Where Have All the Phenomenal Women Gone?
Dedicated to the spirit of Dr. Maya Angelou
“And baby girl what does it matter where your purse from?/ Your hair done, your nails did, your ass phat, but your Dumb!/ Mix Melissa Ford with Maya Angelou, become a top model and Sojourner too/”
– Lupe Fiasco in ‘I’m Beamin’
Over the past two weeks we learned that Kanye West married his girlfriend, Kim Kardashian, in a made-for-tv wedding in France. Kim K’s entire celebrity and rise to ‘Ye’s wife’ was borne from her porn. Indeed, Kanye brags in a recent song verse that ‘my girl’s a superstar all from a home movie.’ Continuing with the theme in his most recent song appearance on Future’s ‘I Won’, ‘Ye raps about Kim K being his ‘trophy’ saying “I made it over NBA and NFL players, so every time I score its like the Superbowl”. In another urban culture episode, Pop-star Rhianna, quite literally, donned a see-through shawl and a thong to the CFDA Fashion Awards where she received, ironically, the Fashion Icon Award. Exposed were her breasts and buttocks, but what was never expressed was her condemnation from the press.
With the psychological warfare being carried out through the media with hit shows like Scandal, Real House Wives of ….. wherever, and Love and HipHop, black and latino women are being taught that their reward, [and value] in this life will be granted through their sexuality, first and foremost. This systemic AND local perspective of human value is debilitating, hateful, and perverted.
This country’s constant media harassment of woman value is all the more odd then, when you consider the life of one of America’s best productions, Dr. Maya Angelou, and what a devastating sexual abuse did to her as a young girl.
In a much more abstract sense, being forced to perform ‘sexually’ to get some kind of reward in society is much like a sexual abuse. According to the American Heritage dictionary, Sexual Abuse can be defined as: ‘unwanted sexual activity forced on a person by another through coercion or threats’. Our popular culture has developed an obsession with youth so much so that we’ve given expressive license to be callous. Indeed, grown adult women acquiesce to filming themselves engage in everything from sexually explicit acts to silly indiscretions. The constant broadcasting of women laid on their backs for rewards of flimsy successes skews the perception between maturity and character. It used to be that someone could have some ‘growing up’ to do, which is just an issue of maturity. But we’ve gone beyond maturity and have begun to alter the understanding of personal character. And we’re in a time where we so desperately need the voice of the original phenomenal woman, Dr. Maya Angelou, to bring wisdom to an understanding of the importance of personal character.
In her landmark autobiography, ‘I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings’, Maya Angelou wrote ‘If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat.” We need to value wisdom and character in the face of such displacement in this world. So many of our young women are relegated by society and go out chasing freedom, success, and wealth. But, what of wisdom? Maya also said, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” Dr. Angelou was not just some singer, songwriter, poet, or activist…. She cultivated a very wise philosophy for dealing in this unfair world.
In 1759, Adam Smith penned, in ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments’,
“The respect which we feel for wisdom and virtue is, no doubt, different from that which we conceive for wealth and greatness; and it requires no very nice discernment to distinguish the difference. But, notwithstanding this difference, those sentiments bear a very considerable resemblance to one another. In some particular features they are, no doubt, different, but, in the general air of the countenance, they seem to be so very nearly the same, that inattentive observers are very apt to mistake the one for the other.”
Spot on, Mr. Smith. Many of our young women have misconstrued respect for fame and fortune. For sure, Rhianna, Kim K, and the host of women who’ve appeared on things like Love and Hip Hop are getting paid…. which occasions them to gain the respect of their younger female peers. But this is a society-threatening trade-off when you consider their lack of respect for wisdom and virtue. In short, our young women need Maya’s understanding of those precious non-market values. So, where have all the phenomenal women gone?