Monday, June 05, 2006

No Fats! No Fems!


Charles said...

I thought this was very funny. I make a connection between colorism and the "no fats, no fems" club in my own analysis. The paper bag parties and the sex parties have always been suspiciously similar to me in scope and impact. As someone elgible for one and not the other, I took what I believed to be and still believe to be an ethical stand, and resist spaces and places that perpetuate that sort of thing. But it's also my personal choice.

The racial lens with the images of Jim Crow America and segregation are certainly powerful. This is a very hot angle to examine the issue from, and funny. It also illustrates your notion of sexual apartheid. Dare I invoke Joseph yet again "I dare us to dream that we are worth wanting each other."

This is also a counter to Keith's fitness journal. Long live the Fat and the Fem!!!!

John K said...

The visuals make a point that the same number of words might not: how sizeism and body fascism mirror Jim Crow and apartheid. But one counterargument might be that unlike with race, which is intrinsic and cannot be changed (even though its fluid and Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey have spent much of their adult lives calling this into question), the fat, femme homosexual can slim down and/or butch up; I think this argument is not only noxious and spurious, but it ties into the perverse social and economic logic of our society, which is constantly urging people to conform, to cover, to closet themselves, in order to be able to better CONSUME, which is the capitalist route to individualism and self-definition. If you're part of some online personality's fitness program and work on your outer femminess by modeling yourself on your peers who're butcher, even if doing so denies your sense of self and is oppressive, you can be invited into that sex party...and belong! I say fuck all of it. Long live the black and brown fatties, the black and brown femmes, the black and brown ones who love them and are brave enough to love them, and who're brave and independent-minded enough to imagine that they are not the only ones out there who feel this way. This is what marks out one aspect of the revolutionary in 2006.

El Güero said...

Fascinating photos and comments. And let's not forget agism..."no one over 30 need enter".
Excellent blog.

Larry D. Lyons II said...

but i think civil and human rights occupy a separate (if not unrelated) sphere, no?
sure, there are parallels to be drawn: both systems are exclusionary and assign privilege and penalty to bodies based solely upon visible features and ostensible mannerisms. however, to have this conversation seriously, we must also take into account the significant differences between the two, which John has gestured toward here.
while i fully acknowledge the social and psychic impact of the institutionalized denial or disallowing of desire (as in the proliferation of the shorthand coding "no fats no fems"), i think we (as black gay men) must also register the distinction between the social psychology and the politics at hand as well as how the stakeholders differ.

the bundling of fat and fem in an economy of sexual repulsion is a problem. it reeks of misogyny and reifies a hopelessly narrow standard of beauty/fitness. but however noxious the construction, and however meritous this construction is of critique and dismantling, though, it occupies that precarious space where we must tred lightly and conscientiously: desire.

here, we must acknowledge that the grounds and the claims are different when a hegemonic construction restricts one's ability to vote and to secure employment. this situation calls for the intervening of the government. an activation of the civic sphere. the power of the state.

because i think we'd all agree that we'd rather not see the bush administration at the helm of addressing the fat/fem problem, i think we should also use conversations like this to clarify exactly to whom we are making our appeals. and i think this can be lost when we are uncritical of the equating of "no fat, no fem" with "whites only".

by all means, let's have conversations about conformity. let's have conversations about body image, desire and the self-hatred that underlies the problematic standards of masculinity at play. but let's also be wary of the always unsavory consequences of participating in the policing of desire. such policing, particularly when taken up by non-heterosexuals, runs the risk of constituting a taking up of the masters tools... that is, seeking to preside over the very domain we've fought to protect from hegemonic forces: our sex and our desire.

Ynkuya said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ynkuya said...

Our precious and protected desires might just be the last stronghold of our internalized oppression. How brilliant! “Silence is the glue that holds oppression in place.” We all tread lightly around our privilege.

I wonder if our collective desire is less hegemonic a construction than Jim Crow. Is desire not already policed in favor of the hegemony? I wonder if Jim crow was indeed more constrictive than are our desire politics (no fats, no fems). I would expect the suggestion that this is so to come only from one who is neither fat, nor fem.

I do recognize the assumptions in you comments. Your first assumption is that “no fats, no fems” and sexual desire politics remain in the bedroom and have no larger impact on Black LGBT community. Within this lies the assumption that sexual behavior is the only behavior impacted by sexual desire politics.

Your second assumption is that state sanctions make oppression more real and that the absence of state sanctions makes oppression less real. There are other institutions that are as formidable and influential as governments.

