Saturday, March 31, 2007

kitten calander

do you have love for...

Coming directly out of Pop Culture from rap group Public Enemy, Flavor Flav became the icon he is through VH1's show the Surreal Life. After his failed relationship with Brigette Nielson he decided to use his Celebreality status to find the love of his life. Thus Flavor of Love was born. The set-up of the show is not too much different from other Bachelor-esque reality shows, the only primary difference being that the majority of the contestants and the leading man are black. This race factor is not to be taken lightly, as VH1 plays off the show as the image of a hip hop lifestyle. Flav, a 48 year old man, is living in a completely loaded mansion, with 20 young girls clamoring after his affections.

The gender roles in the show are strictly fitting to the standard binary of women as subservient and devoted to their man, Flav, who is in the position of power over their actions. The ladies, however, when alone with each other, are shown as bickering, attacking, and backstabbing. In the context of the show as a comment on society, the obvious power given to the male character of the women, a hegemonic norm in today's world. Another example would be the sexual undertones in the gender roles. For example, the acceptance of Flavor Flav's polygamous relationship with the women in his house, yet the disapproval of Season 2's Nibblz sexual openness, reflects society's disapproval of female sexuality but regularly writes off male sexuality with a "boys will be boys" attitude.

On the flip side of hegemonic norms in the show, I Love New York, where twice cast aside Tiffany Patterson, is set up with her own show to find love. New York is now put into the position of power surrounded by men for her to control. New York gets the chance to "act like a boy" without fear of judgement or disapproval she defies the gender norms set into place with Flavor of Love. One must keep in mind that Flavor Flav remains seated in the position of power in the business sense, as executive producer of the show, and is creating his own reality empire using the girls that he "eliminated" from the competition over his affections. With "I Love New York" ending on Monday, April 2nd, Flav is jumping into the emptying spot in the nation's TV schedule with "Flavor Flav's Charm School for Girls" where several of the former members of the show are competing to become the most ladylike. The areas for analysis of a man never seen without his grill on sending away women to learn etiquette are almost too glaring to be taken seriously.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


My collage is based on the article "The Whites of Their Eyes: Racist Ideologies in the Media" which claims that no character played by a person of color is accurately portrayed, rather they are playing the “clown… putting on a show for the Others.” To clearly portray my point, I used pictures of Flav dressed in his flashy costumes juxtaposed with racist cartoons and Jim Crow images from post Civil War propaganda. He, of course, is at the center of the collage, surrounded by his women, whom I juxtaposed against images of the "Hottentot Venus", Sarah Baartman, who was paraded around Europe during the mid-1800s as a way to display the "hyper sexuality" of the "Other." The other images dispersed among pictures of the former contestants are from "Coal Black and the Sebben Dwarfs" a racist cartoon created by Merry Melodies and later banned. The theme of the women is one of hyper sexuality, Flav less than exudes erotica, but the women from the show are scarcely found more than scantily clad, focusing mostly on their posterior, much like the posing of the Hottentot Venus. Flav's job on the show is to act as the showman, the entertainer, while the women are forced into gender roles of battling each other to prove who is truly there "for their man, Flav."

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Dr. Susan Wood Comes to TCNJ

In a blog about Flavor of Love, a quick post referring to the former FDA official in charge of women's health may seem out of place. However, the constricts of the course that caused me to create this blog is that of the Women and Genders department here at TCNJ, and a big part of the discipline within the school is analyzing why this nation continues to put personal politics over safety and health of women. Susan Wood's presentation was entitled "Plan B: Politics or Science?"

Basically Wood described the details of her job at the FDA focusing on women's health issues (Contraception, pregnancy, etc) as well as diseases that affect women differently (lupus, breast cancer, etc). She told the history of Women's Health in her view of 3 separate phases: Progressive Ladies & Transitional Advocates, Militant Action (Grassroots Campaign), and Professional Advocates.

