Rise of the Planet of the Apes Provides Lessons in Liberation

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A chill-inducing moment turned Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a potentially campy summer action movie, into serious drama. It occurred right after the prison guard Dodge Landon (played by Tom Felton) delivered the iconic phrase from the original Planet of the Apes, immortalized by Charlton Heston: “Take your stinking paws off me, you […]

Loaded Guns, Loaded Metaphors: Rihanna’s “Man Down” Video

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Rihanna has a genius for controversy.  As soon as the music video for her latest single, “Man Down,” premiered this week on BET’s 106 & Park, it created an instant backlash from various groups demanding it be banned from television. However, the outcry is not about depictions of S&M fantasies or a same-sex kiss or […]

Beyonce: Girls Run the World (Cue the Apocalypse!)

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I’ve been an admirer of Beyonce since her Destiny’s Child days and always appreciated that group’s “girl power” anthems (think “Bills, Bills, Bills,” “Independent Women,” or “I’m a Survivor,” ignoring for the moment that they’ve also put out more submissive songs like “Cater 2  U“–which I’ve been guilty of playing on a loop).  I’ve attempted to […]

Witness to Rape: The Resistance of Eman al-Obeidi

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I saw outrage. I saw courage. I saw effrontery. Most of all, I saw resistance. By now, millions have seen the video footage of a woman in Libya–identified as Eman (or Iman) al-Obeidi–storming into a hotel in Tripoli, where foreign journalists had gathered, to tell the world that she had been gang-raped by Gaddhafi’s militia […]

Can’t Stop the Women of Hip-Hop

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My awakening to black feminist thought came in 1989 when Queen Latifah, with British rapper Monie Love, rapped about “Ladies First” and opened the music video for this powerful track with a pantheon of fierce black feminist icons: Harriet Tubman, Angela Davis, Frances E. W. Harper. Coincidentally, in the realm of the academy, Patricia Hill Collins published […]

How Nicki Minaj Stumbled Onto Black History

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It had every stereotype of black womanhood one could think of: the prerequisite “crazy hair” passed off as the “real thing”; the sassy attitude coming from a “ho who didn’t know her place”; and, above all else, a “booty” that is a “masterpiece of modern science.” For those who missed it, I am describing a […]

Precious Swan

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[Spoilers included.] There is a painful scene in the critically acclaimed 2009 movie Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, which shows our titular heroine (played by Oscar-nominated Gabourey Sidibe) gazing into a mirror and imagining a slender white girl gazing back at her. In the mind of Precious, a 16-year-old poor, black, obese […]

Am I The Only Feminist Who Liked Perry’s “For Colored Girls”?

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I doubt that I am, and judging from the mostly black female audience that filled the theater where I watched Tyler Perry’s film adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s celebrated “choreopoem,” I believe the word-of-mouth among black women is that Perry got more things right than wrong in presenting the classic narrative on black women’s blues. Other […]

Black-Grrl Power: Willow Smith and Sesame Street

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There has been quite the response–supportive and enthusiastic–to Sesame Street‘s ode to loving black girls’ hair, and it’s deserved: Not since bell hooks’ children’s book Happy to Be Nappy has there been such an enthusiastic celebration of black hair for kids. For so many of us black women, who grew up with external messages informing […]

What Would bell hooks Say?

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Recently it had dawned on me that a significant voice in black feminist cultural criticism had virtually disappeared from academic and liberal public media. In the previous decade, bell hooks (née Gloria Watkins) eagerly shared her thoughts with us on Oprah Winfrey, Spike Lee, the Anita Hill vs. Clarence Thomas Senate hearings, art, Madonna and the […]