Episode 7 is here! Black Girl Dangerous Mia McKenzie and guests N’Jaila Rhee, CarmenLeah Ascencio and Cate Young discuss Ben Carson’s new “urban” radio ad, the Daniel Holtzclaw case, Matt McGorry and white celebrity “allyship” and why Amber Rose may be exactly the feminist we need right now.
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Full transcript below!
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Mia: Welcome to the Black Girl Dangerous pod cast. I am Black Girl Dangerous, Mia McKenzie. We got a great pod cast for you this week. N’Jaila Rhee is gonna be here to talk about the Daniel Holtzclaw trial. Cate Young and I are going to discuss Matt McGorry and so called white celebrity allyship. And also, Amber Rose and her feminism, and why white feminists can’t deal. Just a warning though Cate is in the most echoey room in the history of echoey rooms, but the segment is so great that we had to leave it in so trust me, the echo is worth it. Joining me now is CarmenLeah Ascencio. CarmenLeah is BGD’s health and wellness columnist, she is the director of our Get Free program for queer and trans youth of color, she’s a therapist, a coach and a consultant, and she’s my wife! Hello dear.
CarmenLeah: (laughs) Hi, sweetie.
Mia: How are you?
CarmenLeah: Ahhhhhhh… we need to make a decision about our move.
Mia: (laughs) So, you’re stressed out. Everyone my wife is stressed out because we are trying to move. We need to find an apartment and it’s stressful.
CarmenLeah: Because we just moved, because we thought we wanted to live in the woods. We had a beautiful, naive, city girl fantasy –
Mia: We did.
CarmenLeah: about being in the quiet woods with no one around and that lasted for like, a week. And then we wuz like, “Uh, but they ain’t no people here.” So now we have realized that, although we love the woods, we love them more as a retreat space vs. a living place and now we must return to our urban roots.
Mia: Yeah, so we have to return to our urban roots so we are looking for an apartment and first of all. You just told me this yesterday, which I did not realize, is that Boston is the highest rental market, or the 3rd highest rental market, in the country after New York City and San Francisco, which what?
CarmenLeah: Like, why??
Mia: How? Why do y’all want to live here? I don’t understand what is happening? Why would that be? I only moved to Boston because we are doing family things that we need to be in Boston for, but outside of that I would never in my life have ever imagined moving to Boston, because why? Why are people paying such high rents to live in Boston?
CarmenLeah: Uh… You see my mouth is just open, because I have no, uh, it’s mind boggling to me. I think, my theory is that is where everyone – no dis – everyone from maybe very small towns or the midwest or something, who maybe feel like New York City or San Francisco are just a little too much, but you also don’t want to be in that small town you grew up in, maybe kind of goes to Boston, cuz it’s not that crazy, it’s certainly not that intensely socially progressive to make you too scared, but it’s a city where there is some stuff going on. But beyond that I can’t. I just don’t. I don’t get it.
Mia: I don’t get it either.
CarmenLeah: Except for MIT and Harvard.
Mia: Right, there are a lot of universities, which our friends say pulls a lot of people in here at least temporarily and it’s kind of transient. In any case the rents are super high so we looked at a couple of places and nothing is quite right.
CarmenLeah: Especially for the price.
Mia: Right, right. So, we’re just kind of stressing about that. Cuz every place kind of has things that you like and then things where you are like “Eh, I don’t know. This is kind of a deal breaker.” In particular, this one apartment where you feel like – she doesn’t like if it’s on a major street because then there’s gonna be noise and I can kind of deal with noise because I just put ear plugs in if I am doing something. It doesn’t bother me that much, but you can’t do that.
CarmenLeah: (sighs) So the point is got a lead you can tweet Mia at whichever handle you follow of hers.
Mia: If you got some kind of terrific apartment in Boston and it’s really priced well and it’s really lovely and it has outdoor space and it’s not on a road that is too noisy and the bathroom is not off the kitchen, because I did reject an apartment because the bathroom was off the kitchen and it didn’t even have a proper window in there. And no, what kind of savagery is this? I’m not living in an apartment with the bathroom off the kitchen, no. But anyway, I don’t like that.
CarmenLeah: It’s bad design.
Mia: But if you have a really cool apartment lead that you want to send, tweet it to me. Especially if you want to give us a discount. So right now we are kind of in the middle of no where and the woods, like we said, it was a nice dream and it was real pretty and real nice for a minute. The first way I started to know that maybe it wasn’t exactly right was the bugs, because of course you expect that there are bugs in the woods, but the amount of insects is so overwhelming. Now that it has gotten to be fall it is better, but in the summer it was crazy.
CarmenLeah: Yeah, I kind of didn’t mind them.
Mia: Yeah, she didn’t mind the bugs as much but I mind the bugs.
CarmenLeah: I just thought of them as little friends that I had to get to know. Because I moved into their home and it was their home, so I really didn’t mind the bugs, except for our most recent bug adventure.
