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empowerment vs. feminism.

cultural essays should be written only when you have devoted the time and privacy of thought to fully engage your topic… essay writing while answering phones and waiting on customers really should be frowned upon and i seriously advise against it…

no good can (or will) come of this, i know… 

but Bessie Smith been needing sugar in her bowl for a 100 years.

the emergence of sexual agency in black music is not a new phenomenon. and appreciation for sexual gratification is not new among feminism - bell hooks herself has written about passion for the penis (link to the article below)… from blues women Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Memphis Minnie to the soulful Betty Davis, Minnie Riperton, and Nona Hendryx to early hiphop leaders such as Sweet T, the Real Roxanne, Salt n Pepa, Gangsta Boo, Mia X, YoYo, LIl Kim, Foxy Brown, Adina Howard, and many, many others - gender equality and representation in music has been fiercely defended by progressive artists, who may or may not have considered themselves “true feminists” but most certainly touched upon those aspects of feminism that mattered most in the culture of their profession. and understand this: one does NOT have to single-handedly represent every legislative word of “old guard feminism” to be an advocate for women’s empowerment. ‘empowerment’ is the end result… but how you get there may not represent the ideals of feminism and that’s at the social crux of our contemporary debate (the same debate exists with empowerment for black people as a whole: do we achieve it through the traditional practices of civil rights or do we take a more aggressive route since society no longer seems dedicated to black enfranchisement).

as it currently exists, club-centered hiphop has evolved (or de-evolved, depending on your source) into hiphop burlesque - or hiphop exploitation, (again, depending on your source), but hiphop has always been used by those of us commonly represented as caricatures in american media to voice our agitations or agreements with contemporary living. an artist can be racially charged and not be revolutionary… or in favor of women’s equality and not be an activist for feminism. for some, the path to empowerment matters more so than the results….

modern female pop singers are building their sound and style on the generations of avant garde and burlesque that came before them, the Grace Joneses, Meshell Ndegeocellos, Erykah Badus, the Madonnas, and the Ms-Jacksons-if-you’re-nasty… 

Azealia Banks, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Nikki Minaj, Iggy Azalea, Miley Cyrus… they all have supporters and detractors who glean into their work looking for self-esteem or self-hate - there is evidence for both in the works of all listed. 

the problem for “feminists” is not the actual employment of sexual agency/fantasy in the routines of these artists… it’s the traditional glorification of gender roles in women that is the most troubling - traditional feminism has battled to lessen the role gender plays in societal policies, leaving what sexually goes on in ones home up to the individual - be a sub or a dom, feminine or butch, but patriarchy is institutionalized and men are stupid and will use those against you wherever gender inequalities are still the norm. 

a “Beyoncé-feminism” works for women in the same way that voting Republican works for lower class Whites: noticeable progress for my generation has been slow to come, so i might as well support what makes me FEEL better about my circumstances than what COULD possibly change those circumstances. 
or “this will have to do”, as Billie Holiday sang “until the real thing comes along.” —- but for many, THIS overtly sexualized stance IS the real thing. and the problem with that, as a political statement, is that it fails to challenge men on any idealogical level - “oh, you’re gonna roll the partition up so you can please me without agreeing that i might hafta please you in return? shit, that’s cool with me! do your thing, bae!”

and that’s the main concern between feminism and empowerment - feminism understands that gender inequality is the flaw of MEN and seeks to address it (just as racism is not “a black problem” but an issue of whites refusing to share privilege). Beyoncé teaches empowerment, not equality, and does so without addressing the need for men to expand their understandings. women have the RIGHT to do whatever makes them happy without having to seek permission from ANY man… approach us half-dressed and we’ll agree to any politics that helps us keep you that way, continually seeing the caricature of your womanhood from our selfish perspectives. just as racist continue seeing blacks as a whole.

feminism requires more than a dedication to yourself as a woman, tho women do have every right to stop there, but men hate feminism because it makes us THINK about our actions out in public or on the job. it forces us to ACT like we respect whether we actually do or not… if a man who has no pressure to challenge himself cosigns on your freedoms as a woman, then he is selfish and not your ally and as soon as he stops seeing the reward factor in your liberation then he’ll move on to the next woman who is ‘liberating’ at no expense to him.

Beyoncé has used burlesque to empower herself and to make her fortune. it is an empowerment that uses sex and sensuality for personal financial freedom… but if it is truly ‘feminist’ it would mean that ANY woman can utilize commercialized standards of beauty to achieve economic freedom… but this is a culture that only ‘bows down’ to beauty it can appropriate for its own pleasure and gain. this is a country that has cast Zoe Saldana over India Arie or Viola Davis to play Nina Simone.

