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The Thickness

Thick. I hate the description. If we’re being honest, it’s synonymous with “meaty” and if we’re blunt: overweight. Still, some consider the description a compliment when it’s really just a body standard derived from what a man considers sexually pleasurable, rather than an actual standard of beauty. It has everything to do with the way a woman’s body is rated and viewed by men.

Jill Scott said it best in the lyrics of “The Thickness” included on her 2001 live album: Whoa! She a big chick, Big ol’ legs, Big ol’ thighs, Big ol’ hips, Big ol’ ass, Big ol’ tits…Shh, Don’t you complain about my other women, Just drop that big thick ass on my stiffness, Make me nut all up on your gut with the quickness, Don’t stop, Won’t stop, Lift it, Yeah, girl, lift it, Lift it, baby, Drop it again, ‘Cause I ain’t your tribesman no more, I ain’t your friend, Come on, girl, just let me in, Let me into all that thickness, That sweet and round, brown, supple bigness…”

It makes me wonder, is the thickness to blame for the astronomical rates of unplanned, teenage pregnancy? Is it really that irresistible? While cultural differences about the definition of beauty do exist, I worry these preferences are used to justify the larger female frames in Black and Latino communities, even though these communities top the list when it comes to obesity and disease.

Are we thick because our men think its attractive or because we don’t workout enough and eat too much of the wrong things? And while we’re at it; what makes one person thick and the other fat? What exactly is the poundage that defines the two? When does thickness cross the line between a healthy weight range for one’s height and frame and being just plain unhealthy?

It seems like the finest line in the world.

Do we consider being called “thick” a compliment because it justifies a lack of discipline in diet and exercise or do we really care that much about what men think of us?

The Web began buzzing after news that Tina Turner would, at age 73, grace the cover of Vogue Germany’s April 2013 issue. It marks Tina’s first appearance on the glossy and for Vogue, the oldest cover model ever. Her appearance is only startling because of its severe lack of timeliness. While her professional accomplishments are obvious, I most applaud her triumphant battle against domestic abuse.

How would have the conversation about violence against women evolved if Turner had covered of Vogue and other magazines after leaving her husband, Ike Turner, in July of 1976? Maybe she was passed over because at the time Vogue covers were still reserved for models (Iman first appeared in the glossy in February of that same year), but its interesting to compare the media’s handling of Rihanna’s situation. Maybe it’s just a sign of the times but Rihanna (previously, before her reunion with Brown) seemed to have the entire world on her side. Everyone wanted to interview her and when she finally allowed the inquiries, we, as women learned nothing because she was already on her way back to him.

Would Tina have had something different to say? To teach? Were we afraid to talk about violence against women in 1976, even in women’s magazines?

Even if we let them off the hook for ignoring an opportunity to bind fashion and moderate conceit with feminine progress, why didn’t she grace the cover after publishing her biography and her comeback track of the same name, “What’s Love Got to do with It?” In this narrow lens, Vogue appears short of the female powerhouse reputation of late.

Tina Turner, Vogue Germany, April 2013

Tina Turner covers Vogue Germany April 2013

 

Why is everyone so concerned about twelve-year-old Willow Smith’s hair? After whipping her braids, then shaving the sides and coloring it, she finally just cut it all off. If I were her mother, I’d be proud that as a young black girl she was resisting the theory that her natural hair wasn’t good enough and hadn’t begged me for a weave. Jada’s response to those who questioning her parenting was pasted on Facebook:

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“The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair, first the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain… It’s also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires.”

“…[little girls] should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires.” Love Jada.

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Multiple Choice.

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A. People feel bad that she just lost all that weight and now is going to get fat all over again

B. She might lose her $4 million Weight Watchers deal

C. It’s a bit trashy–after all, little Maxwell Drew is only 7 months old

D. Everyone’s secretly jealous that her fiancé still loves her (in more ways than one) despite those last few pounds of baby weight

E. She’s not unmarried

I say A with an inkling of C. What a shame that I’m probably right.

Chris Brown deleted his Twitter account on Sunday night only to return late Monday after a Twitter “war of words”with comic and writer Jenny Johnson. The back and forth between the two quickly escalated, as Johnson mistakenly assumed that Chris Brown was just another celebrity like Kim Kardashian who would just ignore the tweet.

