I disagree with the comment someone made on Monday that
“Rape victims are broken people, decaying on the inside.”
They are real people, predominantly women. The voice of the poem is not a broken spirit, it’s a defiant one. People experience rape but rape does not define them.
If anything, you have to have a will, a fire, a fight to lose that kind of battle, but to win the war, to stay alive and claim your right to existence.
In other words, many women who happen to be raped, consider suicide. To claim your right to existence, you already choose to thrive rather than to decay. To endure that experience and remain whole is to say
“I am beloved by the universe. I do not have to earn my right to exist.”
Especially the voice of the women from the poem rebelled with every step on her nightly walk. She could be the antithesis of “broken.” To me that’s a misogynist term, as if the man has the power to break a woman, to mark her forever.
“You wonder and you wonder until you wander out into Infinity, where – if it is to be found anywhere – Truth really exists.”
Reading Tricia Rose’s Longing to Tell, leaves me with more questions than answers. The above insight by Marita Bonner warns me of the temptation to impose myself on the text rather than to find myself in it. Bonner, who wrote On Being a Young Woman and Colored pioneered this type of text. Although different in her application, Bonner, like Rose also focused primarily on racism and sexism. The “Truth” in Rose’s work would be the account of sexuality by real black women. However, we are pressed to constantly challenge the Truth because it’s hard to find the line where Tricia Rose ends and the black women’s real voices begin.
A Mine Field in a Pretty Package
Repeatedly, I found myself perplexed at the cover choice and title of Longing to Tell. First of all, I would argue that the title would more accurately be Longing to Hear or Longing to Publish. Women who endure racism, incest, rape, and domestic abuse are not just waiting to talk to someone else about these ongoing problems. Often, it’s painful to relive and recount these experiences. To me, the real audience for this book, would be the other black women who suffer in silence or don’t report the bad people who harm them. Those women may be longing to hear that they are not alone.
Similarly, it’s hard not to be cynical and say the book ought to be called Longing to Publish as well. I am certain that, rape victims for example, are not sitting around wishing they had someone to talk about the most painful parts of their life to, and then memorialize it anonymously in a book. To be aware of Rose’s intentions diminishes the “truth quality” of the book for me. One must be aware that the reader may not be getting the real black woman’s narrative. I remained vigilant of the fact that the purpose is to make a book. We get many suggestions from individual stories, that experiences for the women are not often reported or talked about even within the family unit. So what was the incentive for these women to suddenly tell Tricia Rose with complete candor? And how does the intention to publish a book interfere with this process? If this were a science experiment, how would Tricia Ross set up a control group and who would that group be? Could it be the experiences of white women or black men?
Finally, the visual image for me is of all kinds of black women, happy and sad, young and old, but one commonality I envision would be each woman having to name her experiences outlaid for Rose. For this reason, I have to wonder why Tricia Rose chose a light skinned black woman smiling, with lipgloss on for the cover of the book. Should this be perceived as irony or just misleading? Whichever the case, the image doesn’t match the tone of the book. If there are a range of women who all address problems with the color gradient of their skin, a light-skinned black woman does not seem to represent them well. Additionally, the smiling image, along with the title and subtitle “Black Women Talk About Sexuality and Intimacy” misrepresent the book as happy, and warm, as if these were touching, happy stories about sexuality and intimacy.
To go through this book, readers need to be honest, willing and open-minded. The book is an emotional minefield in a pretty package. We have to be honest enough to admit when we are wrong about preconceived notions. We also have to be honest about Tricia Rose’s interference. We have to be willing to trudge through the narratives that are painful, and willing to acknowledge the truth that these experiences are real experiences, and the women, real women and not just characters. Finally, a reader can only be open-minded to swim inside this book. I think a good, analytical, spiritual and immersive read in this book, will leave no reader unscathed. In short, if it’s uncomfortable, you’re doing it right.
Oh Family, Where Art Thou?
My expectations, going into this book, were to read about racism from the white community and disenfranchisement and disparities that stem from black/white polarized racism. I was surprised to find such a depth of a lack of support for the black women within their own black communities and within their own families. Before they even leave their community or even their front door, many of these women were facing demons in their own home.
Fathers seemed to be ghosts in the life of a black women. You are especially privileged if your mother is your father’s only woman, and he stays married to her for your whole life. These are life details many people take for granted. The fathers typically had many children with many different wives, and the women speaking the narrative seemed to be but a footnote in her father’s life. The fathers who did stick around betrayed their daughters trust by condoning incest, not giving love, or doling out abuse to the woman’s mother. How can the black woman form a healthy relationship with a man, when her father or lack of father is all she knows? The moral in this example would be that monogamous men are a scarce resource, so there should be special emphasis on securing one. The other leasing this “Father figure” teaches the black woman will be that you can’t trust a man, because he will only set you up for failure.
