What do 90s rap and Tilda Swinton have in common?
January 30, 2011, 8:29 pm
Filed under: REBECCA | Tags: , , , , ,

A whole bunch, let me tell you! Let’s start with this interesting 1992 song:

In this song, singer Paris upholds the dignity of The Black Woman. As usual, I wonder: Is this paean sincere? Is he respecting this person as faulted and multifaceted, which is to say: Is he allowing her her humanity or setting her up as a god to be worshiped? The obvious problem with worshipping someone is how easily you set them up to be denigrated when they fail to be perfect. Deification and demonization are both forms of dehumanization. I am not the sacred mother; I am not the stupid cunt. I am a human.

For example: The scene in which an older woman washes the floor… the poor, hard-working woman martyr, selflessly killing herself so others (her male offspring?) may live. I often think that the idea of associating martyrdom with women (women suffering is good; women struggling against their insatiable, evil sexuality is good!) serves to, also, as usual, dehumanize us. Reminds me of this movie I just saw called I Am Love with Tilda Swinton.

In this big, Italian family melodrama with a heartfelt, androgynous Briton as its center, Tilda Swinton’s character is also a martyr for her cause: her lusts, her “faults” (leaving a mean old man for a sensitive young chef!) not being a Perfect Mother. And yet she’s the main character, and the director is a man. I wonder: We, the audience, sympathize with her, we (hopefully–all male and female viewers alike) identify with her but we still see that the WOMAN is BANISHED for being passionate, for refusing to be a staid blank anymore. It seems so often that the suffering woman character is superficially identified or sympathized with but still BANISHED. I wonder if Paris really cares for the plight of women as humans or just wants to reward them for their suffering and urge them to continue suffering because suffering women are honorable women.

The line “Runnin’ with women who don’t have respect for self And too foul to wanna get help” brings to mind the tired Madonna/Whore divide. I wonder if Paris glorifies the The Black Woman as a noble sufferer on one hand and disparages the “foul” non-self-respecting lower-case woman for being a big whore… when really, all women, humans, all of us aren’t noble OR foul, we’re everything. I don’t like the idea of exalting as ideal one variation of human, then speaking ill of some other “disgusting” variation of human who can’t care for herself, isn’t worth the scum on your shoe, etc. when this woman was probably just abused and hurt and hurt people hurt people. You only encourage the cycle of hurt by hurting people who’ve been hurt!

I can’t tell you, anonymous millions, how many times I’ve been told (circa 2005-2006) to respect myself. What did that mean? Where were my examples? I was directly and indirectly instructed to be a holy female martyr. If I degraded myself, I was told, then people would love me! Like the woman-proves-herself-to-man scene in Secretary where Maggie Gyllenhaal sits as if defiantly shackled to her lover’s desk, peeing all over herself until her lover realizes the magnitude of her devotion and cleans her up, brings her home and makes an honest woman of her.

Self-respect? I didn’t know the meaning of the hyphenated word! Self-denigration was modesty was goodness was lovability. How can you expect to tell someone one idea their whole life (hurt yourself for others, Black Woman/Rebecca/whomever) then expect them to understand the compound idea “self-respect”? You tell someone to LOOK (but not feel, because that idea is never discussed into reality) sexy and be attractive or no one will like them and do what men want (black men, Jewish men, men men men) because men deserve “respect” (by which we mean fettered loyalty) but FOR GODS SAKES, YOU DUMB BITCH, HAVE SOME SELF-RESPECT! No wonder we’re so confused, being pulled in all directions.


2 Comments so far
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great article rebecca


Comment by Dapo

Thank you kindly! Yours was entertaining and informative!

Comment by ducttapedance

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