Thursday, April 4, 2013

Is a Black Male Feminist Allowed to Marvel at the Full Frontal Nudity of Rosario Dawson in the New Movie 'Trance?'"

Rosario Dawson is my all-time female celebrity love object.

I caught feelings for her in Kids. I decided that if she were my woman, Clerks 2 would have been the moment when I ran out to the jewelry store, maxed out the cash advances on the credit cards, and tried to buy her a sensible engagement ring until I could replace it with something more befitting her a few years later. Unstoppable secured her first wife status in the family.

My queen has finally decided to bless the world with her perfect form, fully revealed in the new Danny Boyle movie Trance. For a moment, a quick fleeting moment, I thought that Rosario's status as the woman of my dreams was being challenged by Nadine Velazquez in Flight. No contest, old girl is still ace number one: Rosario Dawson is timeless.

When I saw those images, my eyes bugged out of my head like ol' good Mr. Mantan Moreland, and I subsequently went into a permanent holla holla holla hummina hummina hummina feedback loop. Me thinks that I will be seeing Trance many times in the movie theater before adding the blu-ray to the collection.

Some will find such observations not "befitting" a "black progressive" because "black male feminists" are not supposed to surrender to the male gaze and discuss women as objects of beauty. My response, is two-fold.

I am not a "progressive"--whatever that means--I am a black pragmatist.

More importantly, have we as a society arrived at such a moment where a certain brand of orthodox thought prevents honest discussion of sex, desire, lust, beauty, want, and appreciation of the superficial delights which come from a perfect union of the flesh and the eyes?

Language does political work. I am quite fluent in the vocabulary of race and gender studies. The difference between being naked and nude; race and representation; the idea of the gaze; the sex race gender marketplace; and how visual images are stand-ins for how Power in a given society frames our understandings of social reality and our relationships with one another through normalizing hierarchies as well as who is "watched" and who is doing the "watching" are terms in a larger conceptual toolbox, one that can be quite useful in some circumstances. However, this language can also mask and confound the erotic, preempting joy, short-circuiting pleasure.

Is a brother allowed to lust over Rosario Dawson? Do I lose my "black male feminist card" by doing so? More broadly, has the language of "misogyny" and "sexist" become so overused, like a politically correct cudgel of sorts, as to have lost all of its original meaning and power?


Improbable Joe said...

My answer? Context. It is as simple and as mind-bendingly complicated as that. And a lot of time people use phrases like "-ism is so overused, like a politically correct cudgel of sorts, as to have lost all of its original meaning and power" when what they really mean is "avoiding boundary violations is too much work for me, so I'm going to dismiss the entire thing as invalid."

Friends of mine are politically-active feminists, and they have mostly the same sense of humor, same awareness of sexiness, same way of dealing with interpersonal stuff as everyone else. They just have a greater awareness of where and when it is appropriate to express those things without causing anyone unnecessary harm or discomfort(which is really a form of harm). You know, the same way the language non-whites use to refer to each other isn't allowed for white people, the way your bedroom language isn't appropriate at work, and so on. You're allowed to appreciate a sexy woman's body without being sexist, but if you get a chance to meet Rosario Dawson and you talk to her chest then that's a whole other thing.

Vic78 said...

Man, if it's going to be like that we could be in church. There's no sense in repressing one's self. I'll side with the feminist thinkers that talk about pleasure. I believe Judith Butler would have no problem with you admiring Dawson's fineness. She'll probably join in your admiration.

Magda Kamenev said...

Mercy, yes. Please, yes. This, yes.

chauncey devega said...

I ain't that strong Improbable. I would stunned and blinded by her beauty. Then I would get the vapors. I like her beauty, but her energy and habitus is amazing. She is what we used to call an "around the way girl" that you marry and get pregnant--in either order.

Magda Kamenev said...

Oh, great! Black male feminists get a card?! Why don't I get one?

Just about everyone has a 'gaze'. Most people get to look at someone and see an object of beauty. I think the question is, does the gazer restrict the observed to an object?

chauncey devega said...

I got it with my Ovaltine and with ten receipts from Popeye's chicken.

Improbable Joe said...

