Archive for Media

Mommas Boys – How It All Began

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 13, 2009 by thebibliophile
On December 16th, NBC aired “Momma’s Boy’s” a show that features 3 men below the age of 30 and their mother’s all trying to find the self-proclaimed “momma’s boys”, mates. The boys, follow the advice of their mothers, and try to balance their attractions and interests, with their mother’s desires for wholesome, kind womyn – womyn, whom they’d like to be very similar to who they are.
But the real jump off from the show has come from Khalood Bojanowski, an Iraqi-American womyn, participating with her 21-year old son, Jojo. Known as Mrs. B on the program, she bring a whole new set of attributes to “hockey moms,” when Mrs. B introduced herself, by listing in callous and inappropriate detail, all the womyn who would not suit her son. From “a Black,” to a “fat one,” to Jewish womyn, Mrs. B’s list is as extensive as it is representative of her internalized oppression. See for yourself:

Mommas Boys – Bitch, Are you crazy? (12/16)

[clearspring_widget title=”Mommas Boys – Bitch, Are you crazy? (12/16)” wid=”4727a250e66f9723″ pid=”496ccda46652caf3″ width=”384″ height=”283″ domain=””]

Video Recaps | Full Episodes | Webisodes

In a previous post – focusing on the only self-identified Latina in the group in the group of womyn on “Momma’s Boy,” it was clear this show would have plenty of fodder. The womyn I focused on had a fantastic quote about a certain part of anatomy she has on loan from men. 

The show hasn’t disappointed: it’s a hot mess of internalized oppression, which lends itself, in fact compels you, to analyze. From the uncomfortably close relationships between mother and son, to the clear patriarchal associations and structures it supports, “Momma’s Boys,” provides at least a Master’s level worth of foolishness, from which you could get a degree in “whack cultural ish that Americans aren’t necessarily watching, but which some folks are still acting up on.”

In the above video, it’s interesting to watch as each group of womyn hears her group named. Mrs. B starts with hair and “boobs,” and then like a train careening through a station she goes straight from hair and boobs to “a Jewish or a Black.” An interesting mental leap, that tellingly links certain beauty attributes with identities, locking and linking the “wrong” hair and boobs, with Mrs. B’s feeling of the wrong races and ethnicities. She then transitions back to labeling body type. I think, Mrs. B. is interchangeably using pheno and body type with race and ethnicity. As the womyn begin to fret, Camilla, a Black womyn keeps her cool, explaining “racism isn’t dead.” Sure ‘nough.

While shocking to most politically correct and culturally fluent Americans (some of whom are genuinely shocked and some of whom know to seem “shocked”), the reactions are staggered. It’s pretty interesting to watch the reactions cascade.

When one considers the statistics around Black womyn and marriage, namely that only 1 in 4 Black womyn is married by the age of 40, this scene to me, represents the ways in which Black womyn are removed from the “competition of mating,” often because of stereotypes and deeply embedded racism – being propagated, often times, by other womyn.  This is where superficially – and in all the wrong ways, we can see “feminism is to lavender, as womynism is to purple.” Sure by the end of Mrs. B’s rant everyone is upset – but no one leaves the competition, none of the white womyn featured on camera decide to boycott or confront Mrs. B, in fact it’s only the womyn of color, whom Mrs. B has dehumanized most forcefully, who ultimately end up engaging with her most frequently. Ironically, it is Black womyn whom Mrs. B cries to and with. The other mothers, even caring mothering Esther, whom Mrs. B blatantly dismissed with her “not a Jewish one” do nothing to confront her. Though in the case of Esther, and considering her recent behavior, perhaps she thought: “Yes! All the Jewish womyn are for my Robbie.” But even if the other mothers wouldn’t address a personal offense, neither did Lorraine or Esther assuage the hurt feelings of the womyn of color. None of them pull Mrs. B aside to address her blatant racism: it’s not their problem; not personally anyway.

I recognize, on a show of this very low low caliber, such solidarity is a tall order; nevertheless, as a microcosm of deeply immature people, one must wonder: in the arena of sexual politics, is the lack of solidarity yet another example of ways in which womyn of color and white womyn are divided by racialized sexism/sexualized racism? In other words, in the competition for sexual attention, equity, and access to mates, in which all people ultimately compete on some level, are womyn of color disenfranchised because of the way that desire is politicized?