Mothers take on the sole responsibility for child rearing. Often the narratives talked about having multiple siblings which must have been stressful for the mother, especially if she also had to be the sole bread winner. The mothers seemed to be afflicted with all kinds of problems, such as loving abusive men or being alcoholic or deeply religious. These problems affect the daughters the worst. With a mother occupied most of the time, she doesn’t have time to watch out for incest, molestation, bullying etc. When the daughters hit puberty, many of the mother’s felt uncomfortable talking to them about sex or menstruation. Probably one of the quintessential betrayals of the book comes from one mother who refuses to believe that her daughter was raped, sides with the rapist, and continues to let him live in her home. How can black women develop healthy friendships with other women with mothers like that? What kind of trust issues does this cause? How can black women learn to parent other children with open-ness when they are raised in silence?
“Black men are born of black women and influenced by the black women in their lives. I have to love black women in order for me to love myself.” –D’Angelo
Although D’Angelo’s ideologies don’t match his actual lifestyle, the words nonetheless are meaningful. The black men in the book that women have relationships with seem to incessantly disappoint them. They are the brothers who molest, the creepy neighbor who molests, they are the man who gave you AIDS, the disappointing de-flowering, the abusive boyfriend, the rich gangster who beats you black and blue, the rapist, and the man who dumped you for a white woman.
While not all black men fit this mold, the fact is that black men are causing a lot of the problems that women in the book face. If so, then the solution lies within black men to change. A beginning, as D’Angelo points out would be the black women raising their sons. If they are destined to be the primary caregiver, one can only hope that they will raise sons to become the men they never found.
Lack of love and support is also a common family dilemma. Perhaps if they also shower their daughters with love and support, are open and honest, the daughters will grow up with higher self-esteem.
I’m going to kill my [white] boyfriend.
Issues with skin color, white-washed beauty, and dating white men sprouted like weeds all over the text. Many of the women felt that the lighter your skin, the more beautiful you are. They briefly touch on trying to emulate or live by white standards of beauty. I feel this manifests in the women’s attitudes about white men. The women who date white men or who feel them to be more compassionate, fear black men, and fear that rejection. They are aware of exoticism and disregard it. Then there are other women that fear white men, that talk about friends who were raped because of exoticism. These women won’t even date black men who date white women. Even though, it’s a little hard for me to understand this, as a white woman, when you immerse yourself, you can see the full picture. The women with the latter view all seem to have higher self-esteem. They want to be loved for who they are, and want to challenge the black men to love them.
This video, to me, shows a lot of imagery of this concept. Natalia Kills, born of an Afro-Jamaican father and Guatemalan mother, depicts herself in a white-washed image. Almost all of the women in the book with several nationalities still defined themselves as black, but I ask, who is Natalia Kills attempting to appeal to? It’s strange to me that all her boyfriends in the video are white, and that in her white-washing, she uses milk as an instrument of violence.
I Love Black Women
I LOVE Black women because they are the mothers of our
I love Black women because of their
enduring strength, a strength that at times has risen
above the failures of Black fathers.
I love their
curly hair, their braided hair, their straightened and
even kinky hair.
I love their full lips and, of
course, their brown sugar skin.
But most of all, I
love Black women because I am the product of a Black
woman. Black men are born of Black women and
influenced by the Black women in their lives.
to love Black women in order for me to love myself.”
~ D’ Angelo, singer ~
D’ Angelo points out that he is a product of a black women. With the single parent households, the responsibility often falls on the mother to raise the children.
How will the characters of Tricia Rose raise their children to be different from the men in their lives that have disappointed them?
For example, if violence against women is a problem, isn’t the solution in the person doling out the violence. How do we get them to stop?
Is this excerpt from D’Angelo a success story?
On March 11, 2010 D’Angelo pled guilty to soliciting sex from a prostitute, who was really an undercover police officer. At the time of the incident, he was married to Angie Stone.
Who is the audience for this video?
Where is the narrative of the black man in tricia rose’s book? What would he say?
In Longing to Tell, Tricia Rose asks the women about their relationship to the white world and the white man in relationships specifically.
In this video, Natalia Kills, whose parents are Afr0-Jamaican and Guatamalan sings the song “I’m going to kill my boyfriend.” A European artist, her appearance emphasizes white beauty values, the boyfriend she kills is white, and she drowns him in a bathtub of white milk. In contrast to the dark lyrics, the song is in a poppy Britney Spears style. Is this irony?
How does the video reflect the African-American values in the United States? How does this video relate to the experiences of the women in Longing to Tell? What is the message of Natalia Kills?
Why is the woman on the cover of this book a light-skinned black woman? Why is she smiling? Why the title “Longing to Tell” when these women were not knocking down Tricia Rose’s door to answer these questions?
