‘Black Widow’ Versus The World-Part 2: Representation Matters

Three things:

This series is for every woman, and for every girl that still doesn’t see herself represented enough in mainstream media and film. This piece is for every Black girl, whom is now a Black woman, whom still doesn’t see enough of herself to be full. This piece is for my Best Friend, Marissa–the founder of The Awakenings Project.

If you have not read Part 1, click here.

I am a dedicated Blerd.

I was reading by 4, drawing by 6, writing by 8 and writing poetry by 10. I had a father that could quote Star Wars, loved science fiction, and taught me the world was bigger than Missouri. I had parents who never hid the fact that I was Black, whom never taught me that being Black was a bad thing.

I am also a Black woman, whom was once a Black girl, born in 1981. I remember what Disney was like before Princess Jasmine and Princess Tiana! I remember what it was like to not see anyone that looked like me–Black and girl–on television. I remember what it was like before the MCU was a thing, before the cultural event of Black Panther, and before the only goddess a Black girl saw was Ororo Monroe! I remember, and that wasn’t so long ago. With that said, and I say this with love–and the boldness that love gives: Marvel, especially the MCU, has an issue with powerful women. On, and off screen.

It is no secret that most of the female led movies Marvel has produced (before Black Widow) have not done that well. On of them in recent history is Dark Phoenix. In the comic, Jean Grey is an Omega level mutant (Google that), with rich backstory! And they took all that power and hallowed her out–in X-Men 3 and in her standalone movie! Do you know how frustrating it is to be a female Marvel fan and see this? And see it happen continually?! Yet, this plays into the other theme that is apparent in this movie as well–the world will continually try to assert itself among women and girls, telling them–us!–whom we should be.

Through the lens of Natasha Romanov we see exactly what it means to be under estimated, overlooked and ignored. When a girl becomes a woman and does not see herself in the world, how can she know what to become? Even in conversations with other male comic fans, I have heard them say this movie was ‘a throw away movie’ or ‘they should have told this story sooner’. Yeah. About that: PANDEMIC.

Nevermind the fact that Black Widow fits in right after/during Avengers: Civil War. Nevermind the fact that she is one of the more well known Avengers (even though Wasp is integral in forming of this group)! Nevermind there are little girls all over the world that made Nat at part of their girlhoods! You cannot take that from them! In the fallout of the inevitable greed that surrounds these superhero movies and their demand for ROI, we see that Scarlett Johannson is being seen as the villian for wanting her fair share of money from the Avengers franchise? Barring COVID-19, why can’t they pay Scarlett, but you take a WHOLE risk on Robert Downey, Jr? Oh, okay. Separate issue.

Yet, the MCU is now in Phase 4. And the people that should be sticking up for her aren’t–shocker there! However, to me this one of the reason why Marvel will not create/produce more female-lead movies! As diverse as the Marvel Universe (from Marvel Comics, the true source material for all of this!)is, it can be seen and assumed that misogyny is still in the room–right along with racism. These two things are always the enemy of representation!

There is no need to put forward what they do not believe will be profitable!

What can be done? Well, the writing rooms need to be more diverse. There need to be more female directors, producers, storyboard artists, and female characters cannot be ornamental until they are functional for the appeasing for the male plot! We are ornamental with out bodies being the focus, and not the talent (check the evolution of Nat’s outfits).

I want more back story about the Red Room; I want to know where the Black Widow came from. Whom was the first? These are things that I need to know, and are reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the show was so much better than that halfway good movie with Luke Perry)! Again, another conversation. Should this be a show? Maybe. But people need to remember the words of Queen B: “Who run the world? Girls.”

So, what do we need to do to run it? Write ourselves in it!

‘Black Widow’ Versus The World-Part 1: Meanings & Themes

Warning: This will contain spoilers.

Also, this series is dedicated to my best friend, Marissa–who’s nickname is Romanov.

I finally was able to watch Black Widow this week. I am glad of this, though. I was able to watch it alone, with all my girlhood, womanhood and writer self all in the same room. In watching Infinity War: Endgame, I (like every other MCU fan) was horrified at the loss of Natasha, rather than Clint, to get the Soul Stone.