Much attention has been given to Mrs. B’s overtly racist beliefs and behavior, but Esther, in recent episodes – especially in this Monday’s (1/12) episode, evidenced significant distain for Camilla, the womyn of color whom her son Rob seems clearly and genuinely – as genuine as it can be on a show where your first date is in the Virgin Islands, attracted to, on the show.  Esther frames her discomfort with Camilla  as a concern that Camilla would be unable to be a good steward of Rob’s  faith. Moreover, she says that Rob as the descendant of two pairs of Holocaust surviving grandparents, would be neglecting a very important part of his history, by not marrying a Jewish womyn. I suppose Esther isn’t interested in winning the oppression lottery by combining the oppressed history of Jewish people and Black people. Esther is clear about her commitment to her son marrying a womyn who can continue the cultural traditions of her ethnicity and family.  And she has also begun to say, that it would just “be easier,” and “more comfortable,” to be with someone who knows Jewish traditions. Nevermind, that not all Jewish people practice the same cultural traditions – Ashkenazi Jewish people, Sephardic Jewish people, Latin-American Jewish people, Reformed, Conservative, Orthodox. The group from which Esther wants her future daughter in-law to come, is not monolithic.

At the beginning of the show, Esther’s desire for a Jewish womyn, seemed benign – a request or suggestion. As the show has progressed, Esther’s request has morphed into rhetoric. She sounds more and more like a polished Mrs. B – both after all are extremely threatened by the idea of their sons with Black womyn; both cite their reasons as being the protection of their culture (Black womyn, apparently are extremely destructive of culture) – without apparently understanding anything (real) about Black cutlures; both are associating their son’s desire of Black womyn as deviant or abnormal; both clearly take the attraction and connection to a Black womyn as a direct rejection of themselves. Yet Esther, at first, and in large part, seemed mostly committed to continuing a rich cultural heritage – not in excluding a particular racial or ethnic group. In the bright light of Mrs. B’s clear internalized oppression and racism, Esther’s preference wasn’t even a pinprick of light.

While we were all paying attention to Mrs. B’s overt racism – a racism borne out of ignorance, insecurity and deeply embedded internalized oppression, Esther’s more insiduous distaste and concern is cloaked in what appears (and I would argue is to a point) an acceptable desire to have her faith/ethnicity continued. It becomes apparent, however, that Esther is using “a womyn who shares our faith,” as a code to exclude Black womyn. And it is Black womyn Esther wants to exclude. The doctor whom Robbie liked was also not Jewish (but did have a Jewish grandmother, I believe), but as Esther exclaimed, “a doctor!” In other words, the class and professional prestige outweighed the cultural demand. To me, this makes Esther’s stance more than a little shaky.

I’m reminded of an Essence Magazinearticle a few years ago, that called for Black womyn to teach their sons to marry Black womyn. Which got me thinking: maybe Esther is on to something. She is insistent on a cultural practice of carrying on tradition. Maybe her insistence, isn’t so different from womyn of color’s insistence about marrying others from the same ethnic/racial group, or their anger when men of color marry womyn outside of the ethnic/racial group. Yet, when Black womyn, in particular say such things, its turned back as, “you’re just upset no one wants you,” – personalized, as opposed to reflecting on the racist politics that are increasingly embedded in sexual desire. In the end though, we love who we love – and Camilla has made a concerted effort to be respectful and thoughtful – carefully watching the Hanukkah traditions and being more than willing to learn; overturning Esther’s assertion that a Black womyn wouldn’t respect of carry on the family traditions.  And she and Rob are (gasp!) sweet in a reality t.v. way with one another. Meanwhile, Esther’s hand-picked Lauren, doesn’t seem that interested in “her Robbie” – and seems instead content to let her race and class privilege carry her through the show, even without developing a connection with Rob.

