Tag Archives: Katie Grimes

men at work: how sexism operates #CancelColbert



I have written on the Tone Argument before this year, and I’ll leave you with this here link. What I want to very very briefly talk about is the problem of Tone Arguments and Patriarchy.

For anyone who not living under at rock, writer and activist Stewy Suey Park started a hashtag: #CancelColbert to confront the ironic racism of Stephen Colbert’s supposed call out of Washington [enter racial slur for Native Americans here] owner Daniel Snyder.  The point was not to take away Colbert’s means of employment (hey, it’s always about the allies, #amirite!!!), it was about how ironic racism is not the answer to addressing the racism of white supremacist mythologies perpetuated by making First Nations peoples our mascots.  White liberals and conservatives alike continue to view the problem of racism and institutional white supremacy as that of being one of private, individual sins.  It is this continued failure of listening to the stories and the actual arguments that Persons of Color make that perpetuates the White Supremacist talking point that the anti-racists are the real racists.

The way the conversation about #CancelColbert has been framed, has been, per usual, one that favors the White Supremacist and Male Supremacist Gazes. Take for example the Washington Post’s story on Suey Park’s interview on HuffPo Live. Her interviewer is portrayed as the civil, objective, reasonable host: “Josh Zepps is a host on HuffPost Live. He presides over many interesting and civil conversations with guests on a wide variety of topics. Generally they end in a civil manner.”

Meanwhile, Suey Park is described as “the Korean-American Twitter hashtag activist” who “roared again” in protest of ironic racism. The author of the report, Erik Wemple doesn’t even bother to name the race or gender of Josh Zepps. Because he doesn’t have to. Zepps is the default for what it means to be a human being, and therefore, HE represents all that is universal and rational and good in journalism. Suey is not an anti-racist activist or social justice activist, but “Anti-Colbert” activist, because ironic racism is all about the individual according to the worldview of white liberalism. And once more, just as we discussed with Twitter’s White Supremacist Toxic Wars, Women of Color are once more dehumanized and made more animalistic [READ: dangerous, angry, more subjective, irrational]; Suey doesn’t argue, contend, debate; she “ROARS” which is less a compliment given the way Wemple frames the discussion.

The interview was not that lengthy for the simple fact of Zepp’s vehement sexism, as seen in his denial of Stewy’s Suey’s agency and capacity to reason, you know, and in general, her experience; Zepps’ responded in defense of white liberal men everywhere: “No one’s minimalizing your experiences, no one’s minimalizing your right to have an opinion.” Ummmm Really Zepps? Did you follow the hashtag #CancelSueyPark [frell no, I am not bothering to link that garbage], the Male Supremacist and White Supremacist response to #CancelColbert? Have you ever bothered to read the timelines of Women of Color who are academics/activists/both and see the trolls they have to deal with? So, I think it’s rather a bizarre claim to make, unless of course, Zepps, being the rational objective dude that he is, meant the EXACT OPPOSITE of what he was claiming. Which of course, seconds later in the interview:

“It’s just a stupid opinion.”

And there you have it. The thoughts and labors of Women of Color don’t matter for moderate objective journalists like Zepps. What matters is that his progressive Male Supremacist narrative be kept in tact to silence women speaking out on gender and racial oppression. And Park’s response was appropriate: “You just called my opinion stupid, you just called my opinion stupid. That’s incredibly unproductive. And I don’t think I’m going to enact the labor of explaining to you why it’s incredibly offensive and patronizing.” Frantz Fanon observed in Wretched Of The Earth that the media is always ALWAYS ALWAYS going to oppress the colonized in the name of objectivity, FAIR AND BALANCED reporting. In other words, Objectivity is a weapon by the Oppressor to deny the agency of the Oppressed, in this case, Women of Color. Civility then is usually a White Supremacist dog-whistle that is utilized to shut down the voices of anti-oppression.

Another example of the way we men passive-aggressively embody our Male Supremacist narratives is in the area of religion. Growing up Baptist, I experienced from a very early age how powerful male pastors were and the abuses of power thereof used in the pulpit. Recently, my friend Katie Grimes wrote a post criticizing a local parish priest for using his bully pulpit to make a hostile atmosphere for a family with young children. According to Grimes,

“In view of the entire congregation, he chastised the parents, telling them that it was inappropriate for their children to be eating, drinking, and playing with toys during mass. Even though they were well-behaved (a parishioner sitting within earshot of this exchange had not even noticed the children’s activity until the pastor descended to condemn them), he said the children were “distracting” him.”