Yes, I still feel away about this. But, let’s go on.

I have daughters whom are dedicated Marvel fans, and they were born during Phase 3! So, seeing–knowing!–that Natasha ‘Nat’ Romanov was getting her own movie–and Scarlett Johanssen was going to have Executive Producer credit? With a female director? For a Marvel movie? Oh, yes! Game changing! There is definitely a distinct difference when a woman directs a movie and when a man does. But, this? Oh, but this. Here are some of my take aways–and things that you might not have paid attention to.

1.) The rampant nature of the abuse of women and girls. All through the movie, we see just how easy it is to hurt women and girls. When Nat and Yelena run from the small force of Widows who come for them, one falls off the roof and breaks her tibia. She is told by the Red Room to terminate (kill herself). Though Nat tries to help, her free will has been hijacked. This also speaks to how suicide is till a problem among women, and how we can somehow feel as if no one can help us.

2.) Black women and girls are often the victims of human trafficking. Although the African-American/Widows whom are Black don’t have dominant screen time, but it points to just how easy it is to erase Black women and girls–and how no one looks for us, if they don’t look for us. There is also the creepy and telling line that Drestov says regarding how the world has too many girls, inferring they (read: we) are a wasted resource. Throwaways. Natasha hints to this as well as she confronts him before destroying the Red Room.

3.) Sexualizing of young women and girls. If you have watched the evolution of Black Widow’s outfits through the Avengers movies, you will notice just how her costume changed. How cleavage, and her figure were emphasized. I This movie, the uniforms at it were, are form-fitting, yes–but they are not overtly sexual.

4.) How we (the world) expects girls be self-sacrificing. From the first time Natasha kicks the gun out of the soldier’s hand to protect Yelena, Yelena blowing up the engine on the plane, we see that girls are ornamental, only being functional for a common goal or end. The theme of personhood, freedom, free will and the ownership of self are woven throughout the movie.

5.) We teach girls that pain is what strengthens them. Melina tells Natasha, “Don’t let them take your heart.” This is one of those sayings that I believe encourages girls to stay in tune with their emotions–they make you human. In the run of Black Widow through Phase 3, we do not see Natasha breakdown. We do not see her unravel! The last tears (or first tears) we see of Natasha was when she was crying in this mix of fear, rage and disbelief if was around her sister, Yelena. In becoming a woman, there are outrageous things that will happen to girls and in order to cope–we shut off.

We detach. We stuff down. We shift. We lie. We hide. We run. We self-destruct!

Melina’s reminder, even from this staged motherhood, is a reminder that shutting off never works–and should never been the long-term solution.

6.) Trauma bonding. “I cycled through the Red Room four times before you were born. Those walls are all I know.” When Alexei, Yelena, and Natasha find Melina we see just how trauma is two-fold, yet the same: how we hold together and what holds us together! From Yelena and Natasha fighting in Budapest, Melina alerting the Red Room where they are, Red Guardian bonding all his identity to Captain America (Steve Rogers), and the freed Widows not knowing what to do after being given said freedom. Trauma is unavoidable, unsustainable…but unavoidable.

7.) When women work together, they can do anything. What I loved about this movie–yes, loved!–is the relationship between Yelena and Natasha. I loved how Melina gave Natasha the rundown of the Red Room while prepping her what she’s about to face, and even how Taskmaster–Antonia, Drekov’s daughter–had to be freed from her own father and his desire to dominate women. The takeaway–when women of all walks of life work together–we can topple the toxic patriarchy.

Natasha Romanov deserved, and still deserves, so much more.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

#BlackBlogsMatter Challenge—Week 12 (2021)

Black women are some of the most incredible human beings on the face of the planet. We are. We are the Dora Milaje!

That Sisterhood, both mythic and ancient, bought by blood and time—we are amazing. That word Sis is ours! It is that recognition of each other, the divinity in each other—it is activated by the word Sis. 

