Mommas Boys – Bitch, Are you crazy? (12/16)
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. No..no..okay. 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…