Sunday, February 1, 2009

Got Soul?




Erase all notions of positive stereotypes. They benefit the status quo. Because there are "positive" stereotypes in addition to the negative ones in every group, people "claim" the positive side because at least it's better than the negative. So people try viciously to prove the "positive" or accept it, and don't eliminate either. So quite clearly, both effectively stay in tact.

One of those we don't think about is the fact that black women can "sing" more strongly than white women. Seems "positive", so positive in fact that we get upset when white female soul singers come out. Actually, those white female soul singers are doing us justice. They show that black women are NOT genetically stronger in vocal range. Because, unfortunately, one cannot embrace the "positive strong black singer" stereotype and deject the "black women are loud" stereotype. They come from the same "stock".

I love Mary J, Jennifer Hudson, and a variety of other "strong" vocal singers. But when we contrast them against Mariah Carey, or other falsettos it is clear that stereotypes have created a DEMAND for a particular type of black female singer. Mariah, being lightskinned, and a "high pitched" singer plays into her femininity where as Mary J being a dark, "bold", and "strong" singer plays into the opposite.


Black women being "soulful" strong singers SUPPORTS the argument that our natural voices are louder, our bodies are stronger, and that "strength" is the justification for how we deserve to be treated. We can't escape that.

Agree, disagree?

10 comments:

dasia said...

Agreed to the max. Strong singers are always being dismissed as to "strong", or "angry", or not soft enough.

Ebony Intuition said...

Agree, I never thought about it that way, but it makes sense.

Alienation said...

It's also interesting that strong singers are never really sex symbols because they don't promote femininity. Songs like "I will survive", because she's a black female, it says "It doesn't matter how you treat me, I will always bounce back".

Toni Braxton and Sade have "deep" voices, but they are not really soul singers. Hnse being sex symbols. Versus Angie Stone, Heather Hedley, Jill Scott etc., The soul singer is meant to inspire, yet, not worthy of affection. This is why soul singers don't have to meet any "attractive" criteria. Which would be cool, if it also applied to white women (but it doesn't really). It's a part of black women's "appeal" of being cast as the "non threat", conventionally unattractive woman.

It's like how "body diversity" only applies to black women, when it really is meant to promote ideal white femininity.

Gisele said...

Disagreed, to a point:

Please excuse me if i have misunderstood your post, but imo Mary J Blige is not dark skinned. She is seen as a vocally strong Black female singer simply because she goes to church with every song, and her background that she has overcome (over and over.

Mariah Carey is marketed as "feminine" and attractive because she dresses like a teenage slut in too small clothing; but I do not know how many people actually see her the way she would like.

I get where you are going, but I think it's important to broaden perspective regarding singers. During Lauryn Hill's heyday, she was beginning to get press at 'beautiful Lauryn', 'style icon' Lauryn, etc. With her gorgeous chocolate skin, and deep husky voice.

My pet peeve regarding this topic does not involve singers so much, but media as a whole. Ex: why is Queen Latifah a Cover Girl, or marketed as a beauty ideal for Black women? I don't care how much she cleans herself up, she is not feminine to me. Why not a Black woman who is seen as "sexy", like Gabrielle, Kenya Moore, even Jennifer Hudson (yeah she's plus size too, and she has a nice, curvy figure). There is a determination to view us in boxes.

I recently saw a magazine cover where they lightened Michelle Obama's skin about 3 shades, and Sasha's also (since she is the darker of the 2 girls, i guess). I truly think the idea of attractive, smart, brown skinned Black women and girls scares the hell out of a lot of people-it's like the natural order of the universe becomes unbalanced when a brown to dark skinned women/girl is recognized for being beautiful or intelligent, and Lord, don't be both at the same time.

Alienation said...

Hi Giselle, Nice to meet you!

"Mary J Blige is not dark skinned."

I disagree, not only is Mary J dark skinned (compared to what we see), but she's both phenotypically and undeniably black. Gabrielle Union is not really dark skinned either in that case, she's brown skinned or medium complexioned. As is Michelle Obama. But, because she's so much darker than other black women we see in the media and doesn't have "anglo" features, for all intensive purposes she is dark skinned in my opinion.