That power cannot be wielded by unbelievers! It cannot be transferred by those who cannot see Black as divine. White women cannot have this space, accessing our love and power because she feels she can. This is ours! This space is ours! This love, this security, this inevitable protection in this space.

A Black woman is more that what she appears to be! And will always be! It is up to the Black women of this Sisterhood to approve the worthy of access to that word, that space, to those whose melanin quotient doesn’t match our own!

We own this space. 

We will not apologize. 

Your whiteness is not a guarantee for approval, access, and acceptance! We own us now. We are of our own purchase. We are Queens again, your fury our thrones.

The Life Of A Dangerous Black Girl-Lie #2: It Doesn’t Take All That!

The world loves to tell Black women and girls what they can and cannot do! It loves to define Black women and girls for what they believe they should be. I am not a should-be Black girl. I am not a should-be Black woman! I own all that I have gone through, all I have done, and I want all that I dream of being!

I own me on a level I couldn’t dream of before! I suppose inching towards 40 which has settled me in a way that I didn’t think I would reach yet. Yet, in the intersection of aging, motherhood and adulthood, I find myself confronting the need to hold my own space. There is a need to protect that space, and every footstep that goes into owning that. The lie that I break daily is that I “do too much” or “it doesn’t take all that.” But, it does! It does take all that–it takes every bit of THAT which makes me Black and woman and walking through the world!

There is a different level of moxie, chutzpah and bravado to be a Black girl in a world that either wants to be you, erase you or kill you! It take every bit of your THAT to walk through the world and not be overtaken by it! What is THAT you ask? THAT can be a myriad of things, but here are the three things that I have deduced THAT is: Voice. Style. Presence.

Voice. There is a power, a magic, that Black women have. There is a natural authority and sway we have. When we open our mouths at certain points, God will come out! And in that space, from that place of authority, people who don’t want to see or hear Black women–silence us. We get removed from rooms. We get ‘rescheduled.’ We get delegated. We get told that we ‘too loud.’ We are ‘too aggressive’. And then those accusations are met with rebuttal? Oh, then we are called ‘bitches’. As if that will make the roar soften because you call me a name! No. I’m too told to be stopped by that.

Style. The poet Nikki Giovanni talks about how divine this thing called style that Black folk have. The poet herself even said, “If the Black woman wasn’t born, she would have to be invented.” There is a power in this! There is something to Black women, whom bear Black girls who, too, will become Black women have that is indicative of self-expression. In a world which is bent toward erasure of anything it considers and aberration, Black women still are noticed–we can’t help but to be noticed! From hair, our nails, make up and shoes–to how will pull ourselves together for dinners, weddings or a night out–Black women have shaped, reinvented, and owned style from the first time we discovered color. This was before chattel slavery, dear ones.

Presence. I have been a tall girl my entire life. In quoting my aunt about the state of my body, she says it this way: “All you had all your life was legs and ass!” That’s a direct quote. Now, I stand 5 feet, 10 inches tall, and about 200 lbs. With the right outfit and shoes I am over 6 feet tall–you notice when I walk in a room. My mother tells me that a lady always has presence about her. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s until I realized what that meant. Presence is owning your life, experiences and all that your body is–stretch marks, muffin top, eyeglasses–whatever. The world doesn’t know what to do with a woman they are supposed to be ignore (let’s not forget we aren’t to be lusted after!), and it wants to erase! What do you do with a woman that you can’t help but see?

So yes, dear ones, it takes all of THAT. This life takes you owning your space. Amplifying your voice. It takes knowing who you are, and having your life not be defined by what other people can look or conceptualize you as! You make the boxes and draw outside of them!

Never let the world which can only take you in sips demand you give them a chaser! No! You have every right to be in this world–so be in it. Be. In. It.

From The Crates: 2014

Things I Ponder:
(c) JP Harris, Feb 2014

It is no secret lost my grandmother three months ago. She was 84. I was asked to help with the program arrangements, and my grandmother’s entire life was reduced to less than a page. Amazing.

