Collins published “Get Your Freak on: Sex, Babies, and Images of Black Femininity” in her book, Black Sexual Politics, in 2004. The media examples she uses to discuss “controlling images” of Black working-class and middle-class womanhood are drawn largely from the 1990s. Use a more recent example of commodified Black culture (music, TV, film, celebrity culture) to comment on one or more of the “controlling images” discussed by Collins.
- Week 6 Day 1 Discussion Question 3
- Week 6 Day 1 Discussion Question 5
2 thoughts on “Week 6 Day 1 Discussion Question 4”
Moonlight (2016) is an Oscar Best Picture-winning coming-of-age story about a Black gay boy named Chiron who lives in Liberty City, Florida. The movie presents a portrait of Black motherhood in line with Collins’ critiques of representations of working-class Black motherhood. Chiron’s mom Paula, played by Naomie Harris, first appears in the film as an authoritative parent, concerned about her son’s whereabouts while still acting affectionately toward him. In her next scene, however, she seems to have begun secretly dabbling in drugs, and when he catches a glimpse, she berates him. As the story jumps through time, in almost every one of her scenes thereafter, Paula is always portrayed as strung out on drugs, negligent, and cruel to Chiron, compounding his already difficult bullying situation at school.
Paula embodies one facet of the “Bad Black Mother” stereotype posited by Collins, that of the “addicted…woman…demonized as ‘crack mothers’ whose selfishness and criminality punished their children” (Collins 131). Her neglect deeply affects Chiron who seeks a “true,” benevolent family in Juan (Mahershala Ali) and Teresa (Janelle Monáe). Representations of Black women as “crack mothers” like this one, Collins writes, have helped shape punitive fetal rights policy in a way that disproportionately targets Black women. She notes that society does not see Black women as appropriate mothers regardless, and Paula’s characterization affirms this.
A more recent example of commodified Black culture and “controlling images” of Black womanhood discussed by Collins is American singer-songwriter Ne-Yo claiming that “if women want men to stop calling you b*tches, they should stop dancing to the records”. In sharing his thoughts about misogyny within the R&B world, he stated that women are “halfway” responsible for the continuation of anti-feminist lyrics. In other words, Ne-Yo blamed women for men’s unacceptable behavior. This is a prime example of not only the language and implications of the word b*tch but also a prime example of men avoiding responsibility by placing it on women. Just because a woman is dancing to music, doesn’t mean it is acceptable to call women b*tches. Ne-Yo’s comments demonstrate how representations of Black women as bitches within popular culture are ultimately designed to “defeminize and demonize” them, which is exactly what Collins alludes to in her article (specifically the section titled “Bitches” and Bad (Black) Mothers: Images of Working-Class Black Women”).
Another recent example is the arrest of American professional basketball player Brittney Griner in Russia over alleged drug charges. Griner, a seven-time WNBA All-Star and 2012 Best Female Athlete ESPY award winner, was detained after carrying vaporizer cartridges containing hashish oil, which is an illegal substance in Russia and is facing up to 10 years in prison. There is significant concern that Russia is using Griner as leverage in response to the Western sanctions imposed in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and could be used as a “high-profile hostage”. According to politicians, it’s going to be very difficult to get Griner out of Russia, given the strained diplomatic relations between US and Russia at the moment. The entire reason she was in Russia in the first place has to do with the gender pay hap in US basketball. Despite her being a two-time Olympic basketball gold medalist and a major standout player within the WNBA, Griner has to play overseas during the off-season to make more money. The only reason why more than half of WNBA players (including legends Diana Taurasi and Candace Parker) play overseas is that they earn more of an income abroad than they would if they stayed in the US. This incident truly exposes the absurd difference in the salaries earned by male NBA players and WNBA players. Not only does Griner’s arrest uncover details surrounding US basketball pay gaps, but it also puts Griner’s identity as a Black queer woman in the limelight. Russia has harsh laws and rules relating to the LGBTQ community that stimulate discrimination, harassment, and suppression. If Griner has to carry out a 10-year sentence in Russia, she will likely face these hardships. This recent news story ties together with what Collins has to say about gender, sexual orientation, wage gaps, and other “controlling images” that surround Black women athletes in particular.