Nicki Minaj and the Performance of White Supremacy

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“[Hitler] killed Jews and Gypsies because he didn’t have us.” — from Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon I had already read the numerous condemnations before actually viewing the lyric video for Nicki Minaj’s latest single, “Only.” Just how bad could it be? I thought. After all, I had not seen prior indication that the pop star was given to anti-Semitism. […]

Gender, Race, and the Supernatural: Appreciating Sleepy Hollow‘s Abbie Mills

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Just before the start of the fall TV season, New York Times writer Alessandra Stanley caused a stir online for misrepresenting TV showrunner Shonda Rhimes and all of her fictitious black women characters as “angry black women.” Of course, many in the feminist blogosphere rushed to defend both Rhimes and her black heroines, Olivia Pope of Scandal […]

Angry or Complicated?: Misrecognizing Black Women

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Anyone who may have seen interviews with Shonda Rhimes, read her forthright speech on diversity on television, or watched her hit TV show Scandal, would not recognize her in Alessandra Stanley’s description of an “angry black woman.” It would be easy, actually, to become an “angry black woman” after reading Stanley’s New York Times review, but what such descriptors […]

Too Sexy to be the “Perfect Feminist”?

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Whatever debates have occurred among self-identified feminists about Beyoncé’s brand, there was no  bolder statement than from the pop star herself when she stood on stage in front of the brightly lit word “FEMINIST” before an audience of millions watching MTV’s VMA show broadcast on Aug. 24, 2014. As Ms. associate editor Anita Little notes: Beyoncé is invaluable to feminism […]

Bodies on the Line: The Streets vs. Pop Culture

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Like so many others, I have been distressed by news coverage about Ferguson, Missouri, where protests broke out following the murder on August 9 of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager who was shot six times by a police officer. Whether following it on TV or Twitter, there was no escaping the chilling fact that black […]

Nicki Minaj: A Brown Sugar Sphinx Riddle

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Who knew that after the demolition of Kara Walker’s wildly popular “Marvelous Sugar Baby” art installation (see photo at left) at the old Domino sugar refinery in Brooklyn, the giant-sized booty of her 35-foot-high and 75-foot-long Sphinx would cast a long shadow this summer? At least that seems to be the case with the uproar […]

Chimamanda to Ms.: “I’m Very Feminist in the Way I Look at the World.”

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It would be an understatement to say that 36-year-old Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has had an impressive year. Her third novel, Americanah, a tri-continental love story, won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun—centered on the Nigeria-Biafra War of 1967–1970—was made into a film. And she delivered […]

The Political Romance of Belle

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Before making the film Belle, screenwriter Misan Sagay  first saw the painting—an 18th-century portrait of Lady Elizabeth Murray with Dido Elizabeth Belle alongside her—and noticed a striking difference from other paintings of the era depicting black subjects. In this painting, the woman of color, Belle, is positioned somewhat as an equal, not bowed or stooping […]

Have You “Seen” the Kidnapped Girls of Nigeria?

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As many of us now know, more than 200 Nigerian girls were kidnapped from their dorms on April 15 in the northeastern part of Nigeria. The terrorist Islamist group, Boko Haram—possibly tied to Al Qaeda—has been linked to this brazen abduction, as well as to the mass murder of other school children (29 school boys in February). On […]

The Fantasy of Mammy, the Truth of Patsey

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It was not lost on some that, 75 years after Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, the beautiful, poised and talented Lupita Nyong’o would become the sixth black woman to win that same Oscar—and for playing the same type of role, a slave. If we count Halle […]