All Articles Tagged "Dr. Boyce Watkins"
At the end of last week there were multiple articles popping up online about the resurgence of pregnancy pacts. Hellobeautiful.com had uncovered a Facebook photo of four high school girls showing off their expectant bellies while their friends commented that the pic was “kute” and wondered who would be the first to drop. I didn’t even want to click on the articles because the last time I had heard about pregnancy pacts was last January when a Memphis high school came under pressure for 90 of its teens being pregnant or having a baby that school year. The rate was chalked up to abstinence-only teaching, accidental pregnancies and unfortunately the thought that being a teen mom is “cute.” Before that it was the 2008 Gloucester High pregnancy pact involving 17 teens that sparked the Lifetime Original movie, and being four years removed from that, I wanted to believe that there was no way this craziness had become a trend again, but there the blatant evidence was staring me in the face. Looking at the photo like someone trying to decipher hieroglyphics, all I could think was, where are the non-pregnancy pacts?
I don’t particularly get bent out of shape over teen pregnancies. I do in the sense that it’s an unfortunate situation, an accident of the utmost consequence, and a life-altering experience that makes me feel sympathy and compassion for the teens involved, but when it comes to intentionally deciding you are going to create a child knowing full well you cannot care for it, I can’t wrap my head around that choice. Dr. Boyce Watkins wrote a great five-point article to try to ease his frustrations with the reality behind the image seen in the photo. I love how he presented his ideas from an optimistic viewpoint of what he hopes are the circumstances behind these girls’ decisions, but I’m going to remix his list into my own non-pregnancy pact from the perspective of a teen girl. If you’re at the point of considering making a pregnancy pact there’s no reason to sugar coat reality; you need the facts laid out for you in the form of tough love.
- We are not fully equipped to provide for any kids without depending on the help of the state or living off of relatives until we are deep into our 20s. We can be as optimistic as we like but the fact is that if we’re in high school, still living with a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or cousin because we don’t have the means to provide for ourselves, possibly because we aren’t even of a legal working age yet. Considering we can’t provide for self, we certainly can’t provide for another without being a burden on someone else in order to keep up with the pregnashians. Making that decision in spite of this knowledge is not fair to myself, my child, my family, or society.
- While attempting to become pregnant we’re also putting ourselves at risk for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. Knocked up may not be the only thing we get while we forego protection to have a baby. The HIV rate for women in certain areas of the US now rivals African nations and it’s not slowing down. Just because the virus is no longer a death sentence doesn’t mean it’s easy to live with by any means, not to mention it can be passed on to the child, like other infections such as Herpes. It’s selfish to play with our health and the health of our baby in that way.
- Our children’s fathers will not be in our lives forever. High school sweethearts that turn into 40-year marriages are not a dime a dozen. The likelihood that we will be broken up by the end of the school year, let alone the end of our high school career, let alone the end of my nine-month pregnancy term is far greater. Since this still seems to be a trend, it bears emphasizing that a baby will not keep a boy, if anything the feeling of being trapped will push him away even more. In the slight chance that my child’s father will stick around and be a father, his financial means are the same as mine meaning there isn’t much he can do for our baby.
Over the weekend, I read Dr. Boyce Watkins’s column in which he posed the question: “Do Women Really Want to Think like a Man?”
In it, Watkins challenges the much touted advice given by some relationship experts (*ahem* Steve Harvey) that the best way to “win his heart” is to embody the traits associated with manhood. His thoughts are that the modern day version of manhood has been tainted by the commercialization of hip hop, in which sex is more celebrated than healthy relationships. He writes: “How about we write another book called “Act like a lady, think like a woman?” A real woman is not someone who tries to emulate the behavior and thinking of the lowest common denominator. She is not one who juggles men around like a circus bear on a unicycle. She is not someone with a pile of sexual conquests (and subsequent STDs) on her resume. She is someone who commands respect in her relationships, seeks out meaningful love, chooses the right partner, and consistently works to be the best partner she can be.”