The 1st phase included such advocates as Mary Lasler, Terese Lasser, Doris Haire, and my personal favorite (as secretary for Vox: Voices for Planned Parenthood on this campus) Margaret Sanger. Health became an issue for women within the constricts of reproductive rights, the place where women's health differs so much from men's, and major issues of this era were dangerous medications like Thalidomide, which caused intense birth defects, and DES, which caused a rare and serious vaginal cancer to women exposed in utero. The FDA began regulating women's health issues here and with the Daltkon Shield IUD in 1976.

The 2nd phase began with the creation of NOW as well as the book "Our Bodies, Ourselves" and the Senate Trials over the safety of the birth control pill that completely left women out of the deciding process. The outcomes of that trial were monumental by beginning the tradition of patient inserts for medications, rather than a patient needing to rely solely on their doctor to gain information about their medication. Pregnant women or women who could possibly become pregnant were, however, banned from medical trials during this period, an exclusion that created danger for women under the guise of helping them.

The 3rd phase encouraged women's participation in health studies and through the creation of groups like the Society for Women's Health Research created the Women's Health Equity Act, which began to give women more of a place in medical research.

The root of the presentation, Plan B, was a routine approval to make public and over-the-counter emergency contraception, which would help prevent unwanted pregnancy (not cause abortions). On the contrary, if Plan B is utilized effectively it can prevent the need to obtain an abortion because it is preventing the unwanted pregnancy to begin with. The bill was turned down due to the fact that young teens weren't a large enough sample in the testing process, an unprecedented denial clause. When years had passed since the drug should have been approved, Wood felt the need to resign her post because she couldn't work for an organization that valued politics over science. The drug was finally approved on August 24, 2006.

Wood drew a parallel to the current scandal with the HPV vaccine that people believe that by protecting women's health, as well as reproductive health, some members of the general public draw the conclusion that availability of these medications will promote promiscuity in young girls -- yeah, cause when I was under 16, the only thing stopping me from having sex was the fear of cervical cancer.

Basically, the point of the lecture was that religious, moral, ethical, etc ideals about teen sexuality should not have any baring when considering scientific fact that could create a healthier reproductive life for the women of this nation. This was the only medication proven safe to ever have this much of an opposition to being accepted. The constant revisions and roadblocks to bringing public a pill that's as simple to understand as birth control pills themselves are a sign of politics over science, and therefore politics over women's health and well being. A woman begins her reproductive life around the age of 13, that does not mean that she becomes sexually active at that point, nor will the presence of emergency contraception champion unsafe and promiscuous sexual activity. However, these girls who are deemed old enough by science over politics are robbed of a safety tool in their health. Susan Wood resigned in order to prove that to the nation, and (slowly) it seems to be getting the idea. The College was lucky to get such an impressive Key Note Speaker to kick off Women's History Month 2007.

"Flavor of Love Coon!" Day2Day

I agree with the Coon Picnic statement in that blogpost linked to above. That nas song is definitely applicable. "Let's give it up for the coons/On UPN 9 and WB who yes mass on TV". Add VH1 to the list. And add just about each one of those wild a$$ girls from that episode last night. What makes me feel good is that I sent a text message to BHill when the show was about 20 minutes in and told him I was gonna go with Beautiful (I'm using proper spelling, unlike Flav) and Eyez. Turns out Eyez was a mole and it (so far) appears that Beautiful at least respects herself enough not to jump out there and give Flaz sex like Tyson would do just to get "ahead". So I picked one girl was there just to spy for her friend's benefit and another who seems like she might have some sense. Mom, you'd be proud of me. Before I rant, don't get me wrong! I think the show is VERY entertaining. But at the same time, I think it is embarassing for black folks. And I am not even talking about Flav (yet). People of other races *may* watch this and get the wrong idea about black women. Spunkee's instigating everything, "Something" is just nasty (the girl shat herself...on TV), numerous girls on there are not only wearing a ho's uniform, but speaking a ho's language...I could go on. But the worst part of the show is that it makes black women look like unintelligent, "loose", money/fame chasing NI99ERettes!