Larry D. Lyons II said...

i don't think we disagree as much as your response indicates. for example, i agree with the notion that "Our...desires might just be the last stronghold of our internalized oppression". I couldn't agree more. This is why I insisted on making the distinction between the two forms of oppression at hand. The ways in which we mobilize against internalized oppression will necessarily look quite different from the ways that we fought (and fight) for civil rights. My aim was to highlight that it's imperative that in our strategizing and organizing, we take note of to register the difference between the entity/ies to whom we are making our appeals.

that said, i think you have mistaken the assumptions that underlie my comments. i do not believe for a second that "sexual desire politics remain in the bedroom and have no larger impact on Black LGBT community". the politics of sexual desire certainly do order and inform our lived experiences far beyond the bedroom. as a feminist and as someone indebted to (black) queer theory, no other principle has been more central to my work.

neither do i think that state sanctioned oppression is any more "real" than any other form of oppression. i never aimed to assign primacy or validity to one form of oppression over another. what i have suggested is that it is essential to our organizing to take into account how it differs from other forms.

Hollambeeee said...

you said it better than me (on Larry's blog response)

Herukhuti said...

As to Larry's suggestion that the forms of resistance and liberatory struggle with/against internalized homophobia and Jim Crow might look or need to be very different, I would challenge that thusly. A major part of the grassroots, mass movement struggle against Jim Crow involved an embodied mobilization. People put their bodies on the line (e.g., picketing, sit-ins, integrating lunch counters, marching, etc.) or removed their bodied from the line (e.g., boycotting) in the struggle against Jim Crow. Perhaps, we might be served by asking ourselves what would an embodied mobilization against the sexism, homo-hatred, and body fascism of "no fats, no fems" look like. Maybe it would look like boycotting the gym. Maybe it would looke like dressing in drags in public space, Maybe it would look like glamourizing (i.e., making the subject/focus/feature of discourse) the rotund belly on our web sites rather than 6-pack abs.

One additional thing the civil rights movement has taught me was the role ivy tower intellectuals and ivy tower intellectualism in liberatory struggle. They were not the sparks that start the movement nor the flames that kept the movement going. It was instead the kids at Shaw and Howard and other places that were willing to get their hands dirty and the lips bloody on the frontlines of the struggle.

I say that to say that intellectual gymnastics can be cute, as a Ph.D, I know their value and place. But as an activist, I also know the value of putting one's body on the line, literally not literarily, on the line. Let me be clear, I'm not pu-puing the value and role of the intellectual in liberatory struggle. In fact, what I am calling for is a rigorous embodiment of such an intellectual engaged in liberatory struggle in the context of "no fats, no fems." So, for example, where are the Che Gueveras, Frantz Fanons, and Angela Ds in the libertory struggle of "no fats, no fems?" What would putting our bodies on the line in service of that struggle look like from a radical, critical perspective? Are those of us who fancy ourselves intellectual and activist, living up to those standards and if not to what standards are we evaluating and critiquing our work?

Anonymous said...

That was absolutely brilliant Heru, I find your words breathtaking.

Larry D. Lyons II said...

I'm with Heru on this one. Surely, it is worthwhile to inquire what an embodied mobilization against "no fats, no fems" would look like. I strongly believe that glamorizing our rotund bellies is as integral a project as offering up images of our six-pack abs for interrogation and deconstruction.

I feel similarly about the diverse roles of the intellectual. Iv(or)y tower intellectuals, traditional intellectuals, "organic" intellectuals (and everyone in between) hold the potential to make noteworthy and indispensible contributions to a revolutionary movement or liberatory struggle. As such, I see the wisdom in steering clear of "pu-puing" the value or role of any one of them.

In fact, I see a lot of wisdom here, and I'm glad to be present for the conversation.

Herukhuti said...

Actually Larry, I don't think you are with me on this one because you were one of the individuals I was critiquing when I made my statement.

At the point in which you decide to place another "look at my gym-processed abs/body" pic on your site alongside some text that most of your blog readers either don't read (properly) or can't understand, after numerous attempts in the past to do the same, I believe, you are contributing to rather than critiquing the body fascism that exists. Additionally, at the point in which you choose not to say to your blog readers, "hey stupids, you're demonstrating the same cult of abs mentality that I'm trying to critique in my work. Either get a clue or stop reading/posting on my blog" you are opting for celebrity or at least congeniality over being the force for social change that I see you aspiring to be.