So, where is the line? Esther’s request comes from a deep commitment to continue the traditions of her faith, but it is also sitting in the same room, sharing the same couch, with her racism – producing a deep discomfort with Black womyn. It offers a quandary of sorts: the assumption has been that many Jewish Americans, understanding the Holocaust, oppression, and exclusion, have a natural kinship to Black people (and vice-versa). Jewish Americans participated in the Civil Rights Movement and have undoubtedly been allies during and through many struggles for equity in the U.S. And like many people of color, particularly Black people, Jewish Americans have watched as assimilation and integration have eroded cultural heritage. Part of that erosion for both Black people and Jewish people in America, may be the integration of internalized oppression. In other words: Black folks continue with the internalized oppression that teaches us not to love who we are, while also participating in “double-consciousness”; Jewish Americans, in a process of cultural shedding and assimilation, are becoming more traditionally white, by integrating ideologies of white supremacy borrowed from U.S. culture – and increasingly marrying outside of their faith.

Throughout  history Black womyn have been exploited – tricked, trapped and abused, but in the cultural lexicon of oppressive fantasies about womyn, no fantasies (and let’s be clear, “Momma’s Boys is a fantasy) see Black womyn as great partners – wifey material, for real. That’s why Black womyn never make it on reality shows that are selling fantasies of family and desire.

Maybe our new Obama Camelot will change that…


Imperialism Becomes a Born-Again Virgin, But Will Turn Tricks for Meat

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 9, 2009 by thebibliophile

Burger King's Mascot - fittingly the King himself.

Burger King, which has a  small cult following among advertising gurus, for its quirky, odd, and (to some) increasingly bizarre commercials released a series of “Whopper Virgin” commercials in the U.S this December. In addition to the documentary-style commercials, Burger King has released a behind the scenes making of the “Whopper Virgin” documentary.

The basic premise of the commercials, is that the only way to have a “true” taste test, is to have so-called “whopper virgins,” try the whopper (Burger King) and the Big Mac (McDonald’s). What’s a “whopper virgin” you ask? According to  Burger King, it’s any one who’s never had Americanized food – specifically a person who’s never had a burger. Or as I like to think about it, people who have not been exposed to artery clogging, likely to kill you, over-processed and chemicalized food, which here in the U.S. we call hamburger meat.

The Burger King film crew runs the “test,” in a Thai Hmong village, a small village in Transylvania, and an Inuit village – encouraging all of the participants to try the whopper, while they record the responses, which vary from confusion about how to eat the whopper, to general disgust about what it is, to enjoyment and curiosity. And it’s all done with an eye for anthropological exploitation.

When I first saw these I was fascinated, trying to figure out what was going on – were Americans being challenged about our assumptions about food? Was there a larger commentary on how we think of food? Was Burger King going to support these small villages? No. Burger King wants to show you that somehow, although many of those featured, eat far healthier food than many of us do in the U.S. , somehow the ultimate symbol of American food, the “burger,” – and how we eat it, is superior to how other people eat around the world.

I guess imperialism is real hungry these days, and busy learning how to turn new tricks. It is so self-explanatory as to why this is whack, that I will stop with the commentary right here. Here are the “Whopper Virgins” commercial released in the U.S.

The Gaurdian ran an article about the ads, “Burger King’s ‘Whopper Virgins’ ads: just bad taste?”

Thai Hmong Village

Transylvania Village

This is “The Making of Whopper Virgins”

Flying while High: Racial Profiling on AirTran Airlines

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 3, 2009 by thebibliophile

This ABC broadcast features an interview with the family that was taken off of an AirTran flight from DCA to Florida. The full story entitled, “9 Muslim Passengers Removed From Jet,” appears on The Washington Post site today.  According to the article,

“At the end of the day, people got on and made comments they shouldn’t have made on the airplane, and other people heard them,” Hutcheson said. “Other people heard them, misconstrued them. It just so happened these people were of Muslim faith and appearance. It escalated, it got out of hand and everyone took precautions.”

A Muslim family was removed from an AirTran flight after a conversation about the safest place to sit.

Here’s the issue: I hear people make all kinds of crazy remarks at the airport – even about their safety, and no one does anything. This family didn’t make comments that any family might make about the safety of flying – especially when doing so with young children. Instead, based on their appearance, identity and race, passengers assumed they were a threat. It didn’t “just so happen,” that passengers, were “suspicious” of this particular family. In many ways, it makes sense: at the height of violence between Hamas and Israel, we have been primed for inappropriate stereotypical thinking about Muslim people.