Mia: Right, our most recent bug adventure. So we have a cat who’s a delightful wonderful cat, Zelda. I’ve had her for about 8 years and now CarmenLeah is her step-mother. So Zelda goes out into the outdoors and she used to be an indoor car when we lived in an apartment but now she’s been exploring the outdoors now that we’ve moved to the woods and so like, maybe a couple of weeks ago I was petting her and I felt some kind of little thing on her, some king of something. I looked but I couldn’t find anything so I was like, uh, she probably got a scratch. So maybe like a week later, or so, and I’m just waking up. CarmenLeah has already been up and she comes into the bedroom and she’s like, Zelly has a tick we have to get it off of her. So this tick that I had felt was just a little bump thing and I couldn’t even see it had fed on her and grown to the point of – we could see it hanging off of her chin. This is how big this tick had grown. It was fucking disgusting. So we had to remove the tick. So we had to Google it – cuz again, we’re city girls. We don’t be removing ticks and shit. We had to remove the tick and it was nasty. It was gross. Ticks are nasty.
CarmenLeah: Ticks are real nasty. Get you some tick prevention things.
Mia: She had the little stuff that you put on to prevent flees and ticks but apparently the last dose didn’t work that well because she had a tick. So yeah, so we had a nasty tick, so all that to say, we’re done with the woods. We’ve had our fill. I talked early on about how there was a bat in the bedroom. We have experienced all the things that we needed to experience in the woods and we’re good. We’re ready to go now.
CarmenLeah: We are ready to go now.
Mia: So, onto other things, this morning I was looking at the Twitters and apparently Ben Carson, the Republican presidential candidate, Ben Carson, has a new radio add out, which is being described as an urban radio add and boy is it urban. Which is like a hip hop, really kind of cheesy hip hop rap over him talking about freedom. So we’re gonna play the add for you just so you can see how ridiculous it is.
“Yeah, vote, vote, inspire, vote, vote, revive, vote, vote.
Ben Carson 2016
Vote and support Ben Carson, for our next president it’d be awesome.
[Ben Carson speaking] America became a great nation early on not because it was flooded with politicians but because it was flooded with people who understood the value of personal responsibility, hard work, creativity, innovation, and that’s what will put us on the right track now.”
Mia: Yeah, ok so, of all the things that is wrong with this. So Ben Carson. The fact that Ben Carson decided to make a radio add that incorporates hip hop when this guy is just so not Black people’s best friend. He’s so not.
CarmenLeah: Soooo not.
Mia: So not. (laughs) And what really strikes me most about it though is that he is talking about freedom in this video that is just so manipulative and cynical. He’s just so, because if you actually know anything about Ben Carson and the way he thinks and what he seems to believe, when he says freedom he’s not talking about what most Black people think when they talk about freedom. Right, when they talk about social justice and gettin’ free, this is not the things that Ben Carson is on board for. He’s not down with us like that. And so when he’s talking about freedom over this rap, it’s just so as though he’s trying to manipulate and trick people who don’t really know who he is into thinking that he’s this like down Black dude out for the people, talking about freedom and hip hop and shit and it’s gross. It’s so gross.
CarmenLeah: Yeah, I was reading about him and apparently his, as you know he works for Fox news and believes that Fox news is basically, basically, freedom to Ben Carson is ensuring that Fox news stays in the position that it is in because that is what is ensuring the freedom of America. Apparently he said that the United States would be Cuba if it weren’t for Fox news.
Mia: (laughs) Which, I don’t know about y’all but I know as a Black person, when I think about freedom, I think fox news. I mean obviously.
CarmenLeah: That’s freedom.
Mia: Oh my god. He says, yeah he said that thing about Fox news and in the same speech or whatever he was doing he said Americans are dumb so I guess this is just kind of his way of playing into that. Americans are dumb, they are not gonna know the difference, let me just make this hip hop song, let me pretend to be down, and get some votes. It’s just gross. It’s gross. He talks about, he says a lot about not being a politician and that’s his thing, he’s not a politician, but this is some pretty politician shit to have done. This is so, this is so out of pocket and just so Black people are just supposed to hear this little rap on a radio show and be like, “Oh yeah, I’ma vote for this dude.” Like, why is he even bothering? First of all Black people don’t vote Republican. Very few do. There is certainly a population of Black conservatives but even they have a hard time with Republican candidates because Republican candidates are so anti-Black people. They are so anti anything that benefits Black people in anyway. The percentage of Black people that vote Republican is so tiny so in a way anybody who is trying to get the Republican nomination or run as the presidential candidate on the Republican ticket doesn’t care about Black people. Sometimes they pay a little bit of lip service to it at some point in the campaign but mostly they don’t care and mostly they don’t have to care because again, Black people aren’t voting for them anyway. And I mostly, if you see me on Twitter, or on the podcast, I don’t talk a lot about Republicans because – there are a lot of things that come up in my feed about the outrageous things that Ben Carson says or Donald Trump or all these people and I don’t say a lot about it because I feel like, yeah, they’re outrageous and ridiculous and they are very dangerous in their ways, and at the same time, for me and for everybody I know who’s not voting Republican anyway, I’d rather talk about the problems with the Democrats, because they are also highly problematic and kind of doing this Republican “Oh look how bad the Republicans are, vote Democrat” thing, is not my thing. Because I’m really like look how bad the Democrats are too. But this kind of thing, I listen to this add, and I’m talking about it now because I am so taken aback. Like A. what is the point? because again, Black people don’t vote Republican, but also, it’s just so manipulative and so nasty and gross.
CarmenLeah: And, when this is a man, who’s hero and person he’s constantly quoting is this anti-communist conspiracy theorist named Cleon Skousen, who wrote some book called The Naked Communist or something, in which his theory that he is espousing in this book is that the civil rights movement, acceptance of gay people, modernism, art, medicare, social security are a massive scheme by the communists trying to destroy the American government. And Ben Carson is apparently one of the people that reviews this book and says this is really central to understanding what has happened in the United States over the past century. So this person who is all about Black freedom, also believes that the civil rights movement was part of the communist conspiracy to take down the government.
