Category Archives: Female Gaze

The Savage Ex Fenty Fashion Show: A Work of Art, Culture and Commerce SPOILER ALERT!

I am a Day 1 Savage Ex Fenty fan. I mean literally. I was one of the those people sitting in front of my laptop waiting for the exclusive website access I signed up for to begin when Rihanna’s line of lingerie first dropped, watching the minutes count down. I was so excited to be able to buy lingerie designed by Rihanna that catered to a broader range of sizes than I had ever seen at a Victoria’s Secret. I remember having to retrain my eye when I saw the range of varying shapes of full sized and “plus sized” models on the site. I was so used to giant skinny White women with flat asses, that it took me some time to adjust to seeing what real women looked like in lingerie. I signed up for the yearly VIP Membership as advised by my husband (heehee) and have never looked back. Over time, I’ve noticed that it’s often the fuller sized models who I look at to see how the lingerie might look on me. Body image for women in this world is such a colonized, white washed mind fuck that it can take months to deprogram your gaze from the damage of Victoria’s Secret print models.

The Savage Ex Fenty Fashion show that dropped on Amazon Prime streaming video last week took the concept of inclusion and Rihanna’s on brand strength, playfulness and sexual empowerment to a hundred and ten on acid!

Now I know that Amazon is a giant corporate monster but I’m not mad at Ri for  establishing herself as a mogul, getting that bag and creating an empire because she is also breaking the standardized mold of what we’ve been told sexy looks like as well as bringing art, culture, body positivity and non-conformity into the commercial world of lingerie. This fashion show was runway, was performance, was art, was dancehall, was concert, was furturism, was so many things! As each musical performance began you could click in the left margin to see the song that was playing and a bio about the artist. So you can buy the lingerie, the music, and discover and support some artists you may have never even known before Ri put you on.

Before it starts, there’s a behind the scenes look at the concept, vision for the show. The moment when Rihanna first sees Paris Goebel’s choreography for the opening of the show and loves it so much she decides she wants to be in it is just so exciting. The entire show is Rihanna from beginning to end. It’s strong, edgy, sexy, powerful and wildly inclusive. I’ve watched it three times so far and I get goose pimples every time.

Savage Ex Open

The opening lands like a chainsaw. It’s just sick. When these ladies go off, it’s like the Dora Milaje threw on sexy lingerie and decided to do a hip-hop concert. Rihanna’s Savage warrior spirit is on full display. The women she selects to channel their own version of that are pure fire.

The set, a collection of all white basic but theatrical shapes, landings, stairs, and several stories of domes to highlight the silhouettes of each dancer who inhabit it was a fantastic backdrop to set off the plumage of fantasy, funk, freakiness and fabulosity that graced the stage.

Raisa Verticle

Let’s talk about Raisa Flowers (above), a make-up artist who opens up part of the set for the first performance. I had no idea who she was before I saw this show but to see her is to know what she is about because her energy, her artistry and beauty are just beyond. I’m blown away by her.

Normani

There was a woman with a double leg amputation who did a fierce walk across the stage during one set. Mama Cax, a gorgeous model and just an amazing being who has a single leg amputation someone I know from being a fan of Finding Paola, was also featured.  And Normani who used to be with Fifth Harmony was all angles and hips and joint defying butterfly! She and the dancers in her set busted out and came to slay it all down.

I loved seeing Gigi Hadid walk out to  the intro of Big Sean’s “Clique” a song I really like despite the usual misogynistic lyrics. He and A$AP Ferg were a great choice to open.  Halsey was also amazing. I believe she lip synced her song because unlike the other musical artists who performed on stage alone, she performed with lingerie clad dancers who were part of her extensive set. Migos was a wondrous visual spectacle performing in a circle filled with shallow water. I loved how their futuristic metallic outfits and sunglasses reflected the multi-colored colored  laser lights that shot down towards them in slanted shapes like rain.  I also loved that Tierra Whack came on with DJ Khalid, Fat Joe and Fabolous to close it out.

I cancelled my Amazon Prime account last year and never find cause to order using their service any longer. But somehow I’ve still watched  the fashion show repeatedly since it came out. LOL!

If you don’t have Amazon Prime and are totally anti Amazon because of the shit they tried to pull, I totally understand. Just go get you a trial so you can watch and then cancel it later. LOL!!

No, seriously…go…now…

 

 

Sunday at The Guggenheim

Revoke my New Yorker card if you wanna but it’s taken me years to realize that the M3 from Harlem goes to the Guggenheim museum in almost 20 minutes! I discovered it this weekend and now I just don’t know what to do with myself. I’m a bit of a Museum nerd and it kills me when there’s a show I wanna see on the East side and all I think about is all kinds of soul sucking train line switching I have to do in order to get there. The M3 route takes me through memory lane passed Central Park East and and my High School and finally on the upper East Side where I went on first dates, saw movies, hung out at HMV (remember HMV?) and tried to catch transportation home on school day evenings before my pass expired. I love this line.