Likewise, Keith Boykin will forever be a superficial version of a social justice activist as long as he experiences a paralysis of analysis around body politics, his own and those of others. His site reads as soft core porn, a tits and ass site, with lukewarm social commentary for those that want social justice-lite edutainment. The lack of critical examination on his site of the way in which his light skin privilege and gym-processed body privilege operate to make him digestible and consumerable in mainstream media, by gay bois, and others further complicates him as a force for social justice and fashions him more as a pop media commodity to be bought and sold as his ancestors were during slavery.

Until men who were once skinny boys who felt uncomfortable with their bodies choose to dismantle the system of body fascism that we all live within rather than trying to soothe past wounds by becoming that thing they most desired when they were a kid, but not really, those men will suffer from a flawed analysis of oppression and a vulnerable articulation of social justice.

Until men with gym-processed bodies come out of the closet about other aspects of their bodies, e.g., asthma, HIV, hypertension, chronic halitosis, alcoholism, etc., they will continue to be collaborators in their own objectification. And there are reasons why they remain in the closet about this things. Imagine, for example, how a HIV-infected, gym-processed body is read by the public, not (simply) as a hot body but a body that is being "kept up" in the midst of the virus. By remaining in the closet about HIV, the gym-processed body can be socially airbrushed into acceptability.

If I can hold white folks accountable as social justice allies and demand that they do certain things as allies in the name of social justice (e.g., be silent and listen periodically, take a secondary but supportive role to a person of color, utilize their resources and privilege to advance a social justice objective without taking any credit, etc.), then I must be equally willing to hold ab-bois accountable as social justice allies as well.

So when you reframed my statement about rotund bellies and 6-pack abs, I saw clearly you articulating a kind of unconscious privilege that is exercised by certain white folks around racism. I was very clear in stating a "rather than" but you changed it to a "both/and". My proposal called for a challenge to both groups of men, the men with rotund bellies and the men with 6-pack abs (yes I know there are men who have other kinds of mid-sections). The men with the rotund bellies would be challenged to put their bellies out there in the world in ways that most of us with rotund bellies don't (yes, I'm including myself in the statement). The men with the 6-pack abs would be challenged to keep their shirts on and keep their abs off their web sites. In your proposal of "both/and", the men with rotund bellies would be called upon to engage in some activity while the men with the 6-pack abs continue on with business as usual, without any sacrifice or responsibility to change behave or practice. As a result, implicit in your proposal, a reframing of my proposal, is the maintanence of privilege, entitlement, and social positioning for the men with 6-pack abs.

If you have emotional/social stuff you need to work out by going to the gym and you also want to be a social justice ally, fine. Don't put your abs on your web site because it will not have the same impact as you intend. Manage your social currency with an appreciation for how it works in the real world not just in the world of ideas.

I know this work is hard. I struggle with it myself. But I've learned not to put some stuff that I'm still struggling with internally out in the world as a social justice project/initiative/act because I know that unless I can send that energy out clearly, with the power of consciousness and intentionality, it is apt to be misinterpreted in the world (because my vision on it wasn't clear from the beginning).

Larry D. Lyons II said...

Heru: That your nebulous critique was intended for me does not preclude my agreeing with the points that you made.

You made a decision to read the photograph on my blog as "another "look at my gym-processed abs/body" pic". Given that choice, it is not at all surprising that you've come to the conclusion that you have. The pained and dismissive language you use to describe the image speaks volumes about how you approached the post. So, while I am not uncomfortable with you and I having different readings and experiences of the post, what I would like to see is for you (and others) to register and take ownership of what you brought to the post and the degree to which your feelings about the muscled body informed (and seemingly over-determined) that reading.

You believe that I am "contributing to rather than critiquing the body fascism that exists". The uneasy truth is that I don't see the two as mutually exclusive. In my estimation, the post holds the possibility of doing both. The post can only register as a critique of body fascism if the reader opts for a rigorous engagement of the text (which I, of course, hope my readers will do). But alas, this is the internet and a number of factors (from the politics of blog comments to the social fuction of racey digital pictures) make this a gamble. At the end of the day, I can not control how folks will read my blog. What I can do is interrogate how my choices (i.e. poetry vs. prose, selection/creation/positioning of images, etc) might impact the ways in which a post is read. And I commit myself to doing just that.