Mia: Right, right. And that’s exactly why this is just so, he’s just so, ugh. I don’t really know. That’s all I really have to say about it because it’s just so, it’s ridiculous.
CarmenLeah: But don’t forget we’d be Cuba if it weren’t for Fox News.
Mia: (laughing) Thank you Fox News!
Mia & CarmenLeah: Thank yoouuu!!!!
Mia: The Daniel Holtzclaw trail began on Monday. If you are not familiar with this case you need to get familiar with it right now. Daniel Holtzclaw is a former Oklahoma City police officer charged with sexually assaulting and raping 13 Black women. The case has gotten very little attention in the mainstream media, but what attention it has gotten has been because Black women on social media have refused to be silent about it. Jury selection for the trial ended on Tuesday and of the 12 juries selected none are Black women. None are Black at all. Joining me now to talk about this case is N’Jaila Rhee. N’Jaila is the host of TWIB After Dark on on TWIB.fm, a journalist and BBW adult web model and PSO. Straddling the line between nerd culture, identity politics, and sexual revolution, N’Jaila Rhee navigates difficult digital spaces. Her blog, BlasianBitch.com celebrates and explores sexuality from a Black Asian perspective. Welcome N’Jaila.
N’Jaila: Hi, thank you so much for having me.
Mia: I really appreciate having you here. So you’ve been following the Daniel Holtzclaw case since it broke last and I know you’re following the trial that is going on right now. I wanted to have on the pod cast because we talked a little bit before on Twitter about, particularly, violence against Black women by Asian men, which is something that doesn’t get talked about that much. I mean, really something that doesn’t get talked about at all. So what does this case bring up for you as a Black and Asian woman who’s experienced violence at the hands of Asian men?
N’Jaila: For me personally, you know, being a Black and Asian woman who is very Black looking, I have a lot of the phenotypes of Blackness. When most people see me they do not read Asian and I dont’ have any feelings, negative, about that whatsoever but I do know that I am socialized in America as a Black woman. But because being mixed and being going to a very diverse school all my life and being around all different types of people, I’ve been exposed to a lot of Asian men. I’ve been talking a whole lot in my life about the issues of masculinity that go into, when we talk about sexual politics between Asian-Americans among themselves, but what is very rarely talked about is sexual politics between Asian men, other than Asian women, it’s usually white women and it’s that or nothing at all. Being from the Caribbean. I’m Caribbean-American. Born here, but my parents were born in the Caribbean so I have a father who is an Asian man, but he’s Caribbean and there it’s a very different atmosphere. You have a lot of Asian men who they have exposure to Black women but also Black women are also in this very precarious place. I have a Black grandmother. For her, there was a power dynamic, while Asian men definitely did not have the same power as a land owning white person in the Caribbean, they did have a lot more social capital against Black women, especially if you’re poor, especially if you’re in the city, you’re in what they call the Jungle in Trinidad, and if they were managing the land and your family was working the land they had power over you. But in America when I see a case like this it’s also very interesting to me as not only a Black woman, not only as a Caribbean woman, but also as a sex worker, because while I wasn’t a full service worker who worked outside, when I was dancing in clubs the thing that scared me the most wasn’t customers, it was walking from the club to the train station cuz I knew I was gonna be harassed by cops. I saw this case even before they were talking about the victims, before they were even talking about the race of the officer, I kind of assumed that this guy was either targeting women who either had a record of being arrested for using drugs or being sex workers. And, I would not have been shocked at all to find out that he was targeting Black women who had prior convictions or felonies for drugs or sex work. It kind of hits close to home and kind of puts me in a very scary mind space because, not just talking about broad culture strokes, but even in my personal life I’ve had violence done to me Asian men and I’ve had one of them say, straight up, “I could do whatever I want to you, because who is anybody gonna believe?” You’re this fat Black stripper and I’m an Asian man and I work – well I don’t want to say where he works – but he had that privilege. He already knew that it’s open season on Black women cuz nobody is looking for us if we go missing. I had an abuser for years he would say things to me like, “Nobody’s gonna look for you if you’re gone. If I disappear you, nobody’s gonna look for you. He also said, if you go to the cops they won’t believe you. And, these are things that I internalized because I kind of knew that they were true. Being a woman of size, being of color, being a Black woman and having a history of sex work – legal or not legal – you are in this position where you are completely at the mercy of law enforcement.
Mia: Right, and do you, and I definitely do, do you feel like with this whole Daniel Holtzclaw, at least what we know about it so far, that’s basically why he targeted Black women because who’s gonna believe them. I mean, he’s already a police officer, which a. is already gonna let you get away with almost anything you do, but on top of that these are Black women. Who is gonna listen to them? Who is gonna believe them? Who is gonna care?