Now, the theological assumptions behind this display of Male Power is highly problematic. Children distracting the HOMILIST! Is this really what the ministry of Jesus was about? It was about our sermons? Correct me if I am wrong, but really, aren’t only Protestant worship services supposed to be centered on the Preached Word [andro-centric Logos theology that it is]? Secondly, rather than addressing children as free human subjects, as Jesus and the apostle Paul did, the priest made them objects, mere things that distract HIS LITTLE HOMILY. Christianity is not about MEN standing up in front an altar, reading from our little notecards or Amazon Kindles, sermonizing and lecturing; Christianity is the religion of the Pentecost, where the Spirit fills women and men to preach the Good News of the Resurrection, and God’s love for everyone.

The performance of THE sermon, apart from any notion of Pentecost, remains a Male Supremacist ritual. The Male Supremacist gaze neglects the humanity of women and children, and we see this in the incident that Katie talked about quite clearly. Men are not supposed to take care of children. Children and women are not meant for the public square, i.e., the teaching offices in Christianity. They are only meant to be taken care of at home. That is their sphere. What makes Katie’s story even all the more shocking is that rather than make amends for the damage to the family the priest had done; today Katie updated us (via facebook), that the priest actually called out Katie WITHOUT NAMING HER. Referring to Katie’s work as something written by a student with a Masters’ Degree in Theological Ethics, the father of the parish went on to use the time that’s supposed to be set aside to focus on Christ to talk about his disagreement with a congregant. Now, I’ve seen pastor’s sermons briefly refer to personal disagreements, and it just doesn’t sit well. By failing to make sermons Christ-centered, and instead objectifying dissidents within your congregations, male pastors wind up making the Church the face of Male Supremacy.

Just as Suey Park was not introduced to the audience first as her name in the Washington Post article [“Korean-American hash-tag activist”], Katie went unnamed (but recognized probably) and therefore dehumanized.  By not naming, and therefore not addressing women as moral agents,   Male Supremacy narratives continue to function as truth regimes, especially in the worlds of journalism and religion.To wax James Cone in Black Theology And Black Power, “HE who does not affirm me, OPPOSES ME.”

Rihanna's "Man Up": Two Theological Reflections

Words cannot express my feelings for the Chris Brown/Rihanna incident last year, and maybe I will be able to express them at a later date (let’s just say simply put, Brown was given cheap grace by the black community–I had one too facebook responses to my anti-domestic violence statuses during that time saying we should forgive first. Um, whatever happened to repentance).

Katie Grimes first wrote A Double Standard for women and violence in the media; my comments in that post, when comparing Rihanna to the likes of Martina McBride, I find differences according to race and nationality. The American flag does not appear at all in “Man Down” yet featured in McBride’s Independence Day”– the theme song for Sean Hannity’s radio show.

Oh, and that vengeance thing, while ambiguously considered by Rihanna, is definitely glorified in McBride’s hit.

Secondly, Tim McGee wrote with great detail how the culture of rape takes away the subjectivity of women, i.e., keeps in into a gridlock of social death in his The Political Contours of Rihanna’s “Man Down”: Pulling the Trigger on Rape Culture.

UPDATE: Tim has added a second reflection, The Theological Contours of Rihanna’s “Man Down”: Pulling the trigger on rape culture

I hope you all will take a look at both posts. Highly recommended

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Take 4: The Sorrow Songs & Black Churches

Joel Osteen at Lakewood Church, Houston, Texas

Image via Wikipedia


I think I just wanted to add a few comments to the conversation going on around theology blogs lately about “Ethnic hymns in white churches.” Sonja got us started,

But you could also play out this issue about hymns in a totally different way by abstracting it into a question of whether it’s ever OK to “take over” another culture’s music. And the obvious answer to that is, “We always already have.” I’ve wondered about this too, and I wonder if my discomfort with white congregations singing non-white music is undercut by the fact that, well, Christians have always sung the psalms. I sing them every Sunday, and except for their sometimes saccharine, clownish melodies, I have no problem with them. Christians have always “taken over” the Jewish scriptures, going so far as to pair them up in ways that make them speak Christologically. And it’s not like the church has never oppressed the Jews, so there’s your power element right there. (Sidenote: While I’m on the topic of Jewish music, let me just say that I get really uncomfortable when our parish does the Jew-ish [sic!] “King of Glory” song for exactly that reason. We’re not Jewish, dammit, no matter how much the church fathers claimed to be the verus Israel or how cool and funky you think Israeli folk tunes are. Killing Jews does not entitle you to become them; it entitles you to examine your conscience and repent. Ditto re: co-opting black spirituals.)