With each of my "numerous attempts" to use images of my body as a tool to facilitate the exploration and critique of a social ill, I've tried to get a better sense of how this work can be done with more efficiency and integrity. While not everyone will be pleased with my success, what is undeniable is that I have insisted on pressing the conversation.

Because I am less fond of fruitless and potentially alienating confrontation than you are, Heru, I have a different approach to responding to blog comments that don't conform to my intentions. I may ask questions. I may generate my own reading of a piece to show folks how I approach the issue. I find these "congenial" means of coaxing conversation to be more conducive to establishing dialogue than your "hey stupids" approach. But to each his own. I'm content with the fact that instead of writing folks off as "clueless," and resolving to preach to the choir of folks who already have the interest and critical tools necessary to do the kind of reading I endorse, that I've used my "congeniality" to actually connect with folks who might otherwise settle for looking at pretty pictures.

The reason I'm not moved by your disallowing of 6-pack exhibition is because there are multiple conversations operating at once. While the banishment of my bare stomach from my blog may seem to serve this particular conversation, it also undermines other longstanding committments of mine: to counter the stigmatization of the nude and/or sexualized body (see also: my Baptist upbringing) and to resist becoming the academic who is only sexualized in theory. I am interested in identifying ways of being an agent of social change that won't bereft me of my core principles. Is that selfish? Unrealistic? I guess we'll see. It's a conversation I'm not afraid to have.

I understand the drawbacks of putting my body on display. I am not dissuaded when doing so does not "have the same impact" as I "intended". The intention is work through some shit (including how to deploy my privilege in ways that promote my politics), to have some folks bear witness and to dialogue about the process. As such, this conversation is not evidence of my failure, but a manifestation of my success.

I'm willing to work through my shit publicly because being "misinterpreted in the world" does not inspire fear within me. Regardless of how much work I do behind the scenes, I know that I will always be interpreted in ways that are beyond my control and contrary to my intentions. C'est la vie. I manage that truth by availing myself to discussions like this one, as they have done so much to refine my thinking and complicate my politics. I much prefer to see my truths scrutinized, interrogated and revised than not represented at all.

Herukhuti said...


If I understand your response correctly, you are responding to my last post by saying:

(1)You can agree with aspects of my argument even when that argument is a critique of you.

(2)My criticism was based upon my own shit and I need to take ownership of that.

(3)You are ok with your actions being both a challenge to social injustices and contributions to social injustices.

(4)You can't control what folks do with your blog, you can only question your choice of actions in your blog so pay it.

(5)The blog posts that I critiqued were experiments on your part so while I may question there success I should give you an A for effort and persistence.

(6)Congeniality for you is a way of connecting with people and you find that as a better strategy than assertive or aggressive confrontation.

(7)You feel you're in engaged in helping the analytically less fortunate step up to your level through being congenial to them.

(8)While you may be perpetuating the rule of gay glam boy, you should be given a pass because you believe you are challenging the stigma of the nude and sexualized body while also getting people to get off on your body not just your mind.

(9)Because you and I are having this conversation on Kevin's blog, you blog post is a success.

(10)You should be given cool points for not being afraid.

I'm not going to respond to each of those points but to a few that are most interesting to me. Let me first say that I don't think there's anything wrong with you or anyone else for that matter taking pictures of themselves, retooling them in photoshop, and posting them on their web site. I also have no problems with people getting off on those pictures.

My first criticism is about the relationship between your stated intention and the impact that is displayed by the posts of your blog readers. I can intend to sprout wings and fly but I would expect any thinking person to evaluate my success on the degree to which my impact with the earth when I jump off a cliff with that intention is supported by my intention.

And when I've hit the earth too hard after several attempts and continue to engage in the same behavior without modifying my process but expecting a different result or impact, well we know what that is called, crazy. And I know you're not crazy Larry so there has to be something else operating for you to engage in that routine.

I believe you're working through some stuff. Some of which you're being honest and authentic with your readers about, and some you're not. Which is why I think you got questioned by two people about the "seriousness" of your post.

You are, in my opinion, not putting your body on the line in the way I described in my earlier post. You are putting your camera-modified, photoshop-modified image of your body on the line. This in itself is disingenous and begs the question about your seriousness.

The congenial thing to me is a middle-class, bourgie-intelligensia, Eurocentric approach to connecting with people. You and I will agree on the analytical capacity of certain of your blog readers but you'll smile in their face and make them believe that you think they're not stupid and call that congenial and productive connection. Again, I find it disingenous and inauthentic.

