NB COMMENTARY: I really wanted to NOT be in this Beyoncé Madness, but the irony of it all is to see folks being offended by her antics to the point of calling it racist when in fact, if they took the time to read the lyrics, they would see the song is all about Beyoncé getting hers. With a smattering of some retorts against “whatever.” The fact that she even uses this “so-called” Black Panther imagery, which in and of itself is a smack in the face of the movement, a downgrade at best in its presentation and surely not militant at all; is amazing to me. The fact that folks are getting hot under the collar over it is outright laughable. Then, on the other hand, you have these drones who support and even consider this “show” as something meaningful or even intrinsically an acknowledgment of her “Blackness.” Now I am ROFLMAO and sadly, there are many in that camp as well.
In it’s simplicity it barely shows any aggression or hatred or anything against the police. It’s a bunch of scantly clad women, fist balled up, dancing with Beyoncé in formation. The directive?? Work hard, grind hard, own it so you can “have the paper.” Which none of that was what the BPP Movement was about but surely a capitalistic approach to success.
These folks give money to these movements (Black Lives Matter which is suspect on its face), and bail protesters out of jail, but none of them will give up their way of life to join the Movement on the Real, and that’s the point. If twirling her ass, and rocking her crotch gets her money, that is what she will do, she certainly is not on the front lines of the conscious movement or on the front lines of the progressive movement.
Being part of the conscious or progressive movement would be detrimental to her power bank account cause folks would stop spending money on those things that do nothing for their progress and that would mean to stop buying her and her husbands stuff. Her lyrics were more about, “this is what you get for your money, I work hard for it, I slay for it, and see, what your money did for me??? I am at the Super Bowl.”
It’s all about her and will always be about her, and folks need to get real cause she ain’t doing nothing against her handlers who are all “albinos.” LOL Check out the lyrics if you haven’t already. Click Here for the Lyrics
Although the Black Panther Party (BPP) revolutionized the condition of Black people and communities in the 1960s, sexism in the group silenced the voices of Black women to promote a Black nationalist agenda that became conflated with the idea of preserving Black masculinity. This project aims to examine how and why this brand of racialized sexism in the Black Panther Party operated in the group, and to shed light on some of the silenced and erased the narratives about radical Black womanhood.
Regina Jennings, a Black woman who joined the Black Panther Party as a teenager, reflects about her experience with sexism in the group. She recounts a particularly difficult encounter with a captain who romantically pursued her. When she rejected his advances, she explains, “he made my life miserable. He gave me ridiculous orders. He shunned me. He found fault in my performance” (262). Ultimately, he had her transferred to a different branch of the organization, even though that meant completely disrupting her way of life. Jennings brought the incidences to the Central Committee’s attention, but the all-male panel accused her of white, bourgeois behaviors and values.
In spite of this situation, Jennings takes great pains not to demonize the entire group. While she and other women in the Black Panther Party confronted this form of sexism and misogyny, they also received a lot of support from Black men. Some Black men even defended Jennings when she complained of the sexual harassment, even when that meant that other men would shame them or call them emasculated. Jennings attributes these circumstances with a lack of knowledge or experience with power. “Black men, who had been too long without some form of power, lacked the background to understand and rework their double standard toward the female cadre” (263), she contends, demonstrating that oppression not only works to degrade a group, but also impels that group to internalize a set of power structures and enact oppression upon others. In spite of her claims, she emphasizes that this type of sexism should not be excused but rather understood. Jennings celebrates the love present in the BPP, forgiving the Party for the conditions that made it imperfect while honoring the uplift it achieved.
“I want you to know how much they perfectly loved you,” she clarifies in reference to those who dedicated their energies to Black communities. “I want you to know that they were willing to die for you” (264).
Kathleen Cleaver was the first female member of the Black Panther Party’s decision making body. In this interview, Cleaver challenges Euro-centric standards of beauty while expressing the BPP’s stance on self-love, and Black revival through celebrating different images of Blackness. She really does make a case for “the personal is political”!
What about Feminism?
Although Black women have not always identified with labels such as “feminist,” Black women have advocated for women’s issues as early as the 19th century. Black women have fought for economic justice/equality, against racism, against sexism, and against imperialism throughout U.S. history. In fact, the first wave white feminists learned much of their organizing and political strategies from Black, female abolitionists.
The late 1960s and the 1970s did witness an increasing number of Black women articulating their experience around the words “feminist” or “feminism,” but also a number of Black women challenging the structure of feminist movements. The Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM) took the nation by storm, voicing many women’s grievances, but it did not appeal to many Black women and women of color who interpreted the movement’s work as an agenda that principally furthered white, upper-class women’s issues. Furthermore, many Black women considered their involvement in mixed gender spaces more pressing because they identified more with their male counterparts’ struggles than with the affluent white women’s problems. Kathleen Cleaver explained this phenomenon:
“The problems of Black women and the problems of White women are so completely diverse they cannot possibly be solved in the same type of organization nor met by the same type of activity… [but] I can understand how a White woman cannot relate to a White man.”
This racial solidarity in some ways led some Black women in mixed gender groups to tolerate oppressive ideologies to avoid division, or to subscribe to certain roles. In the pamphlet, “Panther Sisters on Women’s Liberation,” some women insisted that “Black men understand that their manhood is not dependent on keeping Black women subordinate to them,” but also claimed that because “our men have been sort of castrated,” women had to avoid taking up too much space in leadership so that Black men would not have any “fear of women dominating the whole political scene”. That kind of admonition to other Black women invokes ideas about pathologized matriarchy. Other women in the BPP adopted more masculine roles in order to be taken more seriously. Assata Shakur confessed, “You had to develop this whole arrogant kind of macho style in order to be heard… We were just involved in those day to day battles for respect in the Black Panther Party,” revealing the complications in negotiating one’s gender identity and the implications of said gender, even in anti-oppression organizations.
Although the climate of the BPP proved difficult to articulate in terms of gender politics, it was due to Black women’s participation in mixed gender groups and organizations (as opposed to the tendencies of some white, radical feminist groups who championed separatism), that Black women could interrogate the sexist and misogynistic ideologies present in anti-oppression organizations. Various BPP chapters even collaborated with the Women’s Liberation Movement at times, such as in 1969 when WLM members protested the cruel treatment of imprisoned Panther women.
