On the cusp of the millennium, several books by young Black women ushered in a fresh perspective on Black womanhood. Writers like Joan Morgan, Lisa Jones, Dream Hampton, Tricia Rose, Rebecca Walker, and others, represented a new brand of post-civil rights, hip hop-influenced feminism that spoke to young women in ways in which older Black and White female writers could not. The f-word was no longer a stance reserved for White women who wanted to get even with men. It was no longer the struggle in which our foremothers fought for inclusion. This new brand of feminism was relatable. It understood that we liked to look cute, have fun, discuss serious issues, and loved our brothas, despite their inherent privilege.
I remember reading When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost when it debuted and thinking that Joan Morgan was speaking FOR me. I loved hip hop, hard. It was my first crush, the soundtrack to my youth, it inspired my passion for writing, but I always felt some kind of way about the ease in which women were relegated to the sidelines. With the exception of a few dope women (Latifah, MC Lyte, Salt-n-Pepa, Lauryn), women were almost always seen as sidepieces and groupies.
But I kept listening. Even though I danced to its beats, would argue about who was the best emcee, and would defend hip hop like it was my big brother, I always felt uneasy about its willingness to label other women (because clearly, they couldn’t be talking about ME, right?) as bitches and hoes. Joan Morgan’s in-your-face exploration of women maturing in the age of hip hop articulated my own contradictory feelings about a culture I loved, but didn’t always love me.
This new brand of feminism understood that the struggle of women wasn’t about hating men. It wasn’t about writing them off and branding them as enemies. Our feminism—as beneficiaries of many movements of equality—was about claiming our voice, articulating our worth, and fighting our own, modern, battles.
In the introduction of Chickenheads, Morgan challenged herself and her peers to stop complaining about what needed to be changed and just take action and change it. She laid down the gauntlet when she warned that “relying on older heads to redefine the struggle to encompass our generation’s issues is not only lazy but dangerous.”
I think we just got called out, too.
Rereading Chickenheads a decade after it first burst on the scene made me nostalgic. I missed the feeling I used to get from listening to my big brother rap about more than just bitches and Bentleys. And I missed the innovative conversations that Black women were having through their writing. Since Morgan’s Chickenheads, Lisa Jones’ Bulletproof Diva, and Rebecca Walker’s To Be Real, few books (only Tracy Sharply-Whiting’s Pimps Up, Hoes Down, Tricia Rose’s Longing To Tell, and Gwendolyn D. Pough’s Home Girls Make Some Noise comes to mind) have been published that explored feminism and Black womanhood through our eyes.
The relative silence lead me to ask . . . where are our sisters’ voices?
I ran this question through my mind and realized that conversations were, in fact, being had. However, instead of the call and response happening on the printed page under the control of corporate publishing houses, we were taking our voices directly to the people, using the internet to carve out our own definitions of who we are and what we want as women.
Who got next?
Since the internet blew up, women have taken to their computers to express themselves and further the discourse regarding race, gender and class. Several have followed the tradition of our third-wave feminist big sisters and fearlessly jumped head-first into the (sometimes very thorny) waters.
So whom should you be checking for? Here are some sistas who aren’t afraid to put it all out there and intelligently critic the world in which we live.
- Helena Andrews: Helena is a journalist, blogger, and author of the clever essay collection, Bitch is the New Black. As a blogger for The Root and Politics Daily, she critiques pop culture and sheds light on what’s it’s like to be a young, Black, successful woman in Washington D.C. Think Carrie Bradshaw meets Joan Clayton. All heart and wit and awesomeness.
- Renina Jarmon: The tagline of Renina’s blog, New Model Minority, says it all: “Thugs + Feminists + Boom Bap.” Renina is a doctoral candidate whose work focuses on the ways in which gender, race, and power are at work in our culture. Never scared of controversial topics, she consistently challenges conventional notions about Black women. Renina is comfortable in any sphere, whether it’s talking hip hop or breaking down the work of philosopher Albert Camus. Reminiscent of Joan Morgan’s work, Renina has taken the baton from our big sisters and run with it.
- Racialicious: Racialicious explores the intersections of race and pop culture. Blog editor Latoya Peterson and company cover everything from current hot topics (such as Dr. Laura’s “Nigger” problem), to discussions of TV shows, commercials, and other media sources that feature minorities. The aim of Racialicious is to hold the media accountable for questionable images of people of color. This collective blog is an amazing source for intelligent critiques and discussions regarding how we are viewed in the public realm.
- Jamilah Lemieux: You may know Jamilah by her sassy alias, Sister Toldja. Jamilah, the self-described “hip hop Denise Huxtable,” writes about love, race, and new-wave feminism on her blog, The Beautiful Struggler. Never one to shy away from a taboo topic, Toldja gained national acclaim for her open letter to Tyler Perry, which earned her an appearance on NPR’s All Things Considered. Jamilah’s blog is equal parts dating diary, pop culture critique, and feminist manifesto.
- The Crunk Feminist Collective: The name alone should have your fingers Googling. This group of women (and men!) confront sexism head on in a blog that aims to build camaraderie among feminists of the hip hop generation whether they’re straight or gay, male or female, and, or, anywhere in between. Like the others, this blog critiques pop culture, politics, and music through the lens of modern Black feminism. This collective is not only crunk, they’re amazingly brilliant.
When one door closes, Black women break through walls. Although the conversation may have been silenced in print, we are taking control of our voices, sharing perspectives and building communities online. When we are running the show, no one is able to put us in a box or control how we define ourselves. Say word.
Who are the women you’re checking for?