This was my other earlier point. The social justice intellectual activists that I are known for challenging our communities on their shit and not being congenial for the sake of connecting. The way they connected with our people was to tell them when they felt they were being stupid so they could self-correct and learn. The whitewashed, let Timmy act the fool in the mall, stuff is tired and does not allow folks to see what their mistakes.

I'm not saying you actually call people stupid. But you check them in a way that let's them know, oh that shit I just did was stupid.

Finally, certain forms of nudity and sexualized bodies have not been stigmatized but actually promoted in this society from Micheangelo's David to the Calvin Klein ads. The images you are giving us to consume conform to those images. You aren't doing anything new, different, or challenging. I could get those same images from 5th Avenue or Mapplethorpe. Are you saying to us that that's all your body contains? That's all you body can produce? The sexualized intellectual body is no different than the sexualized glam boy body?

And finally, where's the hidden stuff about your body? Where's the stuff you don't want us to see or know? It's not in the picture or the text. If you are going to be provocative, then expect us to challenge you when you are still playing it safe.

Now finally finally I'll take ownership of my shit as you recommended. When I wrote my first post, it was loaded with unspoken criticisms that I've had of you for some time but did not speak because I had decided a while ago to not be critical of you given your relationship with one of my best friends. I'm over it now and this conversation is an expression of that.

I've come to recognize that I do none of us any good by holding my tongue when I have a criticism of your choice of action in a field that I have considerable experience.

I find in your response to my criticism a commitment to help those who may not have reached your level yet to come up to it, but I don't find an equal commitment to engaging those of us who are farther along than you are AND who are critical of your work so that you step up your game rather than just answer our critical feedback with a defense.

I appreciate the fact that that may not be easy in public space nor with someone who you don't trust or know that well. But I would challenge you with the same metaphor that you used in your response to my feedback. In what ways have you been preaching to the choir of folks that only shower you with praise either about your body images online or your intellectual skills, shying away or outright avoiding those who've been on the pulpit longer than you and have some constructive/critical feedback that may be hard for you to hear or digest?

Charles said...


I again want to applaud you for sparking this conversation with your provocative post.

I must say that I have found your points thrilling. Reading and rereading your comments captured everything I have believed and continue to believe about body fascism and gay men, and you stated them so very eloquently. I also found the urgency in your words inspiring and I am reminded of why you are one of the most stirring voices of your generation.

I would love for you to expand on, perhaps on your site, strategies for resisting and challenging body fascism. I am convinced that we have to build models. Perhaps you again are part of laying the foundation.

And lord knows that it was precisely the keithboykinization of the blogosphere that drove me into the wilderness, but now I see brothas are finally ready to overthrow the current regime and inject some much needed energy into these discussions.

Let me also mention that there are still blogs that remain brilliant and substantive despite the pressures to have a tits and ass site: Jstheater, ynkuya, bejata, blackfunk, blackgayblogger, and rod20. Even the “I hate Frank Leon Roberts” guy put forth a flawed and pained perspective, and though his specific commentary on Frank was problematic, he did challenge us correctly for good or for bad, to think critically about how the most dominant voices get to be the dominant voices, or how certain people get chosen and why they are chosen.

I also want to point to Lyle Ashton Harris, Ajamu, Ty Lattimore, Adodi Muse. They are all artists that I think have challenged masculinism and/or the body boy culture in a way that has proven visionary and courageous. You want to see subversion? Watch “No Security Deposit” or “Dial a Freak,” and of course Lorde, and Hemphill, and Beam. And before I end let me invoke Beam “I dare us to dream that we are worth wanting each other.”

Frank León Roberts said...
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Frank León Roberts said...
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Herukhuti said...


You've presumed and assumed way too much. I wasn't thinking of or about you in the slightest when I wrote any of my remarks specifically because you, as far as I know, don't represent yourself or the things that you do in the classroom or at the balls and things as activism.

My comments were specifically about being an intellectual and activist, not being the average black man who has sex with men and there in lies the difference between what I was doing and your critique of the School Daze debate.

Though you may be used to putting things in people's mouths and they accept and appreciate it, I caution you against doing that with me particularly as it relates to calling Larry "a young, naive, uncritical, I-go-to-Princeton-but-im-full-of-shit, almost-muscled, "eurocentric" black brat (whose arrested intellectual and activist development is no doubt a result of his "middle-class, bourgie-intelligensia, Eurocentric approach to connecting with people")." If you read what I wrote, which was much less dense and unnecessarily academified than your response, you will see that my criticisms were of Larry's actions and practices not him as an individual. Unlike you and I, Larry and I have a personal connection through his fiance, my best friend. Therefore, I would not think about attacking him on a personal level and definitely not in the way that you have attempted to dress up (I would expect given that you are a ball queen, you know when there's too much production being applied to your work).

