When I saw Leslie Jones on Saturday Night Live doing that Weekend Update skit, it brought out so many feelings in me. I discussed her kind of comedy with a friend. It’s similar to that of Sheryl Underwood– the self-deprecating humor of being a big, dark woman, embracing “masculine” features that stupid people put on them over their development as black women. It kills me when she’s on the Steve Harvey show describing herself as men. She does this often. There’s hurt there. That’s obvious. And comedians tell you that they draw on pain and they draw on their truth. But when it comes to these female comedians, whose truth are they really drawing on, when hurtful people lied to them about their beauty and significance and their value? That kind of humor puts my limited privilege as a lighter-skinned black woman on front street, but it doesn’t make it less hurtful, that my black sisters take this on and this is their reality and that this is a coping mechanism.
But is it a double standard? Kevin Hart can make jokes about being short… But I still can’t find the humor in a black woman reducing her own body and her color and her self-worth in such a way.
I think it’s far easier to make fun of yourself for being clumsy, or a bad dancer, or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Maybe she was attempting to be revolutionary and calling out the elephant in the room maybe she was giving a big f U to all of the folks who never accepted her and saw her beauty or placed a qualifier on it… “for a big girl.” “For a black girl.”
I don’t know. But I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. Here we are in the age of Oprah, and Michelle Obama and Misty Copeland and Kerry Washington and Lupita and then we have Love and Hip Hop and Leslie Jones. It hurts. It hurts terribly. Tressiemc put together all of the thoughts and the frustrations I felt so eloquently, dripping with the pain and the unease of being a witness to such a thing. I really had to share it.
I want badly to get this right. That, of course, means that there is no way humanly possible for me to get this right.
I want to get this right for the usual reasons. I want Twitchy and professional feminists and black nationalists and the identity policy and FOX news ambassadors to stay out of my comment section. I also want to get this right because I spent a fair amount of time this week explaining to mostly non-black academic labor organizers why they are nowhere near adept or oppressed enough to use slavery metaphors. Then, too, this is the week that Miley Cyrus called me old for publicly ruminating on the tensions of her adoption of a specific kind of black female affect in a capitalist beauty structure where chicks like me stay losing, even when we’re paid to dance like we’re winning.
And, Miley’s is some of the…
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