They're Not Talking About Me
||Share This Story Comment On This Story All Volume 001 Stories About IKR IKR Authors|
At the junior high school across the street from my Brooklyn apartment, girls still claim an empowered dominion over the spaces they occupy. At their desks, through the halls, along the tree-lined streets after 3:00, their voices rise in a resonant strength that usually makes the boys say ?ooooohhhhh!? Boys ? almost men, tall and broad ? flinch, dip, duck, dive, swerve from female energy that ain?t playin. Serene sisters ? almost women, with steady eyes, glares that won?t concede an emotional shift ? strike calm that stills the boys and forces them to huddle, cock their heads, wonder as they whisper. These girls so freely occupy their own bodies, their stop it a promise, their wild hair a crown of 13-year-old glory.
These boys don?t try much. They tease their female classmates just as they torment other boys. There is no gender-specific way of addressing others yet. A girl can ball her fist and strike a boy in the arm. He?ll grab the spot she just clocked, open his mouth, and, before he can say anything, his friends cut in. ?Oooohhhh!? Maybe he?ll squeeze in a ?Dag, girl,? before she rolls her eyes and turns away.
?All that cuz he grabbed your pencil??
I know by high school this will start to change. For some of the young women, soft giggles will replace fierce commands. Their fists will unfurl, fingers pliable, vulnerable, ready to slap. Softly. Stooooop it. Like a song, like a singsong in the chorus of a song. Like a sigh.
These are the girls I worry about. These are the girls I worry about when I hear MCs claim dominion over spaces mostly men occupy. You can find me in the club? Our junior high school girls sing, appropriating male lyrics, a gender-specific way of addressing women. I?m into having sex. I ain?t into makin love, so come gimme a hug?
Which girls have sex? Which girls experience love?
When I ask them, the junior high school girls, what they think when they hear Hip Hop that denigrates women, that categorizes females as good or bad, they say they don?t worry about it. They?re not talking about me they say when I ask them about the songs and images that make our grandmothers suck their teeth in disgust. Songs and images that we click away from the youngest in our families. (Here, Penny Proud?s on. Watch that.)
Some of our junior high school girls will retain a fierce sensibility and navigate male-dominated spaces with grace. Others will feel their hearts rip as they age, swinging through testosterone-driven territory, tearing from one space to the next. One club to the next. One man to the next. One way of being Black and female. To the next.
In a finished basement or an hourly motel or on an empty rooftop or a parked car somewhere outside the party, the voice that tells them they ain?t doin right will have turned so soft and so giggly that it will barely be heard over the bassline pumping under their young backs. The downward spiral begins because ?them hoes don?t mean nothin? to him.
Torn from their former power, they will begin to see much more clearly the full terrain for Black womanhood. They will begin to understand our dichotomous way of being Black girls in this country. Now, African American women either ride to die for cash and kicks or get wifed and make money as mothers. Baby?s mammas who remain monogamous even as their men won?t. For too many of our sistahs this world offers precious little alternative to the ho/hoochie girl/wifey dichotomy. Sometimes it seems this world never did. The possibilities our girls confront when they?re grown (or actin it) limit their acquisition of power to that derived from men.
Good girls produce babies while bad girls produce fantasy. While the bad girl swings an ep in the back of the jeep, the good girl is supposed to ?understand? her man and his polygamous behavior. She projects her rage at the split self, the dichotomous self, at the other woman, rather than on the male power that divides them both. From each other ? and from their authentic selves.
?If your girlfriends see me with another chick, and I say it wasn?t me, would you believe them? Is our bond that weak that it can be easily broken??
?Is it?? the boy who once marveled at female power turns around and, now a man, full-grown, demands. Then he turns his back on her to walk out the door. Before he returns, the good girl thinks, fumes, cries, stops thinking, yearns, waits, hears his key, fixes her face, crosses her arms, sees him, opens her arms, accepts his gifts, fingers open, pliable, giving so much as they receive this thing ?to make it up to you, girl.?
Like a stripper, the good girl uses her moneymaker, and getting wifed has become the every girl goal. The supplement to a sistah?s regular job is nice ? and necessary. Successfully negotiating male space - male space that?s paid ? reaps great rewards. The lyrics promise ?all the keys and security codes?the cheese.? The seduction is seductive, too, promising deep (and rather swiftly achieved) love, followed by conflict (there?s that other chick), reconciliation (also swifty), and a ceremony of some kind because ?we ain?t getting? no younger.? It rings like a Harlequin reads. Could it be that it?s all so simple?
Could it be? Is Hip Hop this simple?
We who love Hip Hop (after all, the beat is nice) want to embrace our power through both rhythm and word, to be holistic. And whole. So we have some work to do. To get that free feeling that is all about really being free, we have to free the women who were once girls and the girls coming up now. Free us all from the stereotypes that shackle our souls. We must question male privilege without male power. We must realize that male power without gender equality means pulled hoodies and slammed doors and bruised souls as men leave women ? and women leave themselves.
When they talk about wifeys and hoes we women have to be clear that they are talking to us. All of us. Maybe it?s ok that a schoolgirl doesn?t get this, but serious sistahs need to recognize with a quickness. No matter which script the brother flips, and no matter which role you run, good girl or bad, my sister, they are talking about you.