N’Jaila: Well I thought it was really interesting when they first started reporting on the story and they were kind of doing this almost PR campaign where they were talking about how, Oh he played football and how he’s this all American guy. What they really weren’t publishing was the fact that that he was mixed race and what they really weren’t publishing was they he had a Japanese mother. It wasn’t until his sister, who looks a lot more Japanese, were they starting to talk about his mixed ancestry. What I also noticed when they were talking about the victims, a lot of times would report it as, he was targeting all these women, they had this thing, but it wasn’t until he made the mistake of targeting a woman who was this educated Black woman who was lost and who he I guess thought he had the opportunity to attack, who wasn’t afraid to report him to the police. They kind of labelled this as, oh he messed up, as if all these other women that he attacked, because they were Black, because they were sex workers, because they were either addicted to drugs or had a past history of drugs, it was some how less of a crime because they were hurt by this man. His sister, who has been one of his most vocal supporters, was basically saying that all these women came together as a conspiracy to take him down. It seems really ridiculous, but I think that the only reason that people publish stuff like that, not because they think it’s outlandish, but because they think there’s probably some, like it’s a viable theory that Black women will get together and just lie because we can’t be trusted.
N’Jaila: It was also interesting that they always mentioned his older victims, as if it was so outlandish that he would attack older Black women and not younger ones. And of course it was real that he was abusing younger ones too, so really he was targeting Black women and it really can’t be overlooked that the media was kind of spinning the tale, this narrative that it was crazy that he wanted these old Black women because who wants them?
Mia: Right, and have you heard from, as you’ve been following this case and talking about it on social media, have you, how are, or what is your sense of Asian Americans that you know, that you come into contact with, what are they saying about it? Are they saying anything about it?
N’Jaila: You should check out Jen at realpropriate.co. She’s been following the story and she has a lot of really great analysis of Asian male masculinity where she really wants to destroy the notion of Asian men getting their masculinity through the abuse of women, which if you look at the pick up artist community, which is popular and extolled in a lot of parts of the Asian American community, it’s really – we’re gonna getting our masculinity back by screwing X amount of chicks or getting the white woman or there is this kind of really sad notion that Asian American men have had their masculinity taken from them and they are gonna take it out on women as a result to get it back. So there are Asian Americans who are not being silent on this but what I find really, really sad is you’re not getting a lot of analysis outside of like 2 or 3 people. The Asian American community at large I feel like has been really silent. There was a lot more attention paid to the police officer who shot that poor man in Brooklyn completely unarmed and there is a very vocal group of Asian Americans who kind of said, “Oh well it’s not fair that he’s being charged because when white officer shoots a Black man who is unarmed they get away with it, why are they charging him? Which basically says, “Hey we’re model minorities and we’re supposed to have privilege over these negroes so we should get to shoot them too.” Which is scary and disturbing.
Mia: Wow, just wow.
N’Jaila: I’m very happy that I haven’t seen things like that around this case but what is disappointing is the silence. There are a lot of, well I don’t know a lot, but I know a few Asian American feminists that have taken this case as a time to say, hey this is toxic masculinity, that you are building up this man because he has all the markers of what we see as masculine. “He’s big, he played football, now he’s a cop and he has a badge”, but he is abusing the most vulnerable of women. I think the Asian American community should be more vocal on this, but there is a lot of anti-Blackness in the Asian American community. There’s really no way around it or never really want to talk about how Asian Americans, or some Asian Americans, are not rejecting the model minority and they are really trying to live up to that at the expense of Black people.
Mia: Right, so jury selection has happened in the case and it’s an all white jury. Can you talk a little bit about what this, I mean obviously this is not good.
N’Jaila: From the first reports of the first day of the trial, basically his victims are being on trial. You know you have the lawyer asking one of the victims about how much pot she smoked, how could she be so sure if they are changing their stories a bit from the police report which is, the police report, like we’re supposed to believe the police, cuz the police are on trial right now. I don’t feel that it’s fair that you have a jury of mostly white men because even though he is half white, and I know there’s gonna be men on that jury who won’t see a fellow white person or won’t see him as somebody who is one of them, but what they will see is their own preconceived notion of wayward Black sexuality.
Mia: And at the same time, bring that up against their preconceived notions of of the model minority.
N’Jaila: Yes, he is supposed to be the good Asian guy and he’s quiet and he was good and went to a good school and he played football and he probably said his prayers at night or whatnot. And then here come these Black whores and they are doing the drugs and doing tricks and all what not and they are just trying to bring a good man down. I mean sometimes I feel it’s not fair to say we need more Asian American voices but we do need more Asian American voices and we need more people who are challenging the Asian American voices that are being put out there and I don’t want this to become just a teachable moment about Asian masculinity because we have to talk about Black women as impossible victims. We have to talk about a lot of the sex worker organizations have been silent about this case when there has been a lot of vocal – the sex work community has been a lot more vocal in the time of Twitter and social media but I haven’t seen a lot of people talking about this. I see Black sex workers talking about this, but Asian, white, non-Black sex workers have been relatively silent.
Mia: I’m so thankful that you came on and talked to use about this case and I am looking forward to having your insights on this and hopefully more things in the future. Thank you so much N’Jaila Rhee for coming on the Black Girl Dangerous podcast and sharing your insights with us.
N’Jaila: Thank you so much for having me.
Mia: So, let’s talk about Matt McGorry. If you don’t know who Matt McGorry is, he’s a an actor who plays Asher on How to Get Away with Murder and he used to play the prison guard who got Daya pregnant on Orange is the New Black. He’s a popular guy on Twitter because he’s supposedly a white male celebrity who conscious about racism and sexism and maybe other isms. He says good things about Black Lives Matter and feminism and since he’s also really nice to look at he’s hailed as activist bae. Now, what’s happening around Matt McGorry and Media and on social media right now actually says a lot about so called white allyship both good and bad. So, joining me now to talk about all of this is the creator of the feminist pop-culture blog Battymamzelle, Cate Young. Hey Cate!