In the future, if you want to have your good girlfriend's back and want to remain legitimate in your assertions, I'd suggest you spend a bit more time really reading, and less time trying to read.

FYI - Molefi Asante is fat and like many str8-identified men he pays it (maybe something to think about)...therefore a fat version of Molefi would not need to be called a fat Molefi Asante.

If and when you're ready to have a real conversation about these things, hopefully without as much postmodern gobbly-goop undermining the clarity of your message, let me know.

Frank León Roberts said...
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Anonymous said...

Improvised intellectual solos. But honestly brothers, how many of you want to sleep with someone who is fat or fem? This is about pure visual and sexual hierarchies. This has nothing to do with measuring a person's worth or inner value, just their sexual desirablity. Comparing the no fat no fem preference to Jim Crow is just an intellectual muscle flex that goes to show that the language used in the academy and by scholars can prove and support any and every point that is focused upon. We could also say that the language being used to discuss said issue is in itself an indirect flip of the no fat no fem mandate. Instead of directly saying no non post-secondary minds allowed the language says it much more clear.(Even clearer than "no fats no fems") Would there be a discussion if the fats and fems were simply not given the time of day and the "no fats no fems" mandate were never spoken collectively as it is now?

Ynkuya said...

To Mr Anonymous:

1- Sexual Desire politics impacts much more than who we sleep with. if that were all I would not care to have this conversation.

2-This has everything to do with measuring a person's worth. That's what the entire conversation has been about. Not that big boys can't find sex. It's about exactly what you said hierarchies.

3-Comparing no fats no fems t Jim Crow is in my opinion pretty accurate.

4- If fats and fems were just "not given the time of day" then there would be no basis for this conversations. But as it is Fats and Fems are excluded from Black Gay community in ways that are much more crucial than "sex."

Herukhuti said...


Thank you for cutting your sentences down to a size that I can digest comfortably.

You said to your knowledge we are cool. That's news to me. I don't know you well enough to be cool or not cool with you. I mean I've seen your web site once; I think we've both attended a couple of functions in New York so we've been in the same space at the same time. But beyond that I know you and vice versa. Hey, that would be obvious by my mistaking you and Larry for friends - thank you for correcting me.

Thank you for also pointing out that I never defined what I meant by fascism in the conversation. I'm not going to do it now either but I would suggest that those who don't have a definition of the word/concept on hand to right now go to and do a word search.

Question: why do you feel that being a ball queen or being a queen is slightly trivial and not worthy of respect? If being a ball queen or being a queen is "essentially" trivial or not worthy of respect than what does that say about the many young men and women in the house/ball community who unlike you don't have the privilege of doctoral education to change their socioeconomic status nor the privilege to bring it in executive realness in the real world to get real coins, real status, and a real middle-class life?

Herukhuti said...

Oh, Frank I forgot to say that my basic statement to you in my first response to you was that you misinterpreted my comments to Larry in some very disasterous ways and therefore your critique was a critique of arguments that you ascribed to me but were in fact creatures of your own making.

As a result, your entrance into the discussion appeared clumsy, strained, overdone, and an expression of a lack of respect and appreciation for your own ideas.

taylorSiluwé ..... said...

Wow. I almost forgot how this all started.

I can't believe I read all that. But when great minds collide there are bound to be sparks, and hurt feelings. It was most entertaining though.

Anonymous described comparing Jim Crow to 'no fats no fems' as an intellectual muscle flex and I couldn't agree more. A brilliant and concise one at that.

But somewhere along the line the minds in the room turned that flex into an uncontrollable spasm.

Sometimes we can actually think too deeply, especially when the comparison was clear to all ... and didn't take much thought at all.

Anonymous said...

Another potentially productive conversation derailed by intellectual posturing and dick-wagging. Some folks need to work on their own internal, unresolved feelings of marginalization before weighing in in the future.

shuck'n'jive said...

well i'm a dyke and don't have a dick to wag (well....maybe i do) but i do have some opinions. if you'd like to check them out you can see my post sweet tea: black queerness and the south.

Herukhuti said...

Interesting related article

Donald said...

