Why I Love & Hate Black Gays: Mariah & Janet Read the Divas!

I have recently been having a lot of conversations with Black women, particularly lesbian friends, about Black gay misogyny. Without going into grave detail (right now anyways), what are the ways in which black gay male performances of black women actually support patriarchy more than they do to disrupt gender norms? Why is it that many people in our community can only be bothered with women they consider femme, attractive, or some other superficial markers of womanhood while are incredibly hostile to women, lesbians in particular who don’t perform for them, or fit certain high-femme gender norms of what it means to be a woman?

In any case, while I sometimes really am annoyed by Black gay misogyny, I cannot help but also be entertained and highly value the ways in which we continue to develop a whole language and culture that is a whole thing all its own. Case in point, the following video (and if you go to Youtube there’s a whole series of these) of a fake conversation between Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey, which the two describe their frustrations with the other so-called Divas and Legends, reading as if they are two queens from the Ball scene. And what’s funnier is the script run through a computer voice interpreter which strips away the contours of how we actually sound, but you get to hear the actual words and phrasing. This is clearly written by a Black gay man, and while I have to ponder at the ways in which we invoke the feminine that are sometimes horribly problematic, it is at the same time very creative, inspired, and in this case, damn funny.

OK. One more. Whitney Houston schools Keri Hilson.

8 thoughts on “Why I Love & Hate Black Gays: Mariah & Janet Read the Divas!

  1. I would love to read more about the thinking/discussion going on around black gay male misogyny you are doing. I know when a similar discussion broke out on my blog about potential Latino gay misogyny and/or misogyny in the gay community in general it led to some very serious backlash despite repeated attempts to establish that the comment makers in the thread needed to use specific examples and deal with specific transgressions rather than generalize to entire group being discussed.

    Confronting isms within the margins seems much more problematic and volatile than I had hoped it would be by now.

  2. that conversation is locked based on one person’s particularly egregious behavior. but my blog is likeawhisper.wordpress.com you’re always welcome.

  3. It would be really interesting if those Black women would bring their perspectives to this conversation. Some of those videos are funny – some even border on eloquence – but basically someone’s speaking through these avatars because they feel as if their own voices wouldn’t have the same impact. Or, even worse, because they feel as if they have no voice without invoking (or trying to invoke) some celebrity’s … and that’s pathetic. Not surprising, but still pathetic and disheartening. Well, we are on the Internet – a breeding ground for anonymity and surreptitiousness. And in the real world offline, we’re still being silenced, bashed and murdered in our own communities. By others and by each other …

  4. I don’t think it was women who made the video. Or did I read that wrong?

    gay bashing is horrible.
    misogyny is horrible.
    silencing is horrible.

    I don’t think anyone of these is anymore horrible than another or that discussing one negates another. And interestingly, I think often when we discuss one oppression we end up unmasking multiple other, intersecting ones, as in the case of the current transphobia controversy on the CA morning show Rob, Arnie, and Dawn in the Morning.

  5. Professor, we disagree about a key issue. While I think it’s horrible for anyone to automatically think less of someone because she’s a women, I do think it’s more horrible for someone to go the extra step and to physically assault you – for whatever reason. People are entitled to think, to disagree and to like (or dislike) whoever they choose, but nothing entitles me to put my hands on someone else unless I’m protecting myself from someone harming me.

    Which brings me to an issue that I don’t think our gay communities are dealing with: the disappearance of Black gay men. No, all of us aren’t typing shady scripts to be read by virtual-reality versions of our favorite celebrities, but it does represent a failure of our fight for marriage equality to question the patriarchy that creates those inequalities in the first place. It’s an attempt to show how ‘normal’ gay people can be through coupling and through marriage … but does that necessarily make our neighborhoods and our communities safer to live in? People are still entitled to their opinions and having marriage equality on the books isn’t going to automatically create more gay visibility or make anti-gay people pro-gay.

  6. Yes, it does look like we disagree Donald but I think it is on the definition of misogyny and its purpose. For me, misogyny is the underlining ideology that allows inequality based on gender in our society, including acts of physical, emotional, sexual, and economic violence. And misogyny is often used to describe acts of violence or to mark them out as particularly sexist. And so while we may also disagree about the import of language as a means to spread ideology vs. actual physical acts, what I think we disagree more on is how misogyny works as both ideology and potentially physical violence.

    I do agree with you the queer people of color are invisible in mainstream movements and mainstream media. It reminds me of an article by Rubin (in the LGSR). She argues that when AIDs hit in the late 70s-early 80s mainstream queer folk made the decision to mirror suburban straight people in order to stop “gay panic” and ensure research funding. She says that this push toward the center left out several sexual identities covered under the umbrella queer, and I would argue also several races and ethnicities, in order to push primarily white, gay, monogamous, vanilla, men to through the door of “acceptability.” And she further argues that by accepting the door as real and legitimate, these efforts not only marginalized everyone else all the more but ultimately hurt the entire community by forcing us to emulate something we had once been standing firmly against or at least providing alternatives to. I think about that piece every time marriage equality is centered as THE cause for GLBTQ rights. And all the more so when some one argues that marriage equality would lead to health care benefits, pensions, etc. so it really is addressing economic issues b/c of course one needs to have a job that provides those benefits in order for them to be extended through marriage in the first place. However, and we may disagree here as well, I do think that we should have equality in all things and that marriage prohibition represents unequal treatment under the law, so that activism around ensuring equality is never wrong. What is “wrong” is the investment in acceptability, the exclusion of working class and subsistence level queer folk, the failure to outreach to non-English speaking communities or communities of color during these campaigns, the willingness to blame them when equality fails, the failure to link citizenship based marriage initiatives to bi-national or immigrant rights, the complete lack of thinking about transgender identity, etc. and the subsuming of other needed activism in the community for this single issue. And even worse, is the way that making any issue the litmus test for group membership or inclusion polarizes activist efforts and makes it hard for different groups within a community to speak to one another or be heard when they do. This is a failing of many movements and identity groups and one we all seem to understand but be unwilling to change. That to me is a function of unspoken power that is also erasing qoc from the agenda.

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