, though.
I just read about Slim Thug’s comments on Twitter. It was trending, but I ignore trending topics, so I didn’t read about it until someone retweeted the link to Clutch Magazine’s response.
In all honesty, my first response was apathy. I made a crack: “LMBO I didn’t even know who Slim Thug was, but having seen his pic, I can attest that his name is an utter lie.” But I re-read the title of the Clutch Magazine article entitled “Slim Thug Launches Verbal Attack on Black Women.” That gave me pause. I gave the article a quick glance, and reached the conclusion that it was an emotional tirade and not a reasoned argument that would be worth my time, so I closed that tab. No one can make you angry without your consent. I do not invalidate Geneva S. Thomas’ anger by saying this.
One person on Twitter even went so far as to say that Slim Thug’s comments were worse than John Mayer’s. This piqued my interest. For years now, I’ve rejected the notion that Black men have the right to define Black women’s identities and potential. Yes, African-American women overwhelmingly date intra-racially, but this does not mean that we can expect blanket acceptance and affirmation from all Black men. Black women are not a monolith. Black men are not a monolith.
I recognize that John Mayer’s comments reverberate differently- as a white man he occupies a very privileged place in this racist, sexist society. His comments reflect his presumed “right” to comment on the desirability of Black women’s bodies as though sexual conquest was his “right” regardless of consent or reciprocity. In the same line of thought, Slim Thug’s comments on the desirability of Black women (he excludes biracial or multi-racial Black women, it seems). He brings into question the perceived femininity of Black women when he states:
“My girl is Black and White. I guess the half White in her is where she still cooks and do all the shit I say, so we make it. She just takes care of me and I like that.” He continues to half humiliate and half praise his half White girl. “She don’t be begging and I don’t gotta buy her all this crazy ass shit. And she’s a smart girl too. She graduated from Columbia and I like that about her so its cool.” [Vibe]
He’s talking about a very narrow conception of femininity that is predicated on the notion of women as “subordinate” to man. The ideal woman he refers to fits the mold of the 1950s- middle-class, educated, yet subservient- and white. She cooks and does whatever he says! I’m sure you’ve heard the myth of “pliable” white women who bend over backwards to please their man. I’ve heard it from my mother over the years- especially when a high-profile Black man married a white woman. See, I never understood that, as most of the white women I knew were just like my mother- independent-minded, intelligent, and a whole host of traits that are not necessarily coded “female.” Of course, I don’t mean to say that “Black women are just like white women.” It would be wrong to say that Black women and white women have nothing in common. There are common experiences that accompany being a woman, even if those experiences are stratified by race, class, disability and sexual orientation.
Anyhow, I thought it was strange that Slim Thug referred to his (unnamed?) girlfriend’s Black and White halves as separate entities. His Manichean logic in regards to race and identity strikes me as deeply ignorant. But really, I might be expecting too much from Stayve Jerome Thomas.
As for the outrage I saw on Twitter, I had 3 objections to it:
1) The presumed collective anger implies acceptance of Black women as a monolith.
The title of the Clutch Magazine article, “Slim Thug launches Verbal Attack on Black Women” told me everything I needed to know. See, even before I read the article or Slim Thug’s comments, I knew that he was speaking about me, because he was talking about Black women in generalized terms. I am NOT the “monolithic Black woman.” Black women come from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences. Black women span the entire African diaspora- not just the United States. Black women are not only working-class, but we are also middle-class, upper-middle class and even wealthy. Black women come in all shapes, sizes and shades, and we are all beautiful. This same “monolithic Black woman” is the woman news outlets and politicos love to attack with charges of perpetual singleness, unwed motherhood and welfare queendom. They are talking primarily about working-class Black women in monoracially segregated areas where the War on Drugs has played a role in incarcerating a rather sizeable percentage of Black men. The presumption is that “good” Black men are scarce [as if employing economic concepts on dynamic individuals is acceptable], and Black women are a devalued commodity due to their abundant supply.
So, of course, as a college-educated, middle-class, disabled Black woman who is one generation removed from poverty in both East St. Louis and Southwest Mississippi, I cannot say I fit this mold.
2) The outrage is predicated on the acceptance of the voice of the likes of Slim Thug as a voice of authority
I had never heard of Slim Thug until today. I don’t lend him any credence. I do not care what he has to say about Black women. What matters to me is that Black women and girls know their own worth outside of Black social constructs- which brings me to my third point:
3) This shows me the limitations of Black women’s affirmation and self-definition within a patriarchal society.
Slim Thug’s comments polarize the dual racial identities of his girlfriend as though they are opposing or mutually exclusive. He conflates white womanhood with servility and agreeability, while casting Black women as belligerent, too-independent, demanding and self-centered.
If Black women define themselves by what Black men think of them, they limit their potential. It’s no wonder that the first step to liberation for colonized nations was self-definition. Self-definition requires individual agency. Individual agency requires the recognition of others’ individuality as well as your own. It requires the affirmation of that individuality as well. If your body does not fit conventional aesthetic standards, don’t fight to fit them- redefine beauty. God made you the way you are- not man. Man ought not have the power to define who you normatively SHOULD be. That power is ascribed tacitly by ignorance and complacency [I say this very carefully, mind you]. A patriarchal society does not require the dynamic permission of those living within it. I didn’t ask to be labeled “Black” “female” or “disabled.” I certainly did not label myself as such. I guess what I’m trying to say is- don’t depend on others- men, women, Black, white, Asian, Hispanic, whatever- for affirmation and identification. You are who you are.
I am irreducibly human.
I am more than the hands that produce, more than the body that functions.
I am more than the systemic constructions of my sex and race.
I am more than the atomized individual that society makes me out to be.
I am more than the voice denied, the body objectified, the soul belittled.
I am not a nameless, faceless entity who can be stripped of my personhood and agency.
I am God’s beloved creation. [originally posted here]
I wrote this poem in July 2009, and I think it is apt today.