Ultimately, everyone has a right to their desire - and noone has the right to impede anyone else's life. Therein lies the fundamental differences between and the complications of comparing Jim Crow segregation to "no fats, no fems" ideology.

The point of this discussion is to analyze this comparison, isn't it? As problematic as this comparison is, I still see value in gleaning from it seeds of fruitful conversations about loving our complete selves, in whatever context they exist.

I'm fat and fem. No, I'm neither as fat or as fem as the extremes or the stereotypical images I've seen, but I know where I exist in the spectrum. I am also HIV positive. Sexually, I can enjoy most ages and all types of bodies, but I'm partial to taller, more mature men with thick 'average' bodies. In terms of femmeness, men who hover near the middle of the masculine/feminine continuum turn me on the most. I boycott the gym not just because of the skewed images it perpetuates, but more for the culture that those images manifest in and out of the gym. It is important to take care of your body and to be fit, but where's the diversity of images of fitness? (And I'm going to SCREAM if I read another mens fitness magazine crammed with gay models telling me how to sex 'her' real good!)

I see the paper bag test and "no fats, no fems" as both knee-jerk reactions. The first, a response mired in equating/confusing assimilation with a better chance at socio-economic progress in a society structured by White privilege 'threatened' by a newly free population of 'formerly' oppressed Black people; the second, a response to HIV/AIDS in a society that obsesses over Greek images of beauty juxtaposed with the overwhelming, 'dangerous' hypermasculinity of the Big Black Dick. It's interesting that both of these are aggressive (even nihilistic, because both ultimately suggest that you are nothing as you are) attempts at gaining security against larger threats to survival. Any knee-jerk reaction is just that: an instant reaction to some immediate action, a reflex that involves very little conscious thought. Not to diminish the impact of subconscious thought on our actions and reactions, but I think it's important for us to be conscious about the ways we marginalize each other and that we perpetuate oppression even as we continue to make decisions based on the subconsciousnesses into which we've been born and that we create.

We had Fannie Lou Hamer, Julian Bond, Thurgood Marshall, James Baldwin, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Shirley Chisolm - we had all these direct responders to Jim Crow segregation. In this comparison, though, a more apt responder might be Eleanor Roosevelt, a white woman who 'benefited' from the faulty system of Jim Crow. Who that 'benefits' from "no fats, no fems" ideology will actually call it out? What does that look like?

Ynkuya said...

"Ultimately, everyone has a right to their desire - and noone has the right to impede anyone else's life. Therein lies the fundamental differences between and the complications of comparing Jim Crow segregation to "no fats, no fems" ideology."

Everyone has a right to there desire is an over simplification of the conversation that we've had. If this truth is to stand alone as a reason why desire must not be challenged then this conversation would be null and void. The right to desire who one desires does not place desire in the realm of the unquestionable.

From a justice perspective we might ask: What if I work to undue inequity in society but do not remove the residue of inequity from my desires? Do I truly believe that white people are not superior when my desire hiearchy commodifies people with light skin and other eurocentric features? Do I truly believe that that homophobia is wrong when my desire politics reflect homophobia? How do our "desires" reflect our deepest beliefs about human worth, human rights, and social justice?

Just as we challenge each other's morals, ethics, believes, which we all have the right to have, we can challenge desire. We can examine desire through the lense of justice and scrutinize the factors that shape desire and scrutinize desire its self just like we can scrutinize the factors that shape morals, ethics, religions, etc.

A thorough examination of the comments posted prior to your joining the conversation will reveal quite clearly that this conversation has never been about desire in and of its self. This conversation is about how desires drive a politics among Black Gay men. This conversation is about how desire politics have been shaping every aspect of Black Gay lgbt community.

Donald said...

My introduction wasn't intended to summarize the conversation. My intention was to ground my comments in what I believe are the most cogent truths presented by your comparison. Because while we can (and should) challenge desires that undermine us collectively, you can't legislate desire. We can create legislature and policy to ensure a certain level of fairness in education, employment, etc without regard to race, but at the end of the day, you can't make someone give up their new-found New England accents or their blonde extensions or their jars of Nadinola or their blue contact lenses or their gym memberships. You can't make someone date or have sex with someone to whom they're not attracted. Can we police how those manifestations of desire show up in our organizations? If so, how?

This is another reason I feel that this comparison is problematic. Still, I believe there's a lot we could discover by analyzing the similarities and plotting the parallels as well as the differences.

Ynkuya said...

