Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Homosexual Minstrel Shows at Morehouse

     First off, DISCLAIMER: this is not a blog post about all homosexuality. Nor is it a blog post about men dressing as women. I do not care about either of these topics per say because, what you do in the privacy of your bedroom, (as long as it doesn't directly effect me) is not my business. Men that dress as women or visa versa, in and of themselves, is inconsequential to me for a variety of reasons but in short, what constitutes acceptable "mens" clothing and "womens' clothing changes with culture and time period. For example British men in the 1700's wore wigs and enough make-up that it would make Dolly Parton blush. Scottish men wore kilts, I know many black women in the south that couldn't wear jeans to church, the Romans wore blouses and there are plenty of  current models that wear "boy shorts." So fashion is best a topic left to the fashionable, and I am not. What does concern me is the image of black men and women, because that effects me on an everyday basis. So this is an article with image in mind, it is a response to one isolated phenomenon. So while all responses are welcome, keep in mind my focus is extremely narrow here. This is me using a felt tip marker as opposed to a paint roller.

     Recently there was an article in VIBE magazine entitled "The Mean Girls of Morehouse". This article, in a nutshell talked about a specific group of homosexual cross dressers in Georgia  (they identified themselves as "gender benders") who felt like they were being discriminated against by Morehouse's new dress policy, which stated that men on campus could not wear dresses, carry purses or wear pumps. Now they also included on that list sagging pants, sunglasses, "doo rags" and caps, so it is clear that Morehouse was addressing the "erosion" of dress standards as they saw it on a broad scale. This group called themselves the Plastics and the "leader's" name was Diamond (which in and of itself is problematic with its stereotypical representations) Regardless, what bothered me about the article is that it failed to mention, or address what I feel was Morehouse's concerns ala the image of black men and women. Morehouse, in my eyes has earned the right (historically and culturally) to have a vested interest in how black men and women are perceived, and the article ignores that.

    Getting down to brass tacks, there is a segment of the cross dressing community that essentionally lampoons black women. Lets not pretend they do not exist, there is a certain sub-culture within the cross dressing community as well as the black homosexual community who dress, and act in the mannerisms of the worst stereotypes of black women. Blackface is blackface, and a minstral show by any other name remains the same. Why do we accept this behavior from our community? If any other community were involved there would be talks of gathering the NAACP, boycotts, protests and demands for apologies. If a white man dressed in blackface, affected a "blackcent" and utilized over the top sterotypical theatrics that he saw as indicitive of the mannerisms of black women, the community would (justifiably ) be in an uproar. Oh wait, that already happened...Anyone remember  Shirley Q. Liquor? Many of these representations of black women are similar in deed to white fraternities and sororities dressing in black face and wearing afro wigs on Halloween. They are both examples of misrepresentations based on racial stereotypes.

      This does nothing but reinforce negative sterotypes about black men,and women, and further degrade our image. We would not accept this behavior from straight white men, black women (as well as many African-American homosexuals) did not accept it from Shirley Q. Liquor. There is a small but growing segment of the community that refuses to accept it, and is steadily growing critical of Tyler Perry. So why then do we turn a blind eye when it is enacted from inside the black homosexual community? Do we not have a vested interest in how we are perceved by all aspects of society? Is it too much to ask that we maintain dignity in whatever walk of life we choose?  Malcolm X once said that you can judge men by how they allow people to treat their women. As we are attacking the Don Imus's for their words, and attacking "gangsta" rappers for their music, do we not have the right to demand that our sister's images be protected from ridicule from all forces external and internal regardless of sexual orientation?
     While we are collectively cleaning house and demanding better treatment and respect for black women in all aspects of life, be it music, popular culture or politics. I see it as subversive and dangerous that black men can dress up in the most offensive charactertures of black women and portray those in real life as if they were accurate depictions of those women. It feeds stereotypes, and further show the world that we are unable or unwilling to manage our own images.


  1. There was a spirited conversation in an online Blog community called BlackFolk, about this article that should be viewed. It gives some good counter-points to the article.

    The conversation can be found here at BLACKFOLK

  2. Because the LBGT community has been discriminated against unjustly, many people are afraid to speak critically of them. While I am not a fashion connoisseur, if someone looks terrible, they look terrible. (Side noteif you are wearing pumps to class period, you are doing too much) I understand freedom of expression and all the other freedoms as well. But as a black man you should be honoring th sanctity of womanhood to the best of your abilities.

  3. I agree hsomhg, I think what I want people to make sure they get is that I am not making a blanket statement about the LBGT community, or even the black LBGT community. I was careful to make sure I stated that this was directed at one section of those communities, but some people still acted as if I were painting with a broad brush.

    The other thing that was interesting was that those who argued against this point, kept insinuating that ALL members of this community who dressed in what would be traditionally called womens clothes, and acted in a manner that could be seen as feminine; were doing it as either a : homage to black women, as a part of their culture, or as a way to embrace their masculinity as they saw it, and that furthermore none of them were engaging in stereotypical behavior that could be viewed as mocking to black women...

    Which is about as ridiculous and a generalizing as saying that all brothers who wear dreads do do because of a culture connection and because they want to have some link to Jah Rastafari. When we all know there are brothers and sisters out there wearing locs "cause they saw Lil Wayne rocking them."

    But when people come to an argument, or debate with a closed mind, you can never get them to cede a point, no matter how small. Your last point is excellent...."But as a black man you should be honoring the sanctity of womanhood to the best of your abilities."