Mia: So, you like Matt McGorry right?
Cate: He’s a person who’s kind of grown on me. I knew him first from Orange is the New Black and then subsequently from How to Get Away with Murder and I have this thing where if a character, an actor, gives me strong feelings in any particular direction then it reflects on how I feel about the actual person. So for a really long time I just didn’t like him but over the last couple of months I want to say that he has been a lot more vocal about speaking against things like anti-blackness, and such naming, in a way that I don’t think is a problem yet. Obviously we still kind of have to wait and see where it goes and if the other shoe will drop and he’ll put his foot in his mouth but I think for the time being I am pleased with the way he’s using his platform to promote things that we want to be spreading out into the world.
Mia: Right, and like in particular what has he said about anti-blackness or slut shaming that you think is good?
Cate: Well just the other day he was tweeting with someone, I don’t remember who, I guess someone carrying on about all lives matter, and he gave a very nice detailed breakdown about why the specificity of Black Lives Matter is important and integral to the movement and why saying all lives matter is a derailment. And he explained it very eloquently and I think in a way that unfortunately most people are gonna understand and take in better because he’s a straight white guy. And I appreciated that because I feel as though a lot of white allies tend to think that it’s a self-appointment kind of position that they can occupy whereas I feel as though what allies really need to be doing is educating other white people so that we don’t have to do it and I appreciated that that was something he was willing to take on for himself. We have these conversations day in and day out and have the time people are just disingenuously engaging us so they can trip us up and waste our time so we can’t focus on more important things. And for him to take that off of the Black Lives Matter movement, and for a celebrity to say, no Black Lives Matter, matters, and this is the reason why and this is why this phrasing is specific and particular to this movement and this is why it needs to be said as an affirmation apart from all lives matter, because Black Lives Matter and is something that we haven’t been acknowledging so I appreciate that he is able to understand that and promote that message without having to put us on the defensive.
Mia: Right. Yeah, I like some of the – I mean I admit that at first I was definitely down with Matt McGorry. And, like you said, I’m always skeptical about so called white allies, but I read a few things that he said and I was like, ok Matt McGorry. You might be ok. And you know, he’s really cute. I find him quite adorable so that helped. I read how he, you were talking about, how he talks about all lives matter, I read early on one of the first things I saw from him was a Facebook post that he wrote about all lives matter where he shut it down and shut those people down. And I was like, ok, cool. This is wussup. But as time went on I started to have questions. My first question is where does Matt McGorry get his analysis? This, to me, is a question that we don’t ask enough. I mean we don’t ever ask it really. When celebrities are supposedly woke, no one really thinks to ask, how did they get work? Because I feel like Matt McGorry didn’t come up with this analysis on his own. This analysis on Black Lives Matter or race in general, I know he didn’t because white men don’t come up with that kind of analysis, just by thinking about it really hard. You know, it’s outside the realm of their experience so they have to learn it from somewhere. Like as a non-disabled person I’m not gonna come up with some dope ass analysis on ableism by just thinking about it really hard until something clicks. That’s not the way that works. I have to read what disabled people say to begin to see what is outside of my experience. So, white people listen to or read what people of color say and form their analysis of race that way. So, you know, because people of color are the only sources of race analysis, like we’re the root of the analysis. So my question is, one, where did Matt McGorry get his analysis? And two, why doesn’t he say those people’s names when he is showing how woke he is? And this isn’t just a question for Matt McGorry, this is any celebrity or person in the public eye who’s talking about these things, because white people and really all privileged people have a tendency to take what they’ve learned from oppressed people and go around talking about it like they came up with it on their own and I just really, I don’t like that shit.
Mia: I think that’s a very fair criticism, actually. I can’t say obviously where he is getting his analysis from. I want to think that he’s mostly paying attention on social media like the rest of us but I do think that that doesn’t absolve him from pointing to his sources. I think that is definitely something that he can improve upon. I know a couple of weeks ago Ta-Nehisi Coates was on Another Round podcast. He was speaking with Heben and Tracey and one of the questions that Heben asked him was, or rather they were speaking specifically about the criticisms of his new book, Between the Worlds and Me, and whether or not the criticism about his not including a Black female perspective were valid. And one of the criticisms that she gave him was that she thinks that he and other people could be more vocal about citing Black women writers and thinkers who they’ve gotten these ideas from and to amplify their voices and I think that’s also something that other celebrity feminists can do as well. I think that it is important to recognize the initial labor of women of color in conceiving these ideas. These ideas don’t necessarily disseminate as widely outside of the Black community until a white person says them. It doesn’t change the fact that they still conceived them. And they should get credit for that.
Mia: Right, exactly, exactly. So that’s one of my concerns and if he began to actually do that then that would be cool. And it’s not fair to not just, to be kind of throwing out all this really smart awesome stuff and everybody is like, “Oh Matt McGorry. He’s so smart and cool.” Ok, maybe, but he learned that somewhere from somebody else.
Cate: I think that the important thing there is that even if it doesn’t necessarily occur to him to say here is my analysis and this is where I got it from, initially, that it’s important that when the accolades start flowing in for being this white boy that he goes, “Well it’s not me, this is where I got it from.” I feel like as long as he can at least make that step, he should be fine.