Harvard University has developed a tool specifically to observe our unconscious biases, it’s called the Implicit Association Test. The test is an interactive web tool. If you have doubts about implicit bias (your own or others) or are just curious, take the Arab-Muslim IAT.

What’s even more telling is the title of the article, “9 Muslim Passengers,” which obfuscates the fact that of those passengers, three were children, none over the age of 7 and one a toddler. It’s far less (or more, depending on whome you ask)  incendiary perhaps, to say “9 Muslim Passengers,” as opposed to properly identifying those nine people removed from the airplane, as what they are – a family. Is part of our racist fantasy about Muslim people, that they are a threat, will certainly try to kill us – taking us, them, and their children? Our world has seen many despicable terrors,  actions we believe impossible. What kind of time in the world have we come to, when we can look at a family, boarding a plane, wondering about the safety of those they love, and see them as meaning harm? Is that a response to the times or a response to our socialized beliefs about “the other”?

In several of the articles I’ve read reporting on the story, many make mention that “nine Muslims, eight of them U.S.-born,” as if being Muslim and U.S. born are mutually exclusive. One can’t possibly be U.S.-born and also be Muslim; there’s a need somehow, the articles imply, to identify that Muslims can be, and in fact many are, U.S.-born and U.S. citizens. As one of the family members said, ‘we’re from Detroit.” And if ever there was an American city right now, with its economic woes, and the heart of the auto industry located in its midst, it’s Detroit.

AirTran and TSA are working hard to make this the family’s fault – that they said something inappropriate. What again, is inappropriate about asking where it’s safest to be on a plane? I think about safety everytime I fly. It’s why I like to sit over the wing (structurally sound, near the emergency exit). The TSA is trying to spin this as an example of security working, someone heard something, and alerted the right people, and protocol was followed. Yet, if the Irfran family were really a threat, shouldn’t an airline screening, before  they went to the airport have spotlighted any possible threat? The real threat is the very real danger of our stereotypical and racist thinking.

If there were any doubt that people of color need to build solidarity, we’ve been getting lots of reminders lately. This is an opportunity, particularly for Black folks, to acknowledge that our experience, while extraordinarily unique, is part of a larger foundation which has been used as a model for many global structures of racism and oppression that have impacted how all people of color and many oppressed people are treated. Racial profiling happens to those identified as “the other,” whether they are Driving While Black, Flying While Muslim, Living While Latino.   Three words: critical race theory. Know about it.

Professor Patricia Hill Collins describes CRT as drawing “upon paradigms of intersectionality. Recognizing that race and racism work with and through gender, ethnicity, class, sexuality and/or nation as systems of power, contemporary critical race theory often relies upon and/or investigates these intersections.”

To my fellow people of color, South Asians, faithful Muslims, I certainly hope that 2009 will be a turning point, where we truly look at one another and “see past the color of someone’s skin, to the content of their character.” Electing Barak Obama is a powerful leap to the side of equity, yet it will take patience and a good dose of truth-telling, seeking, and witnessing, as we wait for people to get their minds right.  In the words of Gloria Anzaldua :

Theory, then, is a set of knowledges. Some of these knowledges have been kept from us – entry into some preofessions and avademia denied us. Because we are not allowed to enter discourse, because we are often disqualified and excluded from it, becasue what passes for theory these days is forbidden territory for us, it is vital that we occupy theorizing space. (Anzaldua, 1990)

 Critical Race Theory Resources

Additional Articles:

Racial Profiling on AirTran Airlines

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 2, 2009 by thebibliophile

ABC is reporting that a South Asian/Indian American family was removed from a flight from Washington’s National Airport (DCA) headed to Orlando, FL for vacation. The family, reported as two brothers, both from Detroit, MI, and their wives and children, were removed because passengers apparently reported they made comments about the safest place to be when on a plane. The families, in which both  wives wore the traditional hijab which many (but certainly not all) Muslim womyn wear, were removed from the flight, and prevented from re-booking once all of the plane’s luggage was searched and they were cleared. Instead the family had to book on another flight in order to enjoy their family vacation.

Seems like a pretty blatant example of racial profiling! I will certainly be following this story.