I think my comparison would be problematic if it were true that the only way for a society to adopt, and enforce norms were through legislation. However this is not the case. Legislation is not even the only way for society to adopt and enforce laws.

No it is not possible to legislate change to the desire politics of our community like change was legislated to the Jim Crow south.

But comparing change in attitudes to change in the laws is a logical error. Jim Crow was a set of laws supported by racist attitudes. No Fats No Fems is a group of informal and unwritten mandates held in place by homophobic, misogynistic, eurocentric, and hegemonic desire, attitudes.

Students of movement know that change in laws made through legislation never happens without movement to build support for such changes. Before the Jim Crow laws could change women and men of power had to believe that Jim Crow was wrong. Many people in power had to change there attitudes toward Jim Crow before legislation could even be introduced successfully.

The movement to change attitudes about Jim Crow started long before the actual laws took place. Civil rights workers Black and white were moving in the south: going door to door, speaking in churches, having lunch with politicians, dinner parties, and afternoons with the ladies who lunch long before legislation ever happened. What's more is that two presidents appealed to the heart of the nation before either ever tried to see legislation realized. King leading marches through the streets of Birmingham and delivering firey speeches was not him attempting to change legislation, such an attempt would have involved a little more lobbying and a little less public display. King was attempting to build broad and far reaching support for his issues through very high profile acts of civil disobedience. Further jim crow laws were not eliminated all at once. They were picked apart bit by bit a little by legislation while others fell victim to case law and executive orders. Legislation is never the end all be all for ending any form of oppression. A cursory glance at the condition of Black people in South Africa will illuminate this truth. Hell a cursory glance at the condition of Black people in the US will illuminate this truth.

It is true that if social attitudes had not changed greatly in the south and in the nation overall Jim Crow laws would not have changed. This conversation has been about changing attitudes about appealing to the people in power. A conversation must happen before the unwritten informal mandates held in place by the people in power within our community/ies come apart.

The similarities between how the norms of a nation result in exclusion and how the norms of a community result in exclusion are not nullified because they are different kinds of entities and use different forces to enforce norms. The end result is exclusion. A no fats no fems policy at a sex party does not have a different outcome than a whites only sign at a lunch counter or a waiting room. Racist attitudes that result in the exclusion of individuals from opportunities, advancement, pursuit of happiness blahze blah do not have a different OUTCOME than hegemonic desire politics that result in the exclusion of individuals from opportunities, advancement, pursuit of happiness blahze blah.

If we seek absolutes we will never find parallels. Based on your argument and the argument of some others in this discourse we would need to take a case to the Supreme Court and push through a raging fire arm brandishing southern Governor to get our fat fem selves into school with slim butch kids. This post was not an attempt at structuralism (I don’t do all that post modern stuff). It was an attempt at illustrating how the politics of exclusion that we as black men have been oppressed by have worked there way into Black Gay culture. In that respect I think that the post was far from a failure and far from problematic.

Regarding you closing question:

No one has suggested that we “police” desire. Your equating my recommendation that we interrogate desire with “making” people have sex, and with “policing” desire seems to me a circumlocutionary and evasive argument. Instead of addressing the problem of how we, Black gay men, shape our desires, and the problem of how we allow our desires to shape our entire world, you argument seems to attempt to turn the confrontation of this problem into an act of coercion or oppression. It is not. It is a conversation about the problem. Utlimately Black gay men will have to decide that the damage done to our community is not worth defending our more destructive manifestations of desires and build a movement to create change. By carrying forward this conversation many of us plan to bring our community to this point.

Anonymous said...

Comparing "no fats/fems" to Jim Crow is offensive to all the people that were lynched, killed, and died to end that discrimination. How many ppl were honestly hung from trees & mutilated by gays for being fat or fem?? None.

It is a personal preference & an exercise of Freedom of choice. Saying "no fats or fems" in an online profile is the same as saying you only practice safe sex, or you are only looking for friends. If somebody only wants a sex partner, are you bringing back Jim Crow if you post you are only looking for friends?

The fact is this dicussion will in now way influence anyone's reality unless you accept ppl will easily restrict themselves just to be politically correct. get over it.


Anonymous said...

^^dam's that last part again:

The fact is this discussion will in know way influence anyone's reality unless you accept ppl will NOT restrict themselves just to be politically correct. get over it.

Ynkuya said...

No! I'm not going to entertain this. You almost had me though. Almost.

Get your head out your ego and read the conversation.