Couldn’t agree more.

Then, Katie responded with some questions of her own,

In other words, in a world warped by white supremacy, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for us to deal with racial and cultural difference in a truly subversive (that is, counter white supremacist) way. In other words, in such a world it is possible that both the refusal and the desire to sing and listen to “black” music will end up reifying the segregationist tendencies of white supremacy.

And then Monday, Andrew had his reply,

If what so-called white churches need is a greater awareness of historical and ongoing racism, let us work to increase this; but what better place to start than by unpacking the significance of the spirituals (perhaps in a homily now and then . . .), and by incorporating them more robustly into mainstream liturgies everywhere?

Do many people often feel awkward when singing these songs? Yes. But get over it. Let it go. Try to enter into the experience. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Step out of your comfort zone for a few seconds. Use it as a chance to cultivate a greater sense of solidarity, not only with African Americans, but also with all those who, even though they pray, have not been respected in their humanity and have not been welcomed as the children of God that they are.

I begin this post with a story:

“Last year, as I was in the city of Houston for a wedding, at the last minute, a friend and I decided to visit Lakewood Church at the 11am service. When we got to the basketball stadium,church, I noticed something quite unique about the racial demographic there, at least for the 11am service.  Even my friend pick it up as soon as we walked through the front door: as a white male, my friend could not meet one person who looked like him. Myself, I thought I was at an urban megachurch like they have in Dallas, but surely, this is Lakewood Church, and since the theology of Be A Better You probably appeals more to upper class whites (in my opinion), what were all the people of color doing here?  The answer lies in the worship music.  Worship at Lakewood is contemporary, both Contemporary Christian and Contemporary Gospel.  This music usually contains traditional, what one considers orthodox evangelical theologies of the cross (substitutionary atonement), so by the time the preacher is ready to give his/her message at Lakewood, it is time for hope (in the form of a prosperity gospel).”

The question, for me, about the sorrow songs, is why should “white” churches sing them if black churches do not?  The age old question of “How can we expect others to love us if we do not love ourselves” applies, even to our preferred worship styles.  The spirituals are not marginalized primarily because of white racism, even though that may be partially true, but because of  1) African American congregation willingly denial of its own history, and 2) churches not desiring to bring up the past due to the disruptive nature of the Spiritual’s theology.  And I do say that the Sorrow Songs are more than just the tricks that the enslaved Africans used to communicate their escapes; they are more than just mere expressions of joy of our favorite token happy Negroes.  The Sorrow Songs are solid works of theology, taken from the most oppressive of canons (that would be the Slave catechism where all pro-slavery texts and the book of Ezekiel were handed down to slave churches by their masters).  If indeed theologians are right in that all theology is ultimately doxological, the Spirituals could be considered exemplary sites of Christian theology.

Yoland Y. Smith, in her Reclaiming the Spirituals: new possibilities for African American Christian education, put it this way,

Unfortunately, many contemporary African American churches have adopted models of Christian education that have serve to distance their congregations and ministries from the spirituals and other components of their triple-heritage [African, African American, Christian].  Having uncritically incorporated Eurocentric educational paradigms, curriculum resources, and modes of worship, African Americans have lost valuable aspects of their African, African American, and Christian heritage.

(page 5).

The historical context in which the Sorrow Songs were birthed makes them all the more problematic for contemporary black, white, and intercultural churches, for the simple reason is this: even though most churches do not claim to preach the prosperity gospel, in reality, they do, in one way or another.  One example of this in evangelical and mainline Protestant circles is that singles are marginalized, as stable middle-class two-parent households are lifted up as the norm; it is the perfect blending of the kingdom of God and the American dream.  Church is supposed to be all about joy; don’t let that homeless person walk through those doors!  At Lakewood Church, interestingly, people are free to sit as they choose, if there is enough room; unfortunately at two black megachurches I know of, they sit people according to class (the ushers discriminate on the basis of who is wearing what clothes–meaning poor people, get to the back of the church or upstairs).

So if the Spirituals are going to be of any relevance to any congregation, and this does include a discussion about where these songs came from, that means that a church must be necessarily open to talking about histories of oppression as well as the complexities of economic status, and how the Gospel speaks to these things.

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