I appreciate your analysis of Flavor of Love within the constricts of race and gender, but to further analyze the show, one must refer not to the show as a matter of “celebreality” (like anyone had ever really heard of Flavor Flav before his stint on VH1) but into the societal constricts of racial stereotypes. Flav represents the age old Jim Crow character, he dances around for the entertainment of his white audience, going as far as wearing ludicrous jester-like outfits and declaring himself royalty, all the while being a clown to the American public (eg., the awe-inspiring spelling of the nicknames of the women).

The women of the household do embrace a rather “ghetto” styling, regardless of race, as well as the age-old idea that women are catty, ruthless bitches who will undercut each other in any means necessary to get what they want. As this post is in reference to the first episode of the second season, and now society has moved its worship to I Love New York (with Flav still pulling the strings as executive producer), we can still see the binary of male/female sexuality, as Flav was generally on screen only when “sexually exploring” the ladies of his show (as well as his hysterical commentary in the Viking hat), New York, when in a house with her men of choice, does not take a different one to bed with her every night, nor are her interactions with the contestants based solely on sexuality. Is New York’s sexuality less acceptable than Flav’s? And speaking of sexuality, what was the matter with Nibblz embracing hers?

Just a few thoughts in retrospect, considering you wrote this post at the beginning of Season 2, and New York’s already down to her “Fantastic 4” on I Love New York.
Thanks for reading my comment,

Thursday, March 1, 2007

“Ladies, Crowd Around Your Man”: An Analysis of Femininity in Flavor of Love

As mentioned in the previous post the main focal point of Flavor of Love is the competition between the girls. When New York is reintroduced to the show, the girls seemingly stop battling each other and unite against the common threat. New York in herself is a character, walking onto the set and immediately engaging in “signs of affection” with Flav saying “your eyes ain’t playing tricks, this is mad love right here.” The show then rolls a montage of the previous season in which New York is fighting with every girl in the house, waving weapons around and knocking a girl down after being spit on. Flav says he brought New York back into the house to help him choose his eliminations, which she describes as “weeding out the crazies and the uglies.”

An important interaction with the girls happens when Krazy confronts Beatuful about having a cold sore, which in a house with seven women (now eight) all engaging in intimate acts with the same man, is a big health concern, however not the epidemic the show made it appear to be. Beatuful said herself, “its not like I have AIDS or anything.” Meanwhile, New York is doing her best to help Flav decide by climbing into bed with him and spending the night.

All of the girls in the house are under 30 years old, making them at least 17 years Flav’s junior, showing our society’s obsession with youth as a prerequisite for beauty, at least for women. This episode put beauty in the eye of the beholder: New York. New York was in charge of dressing the girls for a photo shoot for URB magazine. Some phrases she used to describe the girls were “gutter-butt,” “a fairy princess… that resides at the gates of hell,” and that she was unimpressed with all of the girls because they were “scared, intimidated, and just lacked true femininity.”

The best example of bias between masculinity and femininity in the show were the attacks on Nibblz. Nibblz honestly told Flav that she was an adult entertainer and he said he didn’t know how to work her into his family. Nibblz replied, “People seem to think that just because I’m sexual I’m sleeping with everybody.” So while Flav tries to think of how to explain dating an erotic dancer to his family, uncomfortable by her overt sexuality, he busies himself by being sexual with six other girls at the same time.

At the photo shoot, New York manages to get into fights with 3 of the girls referring to one of the only white cast members as “white trash” and tells her she looks like she works at a soup kitchen, and then runs from the room crying because of her still present feelings for Flav. She manages to calm down long enough to critique each girl, meanwhile the girls inside return to attacking each other. Flav seems to be the mediator of each and every fight because his mere presence seems to subdue the girls in an almost paternal manner.

In eliminations Flav removed Nibblz for her sexuality and Beatuful for her shyness (“but the cold sore might’ve has something to do with it”). Nibblz commented on her own elimination saying, “I didn’t sign up to be a role model, I signed up to be a lover. Flav missed out on a good f*ck.” Flav then reinstated New York into the competition which caused Buckwild to quit saying “if someone touches my body I’m going to lay them out and I’m on parole so I can’t be around that b*tch.” Essentially the ideologies championed by the show are submissive women who are sexual but not admittedly so, devoted solely to their man, Flav.