I don’t want to leave this life with secrets to be sanitized on pretty paper. I want my children, grandchildren to know my life in scope. I want my experience to be gleaned from, and exercised. I want no unneeded mystique or pretense. Death.is silent in what dreams will come says Hamlet, but I want my loved and dearest to benefit from my years, not be mystifed by them. I wish to bridge the gap time produces between families.

I want to pass into eternity holding on to nothing but the Lord, protected by His grace. I don’t want to have folk police my legacy for fear my.links to another’s life to my life will tell on theirs.

Let my works speak for me.

No, Queen Bey Didn’t Have To Stand Up. We Do.

Our Beloved Queen makes even being an a firestorm hella elegant.

With that said, let me say something else first. I didn’t watch the 2020 Golden Globes because I think Ricky Gervais is a more palatable form of the demon Screwtape in the C.S. Lewis book, The Screwtape Letters. Life is hard enough–I don’t need extra shenanigans which is both toxic and crazy-making.

Now, as pumped as I was for Joaquin Phoenix, to win Best Actor in a Drama Motion Picture for JOKER, I was irritated to know the world seemed to be mad (again) that Beyonce did what she wanted to do. She chose not to stand when Joaquin’s name was announced.

According to The Griot, she did clap, but she did not stand. Beyonce was in attendance because her song, Spirit (from the album The Lion King: THE GIFT), was nominated for Best Original Song. Now, Joaquin stans are mad she didn’t stand, and insulting her acting ability. Okay. Whatever. But here’s what isn’t talked about:  sis had been drinking, and her dress was huge and maybe standing wasn’t what she really wanted to do. The doper part? The writer of The Griot article, Dawn Onley, can tell you:

She and Jay-Z came to the award ceremony with two bottles of Ace of Spades champagne, also known as Armand de Brignac, the champagne company that Jigga bought out back in 2014, according to Cosmopolitan. Their bodyguard carried the alcohol in for them.

So not only did Bey not stand, they were drinking, they were drinking. And they were also promoting their interests.

Win-win.

I get why the world hates Beyonce. And yet, she moves in grace despite of it! The thing that irritates me the most is people believing she should have stood up–because that’s just what you do at these events. She should be grateful to be in this space, right? She should just do as all the others do–Beyonce is in Rome, right? Do as the Roman do, right?
No.
This is the consistent issue surrounding Black people in White Spaces. The expectation is that all be done to the Master’s specificity:  no deviation, no independent thought. And definitely no room for plain ol’ ‘I just don’t want to.’
The other issue that needs to be address–which I try my best to bring attention to constantly–is this idea of invading White Spaces with more Black people! Any space a Black woman or man inhabits is already a Black Space. It cannot just be those at the intersections of Black, wealth and privilege to negotiate the terms of acceptability. It cannot just be expected that the interest of the unfortunate many be delegated to the advantageous!
We all can do something–we need to stop expecting other people to force that visibility.
Besides, Black women been standing/serving/fighting since our feet touched the waters of these shores called the Americas. I wouldn’t have stood up either.

Let’s Be Real About It, Girls Love Joe! They Loved Theodore Bundy, Too.

I have few guilty pleasures, fam. But one of them is infamous Netflix show, YOU. I must confess, I saw Season 1, before I read the first book. And I read the second book (Hidden Bodies) before Season 2 began not even a week ago!

But as dynamic as Penn Badgley is, his portrayal of Joseph “Joe” Goldberg is amazing and creepy AF! In the first season (I hadn’t read the book, mind you), I thought Joe was cute and smart and the fact he worked in a bookstore? Bonus.

How Kepnes wrote the book, and the writers crafted the story, you overlook the fact that Joe (in the words of the now deceased Guinevere Beck), “creeps into girls’ lives and violating the shit out of them!”

Let me just focus on the show, because the books is so much better, but bear with me.

In the age of instant access, Snapchat and Google Maps, it’s so easy to dismiss that dude Googled the girl–and then showed up at her house.

It’s easy to dismiss that dude followed her schedule through her public posts, and like just happened to show up where she would be at.

Fam. In a parallel universe (i.e. this reality), if a strange man shows up outside your house? You wouldn’t be utterly thrilled to say the least.

