Books

from To Be Real a book of essays edited by Rebecca Walker

Forward by Gloria Steinem

In fact, feminism has always stood for the right to bare, decorate, cover, enjoy, or do whatever we damn well please with our bodies- and to do so in safety- yet the female body used to blame the rape victim (“Why was she dressed like that?”) is also used to blame the feminist (“Why was she dressed like that?”)

When god is depicted as a white man, only white men seem godly

Being Real, An Introduction:

I understand that women’s double role is a clear marker of where we are right now: many women are becoming the men we wanted to marry, but few men are becoming the women they wanted to marry.

I liked the power of looking pretty, but wasn’t certain men were worth attracting. I didn’t like the effect they had on the women around me.

To Be Real by Danzy Senna:

I noticed that once lipstick women had attracted men, often they became old and beaten, pathetic, desperate creatures while the men remained virile and energized.

To be black is to contain all colors. 

from Kicking Ass by Veena Cabreros-sud

At the end of the day, power concedes to nothing except to power. It’s a useful thing to know.

from Feminist Hip-Hop Maintenance by Eisa Davis

Hip hop, after all, is the chosen whipping boy for a misogyny that is fundamental to Western culture.

I also don’t buy the claim that there are “real” bitches and hoes. I think it is a trap that punishes women for playing their expected roles in figuring the rapper’s persona. Onstage, hip-hop artists invite women’s desire and pursuit, bragging about their conquests far in advance of the reality. But when the women go back to the hotel after the show and get what they came for, the artists reject the women who have legitimized their player persona, channeling their own morning-after disgust into a litany of bitches and hoes.

There are also women out on the dance floor who except these lyrics as truths about themselves – sometimes playing the bitch or ho role in the same spiteful way that the men exploit the stereotype of criminalization. Or sometimes there’s a recognition that a woman who dares to step out of her place, a woman who is willful or sexually uninhibited, may be called a bitch or ho, respectively. These women not only have a sense of humor about being a bitches and hoes, they have a sense of pride that they are finally being spoken to. The hip-hop ode to women has evolved from L.L. Cool J’s “Around the Way Girl” to “Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” to Apache’s “Gangsta Bitch,” giving the ideal woman a rare multiplicity. These songs reveal how male hip-hop artists actually have provided public acceptance, not just degradation, for women who would never receive it elsewhere in popular culture.

And aren’t the women who do have recreational sex with hip-hop artists or who put on a thong bikini to play a “video ho” just searching for that place where we women can celebrate our bodies, where we can express our eroticism freely, where we can have sexual agency?

I can’t have a political practice anymore that makes no space for pleasure, conflict, personal and collective responsibility to cohabitate simultaneously.

An organic act of laughter upon hearing a lyric reminds me that the present manifestations of sexism and hip hop have a value for me: they are simply a tradition, like a woman wearing white when she marries, that I recognize and enjoy as such precisely because I know I am not bound to it.

Since I no longer need hip-hop to provide me with a fixed identity, I have no need to control hip hop’s representation of women.

from Beauty Laid Bare by Bell Hooks

There was never a need to make someone feel guilty when he or she did without the basic necessities of life in order to acquire an object deemed beautiful, healing to the spirit. At times those objects were luxury items, not intrinsically or aesthetically beautiful, but desired because the culture of consumerism had deemed them lovely symbols of power and possibility. Even though folks sometimes laughed at the individual who bought a shiny car bigger than the wood frame shack in which he or she lived, underneath the mockery was the understanding that this symbol of luxury was a balm to a depressed and wounded spirit. This stance was in every way oppositional.

from The Book by Alan Watts

It is a special kind of enlightenment to have this feeling that the usual, the way things normally are, is odd – uncanny and improbable. GK Chesterton once said that it is one thing to be amazed at a gorgon or a griffin, creatures which do not exist; but it is quite another and much higher thing to be amazed at a rhinoceros or a giraffe, creatures which do exist and look as if they don’t.

Religions are divisive and quarrelsome. They are a form of one-upmanship because they depend upon separating the “saved” from the “damned,” the true believers from the heretics, the in-group from the out-group. Even religious liberals play the game of we-are-more-tolerant-than-you. Furthermore, as systems of doctrine, symbolism and behavior, religions harden into institutions that must command loyalty, be defended and kept pure. And because all belief is fervent hope and thus a cover-up for doubt and uncertainty, religions must make converts. The more people who agree with us, the less nagging insecurity about our position.

No considerate God would destroy the human mind by making it so rigid and unadaptable as to depend upon one book, the Bible, for all the answers.

This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences. We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean “waves,” the universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe.

Interviews

from Lena Dunham, The New Yorker Festival Discussion

Quoting her dad, about the recession: “This is the first generation of kids that can expect to do less well than their parents did.”

“I realized that the missing link for me in the sex that I was seeing in movies, that was keeping it from feeling real, was the presence of bodies that I understood in situations that felt real.”

Speaking about her body type and clothing: “There is a part of me that’s like look at us until you see us.”

from Max Landis, New York Film Academy Discussion

“If you like writing, you should just do it and do it and do it until someone tells you you’re great at it, and that means you’re okay at it. Or it means they’re an idiot. Either way, it’s fun.”

Film

from VIDA ACTIVA, THE SPIRIT OF HANNAH ARENDT 

defending her need to rationalize and understand the evil of evildoers, who accused her of sympathizing: “Trying to understand is not the same as forgiveness.”

from CONFIRMATION

“So much power, so little leadership.” -Anita Hill

Theater

from The Mountaintop

“When I wake up, if I’m still afraid, I know that I’m alive.” (spoken by Katori Hall’s MLK)

Elsewhere

from Cornel West

“We need to affirm one another, support one another, help, enable, equip and empower one another to deal with the present crisis, but it can’t be uncritical, because if it’s uncritical, then we are again refusing to acknowledge other people’s humanity. If we are serious about acknowledging other people’s humanity, then we are committed to trusting and believing that they are forever in process. Growth, development, maturation happens in stages. People grow, develop, and mature along the lines in which they are taught. Disenabling critique and contemptuous feedback hinders.”

from Ram Dass

“Even as love is for your growth, so is love for your pruning.”

“All of your psychological conditioning prepares you to be attracted to certain methods or certain paths or certain people.”

from Abraham-Hicks

“You cannot get poor enough to help poor people thrive or sick enough m to help sick people get well. You only ever uplift from your position of strength and clarity and alignment.”