You've gotta rein that shit in a little bit though... you have agency, you are responsible for yourself and your actions. And if you want to talk about sexism, projecting concepts like "around the way girl" onto strangers certainly qualifies.

chauncey devega said...

That is a complement. Knowledge and language is local. Rosario is a ghetto nerd of my generation she would get it and smile. Trust.

SabrinaBee said...

There is noting wrong with you admiring Rosario especially if she puts it out there to be admired, as it appears in this case. It will not cause you to lose your feminist card.

I think you know there are nuances and the line cane be crossed quite easily. If you suddenly quit your job and go park outside Rosario's home with a copy of her nude photo, that line has been crossed.

If your admiration is such that I or any women are made to feel like we might not make it home some night without being accosted, the line has been crossed.

If you are unable to recognize or accept that your attention may not be welcome but still persist because you believe the fit of my top or bottom means that you can, the line has been crossed.

The best way to avoid such misunderstanding is restraint. I think that is the agreement for polite society. I won't blatantly stare at your bulge while mindlessly twirling a measuring tape, don't focus on my chest while absently licking your lips. Easy.

CaitieCat said...

Y'know, this's the first place I think you went wrong (YMMV, of course). The old "I'm obsessing over your body because you're so hot and that's a compliment" is what I'd call "benevolent sexism", but sexism all the same.

And the reasons I say that are twofold:

1) Even though you know where she grew up, and have some sense of her identity, you really can't say that she absolutely would find it a compliment; at best you can think it likely. Saying you are certain implies that you know her perfectly, and given you've not met her, that seems...unlikely.

2) Also, the whole "i'd want to make her pregnant" thing has a kind of...well, rapey is too strong a word, but it's...unsettling?

Nobody gave me a badge to make me the sexism police, of course, but you did ask. But I think this particular part may be the place I think I'd draw the line between okay and not-okay for this feminist.

The OP? No problem. Nothing wrong with saying, in your own space, that you think someone's sexy. That's a normal part of being human for a lot of people, and I think most people would take your whole-person approach to finding them sexy to be alright, particularly if they're someone who is intentionally in the public eye.

CaitieCat said...

I think context makes a part of it too: doing it here on cdv's own site, it's hard to say he shouldn't let it hang out, as it were. If he were to go and say it on her blog, I'd find that both less hunky and less dory. Then it has the potential to play a similar sort of role as street harassment can, IMO.

chauncey devega said...

I mix vernacular with real talk and some playfulness. I used that tone on purpose just to test the waters and to see how much the pc police have got folks. How do we think about the pleasure, flirtation, jokes, humor, sex, etc?

Also, how do we play with fantasy. I will never meet RD. I am interested in the illusion. I want the 2 dimensional representation. How do spaces that are bounded by "progressive" orthodoxy get limited by an almost slavish devotion to certain rules that folks do not act out in their own personal lives?

An anecdote. Dating myself a whee bit as someone in their thirties. I was at a conference that then became a party at someone's spot. Lots of womanist types and 3rd world feminist types that could talk all night long about misogyny, objectification, rape culture, etc. and intersectionality. Hating on commercial hip hop, "black men," "the black culture industry" etc.

Then Ms. Fat Booty and Biggie and R's "I'm Fucking You Tonight" drops. They start filling the floor, grinding, having fun and the like. The sister I was trying to holler at, I asked her about how she reconciles her politics with taste in music. She channeled some Butler or Lourde and said something akin to she likes the song, wants to get her groove on, and maybe if I play my cards right will give me some later. Real talk.

She smiled and said all that stuff is academic talk for papers and classes. Now she is doing her thing and who cares?

My ultimate point is, how do some folks live the mantra "the political is personal" either to their own detriment or limitations? And must we have such slogans in our head in the day-to-day?

And yes, as the phrase goes, if she were so willing, I would love rosario to have my baby.

I know I ain't the only man who has been with a woman and afterwards she jokingly said "damn I think you knocked me up" or "you brought my period down."

Let's be real.

How do we objectify ourselves? How do let ourselves be objectified by others to our mutual pleasure? What if we like be objectified by our partners?

chauncey devega said...