Black women’s presence in the BPP forced men to reconsider their sexist assumptions. Even Party leaders like Eldridge Cleaver shifted positions. In 1968, Cleaver limited Black women’s political potential only to “pussy power,” or, the idea that Black women should withhold sex from Black men until he was ready to “pick up a gun” and embrace his own activism. In contrast, a year later, responding the cruel treatment of Black Panther women in prisons, Cleaver asserted that “if we want to go around and call ourselves a vanguard organization, then we’ve got to be… the vanguard also in the area of women’s liberation, and set an example in that area.” Black women demonstrated that sexist gender norms could not dictate their worth, and that in the grand scheme of things, the police imprisoned them just as they imprisoned Black men, and that white society had stripped them of their femininity just as it had stripped Black men of their masculinity.
Anon. “Panther Sisters on Women’s Liberation.” In Heath, ed. Off the Pigs! Pg. 339.
Cleaver, Eldridge. “Message to Sister Erica Hugggins of the Black Panther Party.”The Black Panther Party. 5 July 1969. Reprinted in Foner, The Black Panthers Speak. 98-99.
Cleaver, Eldridge. “Speech to the Nebraska Peace and Freedom Party Convention,” 24 August 1968. Pg. 22
Matthews, Tracye. “No One Ever Asks, What a Man’s Place in the Revolution Is”: Gender and the Politics of The Black Panther Party 1966-1971.” In: The Black Panther Party [Reconsidered]. Edited by Charles E. Jones. Black Classic Press, Baltimore, 1998. Pg. 274, 284, 290.
In 1965, then Assistant Secretary of the US Department of Labor, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, issued a report about the question of poverty and the Black American population. Startled by statistics that showed that the unemployment rate of Black people doubled that of white people, Moynihan set out to expose the conditions that economically limited African Americans.
Given its historical context, the Moynihan Report actually represented a radical conceptualization of the relationship between gender identities, family structure, and socio-economic class; however, Moynihan’s statement falls short of the mark by pointing to Black matriarchy as the damning factor. While recognizing that structural conditions that originate in the enslaving of Black people in America has contributed to and caused many of the social disadvantages that plague African American communities contemporarily, Moynihan implicates Black motherhood thereby suggesting that without a patriarchal structure, the Black family is doomed to fail. “He does… identify the fundamental problem confronting the Black community as the ‘tangle of pathology’ associated with a matriarchal family structure,” contest Juan J. Battle and Michael D. Bennet in “African-American Families and Public Policies.” By legitimizing Western, patriarchal culture over non-white alternatives to the family structure, Moynihan prioritizes the suggestion that the Black family is deviant and therefore pathologically damaged instead of demonstrating how institutions like racism, sexism and classism systematically oppress Black families. In this way, he roots the problem in a presumed cultural deficiency, shifting the onus to Black mothers to stop corrupting the family structure instead of on the government to stop discriminating against people of color.
African Americans had initiated conversations about the Black family long before the Moynihan Report; nevertheless, using anecdotal, historical, sociological, and statistical evidence, the Report validated many Black men’s sentiments of “castration” and their resentments about a lost masculinity. Without a doubt, some Black men within the Black Panther Party endorsed the Moynihan Report to sanction their own desires for male superiority. Even Black Panther Party co-founder Huey Newton attested to this male inferiority complex:
“[The Black man] feels that he is something less than a man… Often his wife (who is able to secure a job as a man, cleaning for White people) is the breadwinner. He is therefore, viewed as quiet worthless by his wife and children” (Huey Newton, To Die for the People. Pg. 81)”
Interestingly enough, although Newton does not necessarily subscribe to the subordination of Black women to elevate the Black man, he does not attempt here to undermine the assumption that men should be the breadwinner, that womenshould not head the Black family, or that the solution is to esteem the Black man above the Black woman. Women, especially those in the BPP, would have to create most of the awareness about the fallibility of this form of social change.
Battle, Juan J. and Bennet, Michael D. “African-American Families and Public Policy: The Legacy of the Moynihan Report.” Sage Publications, London and New Delhi, 1997. Pg. 154
Moynihan, Daniel P. “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” 1965
Newton, H. To Die for the People: The Writings of Huey P. Newton. City Lights Publishers, 2009. Pg. 81
In the 1960s, Maulana Karenga spearheaded Us, a Los Angeles-based organization dedicated to raising Black people’s awareness of their cultural heritage. Us propounded the notion that a revival of African traditions would elevate the condition of African Americans. Whether real or contrived, these traditions would ennoble Black people in new ways.
[Malauna Karenga, founder of “Us,” creator of the pan-African/African American Holiday of Kwanzaa, intellectual and writer.]
The Black Panther Party and Us supported each other ideologically, and Maulana Karenga even attended various BPP meetings and rallies. In spite of this initial alliance, the two groups diverged when their ethics no longer aligned. The BPP pushed back against Us’ idea that all Black people were allies in the struggle simply because of the color of their skin. On January 17, 1969, a shootout erupted between BPP and Us members during a Black Student Union meeting at UCLA, which resulted in the death of two BPP members. From that point onward, the relationship between the two organizations never recovered.
Although the Black Panther Party and Us often feuded, the earliest philosophies in the Black Panther Party do reflect many of Karenga’s beliefs. With respect to women, Karenga championed female submission in the name of reinstating Black male authority. He observed:
“What makes a woman appealing is femininity and she can’t be feminine without being submissive. A man has to be a leader and he has to be a man who bases his leadership on knowledge, wisdom, and understanding… The role of the woman is to inspire her man, educate their children and participate in social development. We say male supremacy is based on three things: tradition, acceptance, and reason. Equality is false; it’s the devil’s concept.”
Karenga espoused a complimentary gender theory; this theory depends on the credence that Black women serve to affirm Black men’s superiority. The foundation for this brand of Black racial uplift remains in the notion that empowering Black men necessarily will translate to empower Black communities. Ironically, this philosophy does not interrogate the premise that the restoration of Black male supremacy only occurs insomuch as Black women inspire and educate these Black men. Unfortunately, many of these problematic viewpoints continued to circulate in BPP chapters after Karenga’s departure from the group, necessitating that the Party resolve many of its gendered issues in later years.