Simone Leigh

This weekend, Simone Yvette Leigh’s “Loophole of Retreat” brought me to the Guggenheim, not one of my favorite Museum spaces but for some reason, it was more than tolerable this time. I always love seeing The Guggenheim from the outside but something about walking around an incline in circles without ever knowing what floor you’re on irks me. Still, when I saw one of Leigh’s pieces on a subway ad months ago I was just viscerally struck by the power of it, the Blackness and the femininity. I finally read more about Simone Yvette Leigh and her work a few weeks ago. I visited her “Brickhouse” sculpture on the Highline and have since just been fascinated and obsessed with being close to her pieces.

Continue reading Sunday at The Guggenheim

Baldie Revolution or Guess What? I Shaved My Head.

So after months of thinking about it and agonizing over it, I finally shaved my head  bald a few weeks ago. Though I do feel super liberated and in love with my bald head, I’ve had my share of insecurities, particularly since I’ve been challenged with some hair damage over the years but I’m kinda into moving past that right now and healing rather than harping. It has helped a lot to have the full support of my husband whose clippers I used to shave my head initially. He finished it off in the back and then smartly suggested that I go to the barbershop to have it lined up and neatened and stuff.

Shout out to Denny Moe’s in Harlem for never making me feel weird, awkward or shamed for coming in to cut my hair short and always making me feel welcome because I have heard some bad stories about the terrible treatment of women of color going to barber shops to have a big chop done. As if we don’t have enough problems!

Here are some things I have experienced since I shaved my head.

Continue reading Baldie Revolution or Guess What? I Shaved My Head.

Sex With Me So Amazing

Like so many things I cherish, Esther Perel was shared with me by our dearest Khalilah Brann. Esther Perel is a therapist and psychologist whose primary focus is relationships and erotic intelligence, which I think is so dope. Erotic intelligence. Just think about that term for a minute. What comes to mind. What do you think it means?

I watch a lot of Youtube y’all. A LOT! And I can click on just about anything where Esther Perel speaks and be completely engaged, enlightened, enthralled and just wowed by her wisdom and intelligence and understanding of human sexuality and relationships. I always think I have some idea what she will say on a particular topic but she always ends up saying some truth I never knew I always knew! LOL! And in a way I never could have imagined. In other words, she surprises and empowers me at the same time. Since that doesn’t happen very often, I know when it’s real.

In the latest Esther Perel video I happened to click on randomly, she talks about how a woman has to be turned on by her own self before she can feel like she wants to have sex.

NOW!

It took 1.1 seconds for me to know this to be true but I’ve always thought that this quality in me was narcissistic and wrong because of the messaging I get from society about the evils of that kind of “self pleasuring.” But Esther doesn’t mince words. She’s not here to judge. She’s just saying it plain and she even uses the word narcissistic. But she’s not saying it’s bad. She’s just saying this is what it is that women need. We need to feel like we are sexy in order to have sex. “If she doesn’t want to make love to herself, she won’t let anybody else do it either.”

Nerisa

Cut to another woman Khalilah turned me onto, a Sistah named Nerissa Nefeteri, the self acclaimed “FemHealth Activist” whose Nene Feme Yoni wash stays in my bath time and shower rotation, the Sistah who brought us Yoni Poppin. I follow her on IG, another social media tool I am immersed in as much if not more than Youtube. Nerrissa will post a sexy random photo of herself and or her and her man (father of her beautiful children) in whatever position, wearing or not wearing whatever, whenever she sees fit. I can tell she gets off on herself but it’s not remotely similar to anything I would compare with pornography because she does it for herself, and not a male gaze. She could give a shit about what men are watching, though she know fully aware that they are. But these images are for herself and she shares them with us in an effort to promote a self awareness in Black women that really challenges notions of how we feel about our own  bodies, both physically, spiritually, emotionally and practically.

I’m not gonna lie. I sometimes will catch myself feeling like damn! I wish I could use visual mediums to be that bold and liberated about my own sexuality but I do worry about what people will think and about having to ward off harassment and other unwanted attention. Because I think this kind of expression is truly beautiful and sexy as fuck in a deeply transformative way. Any super sexy photos I have taken stay strictly between me and my husband. But there are times when I wish the world was not so inclined to the violence and perversity and destruction of the unleashed female imagination.

Thanks to women like Esther Perel and Nerrissa Nefeteri, and Cardi B (did you catch her Grammy performance?) I don’t feel quite as ashamed of needing to feel sexy or seeking pleasure in my own sexiness as I once did. It’s okay for us to be in love with and creative with our own sexual power. As to sharing that with other people, social media has seriously changed the game on that front by providing permanent as well as temporary options to express our exhibitionist qualities whenever the mood hits. In this Snaphat seflie thirst trappy culture, the average person can’t help but take at least one or two sexy photos of themselves that go out into the internet galaxy. The option to keep it to yourself is also always a sexy option. The idea is not to feel pressured to express your sexuality in any way that does not make you feel…sexy and safe, to understand truly what sexiness means for you.