But no. Not Mr. Charming Brown.

His misogynistic rant began immediately resulting in the parting words, “Ask Rihanna if she mad??????” in reference to the 2009 assault of his then girlfriend. Those words, aside from everything else spewed from his ignorant mouth, made me the most sad because his point is exactly right.

How can (or should) any of us rally for Rihanna and hate Brown when she has not only forgiven him but lacks the decency to, at least, save face in front of the world? Guyana citizens haven’t forgotten. Johnson hasn’t forgotten, news outlets haven’t forgotten as they make sure to point out every ridiculous thing he does, including the battered woman tattoo on his neck. Brown is like a reoccurring bad dream, giving everyone nightmares except Rihanna.

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And while I didn’t want to write this post because it sounds so like blaming the victim, hey, I’m blaming the victim. Rihanna might think the whole “unapologetic, this is who I am, I’ll always love him” vibe makes her a rock star but in reality it’s misguided and seeping with self-hatred.

Well, at least she has Brown’s Twitter army (his fans ages 10-16) behind her who have already flooded Johnson’s Twitter account with death threats. I guess she can find solace in the fact that at least someone has forgiven him too, even if they are just a bunch of kids.

Yesterday, I enjoyed Sienna Miller’s performance in the HBO film The Girlwhich details the obsessive relationship Alfred Hitchcock developed for actress Tippi Hedren while filming The Birds and Marnie. While Hedren’s career fizzled after asking to be released from her contract with Hitchcock, she later gave birth to a daughter who would become actress Melanie Griffith.
20121121-191215.jpg Much more than a casting couch scenario, The Girl, details how Hitchcock’s treatment of Tippi went from creepy to downright cruel after her refusal of his sexual advances during the filming of The Birds. He quickly put the integrity of the film ahead of her personal safety by lying to her about the use of live birds on set. She was injured after Hitchcock directed a motorized bird to crash the glass of a photo booth she was standing in. She endured five days of being clawed and pecked at by live birds during the filming of one scene.

The most pivotal moment was when Hitchcock’s wife, Alma, asked her husband’s long-time assistant what it was about Tippi that made her so different from all the other “pretty girls” like Grace Kelly her husband had worked with. The assistant replied, “no matter what he does to her, she [Tippi] makes him feel as though he can’t hurt her.” So, Hitchcock kept trying to break her as though it were for sport. He spied on her, called her incessantly, berated her for even a hint of interest in other men and tried to get her to “touch” him when they were alone.

Later, when Alma came to apologize to the actress for her husband’s behavior, Tippi pleaded for her to make the abuse stop because she was the only one who had the power to do so. Apparently, Alma’s jealousy and own psychological traumas caused by her dysfunctional marriage prevented her from stepping in. She walked away and Tippi was left once again, in Hitchcock’s clutches.

After filming wrapped, Hitchcock justified his actions, as if his method of abuse was a brilliant training program for budding film stars, by saying he could only teach Tippi so much by being nice. But the abuse only grew worse. After the filming of Marnie Hitchcock requested that now it was time for her to make herself “sexually available to him at all times”–a simple request considering all that he’d done for her. When she refused and asked to be released from her contract, Hitchcock called her “cold.”

Tippi retorted that it was he who had taken “a living, breathing woman and turned her into a statue.”

Sienna Miller etched her pregnancy in “stone” by posing nude for an oil painting by artist Jonathan Yeo, which is currently on display at Circleculture Gallery in Berlin, Germany. While the average celebrity nude pregnancy portrait is always perfectly stylized, with the hair and makeup just so and the key areas covered, Miller’s representation is gritty, raw and showing pubic hair (gasp!). The painting, with its gray background and lack of Hollywood glamour, might not be what most would consider “beautiful” but its the absence of the fluff that makes it intriguing.

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For the first time ever, GQ magazine has granted one of three of their “Man of the Year” covers to a woman, namely Rihanna, whom they’ve coined their “obsession of the year.”
It’s no wonder that the unabashedly sexual star was the fitting choice considering the timing—her 777 tour began this week and her seventh studio album “Unapologetic” will be released on November 19th.