Halisi, Clyde, ed., The Quotable Karenga. Los Angeles: Us Organization, 1967. Pgs. 27-28
Matthews, Tracye. “No One Ever Asks, What a Man’s Place in the Revolution Is”: Gender and the Politics of The Black Panther Party 1966-1971.” In: The Black Panther Party [Reconsidered]. Edited by Charles E. Jones. Black Classic Press, Baltimore, 1998. Pg. 272
How is it that an organization so committed to righting the wrongs committed against Black people, could often support ideologies that endorsed the subordination of women? It is important to recognize that the Black Panther Party (BPP) did not exist in isolation; competing concepts about gender and sexuality perpetuated and upheld in mainstream society shaped the social frameworks of BPP members. The process of dismantling sexism meant theoretical and practical work on the part of all Party members. One female Black Panther who worked in the Oakland and international chapters, the late Connie Matthews assessed the disparity between the BPP’s philosophies and practices.
“I mean, it’s one thing to get up and talk about ideologically you believe this. But you’re asking people to change attitudes and lifestyles overnight, which is not just possible. So I would say tht there was a lot of struggle and there was a lot of male chauvinism… But I would say all in all, in terms of equality… that women had very, very strong leadership roles and were respected as such. It didn’t mean it came automatically.” (Interview with Tracye Matthews, 26 June 1991; Kingston, Jamaica.)
The men and the women in the Black Panther Party had internalized various views that validated sexism and even a racialized form of sexism. This brand of misogyny that specifically targeted Black women (contemporarily referred to as misogynoir) manifested itself in public discourse in two important ways: throughcultural nationalism, and through the Moynihan Report. True equality in the Black Panther Party meant interrogating these cultural “norms” and exchanging those views for a more egalitarian framework.
Source: Matthews, Tracye. “No One Ever Asks, What a Man’s Place in the Revolution Is”: Gender and the Politics of The Black Panther Party 1966-1971.” In:The Black Panther Party [Reconsidered]. Edited by Charles E. Jones. Black Classic Press, Baltimore, 1998. Pg. 289
1969, the Free Breakfast for School Children Program was initiated at St. Augustine’s Church in Oakland by the Black Panther Party. The Panthers would cook and serve food to the poor inner city youth of the area.
Male figures in the Black Panther Party, such as Bobby Seale, Huey Newton, and David Hilliard, were key to the initiation process of this project; however, Black women figured greatly in the execution of the first Breakfast Programs. Neighborhood mothers, who lived close to St. Augustine’s Church and actively participated in local parent-teacher associations, focused their energies on the program, even though they were often unaffiliated with the BPP, and made it a success. Female members of the Black Panther Party also contributed to the Free Breakfast Program by feeding as well as educating the children present. Although tensions often arose between the more conservative community mothers — who preferred that the children quietly and orderly ate — and the Black Panther women — who brought their restless, activist spirits into the spaces — these women cooperated to transform their neighborhoods.
Ms. Ruth Beckford, a parishioner at St. Augustine’s Church who helped to establish the Free Breakfast program with Bobby Seale and head of the Church, Father Earl Neal, spoke of the communal uplift that occurred through nourishing the community’s children. “When we were doing it the school principal came down and told us how different the children were. They weren’t falling asleep in class, they weren’t crying with stomach cramps, how alert they were and it was wonderful” (412), Beckford insists in an interview, demonstrating that by feeding the young children, the predominantly female Black Panther Party and Black community members radicalized their youth’s relation to education systems and thus their youth’s access to societal opportunities. The Free Breakfast Program, a largely woman-run project, asserted Black people’s right to food, to preparations so that they could thrive academically, and to conditions to further their position in society.
Source: Heynen, Nik. “Bending the Bars of Empire from Every Ghetto for Survival: The Black Panther Party’s Radical Antihunger Politics of Social Reproduction and Scale.” Department of Geography, University of Georgia, published online: May 2009.
“[W]omen ran the BPP pretty much. I don’t now how it got to be a male’s party or thought of as being a male’s party. Because those things, when you really look at it in terms of society, those things are looked on as being woman things, you know, feeding children, taking care of the sick and uh, so. Yeah, we did that. We actually ran the BPP’s programs.” (Frankye Malika Adams in an interview with Tracye Matthews, 29 September 1994; Harlem, New York)
When the media invokes images of the Black Panther Party (BPP), it often displays images of gun-toting Black men in military garb. Historical representations have relegated many women who participated in and devoted their energies to the Black Panther Party to a prop status. Excluding the outliers like Assata Shakur and Kathleen Cleaver, women in the Black Panther Party earn their time in the spotlight insomuch as they endorse the male cause; even some of the more famous images of these Black women feature them holding up signs for the Free Huey Campaign. Despite these depictions, Black women played a fundamental role in the Black Panther Party. Often comprising the majority of local BPP groups, women staffed and coordinated free breakfast programs, liberation schools, and medical clinics. The Party even sought out Black women unaffiliated with the organization, such as women on welfare, grandmothers and community figures, to staff these initiatives. If these women played such a fundamental role in the infrastructure of the BPP, why aren’t Black women as celebrated for their contributions? History has a way of degrading work that mirrors “traditional” female duties to categories like “community service” or “support work”. The term “support work,” especially invokes the connotation of inferior, menial and subordinate labor. Sexism not only impacted what jobs Black women in the BPP received or fulfilled but also how history conveys the value of said efforts.
Source: Matthews, Tracye. “No One Ever Asks, What a Man’s Place in the Revolution Is”: Gender and the Politics of The Black Panther Party 1966-1971.” In:The Black Panther Party [Reconsidered]. Edited by Charles E. Jones. Black Classic Press, Baltimore, 1998.
“Black liberation politics became equated with black men’s attempts to regain their manhood at the expense of black women,” asserts Anita Simmons in the chapter “Black Womanhood, Misogyny and Hip-Hop Culture: A Feminist Intervention”. Simmons continues, “In the Black Panther Party, attainment of black manhood meant the degradation of black women and womanhood.” Sexism in the Black Panther Party (BPP) silenced the voices of Black women to promote a Black nationalist agenda that became conflated with the idea of preserving Black masculinity. This project aims to examine how this brand of racialized sexism in the Black Panther Party silenced and even erased the narratives about radical Black womanhood in the late 1960s from our social history. What are these narratives? How did women in the Black Panther Party radicalize their position? This project will also examine the interaction between Black feminists of the 1970s and their criticism of Black men’s understanding of Black womanhood. What was the stance of women in the Black Panther Party? Were there Black feminists who were also Black Panthers?
