From a feminist gaze: Love & Hip-Hop Atlanta

Jul 02, 2012 @ 12:30 pm | By TheFeministGriote | 0 Comments

Mona Scott-Young the executive producer of Love & Hip-Hop has outdone herself. Her second installment of Love & Hip-Hop which takes place in Atlanta, is a controversial hit from the gate. The show will be airing it’s third episode tonight and already it has garnered much negative criticism from every corner of the web.

Things such as transphobic comments that were rampant on Twitter, and on blog sites after the debut episode. The vile “tranny” comments were being assailed at the cast member Joseline, who is the embodiment of the stereotypical ‘muy caliente Latina.’ Joseline after merciless online bullying and slander felt forced, to twitpic and release a video of herself in full nudity, to prove her femaleness. As a trans ally and woman, I felt sad for Joseline. No woman should ever have to prove how “real” she is to satisfy the gender policing vampires! Joseline now joins the ranks of celebs like Serena Williams and Ciara whose bodies are always being policed, and criticized for not being soft or feminine enough.

Then of course there is Mama Dee who is an ex-pimp and drug dealer. Mama Dee referenced her sons (rapper Lil Scrappy) ex girlfriend Diamond and said, that she was sorry that she did’t put her on the track (a corner/house where women are trafficked for sex). With all that said, I was actually surprised when I read there was already a petition to remove the show off the air.

Excerpt from petition..

We all know premium digital crack rock is ‘slanged’ in more digital hoods than VH1. We also know the problem is not just TV–it’s is a big, mean, social monster that we’ve gotta shoot down one non-violent bullet at a time. Nevertheless, somebody’s gotta be the face of this lovely movement. And since VH1 has chosen to give us yet another beautifully-blinged jewel of commercial exploitation (Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta), they might as well be the face of change. By the way, shout out to all African Americans who received Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta as their Juneteenth gift! You won and lost at the same time!

I will say ‘digital crack rock’ on the surface seems like a very funny and apt term to label the brand of reality tv that VH1 is peddling. But the crack epidemic has had and still has real societal and sociopolitical implications in the Black and brown communities. Whole families were decimated, neighborhoods were destroyed, children were born addicted, and lost their parents either to the prison industrial complex, HIV/AIDS, or the drug itself. “Reality tv” is not destroying the fabric of Black and brown communities. Therefore, I find the hyperbole to be both a bit extra and reckless.

I will admit the first time I heard the show BasketBall wives was being petitioned, I was happy and felt vindicated. I felt finally my fellow sisters of color were waking up. This time around  however, I found the petition against LHHA to be both funny, rather than political. After a couple of days of marinating on it, I don’t think I really support the efforts of the petition. Here are my reasons why:

  • I feel like it’s  gender policing women of color-The authors of the explicitly stated in the petition that, This isn’t a “Black or White” thing, this is a HUMAN thing…and we should all understand. So if it’s truly a human thing why not add Mob Wives into the the petition? Also since we are already poking the network giants, why not add other channels who do the same type of exploitation? It just seems that the underline premise of the petition is that WOC should govern themselves more “appropriately.” It appears that only specific types of women, and a a very specific type of audience is being being dissected and probed. I advocate for feminism, I want all women to win not just those who share my racial makeup.
  • The petition takes a very paternalistic approach- This is America not communist China. We don’t have government run television shows. People are entitled to watch what they want. Once again the authors of the petition state: That “turn off the TV/your kids’ TV if you don’t want to watch” argument doesn’t work here, VH1. A good number of the kids who are most at risk don’t have the luxury of living with parents who can just “turn off the TV”. Why? Because their parents are out working multiple jobs (thanks to this lovely thing called poverty), both parents are dead or in jail, or they’re raised by ill grandparents, relatives who aren’t that interested in their future, or foster parents who abuse them and only foster to collect a check. That statement seems to be riddled with stereotypes, the same type of stereotypes that the authors of this petition are claiming to be against. Just because a youth is poor, doesn’t mean they don’t have well intentioned adults in their lives who love them. I will give credence that the over generalization may very well fit the lives of some poor youths. However on the flip side, there are lots of parents who are present, that wouldn’t be opposed to their children watching the show. This assumption that BBW and LHHA is rotting the psyche and good nature of the poor is very problematic. Youth who live in poverty stricken neighborhoods or whose parents work ungodly hours have other salient issues that plague them. These youth have to deal with overcrowded dilapidated public schools, school curriculum’s that fail to prepare them for college or otherwise, crime infested neighborhoods, foreclosure, hunger, food deserts the list goes on. There are a million other pressing issues impeding the lives of poor youth of color, and reality tv doesn’t appear to be make the top 50 list. People can turn off  their tv’s. That is both the blessing and the curse of free will and living in a free society.
  • Fictive kinship trap- In my opinion the only reason we are sounding the trumpet on these shows is because we as Black folks are still very much afraid about what white people will think about us. Honestly if we weren’t  still trapped by the white gaze we wouldn’t care. As POC we have been socialized into a society that equates whiteness with being human, and everyone else is lesser than human, we are minor. Hence the problematic term minority. When the show “Jack Ass” was on the air, I didn’t see white people getting up in arms about that show. There was no petition stating, “oh no POC will think all white people engage in stupid pranks.”  I’ve watched the shows to “Catch a predator” and “Law & Order SVU” and the culprits are overwhelmingly white. There was no petition by white men stating, “these shows make us look like we are all pedophiles and rapists.” You want to know why that never happens because television, movies, print media, and online media shows the full scope of white people’s humanity. White people don’t care if other white people go on television and do stupid stuff, (queue Charlie Sheen) because there is no such thing as fictive kinship in white culture. As POC we need to stop thinking that everything another Black or brown person does is an indictment on our Blackness and browness. I know there are some white people who want to lump all Black people together, but those white people can’t be convinced to begin with. The sitting President of the United States is a Black man. A Black man who was been called tar baby by a chair member of The House, had a member of Congress call him a liar and heckle him while he was giving a speech, and had a sitting Governor wag her finger in his face. These very specific group of “white people” will always see Black and brown folks as a monolith. These group of whites will never respect us individually or as a community. As POC we must get to place where are okay with this reality and move on!
The problem is not VH1. I feel like attacking VH1 is no different than when Dolores Tucker the civil rights activist and politician tried to make hip-hop, and Tupac Shakur the embodiment of all that is bad in society. Attacking Vh1 is akin to putting a bandage on gangrene.I am not against people speaking their minds, nor am I against petitions or boycots. As POC we can’t just resort to always being reactionary. The Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie say this about stereotypes, The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”
Unless there is going to be total boycott that will a involve a Blackout of movies, television shows, print media, and online media forcing these media outlets to show all POC in a fair, and balanced way, then count me out. It is much easier to attack VH1 than commit to doing the work of raising consciousness. Raising consciouseness may mean you actually have to do some work other than sign a petition electronically.
Source of picture VH1 blog.


Categories: Pop-Culture Fodder

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