Coming into this book, I expected to find a tale of how the white community and external forces worked against these black women.
However, the saddest part of the book is how members of the black community work against them. The failure to support and empower these women even begins in the home.
I would like to talk about how the black community and the black family in the United States works against black females.
“The Bohemian”– A thirty-something black woman who is comfortable with her body and appearance and rejects the “white” concept of beauty. She wears makeup only to enhance her natural beauty and usually wears her hair natural as an afro or dreadlocks or cut short, The concept behind her look is that she loves herself the way God intended her to be, and rejects any attempts to be molded into someone she is not, or to conform to a “white standard.” She is environmentally conscious and wears natural rather than synthetic fabrics. She is very often interested in the arts, music, and stereotypically poetry, or slam poetry. Real life examples would be Lauryn Hill, (from the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill) and India Arie, as well as Thandie Newton’s character, Tangie in “Colored Girls.”
“The Wise Mother Figure”- She’s in her late 40’s or 50’s, and has a Ph.D. in the school of hard knocks. She always seems to have the right answer and knows best, even if her advice is rarely followed. In fiction, media and literature, she is portrayed as hardworking, perhaps unable to retire, and has a life marked by tragedy. She is usually small, childlike, servile and deeply religious. This concept often transitions from archetype to stereotype when overly emphasized in the media. This excerpt from Stephen King’s The Stand, shows “Mother Abigail” whose main credentials are that she appears in other people’s dreams.
“The Tomboy”- She is strong, powerful and confident. She might be one of the few women in a male career, and is often written off as a “feminatzi” or “lesbian.” She is probably the quintessential black feminist and characteristically will be involved with gender bending in her clothing and appearance. They take ownership of the typically male sphere. In my opinion, these women are continuous pioneers of the women’s movement. Queen Latifah, Tracy Chapman and Janelle Monae are good examples.
The song tightrope talks about walking on the tightrope, even when people want to bring you down or judge you.
“I tip on alligators and little rattle snakers
But I’m another flavor
Something like a terminator
Ain’t no equivocating
I fight for what I believe”
“Who said the ladies couldn’t make it, you must be blind.”
“The Diva”- This archetype can also be a stereotype, when amplified in the media. This would be the totally “synthesized” black woman. A teen or twenty-something, with dyed hair, straight hair, perms, or weaves. She is very beautiful by society’s standards and glamourous with a curvy body, skinny waist, fake nails, designer labels, and flashy clothes. She enjoys shopping, dating and can sometimes be lumped into the “gold digger” and “welfare queen” stereotypes, just because she conforms to society’s standard of attractiveness. People first, make the assumption that because of her skin color she has a lower economic status and secondly, because of her beauty, assume that she will be interested in a man for money, or getting her spending money from welfare funds. Alternatively, there are many “divas” that although conforming to societal norms can also be good role models, such as Beyonce, who in her “Party” video, acknowledges and satirizes this stereotype.
“The Black Hipster”- Between the age of 15 and 25, this upper middle class, highly educated woman views the world cynically. She’s given up hope for change, and this is the reason she doesn’t vote, “because it doesn’t matter anyway.” She is known for supporting trends that resemble concepts that she doesn’t endorse. For example, people shop at Goodwill to reuse old clothes and save money, but she might shop at Urban Outfitters to get the same style of clothing for upwards of $60 for a shirt alone. She’s often embarrassed by the black community of the United States, and embraces a “white washing” as intellectual, and higher. She views herself as intellectual, cool, and unique, but she’s also not self-aware that she is antifeminist and anti-black concept of beauty. She’s more than likely got her hair in an unnatural combination of white and weird, like a flat iron mohawk. She can be seen wearing wayfarer raybans, vintage clothing, and been tagged in a Facebook photo as the “token black girl” at every white hipster party.
“The No-Tipper” This perception of black women, in my experience is a result of confirmation bias and racism. For example, waitresses and waiters have the assumption that black women don’t tip. So they will give bad service because they feel that they have no incentive. Consequently, the women may not tip or give a small tip, because the service was bad and the server treated them poorly, which was what anyone would do. Also, the confirmation bias is that, wait staff will focus only on the one or two black women who do not tip, and fail to recognize other people who don’t tip or other black women who do. They choose to only observe instances that confirm a bias they already have.
“The Sassy Black Woman” She is beautiful, overweight, and constantly doling out unwarranted advice. She is usually funny, and has a reputation for “telling it like it is.” An example would be the comedian, Monique, or Necie from Clean House.
“The Tribal Other” The fundamental indoctrinated racist image of all African women, being tribal, animal-like, uncivilized, and needing to be saved. For example, the kind of people who refer to Africa as a country rather than a continent, will assume that African women are all topless, indigenous characters from a National Geographic text. This image is of a woman who is topless, adorned, barefoot and sits in drum circles.