Mia: Exactly. Yeah, you’re right. And it’s not necessarily gonna occur to him right away and also when I read that first thing that he said about all lives matter he said in there, “I’m new to this.” Right, so if someone is new to this, they are not gonna have it all together. But at this point, like you said, his accolades are coming him, and everybody’s like, “Oh, he’s the activist bae.” It’s time for him to be like yeah, this is who I learned this from. These are the people who you need to be listening to and amplifying those voices. Another issue I have with Matt McGorry is that, and I talked a little bit about this on Twitter, in his Twitter bio he calls himself an intersectional feminist. And this to me, is an example of white fuckery. Like, this is for him and any other, I mean really anybody who is not a woman of color who’s calling themselves that because, what I think an intersectional feminist is, what I understand an intersectional feminist to be, is a feminist who stands at the intersections of race and womanhood, and you can’t be that if you’re not a woman of color, because you don’t stand at that intersection. And to call yourself that as a white man is just the kind of cooptation that I really don’t like. And it’s a red flag for me. You didn’t even bother to look up what that actually means to do any real research before you plunked it into your Twitter bio and that’s what people do and it’s certainly not just him. A lot of people are doing that, you know, and as somebody who actually stands at those intersections and several others, I take offense to that. That’s not woke to me. That’s the same old bull shit to me. So you can say that you believe in intersectional feminism or that you try to be accountable to intersectional feminism and intersectional feminists. But to call yourself and intersectional feminist is just a huge no for me.
Cate: I think intersectional is another one of those words, like ally, that kind of is supposed to be designated to people but people kind of appoint themselves that. I think that for a lot of people, they understand intersectional to be every intersection and not just race and womanhood and so they understand it to mean that once they understand the way that different intersections, not just race and gender, but also physical disability or class or everything that we are dealing with right now and how they all affect social position. I think that they assume that means that they are intersectional. But I think that the real issue is that intersectionality is a practice, more so than a belief system. I know that I was on Netflix the other day and I started looking through their list of programs that they have, I think it’s called, audio captions, for the blind. And I know that they only started doing that when Dare Devil came out because the Blind Association mentioned that, you know, “We’ve got a blind super hero and we can’t even experience the show.” And they’ve slowly started rolling out more of their programming to have that feature so that the blind can experience those things. And to me that’s kind of what intersectionality is about. It’s not necessarily saying, “Oh, I know everything and I get it.” It’s more about saying, “This is a problem for you. I understand this is a problem for you. This is how I can help you fix it.” And doing the fixing. Not just saying you’re gonna do the work.
Mia: And you know my kind of thinking around intersectional feminism and intersections of race and woman hood come from Kimberly Crenshaw, who, you know, is the person who coined the term, intersectional feminist, and as a Black woman talking about the ways that Black women in particular experience oppression differently than and in more intense ways than white women do. And so thinking about the root of that term and who that came from and what she was talking about and who she was talking about and even then if we add to that the experiences of disabled women, undocumented women, which I am totally happy to do. We are still talking about an experience of womanhood of mysogyny. We are still talking about those kinds of things. So Matt McGorry still isn’t that. (laughter) I think what it comes down to is to not do the kind of buzz word, really easy, sound bitey stuff and to really take the time to know what these words mean, who these words come from, because if you actually know who Kimberly Crenshaw is and what she said and what she’s about, then you don’t make the mistake that Matt McGorry made of calling yourself that. You have an understanding of what that means and where that comes from. And so I just want us to be really careful, and you know this is what folks do, celebrities, a celebrity is fun, who’s interesting, he’s cute, he’s making these cute faces, it’s really adorable, and so we’re not sort of critical enough. We’re not kind of pausing and being like, but wait a minute, when this stuff happens. And I think I am more hesitant to jump on white celebrities dicks because they seem to have some level of consciousness and this is exactly why. And not just him but so many of them who seem down and then it’s like, “oooh, shit, that went so left so quickly.”
Cate: Yeah, and I think that’s why I don’t fault anyone for saying that they don’t see it for a particular white celebrity who happens to be outspoken about that person. I feel as though, especially if Black women, we are completely justified to forever side eye them even if they never actually fuck up and at the end of the day, just their being white means a proportionate amount of damage to us should they decide to, should they make that mistake and so i think that it is important for us to not – to acknowledge them but not put them on a pedestal.
Mia: Right, definitely. And I feel like with Matt McGorry and with other folks, like I just, I dont’ care how many selfies you take with DeRay, like that’s cool and cute or whatever, but I need more than that. How do you talk to Black women? How do you talk to Black transwomen? To Black queer women? How do you open yourself up to be challenged by those women and accountable to those women since your so anti-racist and so feminist. And that’s what I need to see in order to be like Matt McGorry is ok. Not even bae, but ok.
Cate: Yeah, I think that at the end of the day that is the real test of whether or not he an ally that we can trust. The real test for me is what happens when he fucks up and how does he handle it when he gets corrected. To me that’s the real test.
Mia: And that’s the test for him, that’s the test for all celebrity activists, that’s the test for all –
Cate: And a lot of them fail
Mia: Yeah, that’s the thing, almost all of them fail. Very few of them throughout history have come up against that challenge and just knocked it out of the park. That’s not a thing that we see.
