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Blog Entries tagged 'feminism'

Jay-Z's co-author talks with Rebecca Walker about the artist; his book, Decoded; and her own plans.

The Root: How did your collaboration with Jay-Z begin?

Dream Hampton: Jay and I met over the phone. I'd reviewed his debut album, Reasonable Doubt,for the Village Voice and situated the record in what I considered ourgenerational zeitgeist: the billion-dollar crack industry. It was mycontention that back then in the '90s in New York, when everyone wasself-defining around hip-hop, selling crack had been as, or more,definitive: It included intergenerational schism, hyper-capitalism andcartoonish misogyny.

Boys were able to act out a fantasy of being a provider -- first byhelping their single moms with utility bills, later by takinggirlfriends on trips to the mall. I was interested in patriarchalpower, and the setback in intergender dynamics this crack-cash created.

I'd invoked all of that in a Voice review, and Jay, who thought I was a dude, asked to speak to me. He thanked me for the review and toldme he felt understood. I said, "Yeah, I'm from the east side of Detroitin the '80s; if there's one thing I understand, it's drug dealers."

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December 23rd, 2010

Returning to Lorrie Moore.

What Is Seized

In the wedding photos they wear white against the murky dark oftrees. They are thin and elegant. They have placid smiles. The mouth of the father of the bride remains in a short, straight line. I don't know who took these pictures. I suppose they are lies of sorts, revealing by omission, by indirection, by clues such as shoes and clouds. But they tell a truth, the only way lies can. The way only lies can.

Another morning, I heard my parents up early in the bathroom, my dad shaving, getting ready to leave for school.

"Look," he said in a loud whisper. "I really can't say that I'll never leave you and the kids or that I'll never make love to another woman--"

"Why not?" asked my mother. "Why can't you say that?" Even her anger was gentle, ingenuous.

"Because I don't feel that way."

"But ... can't you just say it anyway?"

At this I like to imagine that my parents met each other's gaze in the medicine cabinet mirror, suddenly grinning. But later in the hospital bed, holding my hand and touching each of my nails slowly with her index finger, my mother said to me, "Your father. He was in a dance. And he just couldn't dance." Earlier that year she had written me: "That is what is wrong with cold people. Not that they have ice in their souls - we all have a bit of that - but that they insist their every word and deed mirror that ice. They never learn the beauty or value of gesture. The emotional necessity. For them, it is all honesty before kindness, truth before art. Love is art, not truth. It's like painting scenery."

These are the things one takes from mothers. Once they die, of course, you get the strand of pearls, the blue quilt, some of the original wedding gifts - a tray shellacked with the invitation, an old rusted toaster - but the touches and the words and the moaning the night she dies, these are what you seize, save, carry around in little invisible envelopes, opening them up quickly, like a carnival huckster, giving the world a peek. They will not stay quiet. No matter how you try. No matter how you lick them. The envelopes will not stay glued.

Excerpted from Self-Help.

December 9th, 2009

Madame Chiang Kai Shek and Eleanor Roosevelt

The Times says the book is awful, but isn't the photo sublime. The turn of the ankle, the rich blue velvet and inscrutable face. The way the eye is drawn to Madame Chiang Kai, how she gives nothing but takes everything. Then Eleanor's distinct blend of American naivete, grit, and optimism.

Addendum: From the review in today's NYT:

Christopher Isherwood, traveling in China with W. H. Auden, met Madame Chiang in the late 1930s. He caught her aura exactly: “She could be terrible, she could be gracious, she could be businesslike, she could be ruthless. . . . Strangely enough, I have never heard anybody comment on her perfume. It is the most delicious either of us has ever smelt.”

November 5th, 2009

So I was Tweeting Mad Men...

...and wondering with @JenDeaderick if, after her horrid birth experience, Betty Draper will read the Feminine Mystique, put her head in the oven or both. Which inspired the lovely JD to send me to one of Plath's many extraordinary poems:

Morning Song

by Sylvia Plath

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

I’m no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind’s hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.
 

Sylvia Plath, “Morning Song” from Collected Poems.

Copyright © 1960, 1965, 1971, 1981 by the Estate of Sylvia Plath.

September 20th, 2009

Invitation to Oxford

Had to post this invitation from Oxford.

What do you think. Should I go? 

