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  1. Not Really About Miley by Rhonda Hansome

    Thursday, September 5, 2013

    I didn't see the live broadcast of the 2013 VMA Awards.
    I will admit that after a a few days of non-stop reactions to THE performance that eclipsed all others, I Googled Miley Cyrus 2013 VMA Awards and got an eyeful.

    Not being familiar with her and her music - yes I live under a rock!- I thought she had an affliction that left her with minimal control of her tongue.

    I watched the Blurred Lines number.  BTW, for this blog, I am by-passing the litigation regarding the song and the empowering / objectification of women debate associated with the lyrics of the song. What was happening on the VMA stage made me uncomfortable in a vague (Am I just too old to appreciate the artistic value and cultural significance of this spectacle?) kind of way.

    Then I came across When Your (Brown) Body is a (White) Wonderland by Tressie McMillan Cottom. Tressie's post placed the most talked about 2013 VMA performance in a sociological context. 
    Here is an excerpt from Tressie's post that shed new light on my discomfort: 
    What I saw in Cyrus’ performance was not just a clueless, culturally insensitive attempt to assert her sexuality or a simple act of cultural appropriation at the expense of black bodies. Instead I saw what kinds of black bodies were on that stage with Cyrus.

    Cyrus’ dancers look more like me than they do Rihanna or BeyoncĂ© or Halle Berry. The difference is instructive.
    Fat, non-normative black female bodies are kith and kin with historical caricatures of black women as work sites, production units, subjects of victimless sexual crimes, and embodied deviance. As I wrote in an analysis of hip-hop and country music crossovers, playing the desirability of black female bodies as a wink-wink joke is a way of lifting up our deviant sexuality without lifting up black women as equally desirable to white women. 

    Cyrus did not just have black women gyrating behind her. She had particularly rotund black women. She gleefully slaps the ass of one dancer like she intends to eat it on a cracker. She is playing a type of black female body as a joke to challenge her audience’s perceptions of herself, while leaving their perceptions of black women’s bodies firmly intact. It’s a dance between performing sexual freedom and maintaining a hierarchy of female bodies from which white women benefit materially.
    I suggest you read Tressie's post in its entirety, here.  Even though I may not agree with her every point, 
    I found her theme a refreshing change from the general outrage over Miley's desecration of a national treasure - the foam finger.

    Yes, if I had not switched my major from sociology to theater I might be teaching at a university, have health insurance and a life sustaining pension in my future. Damn you statistics for throwing me off that path!

    Thank you Tressie McMillan Cottom for your perspective.  I needed that...

    Rhonda Hansome is an actress, stand-up comic and director. There are only days left to donate to her legacy project, Drama Mamas The Film, Black Women Theater Directors In The Spotlight and Remembered. Tweet @DramaMamas2 I support #BlackWomenTheaterDirectors. Give to the Indiegogo campaign and share this link TODAY!

  2. 2 comments:

    1. Unknown said...

      I always enjoy your posts-when I read them, admittedly, and appreciate your creative and amusing slant on any topic. Thank you for including a portion of Tressie Mcmillan Cottom's post as well. I read it in it's entirety and found it very interesting. It also alerted me to the fact that the staging of Cyrus'performance achieved the intended effect, in that even I paid more attention to Cyrus' antics, than I did to her black female background dancers, except of course, for the one dancer who came forward so Mylie could bend down, slap her huge ass and look like she wanted to take a bite out of it!!

    2. I have felt sickened and embarrassed by her display and her use of stage time and the opportunity to reach many. But I too am not familiar with her career. I hadn't seen the awards show either but had to see what all the hubbub was about. I really like the parody done by the feminist law students. It is posted on the She So Funny Facebook page. It will likely make everyone feel better. Its existence became very controversial on youtube and was taken off, then put back on.

      I don't see us as under a rock as much as involved with things more significant to us than this young woman's display.

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