But, we love Joe!

He’s well read, handsome, simple, relatively good-natured and tries his best for the woman he’s with! He wants her happy, safe and cared for!

Now, these same things were said about Theodore Robert Bundy (read the Phantom Prince and watch The Bundy Tapes on Netflix).

This image: Black Twitter strikes again!

But…we love Joe. I have repeatedly said I would have dated him because he’s intelligent. I have also said that if I would have been like Beck, and found his love stash/stalker pile in a wall or the ceiling, I would have just left it there! That shit has NOTHING to do with me. And the bad part? I’m not the only woman who has said this! But why do we love him? Why is Caroline Kepnes’s version of Bundy so attractive?

Simple.

We, as women, want to be chosen!

We want to be loved, cared for and lion protected. We want the security of knowing the person we would do anything for, would do anything for us.

Joe killed the dude that didn’t respect or honor Beck.

Joe killed the girl that tried to take her from him–whom he warned Beck about.

Joe also affirmed Beck, told her how brilliant she was; how she needed to do what made her happy. He respected her space (sorta) and her intelligence.

He loved her.

But he also killed her because she rejected his love for her.

But, we focus on the fact he saved her from the train. Put her IKEA bed together, and played Scrabble in her apartment.

Joesph Goldberg is effing dangerous!

But so is the world women inhabit.

The saged and wizened Penn Badgley has continuously said Joe is not a good dude–and shouldn’t be idolized! But, we do, don’t we?

He opens doors, studies you, knows your favorite flower and where you take your coffee breaks. He’s the one. Moreover, you have to check you own moral compass because at some point–I started cheering for Joe! I saw Beck this monstrous thing that had to be destroyed.

Dude.

I told a writer friend of mine that even though Joe is crazy, he needs to stay on squad! I believe there’s a vernacular around these types of activities that says, “I paint houses.” Joe paints houses–but, the thing is, just as he said in Season 1: “We sometimes do bad things for the people we love.”

Shakespeare says, “Love is but a madness.” My father said, “If a man likes you just a little bit, you’ll be amazed what he’ll do for you.” When love, broken boys, sex and obsession congeal–you get Henry Hill with a Shax complex. That’s our Joe!

Fairy tales and classic mythology regale us with tales of knights saving damsels in distress, scaling towers, killing wolves and witches to save fair damsels. What we forget is sometimes the dragon isn’t the one you think it is.

With that in mind, there’s a third book to this series being written. I’m anxiously awaiting that release! And I’m still rooting for Joe to get his happily ever after. Why? It’s nice to be chosen. And it’s safer to have a dragon on a leash than out in the world.

The Matter Of The Daughter Of Clifford Harris

The Black body is a constant source of policing.

The Black, female body is a constant source of policing, shaming and control.

I wrote a mini series about this called, For A Fast Girl, earlier this year. Click here for that. It is 5-parts, and I encourage you to read that–and come back to this.

________________________________________________________________________________________

Welcome back!

When I first heard this story, I thought it was a whole joke. I heard about this, and I thought that people had to be playing. The fact that this happened, this happened to a Black girl, a Black woman–as a Black woman–is triggering! It makes me feel a mixture of rage, sadness, and embarrassment.

First thing:  Deyjah Harris is 18.

On the podcast, Ladies Like Us, Clifford (No, he will not be referred to as T.I. or TIP here) was saying how he goes to gynecologist visits with his daughter. Okay, I can ride with that. Let her be responsible for her own body. My first gynecologist visit was when I was 17. My mother was a nurse, an L & D nurse, and wanted to make sure I knew she knew I would not be under her roof always. Meaning, I got a Pap Smear (part of Well-Woman Exam), and my mom got me a script for Birth Control pills.

Me:  “Mom! But I’m not doing anything!”

Mom:  “Just in case you are.”

That was the extent of that. My mother knew that as much as she wanted me to remain a virgin/wait till I got married/wait for true love. The fact is, I was 17. Teenagers make stupid mistakes! She would rather me be safe than sorry. That, and she didn’t want me to be a teenage mother. This is also the woman that told me, and I am quoting damn near verbatim:  “You better stay a virgin till you leave my house! I’m an old L&D nurse:  I know what to look for.”