"Mariah Carey is marketed as "feminine""

Well, then YES that would make her "feminine". I am describing marketing, not my personal opinions on aesthetic. Obviously, Mariah is marketed as feminine, as is Halle Berry. Loretta Divine and Angie Stone are not. Mariah is meant to be a "feminine" pop singer.

While I agree that Lauryn Hill is a stunning woman she was marketed as a stylistic diva, an "original" soulstress, etc., as is Erykah Badu. She's not marketed as "feminine" per say, there's definitely a difference between how she's marketed and Beyonce or Mariah, for example.

"My pet peeve regarding this topic does not involve singers so much, but media as a whole. Ex: why is Queen Latifah a Cover Girl, or marketed as a beauty ideal for Black women? I don't care how much she cleans herself up, she is not feminine to me. Why not a Black woman who is seen as "sexy""

That is EXACTLY my point. In fact, that's what I even said in the post about Queen Latifah. Why do we not see more conventionally attractive soul singers? It's not because of "diversity" or we'd see more white women that look like Queen Latifah and more black women that look like Garcelle Beauvais or Nona Gaye or Kenya Moore on the same level as Heidi Klum, etc., What happens now is that a breathtaking dark skinned female is casted in a movie, she literally takes our breath away, then we never see her again (unless she's in some low budget degrading movie).

"it's like the natural order of the universe becomes unbalanced when a brown to dark skinned women/girl is recognized for being beautiful or intelligent, and Lord, don't be both at the same time."

AGREED 120%! lol

Alienation said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alienation said...

Whoops I meant Gisele! So sorry (-_-)/

Gisele said...

Hi Alienation!

I got into a semi argument with a friend about Latifah's Cover Girl endorsement: he thought it was great that a 'full figured BW' was being recognized like this. I think he thought it was pc to make that comment, and he laughed when i said well then why don't they make freakin rosie o'donnnell a cover girl?!-lol. There is no balance when it comes to us.

In so far as what's marketed as feminine, you bring up a good point. I think there are different perceptions of femininity. Mariah Carey to me is a silly, Jessica Rabbit depiction of a real woman. Like a drag queen. Some people consider that feminine, but I don't. I'm not sure if it would be progress to see someone like Lauryn slinking around, purring in spandex dresses, forever behaving and dressing like an ingenue well into her forties. I'm a major Janet Jackson fan, but imo this has been one of her problems: who wants to see a grown woman whispering about being naughty, and at this stage of her life posing spread eagled for King magazine-i mean damn, at least pose for Maxim if she's that desperate-lol. I wonder why these kitten-ish, girlish images are considered sexy in our culture, instead of a self assured, confident woman who does not allow anyone to define her? We are in a patriarchal society, so i guess that answers my own question, huh?-lol

Gisele said...

Edit to say: I'm not implying that you're saying it would be beneficial for brown/dark skinned BW to behave in the manner I described! Just saying in general, since that is what's generally considered feminine, if i'm making any sense

Alienation said...

"My pet peeve regarding this topic does not involve singers so much, but media as a whole."

Right, exactly Gisele, I wholeheartedly agree. This is my peeve as well.

"Ex: why is Queen Latifah a Cover Girl, or marketed as a beauty ideal for Black women?"

She's not there for black women. She's there to highlight the white femininity ideal and to "tend to" the white makeup buyer. She's not supposed to be "sexy" in my opinion.

"Just saying in general, since that is what's generally considered feminine, if i'm making any sense"

Right, no I got ya. :-) There are plenty of white women who look like train wrecks that are marketed as "Sexy", and we can always tell that they are not meant to play the "ugly" character but the "Attractive" lead. So it's not about my opinions on who's sexy, it's about who the media tries to convince us is sexy, and who they don't.

Lauryn is a good point, she is beautiful. But I don't know if she was marketed as beautiful or if I just find her stunning and therefore THINK she HAD to be marketed as beautiful. This is about marketing, not personal opinions on attractiveness. Hope that's clear. Thanks for commenting! xo