Tag Archives: R. Kelly

When Keeping It Real is Not Enuf: A New Years Meditation

Ani Meme_2

At the top of the new year, Real Colored Girls have taken a moment to reflect on the metaphysics of realness, that is, how realness operates in the world and what, exactly, makes us so real. This year, one of our meditations will be around making distinctions between and within the multiple levels of realness that RCG engages in our pop culture political commentary. We’ve prioritized these levels of reality as: the Realest, the Really Real and the mere Real.


For us, the Realest represents the power structures that control the processes of creation and dissemination of Black women’s images that impact how we are perceived within the human cipher. The goal of our work is to disrupt the systems that construct and reiterate the stereotypes that make it possible for us to be interpreted, for example, as a deadly threat (in the case of Renisha McBride) or infinitely molestable (the alarming rates of sexual violence against Black women come to mind). The Realest is concerned with the ways in which hegemonic* archetypes of Black women exist in the cultural imaginary.

RKellyThe Really Real is pronounced in, for example, our relationship to the Black communities defense of and/or continued acceptance of R. Kelly, or the way in which mainstream capitalist hip hop’s persistent degradation of Black women in its lyrics, videos and misogynist ethic has become, by now, an accepted cultural phenomenon.  The Really Real is so because it is extraordinarily painful on both the material and psychic levels, and we see the daily impact of the degradation of our innocence, sexualities, bodies and self-esteem on both the girls and grown women in our ciphers. Moreover, we believe that there is a direct parallel between the way that black women feel about ourselves and our participation in the political processes that govern our lives.

The Real are those things that exist and impact us but, more often, they happen at a distance. This distance can be practical, physical, virtual, emotional and/or spiritual. Examples of the Real, in terms of pop culture issues impacting Black women, include:

  • whether or not Saturday Night Live hires a black woman for their show;

  • when white feminist bloggers like Meghan Murphy start an all-out Twitter war with women of color by belittling our cyber feminist activism and crying foul when we call them out for their bad racial politics; and

  • the brouhaha around Ani DiFranco’s wholistically wack organization of and subsequent sorry-not-sorry “no-pology” for the white women’s feminist song-writing retreat she scheduled to take place on a slave plantation.

Although these issues are real we find that they reflect race and engage Black women in ways that center whiteness, white narcissism, white denial, white guilt, white pathology and white uses of power. All issues deserving of critique, but not necessarily ones behind which we’ll throw the full weight of our intellectual and creative deconstruction.

Our creative energies are directed toward the ‘reinstatement of Black women to our original archetypes’. This intention is what distinguishes the ‘more real’ from the ‘less real’ for us.  We’re not as much interested in bickering with white women or demanding that they or anyone acknowledge our pain, our beauty or our humanity. Our realness is located in subverting the systems that construct the dynamics of privilege that allow anyone to get cray then whine for forgiveness and unity when their shit gets called out. The amount of energy exerted in responding to the racial foolishness of white folk, in particular, is a reminder that we cannot continue to ask “how high” when they say “jump” on some crazy race bullshit – let them do that work. There is a critical mass of white anti-racists who have the capacity to call folk out on their problematic race shit. RCG calls upon Black folk to discontinue operating on the level of the mere ‘Real’ as this takes us away from the ‘Realist’ creative work of visioning new ways of living, being and healing.

From the bad behavior that some in our community be savin’ on, to the Ani debates, to white feminist fuck ups in general and the entire kitchen sink of white folks centering themselves in ways that don’t do anything for anyone: these are not the questions we are asking in 2014.

Photo Credit: Albert Sanchez via Mother Jones; BlackCulture.com; Radio.com

* Click here to learn more about our use of the term “hegemony.”

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Ratchet Me This: How Do We Ride For Pleasure In a Pimp Culture?


First things first: we are not talking to Jamilah-come-lately. If you ain’t been boycottin’ R. Kelly since Aaliyah was 14, if you even needed to see the piss tapes to persuade you further, if Kevin Powell’s BK Nation petition was your entry into this conversation, you ain’t got the answers.

Second: if you’re trying to engage in an analysis of Black women’s sexuality, without acknowledging the role of pimp culture in your framing, you ain’t been doin’ the education.

‘Pimp culture’ is the umbrella under which we map the interlocking systems of oppression that create the material conditions under which Black women experience bodily and psychic harm. Vestiges of the gator-wearing, fur cape-lined pimp show up in our private and public spaces and we feel the brunt of his solid gold cane in our experiences of mass culture apparatuses. Pimp culture employs white supremacy, misogyny, racism, homophobia and the dogma of rugged individualism to physically and psychically undermine our sense of self, diminishing our capacity for self-determination.