Although the Black Panther Party (BPP) revolutionized the condition of Black people and communities in the 1960s, sexism in the group silenced the voices of Black women to promote a Black nationalist agenda that became conflated with the idea of preserving Black masculinity. This project aims to examine how and why this brand of racialized sexism in the Black Panther Party operated in the group, and to shed light on some of the silenced and erased the narratives about radical Black womanhood.
Mysterious Islamic Tribe Where Women Have Sex With Different Men, Don’t Wear A Veil And Own Property
Behind the ancient way of life for the Tuareg tribe of the Sahara is a culture so progressive it would even make some in liberal western cultures blush.
Women are allowed to have multiple sexual partners outside of marriage, keep all their property on divorce and are so revered by their sons-in-law that the young men wouldn’t dare eat in the same room.
What is even more surprising is that even though the tribe has embraced Islam they have firmly held onto some of the customs that would not be acceptable to the wider Muslim world.
It is the men, and not the women, who cover their faces, for example.
Photographer Henrietta Butler, who has been fascinated by the Tuareg since she first followed them through the desert in 2001, once asked why this was. The explanation was simple.
‘The women are beautiful. We would like to see their faces.’
But this is certainly not the only place the Tuareg, related to the Berbers of North Africa, differ from the Muslim world of the Middle East, and even other parts of their own continent.
Before a woman marries, she is free to take as many lovers as she wants.
These two children were pictured in December 1967. Tuareg children traditionally stay with their mothers after a divorce
‘They turn a blind eye,’ explained Butler. ‘The young girls have the same great freedoms as the boys.’
For years, the men of the Tuareg have been able to ride to a young woman’s tent, and sneak into the side entrance – while his well-trained camel stands quietly and waits.
There, they will spend the night together – while the family, who all live in the tent, politely pretend not to notice.
Should the woman choose to welcome a different man into her tent the next day, so be it.
However, there is also a code of practice which none would dare break. Privacy is all important for this centuries old tribe of nomads, who once crossed the desert bringing dates, salt and saffron south, and slaves and gold north.
The idea of breaking the rules of courtship would be mortifying; as a result, the man is always gone before sunrise.
‘The Tuareg are utterly discreet. Everything is done with utmost discretion and respect,’ said Butler.
The relaxed customs around sexual partners has resulted in the girls getting married later than they may otherwise do, with the age of 20 not being uncommon.
Although, before then, they will have been wooed with poetry written by the men, who spend hours carefully crafting the words which they hope will win their beloved over.
But it is not a one-way street: the women are just as capable of putting pen to paper, using their own alphabet, taught to them by their mothers.
‘The women also make poetry eulogizing the men,’ says Butler. ‘There is high romance and idolatry.’
Unlike in so many other cultures, women lose none of their power once they marry either. Many marriages end in divorce among the Tuareg. And when it happens, it is the wife who keeps both the animals and the tent. And it is she who normally decides that she’s had enough.
His wife, meanwhile, will keep possession of everything she brought to the marriage and that includes the children.
The mother’s camp, Butler explains, is the root of the community, the home everyone returns to – and this arrangement ensures it stays that way.
And there is no shame in divorce. Families will often throw their daughters a divorce party, to let other men know they are available once more.
But this is not a matriarchal society, where the women are in charge.
Butler explains it is still the men ‘who sit and talk politics’. But even here, the women can be deferred to. They are often consulted for their views by their sons or husbands, and are quietly pulling the strings behind the scenes.
However, Tuareg society is matri-lineal, which means the families trace their lines through the women, rather than the men, right the way back to their first queen.
So, Butler explained: ‘Traditionally, the man would belong to the woman’s group, rather than the other way around.’
The preference for the women’s line goes as far as man leaving his possessions to his sister’s son as it ‘is considered a stronger link to your family than to your own son’.
In other words, it can be guaranteed that your sister’s child belongs to your sister, rather than a man’s son, who cannot be absolutely guaranteed to share his genes.
A nomadic Tuareg woman in front of her tent, with younger children sit inside. The mother’s tent is the heart of the family.
Before young Tuareg women marry, they are allowed to take as many different lovers as they want – as long as they abide by the strict rules of privacy which govern their society.
This means the man must only arrive at her tent after dark, and leave before sunrise. Pictured: A Tuareg woman’s decorated hands.
But there is one tradition which is certainly far more unusual: it is highly rude for a man to eat in front of a woman who he cannot have sexual relations with, or any of his elders.
In front of his mother-in-law it is especially shameful.
‘I didn’t realise this until the I was having dinner with a Tuareg woman, who had brought her son-in-law as her travelling companion,’ Butler recalled.
‘We were all sitting down to dinner, and the man has his back turned. She said the poor man was completely horrified because he has to eat with his mother-in-law.’
But it is unlikely he would have ever complained about it, or felt sorry from himself. The very idea is horrendous to the Tuareg.
‘You would shame yourself. The Tuareg will go to great lengths to maintain personal dignity. They will suffer,’ said Butler.
‘If they are not offered water, they won’t ask for it – even if they are thirsty.’
Perhaps for this reason, the Tuareg welcome is legendary. They never forget to offer water, and travelers who appear on the horizon will always be ‘treated like a king’.
Every night, the families come together at the tents. The men are traditionally part of the women’s group – not the other way round.
It means the mother’s tent is the heart of the community – although they do not eat together, and do much separately.
It is the men who cover up their faces, while the women are happy to show off their faces – although they often cover their hair
The camels are of vital importance in the Sahara, and are often the only thing a man is left with when he gets divorced
A Tuareg man in a traditional indigo veil, which is likely to leave his face with a blue mark across his skin
THE LEGENDARY QUEEN AT THE TOP OF THE TUAREG FAMILY TREE
The Tuareg’s many small groups are joined together by the same family tree – and at the top of that tree is the person who bought them all together.
And it should probably come as no surprise for a tribe which views women in such regard, that person was a queen.
Tin Hinan is said to have traveled south from modern day Morocco to what would one day become Algeria in the fourth century, where she became the first queen of the Tuaregs.It is from Tin Hinan – whose name translates as ‘she of the tents’ – that every noble family is said to descend.
Takamet, her handmaiden who traveled by her side, is believed to be the ancestor of the peasant caste. It is unlikely there will be any quibbling over who gets what. Pre-nuptial agreements are the norm. In practice, this often means a man is forced to return home to his mother, possibly with just his camel and nothing else.