Mia: When they get challenged, they, you know, pull an Ani Difranco, or whatever, they just lose their shit and have a fucking melt down. So it will be interesting to see if he, when that happens, what he does and how he handles it and not – I don’t want it to be ooh let’s wait and see when he fucks up. I really want him to think about these things and do better. Even if he comes through and he does the right things and he’s doing this in the right way, he’s still a straight white man and he doesn’t need pats on the back and congratulations for not being an asshole. We don’t need to do this whole, “Oh the white man is so – this benevolent white man is so wonderful. We don’t need to do that folks. We can just be like, ok, cool, you got it, I’ma give you that. Speaking of Matt McGorry. He was in the, one of the very cool things he did was he was part of the video that Amber Rose did, the funny or die video. What was it called?
Cate: It was called Walk of No Shame.
Mia: Yeah, the walk of no shame, which was quite, every entertaining and enjoyable I thought. And so Amber Rose has been in the media, the spotlight, a lot lately and her book just came out. Her book is called How to be a Bad Bitch, if you haven’t heard of this, which is A. let’s just pause and say what an amazing title that is for a book. (laughter) So Amber Rose’s book is out and white feminism is apparently losing it’s shit. As it wants to do when women of color or sex workers or anybody who doesn’t fit into their little box dares take up any space in feminism. So you wrote an article on your website about her feminism and about the reaction of the whites that I thought was just super on point.
Cate: Thank you.
Mia: So, share with our listeners, what’s your take on this whole thing with Amber Rose. Well first of all I love her. She’s second in my heart only to Rihanna. I think that Amber Rose is the feminist celebrity that we need right now. She is someone who doesn’t have a ton of degrees, she isn’t someone that we generally consider to be respectable, she is a former sex worker, she is black, she is someone who is primarily known to the public through her relationships with men, and I think that that’s exactly what we need to be interacting with as a public because I feel as though she’s exactly the kind of woman we try to deny feminism to and she is demanding that she gets to claim it anyway. I think that when, I haven’t read her book yet, I haven’t been able to get a copy but I was reading the piece on Refinery 29 that basically just kind of dissected some of her quotes out of context and basically reprimanded her for whatever they decided she was doing feminism rightly enough and to me that was so offensive and not necessarily because they were wrong but because of the way that they went about it. Her feminism is new and I think that we have to allow her the ability to learn organically about how she wants to experience feminism. She is coming through feminism through lived experience and that’s a way that most of us are coming through it. She hasn’t been taking women’s studies classes in college. She has been experiencing her life. She’s been seeing the way that she is treated as a black woman in the world and understanding how that is coming up against her own beliefs and her own self-image of herself and finding solace in feminism to deal with that and I think that’s amazing. That’s the way that we should be teaching people to live feminism. So for me for Refinery 29 to take some random quotes that they don’t like and be like here’s why this is anti-feminist and is a problem, that was an issue for me because I feel like you don’t get to tell her that her lived experience of feminism is not valid. It may not tow the party line, but that doesn’t make it less valid. And for me her feminism is going to be largely about interacting with men and that’s because that is what she’s had to do in her life.
Mia: Right, right.
Cate: She used to strip, she did a lot of modeling, she is someone who has had to deal with the male gaze from a very young age. Her feminism is going to be about navigating that gaze so it’s going to be about men. And it’s not to say – so one of the criticisms that they say is that the book is very hetero-normative, which is a valid thing to say because that’s true, but this book is for the women who are sex workers and strippers and prostitutes. These are the women who are dealing with having to navigate men on a daily basis in order to make sure that their wealth is secured. So if you’re stripping in the club, gay, straight or indifferent your are probably dancing for straight men and you have to know how to navigate his ego so that you stay safe and make money. And I find it very strange that it didn’t occur to anyone that she wrote a book for those women. She wrote a book for all the women that we kick out of the movement, just like her. And we should be able to acknowledge that her feminism is going to be about things that she’s lived in her life.
Mia: But of course you know, those women, that she wrote that book for, and I love what you say in your piece about how those women also need women to look up to in feminism. Of course they don’t think about these women when they write these pieces. Of course it doesn’t occur to them that there are women who have these kinds of experiences who also read books and are also looking for analysis and are also building, that doesn’t occur to them. Those women don’t exist in these people’s minds. Really in their minds she meant to write a book for them. And she just totally failed. Look at her trying to write a book for me and she missed the mark is basically how they look at it.
Cate: Precisely, I mean I think that one of the things that one of the biggest issues I have with white feminism is that it doesn’t understand that all feminisms are the same. That, the very premise of an intersectional analysis is that every one is going to have different needs. We’re all gonna have to take different paths to liberation because we’re starting from different places.
Mia: White feminists don’t get that not everything is for you. What they don’t get is that other women exist, Black women exist, and sex workers exist and trans women exist, completely independently from you. And sometimes when we talk about feminism, when we talk about our lives, when we build these analyses it’s not for you, it’s not about you, it’s about us. And so if you read it and you don’t get it and you don’t feel like it makes sense or you don’t connect to it, it’s because it’s not for you. And so you don’t need to write a piece about it because it wasn’t for you in the first place.
Cate: I felt the same way about Beyonce when her album came out. She wasn’t talking to you, she was talking to Black girls. She was talking to all of us and we are fine with it. And honestly we had our own criticisms. We are allowed to make those criticisms because we are coming from a similar position as she is and we understand where she is making these pronouncements. You don’t. So you don’t get to say anything because it was never about you to begin with.