And lest we not forget, she’s the girl who likes to smack the derrieres and pull on the panties of other girls, (what man doesn’t love imagery of a bisexual female) all while making it very clear that she’s straight. She’s also the girl whose return to her torrid, unhealthy love affair with Chris Brown (who as it turns out is just as “unapologetic” as she) has managed to elicit a frenzy of opinion–even during this year’s Election season.

But perhaps Rihanna is so fascinating because she can afford to do what most of us can’t: just live her life from day to day, disregarding the consequences of her actions. Maybe that’s what makes her a superstar. She so shamelessly is who she is and lives in a world where every life experience can be a hit song rather than a lesson.

Sure, the most obvious point about her GQ feature is her nakedness but honestly, when is she not? And to defend this point she tells GQ, “That comes from my culture. That’s just the way it’s always been, and I think that for people, especially in America, they make it like the forbidden fruit, but that only makes kids more curious….I was a lot more naive about the way I moved and the way I was being perceived. The more you hear people talk about ‘Oh, you’re a sex symbol,’ it just makes you think, ‘Why are you saying that?’ And I figured it out.”

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She’s partly right though: Americans do tend to live out their fantasies in the media and entertainment rather than our morals and lifestyles. I mean, it’s OK to regale Hugh Hefner’s brothel lifestyle by giving him a reality show but it’s not OK for Janet Jackson’s breast to pop out during the good old American Super Bowl.

On the other hand, Rihanna’s completely wrong about one big thing. Overt sexuality doesn’t make kids any less curious about sex; it makes them think that type of behavior is acceptable. How else can you explain things like sexting?

Sure, in Rihanna’s world, being sexy is what keeps her relevant but I argue that having paid bodyguards probably make her feel a lot more comfortable flaunting it. She can post, pose and send naked photos to whomever she wants because she doesn’t have to worry about future employment and being taken seriously. She sees that as a sign of strength: “I want to make music that’s hopeful, uplifting. Nothing corny or supersentimental. I just want it to have the feeling that brings you out of whatever you’re going through. I want it to spark that fire. I want it to be real, authentic, and raw.”

She’s an entertainer, someone who is paid to be uncensored. But she’s fine with it, “Sometimes a person looks at me and sees dollars. They see numbers and they see a product. I look at me and see art. If I didn’t like what I was doing, then I would say I was committing slavery.”
I argue that her image, the brashness, rawness and “in your face” attitude is exactly what makes her a product. Art is being bought and sold these days—with or without the clothes.

But at the end of the day, despite her “wisdom” she’s just a regular twenty-something girl (or perhaps not so regular) who just wants some man to control things despite how independent she may be, “I like to feel like a woman. I have to be in control in every other aspect of my life, so I feel like in a relationship, like I wanted to be able to take a step back and have somebody else take the lead.”

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In a country where the nation’s first Black president has been elected for a second term, live two little girls whose parents just happen to be the President and the First Lady of the United States.
When racial slurs began circulating the web on Tuesday from those unable to appropriately and intelligently articulate their disappointment in the nation’s choice from a policy and ideology perspective versus personal and racial misnomers, I thought of Malia and Sasha, the innocent ones, who have, until now, managed to escape personal attacks. It’s as if racists and other misguided adults have had some decency to refrain from personally attacking children.

It was disheartening to learn that many of the racial slurs casually thrown around on Facebook and Twitter were written by children who probably had to go to school the following day and sit in class next to some little black girl like Malia and Sasha. Social media has an uncanny ability to invoke invincibility in the immature. They think they can say anything they want and disguise it with an “LOL” because punishment isn’t immediate.

I wonder if they were embarrassed to know that everyone had read what they wrote. I have a hard time believing that they had already been branded as the school’s “racist” considering bigotry isn’t exactly trendy these days.

Imagine how Malia and Sasha must feel to know that there are Americans out there who want their father dead solely because of the color of his skin. In a country that has made so many strides towards equality since our dark ages, imagine how the Obama girls must feel to know that their peers wherever they might be—who are only fourteen and eleven years old, mind you, don’t respect their elder, the Harvard Law school graduate and the President of the United States of America just because he’s black.

Thank God they don’t have social media accounts and that they probably don’t know, because of course no one would ever have the guts to say these things to their face.

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