Now the Tuareg living in south-western Libya face a new threat – that of ISIS – while those living in Mali, Niger and northern Nigeria now have to contend with the rise of Boko Haram.
The Tuareg women, seen here arriving at the Tuareg Political Party speech in 2006, may not obviously be part of political life, but their opinion is highly valued by the men, who will likely discuss issues with their mother or wife.
NB Commentary: Let me preface my commentary with these words, yes, my commentary is biased, yes, it may have even been a little bit emotional, and yes, I may have been a little curt if not with a tinge of anger, but sometimes when someone gets on YouTube and provides “disinformation” as if they are an expert on a subject they are talking about… well it just rubs me. It is a particular rub for me in this case as this is a subject that I have explored, studied, understood it pros and cons across cultures, etc. So, jump into this opinion piece with that in mind. Nana is on a roll in this one.
To the narrator of this video, first of all, I do not know where you are getting your facts about the so-called down side of polygamy (polygyny = one man, many wives) and I feel that if you have statistics then you should present them.
Secondly, I am offended by your gross generalization of the so-called backwards African societies that practice polygamy. I am also offended that you think that women are so petty that they have no clue of what it means to build a nation, or that building a nation means having many children. These women are not that naive that they don’t realize that nation building will take a long time with just one wife. To these people polygamy is not a matter of how much sex a man can have but how many children a man can help to produce and quite frankly getting pregnant does not require a lot of sex. It is the Western world with its suppression of the naked body that brought down shame on the indigenous people who were quite comfortable with their style of dress. Sexual implications based on what someone had on was not as overt as it has become in western hypocritically puritanical cultures.
If you want to point out backwardness of polygamous societies, then what about Saudi Arabia, The United Arab republic, Qatar, Sudan, Iran, India and others. These are predominately Islamic societies where Polygamy is practiced and they have booming cultures, technology and educational systems. None of which are “backwards” as you would define it.
I find your statement about African societies where polygamy occurs, and defined by you as backwards, to be quite disingenuous and falling way short of any valid study, survey or actual living in these cultures that you call backwards. The fact that you omit the ancient history of African Cultures, the Songhai Empire, the Mali Empire, the Great Kings and Queens who came out of Africa during ancient times and from a culture where polygamy was the norm shows the limit of your knowledge on this topic.
You fail to mention the impact of the European hypocritical influence on indigenous African culture and the imposition of hypocritical Western ideologies upon the African experience. You even fail to mention the irony of these so called Christians whose early prophets were all polygamous.
Your protestations are ill-founded even to this day when you do not understand the mechanism of the customs and culture of the society where polygamy is intrinsic to it. The in-fighting that you speak of hardly had to do with who was married to whom, and particularly, since natural selection had more women than men being in the world, then it is most advantageous for the women to be absorbed into a household or family unit, rather than having them left out.
And what if the wife is barren through no fault of her own, should her husband go with out having a progeny because his only wife cannot bare him children?
In strong societies where polygamy is the norm, many customs support it and encourage the family unit to work as a whole. The women and children are seen as resources and they help to build the community, take care of the children, teach and pass on the customs. The women are as industrious as the men and have markets, stores, farms and trading that increases the wealth of the family unit and community.
When many of the wars and strife were started, believe me, it was not over woman and who had the best looking women or pick of the crop. It was over resources, land, politics and hegemony. It was the male desire to fight and conquer his competition which quite frankly, was not another woman but what her husband had. Wars are socio-economical-political ventures that take place between warring tribes all over the planet. And it is modern society with its monogamy that has had the absolute worse wars of aggression against each other while you, and many others, consider Western society civilized.
I find your entire video disingenuous, insulting, linear in its presentation, and absent of the true facts and/or understanding of indigenous cultures and the how and why they participate in polygamy.
If you believe it is not a viable option for Western men and women, I have to agree because the culture is not designed to support that type of marital relationship. Western cultures are selfish, self-centered, narcissistic and pathological. They have abandoned the extended family for the nuclear one and have isolated themselves through individualism and personal ownership, thus creating a cesspool of fear, insecurity, paranoia, co-dependency and toxic relationships which according to the latest statistics, leads to 50% of marriages end in divorce.
There are a vast array of issues, concepts, nuances of indigenous cultures that you have blatantly ignored, therefore your conclusions, based on YOUR FACTS, can only be skewed and distorted. Western cultures create laws and regulations to manage their societies thus forcing people into unnatural relationship roles that sour, end, and foster mental health issues for all involved.
You do have the right to your opinion, but I think that if you are going to take on a subject such as polygamy, you either need to do better research or refrain from stating that cultures who practice it are backwards because that is patently incorrect, Sir.
ADDENDUM: The most ironic thing of all is that those countries that prohibit multiple spouses will punish the participants with jail time, a fine or both. That is to say, that it is criminal to have more than one spouse in some countries. How is that even a criminal offense? Who are you hurting when all parties agree? Civilization at its finest.
In most of the following examples, polygamy only refers to polygyny. Except when polyandry is explicitly stated, either all kinds of polygamy are forbidden, or the only allowed form of polygamy is polygyny.
Mayotte: Considered to be de facto illegal since a referendum sponsored by France in March 2009, forcing the island to comply with the French laws.However, pre-existing Muslim marriages are currently still valid.
Benin: Benin recognized polygamous marriages until 2004 when they were constitutionally outlawed. However, pre-existing marriages are currently still valid in Benin.
Burkina Faso: Both Muslims and non-Muslims can join in polygamous unions under Burkina Faso law.
Côte d’Ivoire: Akin to the situation in Benin, polygamy and such marriages were outlawed, though previous marriages are still recognized.
Gabon: Both men and women can join in polygamous unions with the other gender under Gabonese law, although in practice only men do.
Ghana: Illegal under civil law, but recognized under customary law and Sharia law.
Nigeria: Recognized in all northern sharia states, federal law recognizes polygamous unions under customary law.
I don’t agree with all that he says, but he really does have some strong points.
