Thursday, October 8, 2009

Male Feminist Appreciation Post: Jay Smooth

So this week, I felt it was appropriate to share a “Male Feminist Appreciation Post”, honoring an individual whose main goals seem to fit in with this week’s content (black masculinity, but also in a sense, intersectionality). I have had an e-crush on Jay Smooth ever since I was looking around for new positive hip-hop to listen to and came across his vlog site, ill doctrine. Now prepare yourself, because this will be video-heavy – if only blogger had a cut feature. Sorry, ya’ll.
To my knowledge (he has many a-video, and I haven’t watched them all), Jay Smooth has never referred to himself specifically as a “feminist,” but after reading Haji Shearer’s essay on why he isn’t a feminist I can understand why he may have not yet forthrightly said that or may never. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter, because he provides a much needed dialogue within hip hop culture, often entrenched in misogyny. As Shearer eloquently explains: “Men consciously working to undo oppressive history… [unleashes] a powerful healing force in the world…one need not be a feminist to understand that.” (MSO, 135).
The first video of Jay Smooth’s that I saw was the now popularized “No Homo” video. In it he explicitly calls the phrase into the foreground, explains what is wrong with it, how it makes the person who says it look, and why and how they can avoid use of it. As explained in “New Black Man” by Mark Anthony Neal, black homophobia is an issue within the culture. “It’s time we start championing a movement where ‘real black men are not homophobes’,” Neal asserts. “We do incredible damage to ourselves and to those around us by submitting to an idea that there is some little box that all black men must fit into. We are bigger than that.” (ML 593).

Jay Smooth also took time to interview Elizabeth Mendez Berry, a writer for Vibe magazine, a popular hip hop/black culture publication, who wrote the article “Love Hurts” which chronicles domestic violence within hip-hop. A case from this situation worth looking into (f you don't watch the video), if curious, would be that of Big Pun’s widow, Liza Rios, which is absolutely heartbreaking. The statistics confirm that violence amidst black culture is real: "Intimate partner violence is the leading cause of death forAfrican-American women ages 15 to 45 and the seventh leading cause of premature death for U.S. women overall." (Source: National Institute of Justice). The importance of and need for this kind of shared sentiment within this community was clear and, as per usual, Jay Smooth was the one to step up and deliver the message.

Lastly, to bring about more recent relevance, Jay Smooth just made a video discussing the Roman Polanski case that seems to be buzzing from everyone’s lips (and I mentioned how it briefly came up in a class of mine the other day in my previous post). If you’ve been on any feminist websites, some of the content may be familiar, but it is always important to hear it from a different source. At the end of the day, a person's status as a victim does not give that person a license to victimize others, and Jay Smooth once again talks about something that may have otherwise gone unmentioned within hip-hop culture.

From Jay: “This started out as a brief mini-video, and somehow turned into an endless obsessive rant about the minutiae of the Polanski case. This video has no entertainment value, unless you enjoy hearing "let's be clear" over and over.”
Whether the initial intersectional debates are rooted in his personal background of being socio-economically and racially split, as Jay Smooth has discussed in the past with being shuttled between Harlem and the Upper West Side and public and private schools ("Since I had a black dad and a white mom, visually I'm racially indistinct," Smooth says. "It sort of put me in a unique position to travel between different worlds and see each community with its guard down."), he discusses racism, sexual violence, and physical violence in a very thoughtful way, so necessary when one looks at statistics and becomes aware of the cross-cultural aspects of these issues, but also the need of a voice within the hip-hop community who is affected by it in overwhelming percentages.
See more, and read discussion and comments from a group you might be marginalizing here:


art. said...

lauren, this is awesome. jay smooth is really on point. i really like his video on calling something racist vs. someone racist. all his stuff i've seen is top notch. the no homo video is really great. didn't get a chance to watch the vibe one, but i'm looking forward too it.

Unknown said...

Can you ask him if he'll marry me as well? I've been wondering for a while.