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your thoughts: feminine sexuality & spirituality

the women of black history month 2014

the women of black history month 2014

At sexNspirit you may always share your thoughts regarding feminine sexuality and spirituality. Yet, today you may share them with a chance to win a $25 gift card to the retailer of your choice*!  Visit here to complete a brief survey and enter the drawing.  (NOTE: The survey is for adults only – 18+ years old.)

You may also want to check out our latest newsletter that features a collage of all the women highlighted on our SoulSpace blog during February’s Black History Month.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!

best,
candi

*The gift card must be available to purchase in Atlanta, GA or online.

(c) 2014 candi dugas, llc

permission

permission

Mother, may I? Do our young people even still play this childhood game today? Does anyone remember with me, the tensely focused anticipation of making it to the leader first so we could have our turn at possessing the power – the power to command the progress of the masses to the “front of the line?” (Read more here if you’ve never heard of “Mother, May I?”)

Permission.

I’ve been a bit preoccupied this spring with rape. Yes, I’ve been thinking about this post for two full months. My preoccupation began when I watched Zerlina Maxwell’s appearance on the Melissa Harris Perry Show. I was horrified and astonished that Ms. Maxwell received death and rape threats because she stated on FOX News that we have to teach men how not to rape in order to prevent such assaults on women in the future. And for this very simple and rational solution she is so violently threatened? Really? I don’t understand how we get from A to B on this one. (See Ms. Maxwell on MHP here.)

Then Olivia Pope and President Grant shared a passionate, quite aggressive sex scene in a White House IT closet which triggered very visceral responses from black women on social media. Their responses to this scene essentially equated it with rape.

Finally black women were up in arms again after seeing Tyler Perry’s Temptation. Several sistahs cried, “Rape!” upon seeing Harley persist in his desire beyond Judith’s expressions of “no.” (None of the online clips of this scene on Harley’s private jet include the critical moments of her persistent resistance.) I heard their voices articulating what they experienced as a viewer; however, after I saw the film, I resisted characterizing it as rape.

And I struggled with my resistance. To me, “no” has always meant “no” – unequivocally – even, as a friend of mine put it, if “no” means “not yet.” To me, rape has always meant a conclusive violation of any form or stage of “no.” After several conversations with friend-colleagues, I determined that in the moment of watching the scene on the plane we audience members don’t have enough information to decide whether it’s rape or not. Mr. Perry fails to do what Shonda Rhimes has done twice now in “Scandal,” with meticulous intentionality I presume. Each time Fitz (President Grant) asserts his desire for Olivia and she pushes him away, he retreats. Pause. Then it’s quite clear that Olivia resumes the encounter by going to him.

Permission.

So, now I’m left with more questions. What is the genesis of our gendered hierarchal culture that persists across our world in most nations? When did men’s power over women start and how has it remained intact decades after efforts like the United States’ Suffrage and Equality Movements? How is it that in 2013 we continue to tolerate a rape culture while misconstruing a woman’s agency to engage in whatever kind of sexual encounter she chooses?

In westernized Christianity, certainly, we can point to traditional interpretations of one of the creation narratives to determine that women are ordained to be ruled over by men because G~d created the first woman from the side of the first man. However, there are other cultures to consider in answering my globally posed questions. Perhaps it is simply about power and control . . . and the fear of losing it.

Over Mother’s Day weekend, I had a few more conversations with family and friends. Young adult family members studying philosophy and other such subjects in college challenged their elders to our thoughts on racism, sincerely asking if we’re not perpetuating the problem as black people by persistently pointing it out all the time. “Everything is not about race,” they insisted. At the end of the day, we found common ground around the notion that it’s all fundamentally about power. I can say that I left the conversation agreeing with the young scholars that, indeed, we are distracted by race when we ought to work on resolving humanity’s power issues.

Then I spoke with a friend about how it is that certain groups are more successful than others in assuming (via conquest) power and keeping it. Essentially he suggested that it’s a confluence of circumstances. The group in power simply had some kind of advantage – physical strength, more formidable weapons, etc. – and then, over time, their experience in power becomes an advantage as well. Prolonged power becomes privilege and an ingrained sense of entitlement. That’s how men rape, how they assert themselves with women without the slightest notion that they require . . .

Permission.

SIDEBAR: I have to say a word about how I sense that women with conservative, traditional religious values contribute to our gendered hierarchal (rape) culture. While I agree with Ms. Maxwell that it is absolutely not my responsibility to carry a gun on my dates in case I’m sexually assaulted – I assert that it is my responsibility to create a rational, balanced approach to heterosexual gender relations. I cannot claim the man is the head of my house and my equal at the same time. I cannot be the damsel in distress waiting for his salvation and his equal at the same time. I contribute to an anti-rape culture when, within my own sphere of influence, I create a person within my femaleness who is a self-actualized human being in which {healthy} men recognize agency, autonomy, authority, compatibility and the necessity of permission rather than the urge to overpower and control.

We’ve forgotten the lessons of simple childhood games, I suppose, lessons which teach that power and control are meant to be shared in community. The ones aspiring to leadership must actually reach the places of power one day

and, in turn, guide others to take the reins from them while caring well for the ones who made their leadership possible as they retreat and allow themselves to be guided once again.

