“Dignity means everything to the black middle class, especially where their daughters are concerned. Our parents picked their musical selections as much for the artist’s image as for their music: Anita Baker and Whitney Houston were fine, Vanity 6 and Salt ‘n Pepa were not. I understand their sentiments. Outside was a culture that derided black girls as hoes and welfare queens. Inside we were fed “positive” messages, by black women who swanned around in gowns and updos — female performativity, as Judith Butler would have called it. They were overly feminine and overly dignified so as to prepare us for a world that believed we were neither. Before we went out into the world, we needed them to show us how to behave.That’s why we took Whitney’s decline so personally. Our model wasn’t supposed to deviate from the script. Now who would show us how to be beautiful and poised? If she could succumb to the familiar stereotypes — the drugs and the thugs — what in the world would become of us?”—
I most recently noticed the impact that the openness of artists like Nicki Minaj to sexual ambiguity is having when I returned to my neighborhood in the Bronx after a two year stint living in Costa Rica. In that brief period away I realized much had changed: men in the hood were wearing tight jeans, 80s style had come back in full effect, and there was a growing visibility of what I dubbed “neo-soul Black hipsters.” I also noticed an abundance of pretty teenage girls on the 4, 6, and D trains to the Bronx with their equally handsome boyfriends who on second glance, and sometimes fourth and fifth, I realized were actually two beautiful girls unabashedly holding hands, in the midst of quiet embraces, or giving voyeuristic displays passionate kissing.
A friend recently asked me: “Remember back in the day when there were no gay youth?” And I had to agree that I shared that memory. Of course it wasn’t that there were no gay youth, rather it was that they weren’t as visible, especially in our predominately Black and Latino neighborhoods. It was clear to me that a shift had occurred while I was away. Gay openness was becoming not only a thing of adult men and women in the West Village but also of urban Black and Latina youth in inner-city New York.
All in the same moment of my return, Nicki Minaj hit the scene hard. It may seem a little late to bring up Nicki Minaj and sexuality; however, I am not concerned with questions of Minaj’s own sexuality rather the way in which she reflects the openness towards diverse sexual orientations, ambiguity, gender play, and androgyny that I see around me, and growing, on inner New York City streets.
How are these people obsessed with marriage and two-parent households (only male/female partnerships, goes without saying) but opposed to sex ed and contraception? I have been trying to work out how this makes sense for years and I am not making any progress.
I disagree with a lot of the things Republicans think, but usually I can figure out why they think them. This one just does not compute.
“in 1965, after keeping a journal for seven years, i concluded that i had nothing to say. i gave up writing in my journal, not resuming until 1969. thus i became invisible even to myself. i didn’t know what i do now, that everyone has something to say, that you write to find out what it is. i didn’t see how the culture was erasing me, or how i was joining it to silence myself.”—
priscilla lang, “we called ourselves sisters,” in the feminist memoir project: voices from women’s liberation. i never have any idea what i’m talking about when i start. ”YOU WRITE TO FIND OUT WHAT IT IS.” (via karaj)