Beyoncé can be the cultural avatar for young girls, pale or darkly hued, but neither will be accepted as Bae’s successor - black women will not see a white version of Beyonce as their spokesperson and a dark skinned version of Beyonce will never be commercially endorsed enough to enjoy the full financial liberations that come from extreme pop star status. Bae’s brand of self-empowerment has taken advantage of all the sexual tropes that patriarchy has afforded her and it’s been evident since her days with Destiny’s Child that she “was the pretty one”… and in america, when the pretty one adorns themselves in bustiers and lace, then we will always anoint her the “Queen/Baddest Bitch” of whatever she aspires herself to be. but if no other woman is afforded those levels of freedom while your brand of liberation profits from it, then a good portion of your devotees are voting against their own best interests.

where’s Bae’s dark-skinned, bald-headed economic counterpart? or the short-haired, pear-shaped black women soul singer? when Bae’s crown is usurped by one of those standards then we can truly measure her credibility as an advocate for women and say “see, Bae woke EVERYBODY up like this.” but as society currently stands, only one of my two granddaughters will “have what it takes” to reach that level of financial self-fulfillment… i recognize the Queen in both of them; but if their politics has to legitimize (or at least play along with) institutionalized patriarchy in order to be empowered, then one of my granddaughters is gonna end up kicking her in-laws in elevators on her way to the top.

bell hook’s essay, Penis Passion

"mind over matter/mouth in motion"


"and to the Republic, for which it stands…."

remember: America is not, by definition, a democracy… it is, by constitution, a Republic.

this means you that you either represent yourself or allow another as your representative and you are not obligated to anyone in that position. they are…

'sande sisters' - two incomplete collage projects that i may take back up in the future, but have since withered on the vine due to my recent lack in creative energy… so here's a touch of liberation for them until that day comes.

SHARE THIS PLEASE -- Searching For African American Illustrators


STILL IN SEARCH OF An African American artist/ illustrator. I need about 25 images drawn for my new website. I would like to buy these images, and use them for promotional purposes, on t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.

I would also be happy to give you a spotlight article on the new website once it’s…

"You want to know my name? —a hill, a tree. An empty drifting boat."


Hsu Hsuan

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When we say BLACK girls and BLACK boys must be protected at all costs, it is because society has shown time and time again that their/our lives, their/our dignity, and their/our future is of little to no importance to them.

We don’t say ‘ALL’ for a reason; ‘all’ of us are not afforded the same things, like justice. “All” of us are not seen as precious enough to be protected. “All” of us are not lost, stolen, or forgotten.

You step up and puff out the crooked ‘S’ on your chest and say ‘all’ when you’re already in that number. We speak out and say ‘black’ because we should be, too.




This is why I always say that SPECIFICITY is not “oppression olympics” for Black people. It is survival. Rejecting erasure through co-opt and generalization that ignores structural realties and anti-Blackness. Survival.

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upfromsumdirt: for many, it’s not about political maneuvering - it’s just about coping, getting through the day with your heart and/or head intact. and most of us suffer silently while doing so. “america” is a game where it takes a certain amount of privilege to ‘win’ or even to be able to fully participate. advocates for the poor are often loud in their support, but america will never hear the actual poor and those who are the most disenfranchised while living in poverty simply because there are no mainstream channels for them to access. america only knows of its black citizens through what is portrayed in the media - statistically waaaay under 1% of the black population as portrayed in sports, the news, music, or reality tv… but that is not real life. those channels represent ‘black privilege’ wherein the more negative elements are crowned ‘the champion’. we know more about these images than we do our own neighbors. and this is why racism in the 21st century is as deadly as its ever been for black folks in america; we think the blacks that make it across our newsfeeds DESERVE whatever happens to them because it is nearly always negative. america only relates positively to blacks through tv commercials, which also will reinforce overused tropes about black people. in marketing, it only takes seeing something 4 or 5 times for the brain to begin accepting it as truth, “logical” cases that make it okay for us to feel a certain way about an entire mass of people we rarely see outside of our tv sets. and being liberal does not mean you’ve risen above it… even black folks are subject to believing what the media tells them about themselves. this is the only ‘trickle down’ that has ever been successful - the perception of the inner workings of what it means to be black in america. and it is wrong, oh so very wrong.

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