Before Shea Moisture decided to go all mainstream to the chagrin of many Sisters across the Diaspora this week, the most discussed threads on my public Facebook page were ones dealing with Jameis Winston the year he won the Heisman Trophy despite rape allegations from a Florida State University coed, and Bill Cosby once the legion of rape allegations surfaced against the comic. Those threads had slightly in excess of 400 comments and were greatly stratified along gender lines with many (not all) Black women believing Jameis and Cosby to be rapists that should be shunned, while many (not all) Black men defended both as modern-day lynching candidates. Indeed, those threads remained in the #1 slot for comments until I asked a question that currently is at 467 comments and counting about Shea Moisture.
Now, it was during the Winston/Cosby threads that I became familiar with the neo-locquitur of “mansplaining,” which for those unaware is a pejorative phrase in which sisters detest having men explain how they should think or feel about a given subject. Having been raised by a strong-willed mother who refused to allow my strong willed dad to deign condescend to her on any topic, I grasped the concept immediately and strive mightily to avoid being hit with the “mansplainer” label, as such conjures up images of “Mister” from “The Color Purple” and “Ike” from “What’s Love Got to do With It,” two characters who are caricatures of many a Black man who many of us have been related to or known through our lifetimes. But this week, by posing the question, I was hit directly or by implication with the “Mansplainer” label, to my chagrin.
You see, when the Shea Moisture issue erupted on my social media feeds this week, I truly had ZERO idea what the fuss was all about. I posed a question on my Facebook page that now has 467 comments and counting, and learned quite a bit about the economics of marketing/branding and customer loyalty from some loyal social media followers that included a number of Brilliant Black Brothers and Sisters who brought real world academic and professional credentials to the debate. But while mostly done in respect, I also realized that the cyber battle of the Black sexes involves a rift in which many, many professional Sisters believe that their Brothers are tone-deaf. Which is ironic considering that one year ago today, I dropped a critique of Beyonce’s “Lemonade” that drew some push back from some Brothers who were skeptical about whether a Battle of the Sexes even existed among Black folks. It does, and when I read back through my “Lemonade” critique, the following points remain pertinent to the Shea Moisture discussions:
“You see, there was a time when Black artists and athletes were in lock step with mainstream civil rights leaders in the fight for equality. Whether it was singers like Harry Belafonte and Mahalia Jackson offering their talents and tithes to inspire and fund the movement, Black artists did not place profits and the approval of whites over the good of their people through public silence, as many modern artists are content to do. Athletes like Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar) stood in stark contrast to a Michael Jordan, who infamously stated back in the 90s that “Republicans buy shoes, too…Thus a modern model of minstrelism if you will, the politically and socially docile Black entertainer or athlete who draws the rabid support of many Whites who are quick to suggest that the same star baller or singer “transcends race,” remains problematic.”
“…some Blacks are embroiled in a meme war where Beyonce is either a hero for alluding to infidelity by her husband, rap mogul Jay-Z, with her “Becky with the good hair” allusion to an alleged relationship between Jay and Rachel Roy (a fair-skinned mixed race woman with thin or “good” hair, as long has been a shameful legacy of Slavery ensconced in Ebonic English parlance). Or, there are some Black men who are deep into their feelings and wonder through memes whether Jay should “drop a diss track on his wife.” Indeed, I found some of the memes funny but shallow and missing the deeper undertones of what may go down as Beyonce’s magnum opus; like Prince when he dropped “Sign of the Times” in 1987 or Marvin Gaye when he dropped “What’s Going On” in 1972, Beyonce has mixed the profane with the profound to develop a rich social commentary on issues that are vitally critical to the Black community in 2016. With marriage being less of a reality for young Blacks than even a generation ago, the fact that Queen Bey paints a raw picture of the vicissitudes of married life–the yin and the yang, the good, bad and the ugly–is forcing Black men and women to discuss how we relate to each other in the modern epoch. That Beyonce also has been very forward in analyzing issues with respect to colorism, sexism and yes, racism, one in which the very Black mothers that she champions have lost children at the hands of the very police forces that claim that Bey is unfairly attacking them, is making us ALL at least discuss the issue in hopes of finding solutions.”
Like many Brothers, I am secure enough in my person to know that I am not a sexist or a condescending “mansplainer.” But I am wise enough to also know that many otherwise well-meaning Brothers miss the mark by asking the Sisters “why are y’all so mad” or by saying “There are more crucial issues to debate, like Trump’s tax cuts.” Nope, respect for the race, the culture and gender are just as important as any political and social issue, my Brothers, and on that note, we need to listen with understanding as to why Sisters are throwing the middle finger at Shea Moisture, not figuratively tell them–like Mister told Celie–that the “Lemonade” simply “ain’t cold enough.”