My hope is for a future that continues to evolve into a place where women can continue to be sexually fearless. Because our sexual liberation, self care and being comfortable in our bodies usually leads to pleasure, joy, creation and community for all.

Female Gaze=Depth in Sia’s “Elastic Heart”

sia_video

Much speculation has been made since the video for Sia’s “Elastic Heart” was released last week about what goes down in the video using terms like half naked, violent, cage match and pedophilia. I’ve seen little expressed about the interpretation of this video as two warring internal forces as depicted by two incredibly well matched performers through the art of movement and drama.

I was elated to discover  when I came home the day I watched the video for the first and second time that my husband was just as compelled and captivated by the visceral and interpretive nature of the video, not to say the least of the sheer physical achievements of both Maddie and Shia.

We watched the video again several times and then had a long discussion over what we saw as a myriad of possibly intended meanings but what we ultimately understood to be a deliberate lack of easy answers particularly if looked at only as a literal translation of two people fighting in a cage.

My husband made me think about things I would never have thought to examine while watching the video, mainly because I looked at it from a very stereotypical female perspective ie, the female perspective by way of a patriarchal framework . I could only see a study of opposition which placed Maddie in a position of being trapped and wanting to escape. But I was very aware that Shia’s performance was one of deep, raw, fear, panic, loss, vulnerability and victimization as well, emotions that are traditionally relegated to a female performance because they are seen as weak. The choice to cast him was nothing if not deliberate and thoughtful. My husband made me understand that Shia’s character was just as abused, as scared and as lost than Maddie’s character could be conceived to be if not more.

The idea that this video has anything to do with pedophilia simply because it pits a twelve year old girl physically against an adult man was shed for me within minutes of what I comprehended as two beings equally matched in physical power who were battling against larger, more symbolic forces of pain, addiction, abuse, fear and liberation from imposed victimhood. This is far beyond the pornographic images cranked out by the White male gaze we are so accustomed to viewing the world through.  When White men speak power, a woman or person of color is always in chains of some shape or form. The cage is never interrogated, studied or interpreted. It simply functions to keep pacification, marginalization, perversion and self-hate cultivated and prosperous. And that is not this video does.

But I can understand how we as a society, which is not accustomed to seeing life through a female gaze might find itself despondent and shocked when being confronted with one in much the same way that a nation can be despondent and shocked at seeing a Black man elected to Presidential Office.

What did James Baldwin say in “The Fire Next Time” about what happens when dominant oppressive culture reacts to those who have been enslaved and subverted for decades, breaking free from their chains? He said that to those who benefited from the placing and maintenance of those chains it would appear  upon waking in the morning that the night stars were shining in the blue sky.

Or as Leonard Cohen in “The Future” Things are gonna slide, slide in all directions, won’t be nothing, nothing you can measure anymore…”

When women speak power, it is a very different thing than that which we are daily fed by a dominant patriarchal system. Out power is not in dominance but in vulnerability and allowing access. “Elastic Heart” takes to task ideas which speak to what happens when one part of the self tries to liberate itself from another and how much of that self identifies with something which no longer serves it although it experiences the heartbreaking pain of loss when it attempts to separate.

Patriarchy could give a fuck about these ideas.

The use of dance as a form with which to represent these two embattled parts of Sia and humanity as a whole to be honest, are both personal and universally human at the same time. We sometimes have the tendency to want certain artistic expressions to be very literal, to reveal themselves and their purpose or narrative based on reflections of our own inner projections and collections of specific past experiences.  And while I am certain that there are specific experiences in Sia’s life that this song and video are inspired by, I don’t believe that she is depicting any one particular experience. I think it is vague because she seeks connect with a broad meaning of the struggle she attempts to depict and not just her own.

For me, the cage is an obvious metaphor but in addition to that, there is much that occurs in the relationship between these two performers that can be interpreted narratively in many ways. But the assumption that this is just about a small girl being overpowered by an adult man is just a way to provoke and challenge viewers to go deeper.

With regard to the metaphor of bird cages, particularly around the construct of what it means to be undervalued, abused and marginalized in a world dominated by fear, I was moved to revisit the poem “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou. For me, Shia’s behavior best illustrates the caged bird syndrome, someone who wants to get out, but who is also become a victim of a comfort dangerously associated with reward based on pacification and subservience. And Maddie is the part of the bird that wants to fly free and leave the cage. When she leaves, Shia dies and she attempts to do what cannot be done, which is to drag him out into a perceived freedom beyond the bars.  But freedom from any cage cannot bring along any elements of the caged mindset. By law, the two simple cannot co-exist, because one of them is not real. Or rather neither of them is any longer real to the other once they separate.