To Whom it May Concern at the Office of Rebecca Walker:

Please find attatched an invitation to speak at the Oxford Union on Tuesday 27th October, the motion for this forum will be 'This House believes that white middle class women have stolen the feminist cause from those who need it most'. The details of the motion are outlined in the attatched document, I'm sure that you will have alot to contribute.
 
The event will be taking place within Gender week, and will be run in conjunction with OUSU and OxWib (Oxford Women in Business). The format will be relatively informal, a short address followed by a Question and Answer, but obviously we can be flexible to any alternative ideas and requirements.
 
The Union has hosted a wealth of prestigious speakers including Mother Teresa, Richard Nixon, The Dalai Lama, Micheal Jackson and Malcolm X to name but a few. We would be honoured to add you to this list.
 
I look forward to hearing from you.
 
Best Wishes,
 
Secretary
The Oxford Union

September 17th, 2009

Third Wave: An accurate and succinct rendering.

This is an excellent description of Third Wave; one of the most accurate and succinct I've seen. From the online version of the Encylcopedia Brittanica:

The third wave of feminism emerged in the mid-1990s. It was led by so-called Generation Xers who, born in the 1960s and ’70s in the developed world, came of age in a media-saturated, culturally and economically diverse milieu. Although they benefitted significantly from the legal rights and protections that had been obtained by first- and second-wave feminists, they also critiqued the positions and what they felt was unfinished work of second-wave feminism.

The third wave was made possible by the greater economic and professional power and status achieved by women of the second wave, the massive expansion in opportunities for the dissemination of ideas created by the information revolution of the late 20th century, and the coming of age of Generation X scholars and activists.

Some early adherents of the new approach were literally daughters of the second wave. Third Wave Direct Action Corporation (organized in 1992) became in 1997 the Third Wave Foundation, dedicated to supporting “groups and individuals working towards gender, racial, economic, and social justice”; both were founded by (among others) Rebecca Walker, the daughter of the novelist and second waver Alice Walker. Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, authors of Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future (2000), were both born in 1970 and raised by second wavers who had belonged to organized feminist groups, questioned the sexual division of labour in their households, and raised their daughters to be self-aware, empowered, articulate, high-achieving women.

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September 4th, 2009

Yes, in fact, I do blame (F)eminism

So there seems to be outpouring of excitement about the Katie Roiphe piece on Double XX on motherhood as a narcotic. 

What frustrates about this "excitement" on Salon and all the other more "mainstream" blogs, is the way editors and many readers ignore the work of women outside of their "milieu" be they poor, black, Asian-American, gay, male, community-college educated or otherwise.

My book Baby Love, for example, is also about the subject of feminism and motherhood and making a surprising and seemingly "anti-feminist" choice, and yet received none of the nuanced treatment. In fact, Salon used my piece on this exact subject to excoriate me personally, running an ill-informed post by Phyllis Chesler in which I was labeled misguided, confused, and in the throes of some kind of misplaced mother-daughter drama. My work was dismissed as personal pathology.

Which brings us to Katie Roiphe. Good gracious, she and I hashed it out on Charlie Rose ten years ago. Her intellect is no more superior, her writing no more "eloquent," but her privilege is, truly, many more generations deep, and certain editors apparently believe she has much more in common with their readers--an unfair assessment.

The entire episode reminds me of one of the more insightful things my mother told me (and regardless of the current state of our relationship, my mother has told me MANY insightful things):

"We read them, but really, they do not read us."

Meaning, of course, that many white women of privilege and access think what they write is new because they don't really bother to read the work of women (and men) outside of their race and/or class. And yet we think nothing of reading theirs and weighing their contributions as part of our process of informing ourselves as we begin to do our own work.

And, really, truly, the bottom line? I blame it on (F)eminism. Why is it that women of privilege are able to do this with impunity in the name of (F)eminism?

Because this kind of racial and economic apartheid is built into contemporary, especially Second Wave, (F)eminism. This latest exchange of pseudo-philosophical banter is just one more line item on an exhaustive list of betrayals, insults, and selective dismissals of the work of many self-identified feminists and others who have long ago abandoned their affiliation.

This remains a breathtakingly short-sighted method of engagement. 

June 1st, 2009

The Headscarf--Revisioned

I really love the way this discussion about the hijab is continuing to evolve in the midst of The Obama Transition.