" won't blatantly stare at your bulge while mindlessly twirling a measuring tape, don't focus on my chest while absently licking your lips."

You know what, there are times when both of those things can be the most erotic and enticing moments in the world.

! said...

Are you "allowed to"? Why of course. Am I "allowed to" wonder why you seem a tiny bit stuck on this subject although, as you note below, many feminists and womanists have already made our peace with this issue? Why yes.

I'm not sharpening any scissors to cut up anyone's "feminist card" but why is the idea of keeping or losing that feminist card intriguing to you Mr. DeVega? What if one person dropped in to say, "I am a feminist and I am disgusted and horrified by your choice to post about Rosario Dawson's nude scene, your blog is now a hostile space to me and I am leaving" - would you be forced to rend your garments and forever give up your black male feminist status? Or do some kind of feminist penance?

Many perfectly decent men in this world are absolutely confused by issues of feminism and sex, and I'd love to understand where the contradiction seems to be. Or is it just that this is an avenue to feel as though your crush on the lovely Ms. Dawson is particularly naughty and transgressive, rather than completely normal, healthy and rather boring...

! said...

What your acquaintance fully understood is that at the end of the day, we all live in this messed up system and have to find some way to take joy and pleasure in our lives nonetheless. I have a deep love for some very objectifying and silly music, but I do think we can walk and chew gum at the same time - why should I have to give up my politics in order to have my fun times, or the other way around? Look at someone like Angel Haze who makes jokes about how she is "fast like a preteen boy in a church with a pastor" and then turns around and writes very affecting songs about the consequences of child abuse. Which one is the wrong way of coping? Who the hell am I to even ask that question?

CNu said...

Sista Bee.., the "transgressions" you describe typify what might transpire between and among ungraceful and socially awkward people.

Handsome, fit, well-dressed, intelligent, charismatic, clean men neither experience or provoke stress in their approach to women. Women simply enter the ambit of such men (at their own discretion) and make their availability known to whatever degree applies.

If the interest is mutual, then grown folks do what grown folks do. It's all so effortless - and always has been.

Shady Grady said...

To each their own. I never found her attractive.

chauncey devega said...

I asked out of curiosity. And also, there is that unfortunate fear, anxiety, set of rules, internal guideposts etc. that many have on these issues. Another cousin would be when some folks says "I want to be a good ally". Okay, does that mean simply performing a role with all of the appropriate and pc scripts and speech and self-censorship to play the part? Or does it mean something more substantial?

And there are some who would say that a man talking in explicit terms about a woman in an honest and objectifying way is precisely that--"transgressive"--against the gender politics norms that are enforced in some spaces. That a discussion of sex and the body would create a "hostile space" also says something about how low that bar has been set as of late.

chauncey devega said...

You been drinking that Thunderbird brother ;) She is a goddess. Who is on your must wifey up list?

chauncey devega said...

"I find you attractive" equals "street harassment?" Context please.

Shady Grady said...

My list would include ladies like Monica Bellucci, Nicole Ari Parker, Leila Lopes, Rita G, Carla Campbell and Blair Griffith to name a few.

! said...

"Hostile space" was meant as an obvious parody of a certain kind of extremism one can find on some corners of the Internet. I'm just teasing a little... To tell you the truth, these are the kinds of considerations I don't fully understand from the male side of things. At work or school, all of us must play a role, and I do expect men to be appropriate and professional in those situations. In those cases, by all means, men should censor themselves even if it would be more honest for them to say I have a nice ass or something, it simply isn't the time or place. In other parts of life, I would simply hope that wanting to be a good friend, a good acquaintance or a good partner would trump considerations of appropriateness or allyship.

chauncey devega said...

You have good taste brother.

SabrinaBee said...

LOL. Oh yeah? I can't imagine when.

SabrinaBee said...

Absolutely correct, CNu. Unfortunately, society is made up of all kinds.

SabrinaBee said...

Are you saying that he takes it a step further by making his attraction known to her? Not sure I agree with that. It is okay to say someone is hot or attractive. A single visit is suffice to do so. I think if he makes it a pattern to visit and express his desires or begins to demand acknowledgment, even though he clearly is receiving no response (sorry CD) then it becomes a step towards obsession.