When I was in college I had a dynamic Professor and she would talk about stuff like this in terms of how we are kinda mixed up on what we perceive as what we want in a male partner, etc., etc., She really made me think about myself as a mother, wife and sister and how we actually do enable our men on too many levels in our efforts to make them be”???” She said that because we knew that the Slave master was frightened of the power and strength of black men, in order to protect them, women would coddle their boys. These coddled boys became men who were literally dis-empowered and ineffective when it came to forming healthy partnerships. One of the things that is so important to note is that without a societal construct that supports the male/female and familial construct and without the societal expectations matching, Black men are literally thrust into a whirlwind of inconsistencies and incongruities because it just don’t match up.
I don’t think that traditional matriarchal societies are non-supportive of the male energy. I think that traditional matriarchal societies recognize the role and purpose of both males and females and honor both, but because every one is born through/from a female, like the earth produces, the woman brings forth, so in that vein she has respectability and is highly regarded. This expands and expresses itself through the way that matriarchal society folks take care of the land, animals and nature overall. Women farm and men are taught to cook, sew, and various other crafts. There’s no stigma attached to a man being able to cook, clean, sew, etc. But men hunt, protect and provide for their family’s security. Women run the market place. Men are the political leaders; in general but even here there is a sharing of responsibilities considering what is needed.
Often times, matriarchal societies include the concept of the extended family, community, village, clan, etc. So the support system is there. When Africans were enslaved, they were thrusted into a totally alien environment, with different morals, preceps, values and lifestyle. That in and of itself caused mental distortions of various degrees, Post Traumatic Slave Disorder, if you will.
I think that it’s the western world’s ideology and dominion over lifestyle and it’s definition of what male/female relationships should look like; what family structures should look like, that is perpetuated across the relationship/familial landscape and even they know the model doesn’t work or is ineffective, hence the high rate of divorce and broken families in the Western Patriarchal world.
I think that there is a middle ground, where mutual responsibility for the cultivation, sustenance and maintenance of a society can be shared by all involved. That with mutual respect and understanding and allowing individuals to reach their fullest potential with an air of cooperation; healthy relationships across the spectrum of human interactions can be achieved. I believe that no extremes are good and that there is something to learn from a comparative study of the matriarchal and patriarchal constructs, but with all historical indicators considered and not in a vacuum and certainly not using the present day dysfunctional societies as a yardstick.
The Bill Cosby rape allegations really started getting to me right around the time Philadelphia magazine’s Victor Fiorillo announced he was writing a theater piece about them. As a theater critic, I found myself one step deeper insidethe widening circle of accusations. But it wasn’t just that. I was raped in high school, or, more accurately, during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years.
With each new woman who stepped forward to accuse Cosby, with Rolling Stone’s UVA story falling to pieces and potentially damaging the credibility of a new generation of victims, my own story felt perpetually pressed against my throat,forcing its way out. Though more than 20 women have now come forward, when my husband, an attorney with an almost unfailingly steady moral compass, watched a CNN special with me about the case, he said, “I didn’t know what to believe until I saw their faces and heard them speak.” I was shocked. To me, from the first, their accounts held ironclad key words and themes. I knew implicitly why regular women held back for decades, even when reporting the incident wouldn’t result in bringing down any institutions, academic or cultural. I knew I was obligated to tell my story, one that also went unreported.
A high-school sleepover
The night I was raped, a friend whose parents were out of town hosted a sleepover. It wasn’t much as far as high school parties go — just a few girls, even fewer guys, and later, someone’s older brother and his friend, both men in their mid-20s. There was white wine, which we drank, and much discussion of the older brother, whom the girls all liked, but who wasn’t really my type — bulldog body, cheesy mustache, slicked-back hair, his friend a shorter, stockier version pulled from the same mold.
Still, I was enough of an alpha girl to feel flattered when the older brother asked me to go upstairs with him, and insecure enough to follow. He led me into a bedroom, and whatever I imagined, a makeout session, some conversation, dissipated when he asked what I was waiting for, and roughly told me to get on the bed. Again, I did what he asked. Though it wasn’t my first time, I was disgusted, not with him, a grown man who should have known better, but with myself, for letting it happen, for being so needy, so slutty.
Afterward, I told my friends I felt sick and went to bed. I awoke to find a man on top of me. The room was dark, and, confused, I asked if it was the older brother. He answered, “Yeah, that’s who it is. Go back to sleep.” It wasn’t; it was his friend. I didn’t fight back, because if my own friends hadn’t protected me, hadn’t told him to leave me alone, what was the point? Instead, I waited for it to end, and when it did, he left and again, I listened; I went back to sleep.
What could they do?
In the morning, furious, I asked my friends why they let him come upstairs. They said they didn’t know what was happening, but even if they did, what could they have done? These were men; we were girls. We let them in and flirted with them and got what we deserved. I called my mother to pick me up. Later, rumors spread throughout our school about what I did that night. I told some of the girls I was talking to a lawyer about pressing charges, but I wasn’t. I just wanted them to know that what happened was wrong.
I got on with my life, and the decades slid past. Occasionally, some news story or Facebook post would trigger my memories, and I’d be right back in that room, waiting for it to end, but mostly, I shoved them away. Except now, the memories shoved back. I frightened my teen daughter with warnings about serial killers, drugged drinks at parties, and the importance of traveling in groups. I indoctrinated my teen son about rape culture and the necessity of stepping forward if he saw intoxicated friends or strangers at a party and the situation didn’t look or feel right. It was all good advice, but delivered with a shrill sense of panic. My internal struggles were leaking into my parenting, and for the first time, I told my husband of 20 years what happened, in detail.
Saying nothing then . . .
I didn’t report my rape when it happened 30 years ago, and here’s why: I was embarrassed. The rapist was connected to friends. I was certain my own friends knew what was happening, and no one stopped it. I was so young. I didn’t know his last name. I didn’t want my friend to get in trouble for hosting the party. Within the course of that year, both of my grandmothers passed away, my parents separated, and a classmate who was there that evening was killed in a car crash. I was dealing with enough. I thought I brought it on myself. I thought it would be expensive and difficult. I was afraid my dad and brother might try to settle the issue on their own. I wanted to forget it happened. I thought I was fine.
A few years ago, I visited a therapist and mentioned the incident in a cavalier manner. “But,” she said, “you know that was rape.”
“Yeah, I know,” I answered, “but I’m fine. I’m over it.” I’m not.
If I was unwilling to report the nobody who raped me, when I had a supportive family, access to an attorney, witnesses, proof, and people who could find him, why would anyone imagine that these women, with their own lives and struggles, would report Bill Cosby at the height of his powers? Sometimes it takes a while to gain back that inner fortitude. Sometimes it takes 30 years.