From Huff Post:

As always, the nexus of the clash between the West and Islam is the role of women. The Turkish sociologist Nilufer Golë has put her finger somewhat provocatively on precisely what secularists fear might be taken away, but also on what Muslim women are gaining.

"In contrast with the West," she has written, "where the public sphere was first formed by the bourgeoisie and excluded the working class and women, in the Muslim context of modernity women have been the makers of public space. In the Muslim context, the existence of democratic public space depends on the social encounter between the sexes and on the eroticization of the public sphere."

The wearing of the headscarf in universities -- which the AKP sought to allow -- is the flash point of the conflict. To be sure, the headscarf issue signals changing private and public distinctions through the re-entry of religion into the public arena of modern Turkey. But since headscarf proponents argue that it will enhance the opportunities of women in higher education, it also serves as a critique of the idea that only secularism equals modernity.

"Women proponents of the headscarf distance themselves from secular models of feminist emancipation," Gole argues, "but they also seek autonomy from male interpretations of Islamic precepts. They want access to secular education so they can follow new paths in life that don't conform to traditional gender roles, yet they also seek to fashion a new pious self. They are searching for ways to become Muslim and modern at the same time, transforming both."

In short, the established meaning of Islamic veiling is undergoing a radical transformation -- from a symbol of Muslim female submission and seclusion in the private sphere to a badge of public, assertive Muslim womanhood. For Gole, this sign of stigma and inferiority is in the process of being inverted into a sign of empowerment and prestige.

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April 7th, 2009

Woman: The Ballad of John and Yoko

Yoko's love for John and John's love for Yoko was the heart at the center of their own personal peace movement. Both artists, they influenced each other, creating an alchemical effect bigger than either one could achieve on their own. From my perspective, theirs was a true partnership-- transgressive and transcendent and transformative, a love story for all time.

 

I stumbled upon these videos while reading Cara at Curvature's fascinating  feminist analysis of Yoko.

Double Fantasy

January 11th, 2009

What Michelle Obama is Giving Up: A Question of Power

Hey all,

I have an essay in The Root today about Michelle Obama and feminism.

Yesterday afternoon, in tandem with the essay on Michelle Obama, I joined a group of exceptional women including Anna Perez, the former Press Secretary for Barbara Bush, Leslie Morgan Steiner, the editor of the best-selling anthology Mommy Wars, and Jolene Ivey, co-founder of Mocha Moms, on Michel Martin's NPR show Tell Me More to talk about:

What Michelle Obama is Giving Up.

It was a fascinating conversation, but five intense women talking about Michelle Obama for thirty-five minutes? We could have been there for hours. I left the studio thinking about all the things I wished there had been more time to say.

I wish the show had been called "What Michelle Obama is Gaining."

There was certainly more to say about the question of "power" vs "influence." It's my view that Michelle has the opportunity to have a tremendous amount of power--political, personal, ideological, symbolic, financial, social, maternal, emotional, psychological-- but Anna Perez opined Michelle will have influence, but because she can't write legislation and doesn't have a vote on key issues, she won't have power. 

But there are different kinds of power. Laws change administration to administration, but transforming the consciousness of a generation is forever. Did Martin Luther King, Jr. have power or influence? Did Jackie Kennedy want more power and less influence? How about Eleanor Roosevelt? And what about our former First Lady, Hillary Clinton? She almost because POTUS in large part as a result of her "influence." What about the Nobel committee? Do they have power or influence? Freud and Jung? Moses?

I was taken aback by Anna Perez's view, her privileging one realm, the political, over what could be called the personal or communal, a view that has disempowered women for centuries. And I was struck by how difficult it seemed for many of the women in the conversation to see Michelle as anything but a victim. Incredibly, they seemed to think she was more powerful as a hospital administrator than First Lady.

We denigrate Michelle by denigrating her choices. Projecting an idea of her as a deer in the headlights rather than a lioness on the plain reflects a crisis of the imagination, and speaks volumes about what we think is possible for a woman, or any human being, to negotiate.

People working to create a better world dismiss their accomplishment at their own peril. They resign themselves to a lifetime of disappointment.

What do you think? Do you have power or influence, power and influence, or no power and no influence?

How do you define power? 

November 28th, 2008