SabrinaBee said...

I do agree with context, though.

CNu said...

Setting social standards and dictating political policies based on the dysfunctions of the lowest denominator is the very definition of pornographic.

Troglodytes and misfits should be shunned and disdained, their dysfunctions should not be enshrined as defining the new normal.

White feminist political hegemony (which exists primarily in the media, the academy, and wherever human resources departments pretend to be socially relevant) politically enshrines the hurt feelings of unwanted white women and their hurt and vindictive overreaction to clumsy troglodytes and disgraceful misfits.

It is an unwanted, uneffective, and disingenuous grafting-on to black folks legitimate civil rights struggle. The fact that its shrill and excessive tropes have come to dominate progressive politics is a testament to the power of those little paychecks in the academy.

The sinister beauty of the black nationalist counterinsurgency that was/is "race studies" in the higher academy is that black "race studies" aspirants wanting tenure had to contort their outward sensibilities and deliverable work so as to satisfy the distorted sensibilities of white wymyn sitting in judgement on those tenure committees.

chauncey devega said...

I can imagine many innumerable situations :)

Yaw said...

He got game, Alexander

She's been nude before. This question is over10 years late.

CaitieCat said...

Sorry - just saw this, I don't have e-mail notifications set. In the sense that if you go to her blog with the sole purpose of saying "you're attractive to me", I would contend that makes it a very different context than saying the same thing in your blog.

It's not uncommon to hear a blog referred to as someone's "living room", e.g., "don't come in my living room and shit on the carpet and expect me to call it a souffle"; similarly, going to her blog for this purpose (alone; saying it as part of an overall appreciation for her), to me feels like a situation where she can't really avoid it, whether she wanted it or not.

When it's on your blog, of course, she can choose whether or not to read posts you make about her. Unless she's got a moderator working for her, then a comment on her blog is a comment directly to her, uninvited.

if that comment is "hey, i'd like to make you pregnant", I'm hoping you'd see that this would be somewhat problematic, whether shouted on the street or left on her blog.

Anyway - i'm only saying because you explicitly asked. Whether or not I think something you wrote has some small instances of potentially problematic material from a sexism standpoint is surely not a matter of enormous import to you? :)

CaitieCat said...

No, i'm saying it's a step further to do so on her blog or Facebook or whatever, because then she doesn't have the choice about whether she is potentially objectified: it's there, and she can't avoid knowing it's there. In that sense, going to her blog for the sole purpose of saying that, for example, "I want to make you pregnant," would for me feel little different than street harrassment.

The same phrase here, on the other hand, just feels slightly over-the-top-ish, because the object of the phrase (grammatically, I mean) has a choice over whether she wants to deal with it or even see it.

Does that make sense? I'm feeling like I'm having a hard time explaining this; as I said above, I wouldn't have said anything if CD hadn't explicitly asked, as I consider these to be personal moral stances, not something I expect others to adhere to.

chauncey devega said...

my tracy morganesque comment has hit a nerve. i guess i must be from a particularly degenerate community and culture to have flirtatiously said such a thing to a woman ;) Guess what? It worked. Not the baby making but the flirting.

Community norms I guess.

CaitieCat said...

LOL. Well, I'm glad it worked out. :)

makheru bradley said...

I thought a Black male feminst was a homosexual.

makheru bradley said...

A Black man who is a feminist. That sounds like a homosexual to me. It does not fit within the context of Afrikan complementarity. Sounds like the reversal of Yurugu.

Anonymous said...

Hi there! This post could not be written much better! Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
He constantly kept talking about this. I most certainly will send this
post to him. Fairly certain he will have a great read.
Many thanks for sharing!

Here is my web page; waist hip ratio

CNu said...

The Hon.Bro.Preznit is evidently not allowed to complement the handsomest attorney general in the U.S. either

The most prolific remote controlled assassin in the world is also quite clearly collectively pussy-whipped and way too quick to try and placate the hypersensitive.

Needs to take a page from the Vladimir "man-up" Putin playbook

chauncey devega said...

Greek to me.