. . . but now?
I’m now faced with a dilemma. Learning there are five years left on the statute of limitations is a gift because it puts power I never knew I had squarely into my hands. Recently, my daughter and I watched an episode of The Sopranos in which Dr. Melfi, Tony’s therapist, holds onto the knowledge that if she wanted, she could ask Tony to do away with her rapist at any time. Just owning that knowledge was enough power for her. My daughter couldn’t understand why she didn’t use it, but I could.
The night after learning I could still press charges, I lay in bed, thrilled and terrified. I kept second-guessing my age at the time, until I remembered a box in our basement that held all my old diaries. I rummaged around until I found an electric blue one decorated with hearts and song lyrics and boyfriends’ names. Sure enough, there was a dated entry referring specifically to the men involved and what they did.
“Well, anyway,” I concluded, “that happened.” Even then, in my own diary, I tried to erase it away, and yet it remains all these years later, tangible evidence that rape refuses to disappear, no matter how hard you try to suppress it. Khaled Hosseini wrote in The Kite Runner, “The past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last 26 years.”
Where is he now?
Still, I wonder if the man who raped me cleaned up his act. Maybe he has a wife and children and a job, and I feel protective of them, even as I try to protect myself. Statutory sexual assault is a second-degree felony and can carry with it a ten-year sentence. Maybe I should leave him alone and assume karma had its way with him. After all, he didn’t seem to be headed for greatness. And then I read the statistics: nine out of ten campus rapes are committed by serial rapists. My circumstances were different, but I wonder if I’m his only victim, who else he attacked after I didn’t report him, or if he’s still attacking.
I still don’t know what I’ll do with this new information, but I’m grateful to the brave women who came forward en masse to hold Bill Cosby accountable for his alleged crimes. I know why they waited so long and why they stopped waiting, and I also know that if it weren’t for their strength, I might never have found mine.
To be honest, I was trying to figure out what it was about this whole situation that made me feel a deep sadness withing my self. How can this be? Cosby? A sexual predator? The man who made me laugh throughout my childhood and the same man whom I shared that laughter with my own children? This man?
Well of course we know what happens behind closed doors in Hollywood, it’s no big secret, it ain’t even a conspiracy theory. It’s fact, pure and simple. Men prey on women, women prey on men, and let’s not forget what happens to the under aged youth who end up in this mess. But something about this made me feel a deep sadness and this article, see below, helped me get it. It’s Camille.
Dr. Camille Cosby
She is such a beautiful person. Why do I say that? How do I know? Because my group, the “Voices Of Africa” Choral and Percussion Ensemble performed at their daughter’s Erinn’s wedding at their beautiful Elkins Park Estate. That’s how I know. It was Camille who made it a beautiful experience for all of us. She was gracious, loving and kind and through it all, as it was shortly after their son, Ennis, death.
She was radiant and absolutely breathtaking in her appearance and demeanor and despite all the legal papers we had to sign swearing us to secrecy that we would not breath a word of it, or tell even our closest friends that we were there, she made sure we were featured in the middle section of the Jet Magazine. That was Camille. And after that she supported us with donations so that we could go to Ghana, West Africa! How do I know that? She hugged me and I felt her.
But I must agree with this writer, quiet as it’s kept, while it may be the end of the road for Cosby’s career, it’s the end of the road for the life of denial that she lived for 50 years. How does one so beautiful, so poised and so committed to her family and husband live a lie for 50 years and survive it?
Too often in cased of child molestation, sexual assault and sexual indiscretions perpetrated by the men, and even women in this society, the person who is most hurt and most traumatized by it is the wife, spouse or partner of the accused. Particularly, if they are the public face of the perpetrator. How do they look themselves in the mirror, day after day, month after month, year after year counting on to 50 years???
What has to be the deepest incessant turmoil that goes on in the family for a woman, spouse or partner that decides to stay despite it all? Can that destructive pain and denial have a face other than sheer goulish nightmarish horror? Where do they put their true feelings, their true face, their true rage?
Who can have any semblance of trust ever again for a spouse or partner who completely humiliates you before the eyes of the entire world? A secret that is guarded by them that is not a secret at all, but a blatant slap in the face and a devastating assault on all that you may describe as integrity?
Coming up from under this shroud may be the best thing to happen for Camille or maybe the worst. Today we have Social Media. It can take a tiny grain of sand and transform it into a meteor hurling through space to strike and destroy the entire earth! In a heartbeat, even the most pristine of public images can be tarnish beyond repair. With Social Media, even Camille can no longer be in denial of what has been happening in and to her life for 50years.
Was there anything that she could gain from being by the side of this man, Cosby? Why did she stay after she learned of the first discretion and affront to familial trust? She was young, inexperienced, a mother of five and eventhough she eventually acquired her own stature by going to college and getting a PhD, she discarded, only on some levels, Cosby Shadow, and carried her own. In fact, she adorned her own in the glamor of her own beauty, poise and grace. She hid behind her own wall.
Camille is and was no slouch. She had gained her own place in the sun and it was quite clear while we were in their presence who ran the show around there. She conducted every thing. She managed everything. She made everything happen. But, she did not step outside of the boundaries to decry, how painfully insensitive and dibilitating Cosby’s behavior was. We felt it, there was a war going on. The undercurrent of protestations and rankling was real and quite present. I felt it. Other events insued afterwards that confirmed my intuition about this war that I will not go into, but I could see past the plastic smiles. Having been married myself, I could sense that something was a bit amiss in the Cosby household.
No matter how much lipstick you put on a pig, it’s still gonna be a pig. And now, the clearing, the cleansing and the erasing has begun. My heart breaks for Camille. She did that for 50 years and unlike nowadays where we have these celebs with open marriages or consecutive marriages, we are looking at a woman who came up in a time where marriage was a sacred union, till death do you part, even if the marriage itself is a death sentence.
A beautiful flower, plucked from the garden and placed in a plastic sheeting to last, for all to see. My Beloved Camille, may you find your true voice and your true love, YOU!
Editor’s note: Blue Telusma is a Washington-based writer for theGrio.com, an online venue devoted to perspectives that affect and reflect the African-American community. Follow @theGrio on Twitter or like it on Facebook. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. Follow her on Twitter.
