Why Women Should Embrace #IAmMaryJane

February 6, 2014  |  

I was checking out last Tuesday’s episode of “Being Mary Jane” and saw a BET promo for the #IAmMaryJane hashtag – because hashtagging is really that serious now.

At any rate, the network is asking folks to upload their videos to one of the seven main social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Vine, Instagram and/or Pinterest), explaining why you are Mary Jane. Out of sheer curiosity, I went onto Twitter to see if folks were upset. Many were. And not surprisingly, many flooded the #IAmMaryJane hashtag with comments like:

Who the heck WANTS to be the side piece to a married man and brag about it?!?! #IAMMARYJANE

Is #IAmMaryJane just confessions of a side hoe? Shorty said “I want my cake and eat it too” sounds like how logic.

BET’s #IAmMaryJane is very disturbing considering how she’s portrayed on the show. Why would anyone want to associate with her character?

All thots should put #IAmMaryJane in they twitter an instagram bio

There are more, which are as equally entertaining. Initially, I was good on the whole #IAmMaryJane movement as the likely aim is to help promote “Being Mary Jane” while also monitoring how current viewers interact with the show as opposed to empowering women with sex-positive versions of ourselves. But as I kept reading many of the disgruntled tweets, I thought this hashtag might have some use after all.

Personally speaking, I’m not quite understanding the angst around the character Mary Jane, or the real life women for whom the show may reflect? Actually I sort of do. It’s no secret that sex, particularly heterosexual sex, is used as a currency. For men, the more of it they have, the better. For women, it is best to have less – except those expectations always seemed a little skewed to me. I mean, if men are out here racking up all these notches on their belts, well who are they doing it with heterosexually, especially when all the women are being virtuous and all?

The answer is that many contemporary women are not as “pure” as we’d like to believe. And that does not exclude black women. Even with our fears of the white gaze labeling us as Jezebels and Sapphires, many of us are still getting it in – albeit quietly. We’ve taken to hiding the fruitfulness of our sexualities in closets, behind bushes and mostly out of view of society. Meanwhile we suffer. We suffer through increased exposure to life threatening and altering sexually-transmitted infections and sexual dysfunction (according to this study, African American women have higher rates of decreased sexual desire and pleasure than do white women) as well as a decreased ability to claim ownership of not only our sexual likes and dislikes; but wants and needs as well.

And yet most times it is women, who levy the worst criticisms and police themselves as well as other women’s sexualities. Like the character Mary Jane, whose entire persona has been annihilated and mischaracterized as sinful and vile, all because of the sexual relationships outside of the confines of marriage and/or commitment. And yes, I’m talking about the affair with the [clutches pearls] married man. That outrage is usually followed by the weird line of reasoning, which suggests that black women are the sole responsible parties for keeping black men faithful (i.e. “if these THOTs out here would learn to keep their legs closed…”).

Meanwhile, Mary Jane’s black male television and film counterparts are free to transgress and spread their poor virtues all over the big and small screens – with all sorts of women of various ages, colors and denominations. No one writes long editorials and essays chiding Idris Elba for being a horrible role model to young black men for portraying a character on the television show “Luther,” who sleeps with a murderous crazy red headed white lady. I don’t recall reading a single complaint via Twitter or Facebook about Will Smith being a single father (and you know how those folks are the scorn of the black community) in The Pursuit of Happyness. In fact, not ever is a single eyebrow raised at any of the strip club scenes, which have largely become standard cliches in just about every film and television production focused around black men. You know the scene I’m talking about: where the main black male characters sit around discussing “getting money” while some voiceless and often times headless pair of boobs, gyrate and bounce around in the background?

Outside of wearing a dress (and all other non-heterosexual implications, which we can certainly go in on – at a later date), no one cares about protecting or correcting the virtues of heterosexual black male characters – not even if his promiscuous behavior or acts are central to the plot (cue every single black film made about a guy on a hunt to get some). Many of us cheered on the sexual exploitations of Eddie Murphy (Boomerang), Martin Lawrence (A Thin Line...) and Tommy Davidson (Woo) and we even celebrated when they got the girl in the end.

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