Pimp culture is in line with other terms used in anti-violence discourse – sexual violence, culture of violence, rape culture. Yet, in the Black feminist tradition, we use the term to center the unique experiences of Black women and signal the specific forms of knowledge that we bring in understanding the depths of physical violence and psychic trauma on individual and societal levels.

By Jess Pinkham _DSC9539.NEFCollectively, these forces show up as, for example, the vicious maligning of nine-year old Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis who was “jokingly” called a cunt by a major news media outlet. The sexualized verbal battery of a Black girl child, on the public stage, in her moment of glory, was an act of psychic aggression meant to humiliate Black girls and women, while underscoring that in pimp culture we are primed to be sexually exploited even in our most innocent moments. The language used was an attempt by pimp culture to turn a Black girl child out as a sexual spectacle, reminding those of us who are grown that we don’t own the mechanisms of our representation, nor do we have the allegiance of anyone in power who will ride for us.

Many of the comments on our first blog, “The Problem with BeyHive Bottom Bitch Feminism,” along with dialogues in the Twitterverse, support the idea that we should celebrate the presentation of sexual pleasure by Black women, especially when it’s done inside of marriage. In an effort to subvert the politics of respectability, some Black feminist hash-taggers have relied on strategic amnesia that discounts the reality of the material conditions of our sexual lives. To wit:

Whenever we consider Black women on stage, we also consider the auction block. When we think of public displays of Black female sexuality, Saartje Baartman isn’t far from our minds. When Black women voluntarily show “the actual inside[s] of [our] vagina” to an audience of strangers and peeping Toms, the torture of Anarcha Wescott takes center stage. Sexual violence is not a joke. We breathe these histories alongside our freedoms, which interrupt any fantasies of an ahistoric sexuality and make us suspicious and critical like a mutha.

Real Colored Girls are serving notice: game recognize game, and we are not here for corporate entities to consume our bodies, shit them out, repackage and sell them back to us as avatars for the music industrial complex. RCG are committed to defining healthy, loving, kinky, freaky, juicy, queer, bi and hetero sexualities for Black women. We are most concerned with publicly taking care of Black women’s sexuality by addressing historical and present trauma and arguing for the creation of a cultural environment in which it is safe for us to express ourselves sensually and sexually.

A cadre of Black feminists and Black women sympathizers (those who don’t proclaim to be feminist but ride for Black women) are calling for a “pleasure principle” that creates space in pop culture for Black women to express empowered sexualities. Any set of propositions that seeks to determine the fundamental basis for our sexual expression must consider the structural conditions under which said propositions are engineered. Pop cultural texts are produced inside of this context, and failing to acknowledge that in your analysis limits the work of dismantling the structures of pimp culture. Twerk it out.

Real Colored Girls encourages the communities of folk engaged in recent discussions about this work to move beyond Bey and consider what this moment has triggered around the presentation of Black female sexualities. Beyonce seems to have mastered the impossible, given the realities for most Black women in the U.S. – taking charge of her cultural production. Close reads of her recent and past work from writers Emily J. Lordi and Daphne Brooks invite us to consider the complex challenges for Black women artists. Even though Beyoncé is suspiciously sexy and joyfully raunchy, it would take a contortionist to situate her performances as a safe & empowered representation of Black women’s sexualities. Beyonce is a product of the hip hop generation – she woke up like that. In contracting with pop culture to distribute feminism, have we diluted the struggle of our Black feminist foremothers? For RCG, this is about the political economy of culture – how global corporate structures are not the context for transformative revolutionary action, and we shouldn’t look to them for our politics.

Our dream is for a revolution for Black women and our sexualities. As Mother bell exhorts, living out this dream requires us to do,

…the critical project of openly interrogating and exploring representations of black female sexuality as they appear everywhere, especially in popular culture.

Real Colored Girls are willing to ride for our radical politic, while acknowledging our privileges as artists and academics. We promote an oppositional consciousness that imagines radical spaces for sexual expression – physical, virtual and spiritual – which is risky and not without sacrifice. We call upon the lives and recorded texts of womanists and Black feminists as scripture and theory in the flesh.

roll-callAudre Lorde, bell hooks, Angela Davis, Toni Cade Bambara, Alice Walker, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Barbara Christian, June Jordan, Michele Wallace, Harriet Tubman, Patricia Hill Collins, Sojourner Truth, M. Jacqui Alexander, Zora Neale Hurston, Sonia Sanchez, Toni Morrison, et. al.

bell hooks cautions that Black women,

…haven’t as a group really carved out different ways to live our lives.

This is an amazing opportunity to do this work. In the spirit of loving Black women, we invite interventions that construct a post-capitalist imagination in which to dream ourselves whole.



Photo Credits: Bridge to Freedom FoundationTrey Anthony

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