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Lecture 25

HIST 3010 Lecture 25: Notes 02.28.17

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HIST 3010

WEEK 8: CENSORSHIP II TUESDAY 02/28/17 KIMBERLEE CRENSHAW, "THE 2 LIVE CREW CONTROVERSY." KOBENA MERCER, "JUST LOOKING FOR TROUBLE: ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE AND THE FANTASIES OF RACE.” IN FEMINISM AND PORNOGRAPHY. KIMBERLEE CRENSHAW, “THE 2 LIVE CREW CONTROVERSY.” • 2 Live Crew is a rap band that made a sexually explicit song about women • Members of 2 Live Crew arrested and charged under Florida obscenity statute after federal court ruled their song As Nasty As They Wanna Be as obscene • Political columnist George Will said the song was misogynistic and led to black women being made into larger targets for sexual violence • Henry Louis Gates Jr. is Harvard professor and expert on African-American literature, sees 2 Live Crew’s songs as form of expression that will “explode popular racist stereotypes in a comically extreme form” o He argues that there is “sexual carnivalesque with the promise to free us from the pathologies of racism” o But Crenshaw asserts that there’s no question: 2 Live Crew’s lyrics are misogynistic • But we must consider whether the misogynistic issue overshadows an issue of racism THE OBSCENITY PROSECUTION OF 2 LIVE CREW • Initial problem with obscenity prosecution of 2 Live Crew is apparent selectivity o Madonna has acted out masturbation, seduction of priest, and insinuated group sex on stage but hasn’t been prosecuted for obscenity o Andrew Dice Clay has misogynistic and racist humor in performances o Many sources of entertainment in same place where 2 Live Crew performed o Court accepted sheriff’s testimony that the decision to single out Nasty was based on number of complaints against 2 Live Crew from telephone calls, anonymous messages, or letters to the police o Never substantiated o Black male sexuality long repressed o Appeal to community standards doesn’t undercut concern about racism, it underscores it • Second problem is that cultural value/expression in Nasty were waved aside o 2 Live Crew argued that lyrics about “playing the dozens,” “call and response,” and “signifying” were American or universal instead of distinctly African American o They didn’t bother to think that they came from African American culture and were integrated into American culture o No political or artistic value given to lyrics even though they represent a subversive form of opposition by having black males become what society stereotypes them to be ADDRESSING THE INTERSECTIONALITY • Will connects 2 Live Crew to rape of Central Park jogger o With fictional story, he made it seem as though 2 Live Crew were the rapists in Central Park because the rapists were young black males and Nasty (the song) represents young black men celebrating sexual violence • Will doesn’t really care about black women, he just uses them as stand-ins for white women • The denial of cultural specificity, manipulation of black women’s bodies allows opposition to use antisexist rhetoric as a front for endorsing traditional readings of black male sexuality • The concern for black women becomes irrelevant in the opposition’s argument because they turn it into the black rapist/white victim dyad, making it seem as though the white community is the victim pool of black men • Antisexist rhetoric provides occasion for racism, antiracist rhetoric provides occasion for misogyny o Gates said that 2 Live Crew exaggerates stereotypes of black male sexuality to show how ridiculous they are and represent a “postmodern effort to ‘liberate’ us from the racism that perpetuates these stereotypes” • Racial humor used to ridicule racism, but 2 Live Crew cannot claim an in-group privilege to perpetuate misogynist humor against black women because they aren’t black women and have power relationship over them • There is the notion that sexism can serve antiracist ends, but they expect black women to serve as vehicles for a “liberation” that perpetuates their own subordination • Both political and cultural interpretations of Gates that 2 Live Crew is a postmodern challenge to racial sexual mythology or simply an internal group practice that crossed over to mainstream America forces black women to accept misogyny • Must be made clear that patriarchy hurts black men and women CONCLUSION • Vulgar constructionism distorts the possibility for meaningful identities in two linked ways o 1. Power exercised simply through process of categorization o 2. Power to cause that categorization to have social and material consequences KOBENA MERCER, “JUST LOOKING FOR TROUBLE: ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE AND THE FANTASIES OF RACE,” IN FEMINISM AND PORNOGRAPHY • Can’t really say that race plays a role in discourse of anti-pornography because most of the discussion comes mainly from white women RACE IS AN ISSUE IN ANTI-PORNOGRAPHY FEMINISM • Anti-porn feminists argue that “pornography is the theory, rape is the practice” and they are in an unhappy alliance with the anti-obscenity lobby of the New Right • But where do black people stand? • Robert Mapplethorpe’s homoerotic pornography was center of controversy of 1989 and 1990 o Virulent homophobia of Senator Jesse Helms campaign against Mapplethorpe led to climate of popular opinion favorable to cultural repression o Most disturbing thing is how New Right hijacked and appropriated elements of feminist anti-porn, and anti-porn feminists joined ranks with law-and-order state o E.g. feminists worked with city police department to shut down Mapplethorpe exhibition and prosecute museum d
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