Thursday, April 12, 2007

She’s Stooping to Conquer

She’s Stooping to Conquer

Every once in a while you’ll hear a stand up comic crack a joke about reading Playboy magazine for the articles. As with all jokes, its irreverence relies on the imagined possibility, in this case a person flipping past the nude beauties in order to read articles like this 1965 profile on Martin Luther King Jr. Playboy editors have always incorporated fascinating profiles and recruited notable writers to make a case that the magazine provides its readers with more than naked women, but also provocative commentary on the world in which we live.

That said, many people also do not read the magazine because it is populated by images of naked women. Some believe that these images are pornographic, and if not that, then they commodify women’s bodies. These two arguments are grounded in the belief that the pictures represented are not art…

I bring this up because I find myself facing this dilemma now that one of my favorite bloggers, JB of She Real Cool, has started blogging at KING magazine. KING is a lad magazine in the vein of Maxim and FHM geared toward African American men, or lovers of the Afro American woman’s body. JB has an undaunted critical eye and an ever evolving engagement with jazz and poetry. In other words she’s someone who’s judgment I trust, and trust enough to read wherever her words might take her.

Which brings me to my dilemma: now that she’s writing at KING, do I, can I, should I, just read the articles? Do I disregard the alluring images of women captured beneath the headlines, “Bad Seed,” “Class Act,” or “Double Team,” as I read one of JB’s latest musings? What if I were to do so while at work and of my students were to walk in, wouldn’t it just confer some of their suspicions that my gender analysis may not be as acute as theirs?

These questions, or rather this quandary interests me because it sounds like the one gripping rap fans torn between the beats and rhymes, a conflict, that these days is only really important because we have allowed it to fester long enough. Indeed, it’s one that should have been done away with years ago, much the same way that the doo-wop, be-bop, blues and early African American rock n roll musicians helped do away with minstrelsy, thereby paving the way for the glorious harmonies of the sixties and seventies that people often wax nostalgic. Of course this did not stop blaxploitation or the emergence of an ethically irresponsible commercial music industry, but it did provide us with a half-century of glorious music.

Writers have never been divorced from this conflict either as practictioners or citizens in the culture industry. A writer’s life and writing often involves breeding intimate relationships between sinners and the saved, vices and those who have fallen prey to them, and of course conflict and content. The content needs conflict to be good and great writers like all great artists exude conflict from their pores.

If this sounds like trivial rambling, I encourage you to ponder this, what must it feel like being an anti-misogynist at a lad magazine. She Stoops to Conquer, JB’s blog at KING functions as the antithesis to everything the magazine represents. JB operates as part writer, part ombudsman, and part conscientious objector---in other words the conflicted content.

The Nightshift Chronicler


jb said...

Hey Ferentz,

Hmm. You raise some interesting points, which don't quite parallel but certainly intersect some comments on my most recent blog post on Akon and Imus. Like I said in my first post at KING I'd never read the publication until I started blogging for them because it's a men's magazine where scantily clad women figure prominently and therefore didn't interest me. Upon reading the publication I encountered some things that were informative, incisive and intriguing and some things that irked.

Definitionally, they are not pornographic (no nakedness, no sex acts) but do like virtually every major lifestyle, music and fashion magazine especially those targeting men objectify women (I am distinguishing the objectification of women from misogyny and let's be real society objectifies women but some means are considered more socially acceptable than others). From my knowledge of the publication I don't understand it to be misogynistic but I invite to you to please enlighten me if I'm mistaken.

I am an anti-racist feminist concerned with global social equality and I think it's great that KING asked me to speak from my own perspective for a different audience and has not censored me. I don't know what else there is to say. My friend Moya says the pulpit matters. I don't know how I feel at present with regards to that but I will consider it.

I really appreciate your point of MLK in Playboy. Alex Haley and Quincy Troupe both contributed important articles on black figures to the publication. Playboy is certainly a different animal than KING but they do share some similarities and it's got me thinking about voice and venue.

Good post as always,

Rich said...

i don't know. i have a found king less interesting to read over the years. i wrote an a piece for the very first issue on a nude photography book and know the datwon. and i guess my interest comes from the lack of articles that are as well-done as the ones that playboy has had. maybe it's because the people who own king are not black. but i can only find enjoyment in looking at the next "video model" for so long before i i realize that the content is lacking in other places. or maybe king has become more narrow except on their website.

but sadly most "urban" publications don't interest me anymore except for Wax Poetics but is that really "urban" and i think that knowing for a fact that there are few black people on staff at these mags plays a part.

i mean if GQ can have articles on Sierra Leone so can king