Mia: And this is what it is to be white. Is to just expect that everything is made for you. You are the audience for everything and it’s really hard for folks to turn that off and get that this doesn’t actually have anything to do with me. I don’t have to have an opinion on this. I’ve been doing BGD for four years and the whole way, especially in the beginning, was be saying, “This isn’t for you.” If you don’t get it, if you feel some type of way about it, go on about your way. You have all these other things to read. You have all these other – there are plenty of places – just go scour the huff post. (laughter) There are many things that you could read that are absolutely for you, that you can connect to and this is not that. This is for us. And that’s just really hard for folks to get when we are talking about Amber Rose, when we are talking about Beyonce, when we are talking about any of this, people really need to get that not everything is for you and please, God, stop thinking that you need to write a think piece about things you do not understand.
Cate: Just the general way that we hold women of color to a much higher standard when it comes to their feminism. White girls aren’t getting yelled at for not being feminist, while Black women who are saying, yes I am feminist and this is why, are being told, no you are not a feminist and here are 5 different ways why you can’t be a feminist. To me if frustrates me because either you want women in the movement or you don’t because when Black women say, well I’m not a feminist, I’m a womanist instead. Or, I don’t know if I’m this because I don’t identify with what this movement stands for, then we’re suddenly a problem because we don’t understand feminism. When really it’s we understand feminism just fine, which is why we don’t like it, because you’ve made it about you instead of about all of us.
Mia: What you are saying about women of color and being held to this completely different standard thinking about, particularly, Emma Watson, who I think you mentioned is one of the people who comes to mind, who is just, you know – and again she’s obviously very young and new to this as well. But her being young and new to it is wonderful. You know, she’s a “game changing feminist” they called her when she did that ridiculous “he for she” stuff. Her just being completely, I won’t even call if basic, like it’s like negative points. You know this he for she campaign that doesn’t even seem to have anything behind it. It’s just like “meh, hold up a hashtag, so you be for women”, so it’s just noting. But white feminism just lost their shit over it, like, “Oh my god this is the best thing that ever happened. Look at Emma Watson. it’s Amazing.” And it’s just ridiculous. To see the difference of how they react to the most basic shit from a white women who is calling them self a feminist and for women of color calling themselves feminists it’s just amazing to see.
Cate: I mean Emma Watson is sort of like soft porn for me because I feel like every time she opens her mouth she destroys my childhood a little bit more. (laughter) She frustrates me because I see very clearly that she’s falling into very tried and true white feminist traps. She’s just hitting them one by one. And it’s frustrating because she’s someone who the reason that she gets as much praise as she does is because she’s the right kind of feminist. She’s white, she’s young, she’s very wealth because of her Harry Potter movies, she is well educated. She got her degree while she was working on the films. She’s the kind of person that they want to represent the movement as oppose to Amber Rose who they don’t want to represent them at all. For me, I give Amber far more leeway that I give Emma Watson because with all her education she should know better. Amber Rose is just figuring this out. She’s had all this education. She’s a UN ambassador. She should have this stuff figured out already. And when, there’s a screen shot going around of I think it was a Q & A going around for He for She and someone asked her about white feminism and she basically said, “well I don’t think it’s white feminism because there are two Black girls in charge.” I mean she literally just pulled a my black friends card. You don’t do that. That’s a simple thing that everyone knows you don’t do. Them being charge of the program does not have any effect on your feminism or what you believe or whether or not that’s a Black feminist analysis. She’s also said some things about Beyonce and about the idea that she’s conflicted about her feminism because the videos are all about the male gaze and to that I say, they are about the male gaze because she’s singing to her husband half the time. She’s talking to him and Jay-Z is a straight man. He likes his wife. He’s going to want to see her be sexy and half of her songs are about that. And that’s fine because that’s what she’s talking about. That’s her experience. That is reflected in the music and in the visual. And for Emma Watson who is my age to basically say well, I am not married, I am not Black, I am not any of these things that Beyonce is, but I that that’s a problem anyway, it’s like what you were saying about thinking that you have to have an opinion on everything. I feel like so many celebrities don’t understand that they are allowed to say, I don’t know enough to talk about that or I don’t know enough to have an opinion on this. I feel like they feel that they have to make these snap judgements and maybe not even necessarily snap judgements but that they have to feel either positively or negatively. Like, indifference is allowed. You’re allowed to not know. You are allowed to not have a particular feeling either way. You are allowed to acknowledge that it’s not for you so you don’t need to form an opinion.
Mia: Yeah, and this is so important and Emma Watson, you don’t need to have an opinion on Beyonce. It’s fine to be like, I don’t know. You’re right. This is something that people don’t do and people need to do more. And when people approach me about things that I don’t know about my answers is, “No I can’t talk about that, because I don’t know about that.” I recently, I was doing a Q & A at a university and they sent me the questions for the Q & Q and there were several things on there that I crossed out because I was like, this is not my area. I actually don’t know and I don’t want to talk about this because that’s not my experience. And I’ll go places and people will want me to talk about trans issues and I’m like, no. I’m not trans. Pay a trans person to come and talk about trans issues. It’s ok to say no, I don’t know about this. This is not my thing. But you’re right. For some reason, celebrities in particular and maybe it’s because they are in that spotlight, they think that they have to have an opinion on every thing and you just really don’t. Cate, thank you so much for coming on the podcast and talking to me about Matt McGorry and Amber Rose and all the things.
Cate: Thank you for having me. I’m always excited when you invite me on.
Mia: And thanks to CarmenLeah Ascencio, N’Jaila Rhee and to everyone for listening. See you next time.
The Black Girl Dangerous podcast is a production of Black Girl Dangerous Media.