I think Watkins has a good point, or at least a foundation for which to build upon. However, I actually get the spirit of what Harvey is saying, although I don’t agree with how he goes about telling women to implement his advice. However, the core of his message is this: Too often women settle for the first man that shows them the least bit of attention instead of dating around to find the right man period. There is no debating that. But is this idea simply a male trait only?
This sort of way that we categorize gender traits is nothing new. In the business world, women have been told that the best way to succeed is to think like men, because men are more competitive and motivated to find the upper hand in their business dealings. Last year, the Washington Post had a column about how women should shop with the same level of brand unconsciousness, and emphasis on quality of garment, as men. Even in advertising we find images of women using their heart to determine purchases and men, being the more stable of genders allegedly, relying strictly on their brains. The message is clear: women are emotional and men, well they are the rationale bunch of the genders.
Men and women are, of course, biologically different. Yet how we compartmentalize our differences has little to do with biological and more to do with societal influences and prejudices. It is not surprising then that the masculine/feminine dichotomy is used to classify things like strength and weakness, reason and nature and rationale and emotions. For instance, a few years ago I got into a heated debate with a high school friend, via Facebook, over his assertion that women were too emotional to lead and that men, were better equipped because it was there nature to be rational. I challenged his theory by spending the rest of the afternoon, intentionally and calculatingly pushing his buttons until he exploded with name calling and yelling, which was demonstrated by the overuse of capital letters.
The point is that men clearly can be guided by their emotions too, even if the emotional response is different. Even science has suggested that while men and women basically have the same hardware, it’s the software instructions and how they are put to use that makes the sexes seem different. That basically means that while he might not pour his heart out to you in sonnets and prose, he might be reduced to tears if his favorite football or basketball team loses the important game.
So what does this all have to do with Steve Harvey and his book and soon to be movie? Well, because it does the same sort of pandering to so called gender specific traits that suggest that women are naturally irrational and men are the only gender capable of being logical. For example, in one of Harvey’s infamous Strawberry Letters, a 26-year-old man involved with a woman started receiving anonymous texts from another a woman. He began sexting with this woman and soon arranged a date to meet this mysterious person at a public place. Upon his arrival, he learned that this mysterious woman was in fact an old college buddy, who was secretly in the closet. An argument ensued. The college buddy threatened to not only tell his girlfriend but also post all of this man business on social networking sites if he did not allow him to “touch” him. Did he oblige? Of course he did, there would be no Strawberry Letter if he simply said no.
Now, this doesn’t sound like the archetype of a rational being assessing whether or not his decisions are aligned with his aims and actions. No, this sounds like a person who is behaving irrationally. Nor does it sound like someone running off of emotions. A purely emotional response probably would have been to act out of anger, kick the guys behind and then think about how it will affect his relationship later. Or it could have meant ignoring the mysterious text messages all together out of guilt he would have felt about the possible hurt he could have bestowed on his lady. In the latter, he could have benefited from his rational and emotional – or as society deems it, his masculine and feminine – sides working together. Instead he acted stupidly, which knows no bounds or gender. In essence, instead of telling us to think like men to make better relationship choices, a better name for Harvey’s book would have been, “Act like a Mature Adult, Stop being Stupid.”
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Last night, I watched Madea Goes to Jail on Netflix. The movie, which I’m pretty sure is based on the play I saw years ago, was long, sappy, boring and roll my eyes worthy. However, whenever Madea or Uncle Brown were on the screen, I was dying laughing. I’m not sure of what that means in the overall meme of TP good/bad for the black community. But I began thinking, perhaps that’s not the discussion we should be having…
Which brings me for my topic of today: Last week, Dr. Watkins authored a post on his Your Black World blog entitled, “Why I’m Ditching Lil’ Wayne Completely“, in which he called Lil’ Wayne “an enemy of the Black community” and declared his intentions to boycott his music. According to Dr. Watkins, as a lover of hip-hop, his decision wasn’t reached lightly nor without deep contemplation of Wayne’s lyrics. His final straw moment came after listening to Wayne’s two year old track, “We Be Steady Mobbin”, in which the New Orleans rapper discussed – metaphorically – killing women and children.