Mother, may I?

the cdllc calendar

Current Events

Who Told You That You Were Naked? on Respect My Hustle Radio – TOMORROW, 1p EDT – candi sits down with -72- to discuss her book and how the Black church’s tradition of virtual silence regarding sexuality adversely affects the Black woman’s self-understanding as a sexual being. Catch us on 1100 AM Radio (Atlanta, GA). (Click here for live streaming.) Call in to the show at 404.603.8770.

Upcoming Events

“Urban Grind Book Club & Signing” – June 9th, 5p (every 2nd Sunday), Urban Grind Coffeehouse, Atlanta, GA  – Featuring books (fiction & non-fiction) and their authors, as a community that loves to read, write, and discuss interesting literary work. Look for more information soon on June’s authors. Interested authors should email me (facilitator) at cdugas@candidugas.com to register for future dates.

Recent Events

“Single, Saved & Sexin’: The Redux” – In March, I revisited the renowned Crunk Feminist Collective (CFC) post, “Single, Saved & Sexin’” with Dr. Brittney Cooper (Crunktastic), Rev. Arabella Littlepage and Rev. Theresa Thames. What an affirming evening! “Awesome! So many points and so well connected to self-care, self awareness and the black woman’s body. Our female spiritual leaders can help guide us in a direction that creates healthy relationships.” ~Anacostia Yogi If you missed it, check us out here.

Annnd . . . More Thoughts for Our (re)Consideration

© 2013 candi dugas, llc

when will a black woman be free enough 2 love whomever she chooses?

when will a black woman be free enough 2 love whomever she chooses?

“Is Olivia Pope the New Sally Hemings?” Stacia L. Brown’s question as penned in a recent article in Clutch Magazine has gained little traction. Most responses to her question have been a resounding “NO.” Online commenters tend to think the comparison is a huge stretch for a number of reasons including a few listed here:

  • Olivia and television’s “Scandal’s” President Fitzgerald Grant (Fitz) are fictional characters. Sarah “Sally” Hemings and her slave-owning lover, President Thomas Jefferson, were actual people.
actors tony goldwyn and kerry washington in abc's scandal, created by shonda rhimes

actors tony goldwyn (president grant) and kerry washington (ms. pope) in abc’s “scandal,’ created by shonda rhimes. image from http://hiphopwired.com.

  • Olivia is not a slave; she’s a powerfully influential business owner. Ms. Hemings lived her entire life literally owned by other people. (While she died in 1835 residing with her two sons, historians report that neither President Jefferson nor his heirs ever officially granted her freedom.)
  • Olivia, a fully grown and educated professional woman, consents to her relationship with Fitz. Historians attest that Ms. Hemings was about 14 years old when she began her romantic relationship with President Jefferson. Even accounting for women marrying at younger ages in past eras, Ms. Hemings’ age and slave status call to serious question her ability to consent to such a relationship.

While Ms. Brown’s comparison does not receive much support for the sake of online debates, it does raise a critical question.

Olivia may be independent, but is she free?

olivia pope of abc's scandal, created by shonda rhimes and an artist's rendering of sally hemings for barbara chase-riboud's novel

olivia pope of abc’s scandal, created by shonda rhimes and an artist’s rendering of sally hemings for barbara chase-riboud’s novel

Are any of us black women, descendants of slaves, free if we cannot love any man we choose (adultery and other betrayals of commitment aside) without attracting comments and inquiries regarding our choices? The attraction of these comments and inquiries indicate that we don’t choose, no matter how tangibly successful we are, on a level playing field. This conversation is certainly a reality check; black women are still connected to the vestiges of American slavery.

When will a black woman be free enough to love whomever she chooses?

Perhaps creative work like “Scandal” and Shonda Rhimes’ other shows (Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice) advance us toward true freedom. Ms. Rhimes’ characters and storylines never hinge upon race. Whenever race happens to be a factor in a story, it isn’t magnified and is done as one feature in a larger picture. We know from history that music, arts in general, and sports help connect us across boundaries like race. These connections assist in reducing and eventually dissipating the issue of color lines forever.

Bravo, kudos, and AMEN to Olivia Pope, the cast of Scandal, Shonda Rhimes and all others associated with this fabulous show! Olivia is not today’s Ms. Hemings, but because Sally Hemings was, we are.

SIDEBAR:

Ms. Brown’s article was written prior to Scandal’s season finale, so she didn’t have an opportunity to take into account the final scenes. In these scenes Ms. Rhimes seems to hint that President Grant’s wife is aware of and supports her husband’s relationship with Olivia. When Grant’s presidency is threatened, she tells Olivia something like, “Because you didn’t do your job, now, I have to take my husband back.”

Scandal FLOTUS’ support of the extramarital relationship reminds me of another complex trio – Hagar, Sarah, and Abraham from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Again, in this story, the dark-skinned mistress is a slave and without full citizens’ rights. And just like what may be happening in the Scandal world, Sarah not only approved of the affair, she orchestrated it.

What do you think about that?

LINKS for your consideration:

© 2012 candi dugas, llc

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