 

Image result for protect black girls

Bruh, I was not prepared to test that. So I didn’t.

But no, my mother–MY MAMA!–still didn’t come into that examination room with me. She didn’t ask my GYN if my hymen was broken. She didn’t ask if I was still a virgin. She turned the control of my body, over to me.

Now, I cannot speak for the goings-on at the Harris Household in Atlanta, but the Bush household? My mother was aware of all goings-on as it relates to her daughters. I cannot speak for the quality of motherhood that Tameka “Tiny” Harris has given to her daughter, but I will say this. Tiny needs to remind Clifford that the only vagina he needs to be concerned about is hers. All others–including these outside chicks he’s dealt with!–he need not be concerned about.

Deyjah is grown. Deyjah is 18. Deyjah is in college.

If she wasn’t a virgin (an intact hymen is not concrete proof that a girl has not been penetrated), was was he going to do?

The thing that I cannot ride with is him asking the doctor to make sure her hymen is in tact. I cannot ride with him asking the doctor for ‘his results.’ I cannot ride with the fact that after a birthday party, he put ‘Gyno’ on a post-it where she could see it. The fact that he considers his daughter’s body property? That is unsettling to me.

Here is why.

This behavior is the same shit that I grew up in! And I am now 20 years older than 18. Clifford is the type of dude now that he has all this money, can’t no body tell him nothing! He figures he can move in an around the world as he sees fit, because money (ergo, power) insulates him!

In the clip heard through here through the YouTube Channel, King Of Reads, the played details exactly what Clifford said. And how serious he is about this. Keep in mind, this same energy isn’t given to his sons when they start having sex! I don’t remember any news about Clifford taking his sons for STD testing, or making videos on teaching them proper condom techniques! There is nothing in the news about when his sons break the hymens of other women’s daughters, or other men’s daughters.

The Urban Prophet Nasir Jones, said it best on his Life Is Good album–the track, Daughters: God gets the ‘foulest players, and heartbreaker’s by giving them girls. I believe that. The hosts of the show are heard giggling as he is detailing what lengths dude has gone to in policing his daughter’s virginity.

They giggled.

They laughed, as if they couldn’t believe it

They didn’t challenge this.

 

Image result for bell hooks quotes

Perhaps, they have never been called ‘fast.’ Perhaps they had never been told the body you have is a temptation to weak men, and it is your fault if something happens to you in regards to rape, accosting or molestation. Maybe they have never been the victim of a father telling a doctor to ‘check her hymen’ and ‘give me my results.’ Perhaps they have never been told that the body they walk through the world in isn’t theirs. That is both weapon and distraction. The giggling was acrid.

Toxic patriarchy is acrid. And it grows putrid flowers that have the toxic ambrosia of hubris powered by influence! There is something so insidious about what he did to her; what social media is dragging him for; what the internet is doing–to her.

This type of policing of the female form  is often seen in countries where religious regimes are in power. Where women are chattel, to be possessed–as they are feral, wild and more animal that human.

This ain’t cute, Clifford! This ain’t cute, Tameka!

I know there are people that will champion what he did, what he is doing, and will say those that feel as I do are ‘overreacting.’ Or say, ‘these girls are fast and they need their fathers to be involved in their lives!’ I know there will be people whom will say that I, and those that feel as I do, which will dismiss my opinion. That is their right.

Ignoring something that does not make it more palatable. Does not make it vanish. It does not make it less easy to address. Cancer that you ignore, becomes metastatic–meaning it spreads! Bell Hooks said that patriarchy has no gender. I agree.

I am in full support of fathers being involved in the lives of their children. I am in favor of fathers being knowledgeable of how their children’s bodies work. The world is a dangerous, dark and evil place. But, this? Like this? No.

When does a Black woman own her own body? Someone needs to let me know.

 

[Top image from TMZ, middle image-Twitter, last image-AZ Quotes.com]