But Dr. Watkins is not ready to stop at just Lil’ Wayne. No, he is ready to take his fight to the machine itself, particularly BET, for giving Lil’ Wayne a platform to exact his reign of terror on the black community. In the day after his public denouncement, he penned another piece comparing BET to the Klu Klux Klan. He writes, “Charles Manson is considered one of the most vicious killers in history, yet he never actually murdered a soul. He has been in prison for 40 years because he convinced others to commit murder, controlling their minds through comfortable words and charisma. If Manson had been given the platform supplied by BET and the rest of corporate America and a license to share his rhetoric without restraint, he could have caused the deaths of millions more…”
My first reaction to these articles was to check to see if this was in fact the same Dr. Watkins who once admonished Marc Lamont Hill for similar criticisms about rapper Slim Thug, who once expressed his displeasure for Black women with “high standards.” In his response to Hill, Dr. Watkins encouraged Hill “to pick on someone his own intellectual size,” and then began to intellectualize all the ways in which he felt that Slim Thug was right. Gender politics aside, I appreciate Dr. Watkins’s articles on Lil’ Wayne and BET as both pieces achieve the goal of inspiring critical thought on the way in which our image is reflected in the media. However, the way in which we have this conversation matters to and is just as important as the critical thought it longs to stimulate.
I must admit that I am growing quite ambivalent to the blame game as it incredibly easy to make the case of either/or, rather than both/and. With that said, Dr. Watkins is right about one thing: Viacom’s BET is, by and large, fluff television. Back when it was Black-owned, the Johnson family tried to bring substantive, original programming such as “BET News”, “Sunday Conversation”, “Teen Summit”, HBCU football games and “BET Tonight with Tavis Smiley”. However, Black folks weren’t too much into that and ratings for those shows tanked compared to those for shows with more entertaining qualities, such as video countdowns and comedy shows. And I’m not so sure if there is anything wrong with that.
For every Lil’ Wayne video aired, BET also delivers some pretty decent, albeit not perfect, programming such as “Rip The Runway” which featured the work of upcoming Black designers as well as beautiful black models of various sizes and hues. The station also has scripted shows such as “Let’s Stay Together” and “The Game”, which if we recall, BET helped to resurrect after the CW ditched it for more mainstream programming. Also, there is the “BlackBuster Movies,” which features black themed movies and plays rarely seen elsewhere on television. And after the whole Michael Jackson tribute debacle, its award show has slightly improved. I don’t know about ya’ll, but I rather enjoyed the tribute to Patti LaBelle and the Five Heartbeats in the most recent BET Award Show. As someone who grew up exclusively on Hip Hop, I can tell you that I’ve never sold drugs or killed anyone. And as a full-time community organizer working in one of the most depressed sections of Philadelphia, it is not uncommon for me to canvass the neighborhood, passing out flyers for a “Stop the Violence” meeting while blaring Rick Ross’ “Hustlin’ on my earphones. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive.
I think my point is that just like Dr. Watkins’s criticisms of Hill, I too believe that Lil’ Wayne and BET are both easy targets. Even as a matter of conscience, if every last black person simply stopped watching BET or listening to Lil’ Wayne, there are still public places like YouTube and video games, which provide sex and violence on demand. Likewise, this sort of KKK hyperbole to which Dr. Watkin’s took great liberty to use as comparison, is quite frankly, distasteful. If I had the misfortune of being stranded on dark Arkansas back road with the choices between Lil’ Wayne, Sheila Johnson Lee and the Grandmaster of the KKK, I would definitely take my chances with the formers.
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.
(AOL Black Voices) — I had a chance to sit down with Award-winning filmmaker Dorian Chandler and radio show host Keisha Dutes to talk about some of their most interesting film and video projects. Dorian made an interesting film called “Ni**er Nation,” which has set quite a few film festivals on fire. The film breaks down the N-word and talks about whether or not it’s OK to use the word(s) in any context. It’s very interesting and I recommend checking it out.