(CNN) — Camille Olivia Hanks was studying at the University of Maryland when she met Bill Cosby in the early ’60s. He was doing stand-up comedy in Washington when the two were set up on a blind date. They fell in love and she left school to support his burgeoning career in entertainment.
By 1964, the two were married and they would go on to have five children together. In 1997, their son Ennis (who inspired the character Theo Huxtable) was murdered, and a few years later Dr. Camille Cosby did a one-on-one with Oprah explaining how she’d eventually been able to find joy after mourning the loss of a child.
Throughout that interview it was so clear that you were looking at the real-life Clair Huxtable that even Oprah seemed a bit star-struck by her poise and grace.
During her 2000 appearance on Oprah, Camille revealed: “I became keenly aware of myself in my mid-thirties. I went through a transition. I decided to go back to school, because I had dropped out of college to marry Bill when I was 19. I had five children, and I decided to go back. I didn’t feel fulfilled educationally. I dropped out of school at the end of my sophomore year. So I went back, and when I did, my self-esteem grew. I got my master’s, then decided to get my doctoral degree. Education helped me to come out of myself.”
When asked why she wasn’t content to just settle for being the wife of a famous entertainer she continued: “I don’t know exactly what it was, except that for me, integrity is important. For me friendships are important, family is important, and it is a blessing if we can have monetary benefits. That’s wonderful, and I love it. But I have to have the security of people who really care about me, and me about them. I want to be surrounded by people who have integrity. And, of course, my name is Camille, not Bill.”
That was a beautiful answer. But a lot has changed since then. These days, Camille Cosby is standing alongside her husband during what may turn out to be the worst month of his long career.
For the last few weeks, the beloved TV dad who used to sell us Jell-O pudding pops has been at the center of an ever-growing scandal. He has canceled several appearances, Netflix has postponed the launch of his stand-up special, NBC nixed plans for a new comedy show, and this week Janice Dickinson became the latest woman to make allegations against him; telling E News that he raped her in 1982 after she’d done a stint in rehab.
Cosby is arguably the most successful African-American performer in television history, but this isn’t the first time he has found himself under scrutiny for extramarital affairs.
In his biography, “Cosby: His Life and Times,” Mark Whitaker makes mention of the legendary comedian’s “roving eye” and even tells an anecdote about how he finally cut back on his womanizing by breaking up with his long-time girlfriend. Now it seems those softball admissions about having a weakness for beautiful women may have been shrouding something much more sinister than an affair.
From thegrio.com: Dear Bill Cosby, heed your own advice and be accountable In the last decade alone, more than a dozen women have accused Cosby of rape or sexual assault. No formal charges have ever been successfully filed, so even with all the media speculation, these claims are technically only allegations. But there is one person in this melee whose anguish is virtually indisputable: his wife, Camille.
So how does a woman like that end up spending 50 years of her life beside a man who is now alleged to be a serial rapist? One can only imagine the embarrassment she must be experiencing through all this. But her dilemma is a lot more common than you may think.
In a world that asks you to be a mother, a wife, a businesswoman and an alluring sexual being, women grapple with finding the balance between respecting themselves and prioritizing their relationships. While many say they would leave a spouse who cheats, experts estimate that approximately 50-75% of couples rocked by an affair stay together.
There are many reasons why some women choose to stay: the fear of being alone, financial dependency, belief that they can alter the behavior of their mate, professional status of their partner, deep emotional investment and family obligations.
It is hard enough to come back from infidelity in private, let alone when you have the added stress of being a public figure. Both Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Edwards have weathered similar storms with men they devoted their lives to. And one could argue that it is a lose/lose situation for any wife who finds herself in that position: If you stay, people judge you for not standing up for yourself, and if you leave there is endless speculation about why your marriage failed.
But this isn’t just a simple case of being cheated on. There are some very serious stories coming to the forefront from those who describe Cosby as a sexual predator, who for decades allegedly drugged and violated young women who looked up to him as a mentor.
During one of Cosby’s old routines, he actually jokes about drugging young women.
Coincidentally the set is from his album “It’s True! It’s True!” which was released in 1969, the same year Joan Tarshis claims he drugged and raped her.
We can only speculate on what Camille’s reasons are for staying in her marriage, when she found out about each rape claim, or whether she believes in her husband’s innocence. She’s been stoic and tight-lipped through all this, exuding the unflappable composure that she is known for.
During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, many believed that had Hillary Clinton left her husband, his political career would have collapsed. Hillary Clinton may have well understood that her marriage wasn’t just a union between a man and a woman but a much larger political machine. Perhaps Camille Cosby, who is equally responsible for her husband’s career, feels a similar responsibility to maintaining the legacy and philanthropic institution she and her husband have built together.
Few knew that in the original “Cosby Show” pitch, Bill had planned to have Heathcliff be a limousine driver who was married to a Latina handywoman. Programming executives weren’t too thrilled with that idea, but it was Camille who convinced her husband to go in another direction.
According to another excerpt in Whitaker’s book: “The producers felt strongly that both [parents on the show] should be college graduates. As Cosby had proved in his stand-up act, the war of wits between parents and children was even funnier if the parents thought of themselves as highly intelligent people.
“Finally, shortly before 1 in the morning, Cosby said the words that made Carsey think that she might be getting someplace: ‘I think my wife would agree with you.’
” ‘You will not be a chauffeur!’ Camille said when he briefed her on the meeting. ‘Why not?’
Cosby asked. ‘Because I’m not going to be a carpenter!’ Camille said.”
That snippet gives a rare glimpse into the type of bond these two have, and also illustrates that Mrs. Cosby has not just been her husband’s muse, but also a trusted adviser who keeps his career on track, behind the scenes.
Sunday when NPR host Scott Simon asked Cosby about the resurfaced rape charges, he was met with a wall of silence. Later on, Simon admitted to CNN that during that awkward moment in the interview, the one thing he couldn’t do was look at Camille.
“I did not look at Mrs. Cosby, and I don’t mind saying I might’ve been a little uncomfortable doing that anyway,” Simon said.
That’s what many find so unsettling about all this: the deafening silence of it all. The same man who has spent years waxing poetic about every social issue under the sun has now fallen completely mute on us, with his equally reticent wife by his side.
The Cosbys’ union remains seemingly stable through half a century of life’s ups and downs, and as someone who respects the institution of marriage I find that commendable. But when does the adage of “stand by your man” go too far? I’m rooting for black love as much as the next person — but not like this.